Sloth Bear

The Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus) is found in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka; known as bhalu in Hindi and Nepali.  It has rangy appearance with longer limbs than the Himalayan brown bears or Asian black bears, long and shaggy predominantly black fur (sometimes dark rusty brown), with large floppy ears and a mane around the face.  The most notable characteristics are their oversized paws with very long blunt claws, and small jaws with wide snouts and particularly long lower lips, the lack of upper incisors allows them to suck up ants and termites from mounds that they have excavated with their claws.  They supplement their diet with fruit, seeds, flowers and plant matter and are especially keen on honey, but also will eat carrion.

Males are larger than females and weights can vary greatly, on average the bears measure 60-90 cm at the shoulder (on all fours), with a body length of 1.4 to 1.9m.  Sloth bears are found in lower lying forests with good natural tree cover, and absent in grasslands above 1500m, desert regions and cultivated plantations,  they are the most widespread bear species in India, but confined to the terai region in Nepal and northern and eastern lowlands in Sri Lanka.  The Sri Lankan sloth bear is a separate subspecies (M. u. inornatus), being smaller than their Indian and Nepali relatives, with shorter fur and sometimes lacking the white Y or V shaped mark on the chest. Join us on our 9 day Yala national park photography tour in December 2021, for a great chance to see Sloth Bears in the wild.

Sloth bears are normally observed alone, in pairs or as a family group with one, or two cubs (sometimes three) from the same litter being transported on their mother’s back.  While they appear somewhat clumsy and shambling when walking with their noses down or feeding, they are adept climbers and can outrun most humans.  However when threatened by a tiger or leopard the sloth bear is more likely to stand its ground and even make a noisy charge towards the larger predator – leading to some famously exciting film opportunities, usually tigers will give the bear a wide berth.  Interestingly both elephants and Indian rhinos are also known not to tolerate sloth bears in their surroundings.

Of course the most famous sloth bear in fiction is Baloo from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’, Pench in Seoni district is widely thought to be his original home and continues to offer a good chance to a real-life bhalu, along with ‘nearby’ Tadoba and Satpura (amongst several other parks).  Traditionally sloth bears were poached and taught to dance, or their body parts traded, but in India Wildlife SOS have successfully set up four sanctuaries to provide homes for rescued bears, also enabling their former captors to undertake training in alternative sustainable projects in return for their surrendered bears.

Yala National Park Photography Tour

Sri Lanka leopard safaris in Yala national park remain one of the best big cat experiences found in Asia. On an island where they are the top predator bar none, they are much more diurnal in behaviour than in India’s wildlife sanctuaries, which thus provides much better opportunities for our wildlife photography holidays to Sri Lanka.  We have been travelling to Yala since 2002 and the safari camp we have hand picked has been chosen because it allows us to access the park from other gates and not have to queue at the main entrance gate which serves the larger hotels. Although we are likely to experience a Yala national park from decades ago, when there were only 10 to 12 jeeps driving around the 5 different zones. Each traveller will have access to a window seat and plenty of space for their camera equipment in a vehicle adapted for wildlife photographers. Ten jeep safaris in Yala will allow us to experience the entire park and focus on leopards, wild elephants and sloth bears.

Yala National Park consists of dry-mixed evergreen forests and scrublands along with open grasslands, water holes, brackish water lagoons and riverine forests. This park’s diverse habitat supports large numbers of mammals, such as spotted, barking and mouse deer, sambar, wild boar, water buffalo and the endangered sloth bear. This is also one of the best places in the country to see wild elephant and the rare leopard. Large water holes and lagoons support the high density of endangered crocodiles. You can also see large flocks of migratory and resident birds—142 species of birds have been recorded in the park. Of particular note is the rare black-necked stork, the largest bird in the country.

Please note, that this tour can easily be extended on a private basis to visit other wildlife sanctuaries or cultural locations of personal interest.

Style - Small Group Photographer
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 9
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£2650
Wilpattu Leopard and the Dolphins of Kalpitiya

Compared to the very popular Yala national park, Wilpattu will always be the ‘path less travelled’ and here it is more about the quality of your wildlife encounters, rather than the number. Accommodation near the park remains largely a choice of mobile tented camps on private land, but there is also now a slightly more traditionally built option (the Kulu bungalow is available as an upgrade). The real pay-off is the escape from the crowds and that more intimate connection with nature and wildlife. Kalpitiya became famous for Sperm Whale sightings, but between December and April it is also an incredible location for the resident spinner dolphins. You can have that perfect combination of a relaxed beach stay with marine wildlife tours that are not overly commerical and can often deliver amazing wildlife encounters.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 9
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£1880
Two Sides of Yala with Uda Walawe and Central Highlands

Our first visit to Sri Lanka way back in 2002 included visit to Bundala, Uda Walawe and Yala national parks. While Yala is very much the jewel in the crown of Sri Lanka’s wildlife sanctuaries it is important to be transparent with visitors about excessive visitor numbers which have been caused by the building of a ferry/ cruise ship terminal just 1 hour away by road. Given we are writing this during the middle of the Corvid-19 pandemic, the future of the cruise industry is far from certain, but what is certain in that Wildlife Trails has its finger in the pulse of all wildlife sanctuaries in the country and has already designed this tour in such a way, as to avoid the busier areas of the park and provide our clients with the most natural and exciting wildlife safari experience possible. As well as including a short extension to Uda Walawe national park before arriving in Yala, we also take you right into the heart of the Central Highlands. Enjoy the clean mountain air, authentic bungalow accommodation and choose a walking tour which suits your abilities and interests. After your leopard safari in Yala and experiencing the beautiful eastern side of the park; with its mangrove forests and amazing bird life, you will drive west to Mirissa for your small boat whale watcing safaris looking for the largest animal in the world – Dondra Point is one of the best places to see the Blue Whale.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 15
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£3560
Sri Lanka Leopard Safari at Yala National Park

The design of all our wildlife safaris focus on longer stays in the national parks and with this one week Leopard safari at Yala national park, our approach is no different. We prefer to break up the long drive from Colombo to Yala with interesting stops en route. Not only will these stops give you a break from the car, they will also allow you to immerse yourself more fully in both the culture and scenic beauty of this amazing island. If you are travelling during the whale watching season from December to April, we definitely recommend you visit Mirissa to enjoy an ethical whale watching tour which does not chase or get to close to the animals. Otherwise, we also often choose to include a night at Galle, as there are some wonderful markets, restuarants and an early walk around town before the heat builds up is always interesting. We can also look at stops at wildlife sanctuaries like Udawalawe and Bundala.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 8
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£2380
Ranthambhore Safaris and Culture with Ramathra and Taj Mahal

We have been visiting Ranthambhore since 1997 when the owner Allan Blanchard spent a month there looking at conservation projects in the buffer zone areas the park. His fascination and love for the area brought him back many more times, and along with local guides that are now close friends, he has developed many interesting side trips away from the park to help spread the income from tourism further afield. There is a great road from Ranthambhore which takes you to the village of Bhoori Phadi and the small but beautiful Banas River; which forms one of the boundaries of Ranthambhore National Park. There are activities here organised by local people, such as boat and camel safaris and the chance to camp wild for the more adventurous. In addition, you can take a wonderfully rural 4-wheel drive route from Ranthambhore to the imposing Ramathra Fort, and create a tiger safari with a twist. Don’t just go to Ranthambhore with a standard tour operator and stay locked behind your hotel walls when not on safari. Go with Wildlife Trails and see a side of this park and the surrounding country that few get to see.

The historic Ramathra Fort stands on the Daang plateau between Ranthambhore and the Chambal River Valley, with spectacular views of the villages and countryside below.  The surrounding landscape is characterised by a network of gorges, scrubland and small traditional farms, and on evening drives there is a chance to see Indian Fox, Jackal and Hyena. It is just 10 minutes away from a large lake which attracts a wide variety of bird species and on which a leisurely boat safari can be taken.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 9
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£1790
Panna and Bandhavgarh Tiger Safari with the Temples of Khajuraho

Wildlife Trails first visited Khajuraho and Panna tiger reserve way back in 2002 and during the last 17 years there have been more ‘downs’ than ‘ups’ in this beautiful reserve bordering the idyllic Ken River. Like Sariska, Panna lost all its tigers in the mid-2000’s and it is now one of the main recipients of translocated tigers from famous tiger reserves like Bandhavgarh and Kanha, as they attempt to recapture former glories. For us, Panna was never just about the tigers, as we enjoyed starting our trip with time wandering around the beautiful temples at Khajuraho, before the short drive to our wilderness lodge at Panna. Here we will not just enjoy morning and afternoon jeep safaris, but also boat safaris on the Ken River and two nights of nocturnal drives in the buffer area – not permitted in most national parks in India. From there we head to the world famous Bandhavgarh tiger reserve – on a much better road these days thankfully – before enjoying 7 jeep safaris in a park that is just exploding at the moment with tiger action.

Safari vehicles will have a maximum of 4 guests per jeep.  At Bandhvagarh we have handpicked a specialist local naturalist to accompany all safaris.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 11
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£2490
Magical North East with the Elephant Gathering and Leopards of Yala

Although we have of course visited Sri Lanka multiple times before, it will be our first visit to Jaffna and the famous port of Trincomalee which is a whale watching hotspot in the ‘summer’ season. In August the sea conditions will be at their best on the north east coast and we can take advantage of this with both whale watching, snorkelling and diving opportunities. Jaffna will be an intoxicating mix of culture, food and history and we will also try to gain an understanding of how the north is rebuilding itself after the long conflict which causes so much devastation and suffering for the local Tamil population.

After filling up on culture, history, marine life and some coastal R&R, we focus on elephants, first with ‘the gathering’ at Minneriya where depending on recent activity we may in fact find the biggest herds at Kaudulla, Minneriya or Hurulu National Parks.  Then onward to Gal Oya with a wonderful diverse choice of activities, we will take a night time drive in the buffer forest, a morning guided walk and a boat safari hoping to catch sight of elephants as they ‘snorkel’ their way across the huge lake.  The route to our campsite at Yala for more elephants and of course the leopards, takes us via the hill country, with a train ride through tea country, treks to view the tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka, and to Ravana Falls, Little Adam’s Peak and/ or Ella Rock.

Style - Small Group
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 22
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£3850
Luxury Tiger and Leopard Safari in Rajasthan

Back in the early 2000’s, rumours drifted across from rural southern Rajasthan, that there was a new big cat paradise in India and this was one where the Leopard – not the Tiger – ruled! It is important to remember that tiger sanctuaries are far from the best place to see leopards as they are out competed by their striped cousins. A visit to the Bera region of Rajasthan, is like stepping back in time two hundred years. The traditional Rabari trbes still make a living from their colourful goat herds and it is these goats that form a large part of the Leopards diet. Astonishing levels of tolerance by local villages to see beautiful spotted cats have created an unofficial sanctuary for leopards and it has become one of our very favourite wildlife locations in India – Yes, we are regular visitors!

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 9
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£4680
Big Tigers of Corbett National Park

Corbett National Park was the first park to be brought under the ‘Project Tiger’ umbrella due to its magnificent scenery and large unspoilt wilderness area, which in turn supported a healthy tiger population. The reality for many visitors over the years had been occasional sightings glimpsed on elephant back and a feeling that the park is a better location for birders than more general wildlife enthusiasts; based on our visits in April 2006, April 2010 and March 2011 and our clients trips, we can confirm this view point is now completely redundant.

Not only does this beautiful park afford the visitor an excellent chance to see tiger, it also provides spectacular elephant sightings in the hotter months, with groups as large as 30 animals making the daily crossing over the Ramganga river. It is possible to view both wild elephant and tigers in a jeep safari from Dhikala, and the real highlight, is the rare chance to stay inside a Tiger Sanctuary at one of the simple lodges and you have a wildlife experience that rivals anything else in India.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 7
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£1380