Best Time to Visit India

India is a huge land of contrasts, not only with the people, languages and their faiths, but also the geography and incredible range of temperatures and weather you can experience in this unique country. Our India wildlife holidays can take you from the high Himalaya’s with temperatures below minus 20C, to the summer heat of central India, where temperatues hover just below 50C. The climate and in particular the annual monsoon also influence animal and bird movements within the country, so a scientific approach needs to be taken to make sure we put our clients in the right place at the right time of year.

January – A magical month in India for photography and wildlife observation. This is the peak month for migratory birds and also provides photographers with that golden light that shines through in your photos. During the winter, the window for great light in the morning in particular is much longer and the comfort factor in the afternoon for people who struggle with the hear is greatly appreciated. The early morning mists add further atmosphere, but can cause occasional travel disruption to the trains and flights. Expect very cold nights and mornings and multiple layers of clothing required. We recommend combining Bharatpur bird sanctuary with a visit to Ranthambhore tiger reserve.

February – The cold mornings continue in the north and central regions, but afternoon safaris are a joy with average temperatures in the mid-70’s Celsius and tiger activity can increase. The local villagers are more active with their crops and certain areas explode into glorious yellow, as the mustard crop ripens. If you are lucky enough to have a two week family holiday in this month, it is a great time to take the kids to India; something we have done many times. We recommend heading to Kaziranga and Manas for Gibbons, Hornbills and tigers.

March – March is an unpredictable month for temperatures and it is during this month that the famous festival of Holi is celebrated; marking the transition from winter to summer. If the heat arrives early, you can expect temperatures in the early 40’s by the end of the month and tiger activity increases greatly around the few remaining water holes inside the parks. We recommend a longer stay in India and combining the Big 3 of Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh and Kanha.

April – The dry heat of the north and central India is here to stay and photographers looking to maximise their tiger encounters start to arrive into the famous tiger sanctuaries. Depending on the monsoon strength from the previous year, there may be only a few areas of the parks with water remaining and female tigers with cubs will need to stay close to the life giving water to ensure the survival of the family. With a longer stay at just one park and lots of luck, it is possible to follow the life story of a tiger family over multiple days – which is just a joyful experience. We recommend a minimum of 1 week at the big hitters, like Tadoba, Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh.

May – It is important to note that some famous parks in the North East and in the South can start to be affected by early monsoon rains in May. Infact, Kaziranga in Assam shuts at the start of May and you should expect the odd heavy shower in southern parks, like Nagerhole and Bandipur. The tigers cope with the extreme heat by spending more and more time in the water holes and their human followers do the same in between safaris at the hotel pool. We have also heard that Kingfisher can have miraculous hydration properties! It can get busy in May with the Indian school holidays starting, so for people looking to get off the beaten track and avoid the crowds we recommend a visit to Satpura national park, where as well as the chance to see tigers, you have an excellent opportunity for sloth bear and leopard as well.

June – All bets are off now, with a few days of heavy rain showers not uncommon at all the tiger sanctuaries in India and this can be both a positive and a negative. If the rain happens just before you arrive – as it did on a recent trip I made to India – the forest and grasses will actually ‘green up’ incredibly fast and this makes a much more attractive backdrop for your wildlife and scenery photos. However, too much rain and given the fact that only approximately 20% of each national park is open to tourist vehicles, could see the tigers moving away from key water holes, as water is now available throughout the park. We recommend a comfortable good quality resort in Ranthambhore, like the Regency, with a pool, cold drinks and access to some of the best naturalists in the park.

July – So why would you travel to India when all the tiger sanctuaries are shut? Well you may have been told that, or seen it online, but actually several parks remain open during the Monsoon and capturing a photograph of a tiger or leopard in that lush, green wonderland, is really something very special. Add to that very few visitors and more comfortable temperatures among the few heavy showers and you have a very interesting tiger safari dynamic. We recommend a visit to Ranthambhore to explore zones 6 to 10, or heading south to Nagerhole for leopards, tiger and wild dogs.

August – So what are we all going to do in August? Head to the mountains for some interesting birding and endemic wildlife, or stay in the jungles of southern India for the chance to see wild dogs and their cubs? Generally the monsoon will not have a major effect on your travel plans, but don’t expect rain free days, as heavy showers are a common occurrence. To experience the full glory of the monsoon we recommend a road trip and combining a few of the national parks which remain open; like Ranthambhore, Tadoba and Nagerhole.

September – Is the last month before the major tiger sanctuaries open and still a good time to head to the hills and maybe be lucky with some snow leopard action before the crowds arrive for the blue sheep rut in October. The district of Bera in Rajasthan, which is famous for its magnificent leopards and Rabari traditional goat herders, is open all year round; so our suggestion for September is to head to Varawal tented camp and enjoy some private leopard safaris.

October – OK great, the tiger sanctuaries have re-opened, so let’s rush down there and get some epic photos of the tiger families? No, that would be a mistake, as we know from experience that although many parks re-open in October there is often plenty of work still going on inside the reserves to get them ready for the new tourist season. In practical terms, this means that you have road gangs inside the park still repairing trails and that human activity and noise affects the distribution of the wildlife. We recommend waiting until at least mid-October before booking your safari and looking at locations less affected by the monsoon, like Ranthambhore for tigers and Sasan Gir forest for Asiatic lions.

November – For all our clients we recommend later November for their tiger and leopard safaris for the simple reasons than festivals such as Diwali at the end of October tend to increase the number of visitors to national parks in a significant way. We have had considerable success promoting the end of November/early December season in both the tiger sanctuaries of central India and southern India. It can also be a good time to go looking for gibbons, rhino and tigers in Assam; by visiting the beautiful wildlife sanctuaries of Kaziranga and Manas.

December – We have been blessed to visit the wildlife sanctuaries of India every month of the year, but we have never enjoyed a Christmas morning with the wild tigers of this amazing country and that is an omission we intend to fix in the near future. Please be aware that this is quite a popular activity for wildlife lovers in India and abroad, so you need to book your favourite wildlife lodge in India well in advance. Again, like January, expect really cold mornings, where you will always regret not packing that extra warm windproof fleece and heat before travelling. The tiger sightings can happen any time of the day, as there is no heat to escape from and the number of migratory and resident birds is at it’s maximum.

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