India also has over 1200 species of bird, and is on main
migratory routes, so it is a satisfyingly good country for
bird-watchers, but everybody knows the main event is the
increasingly endangered tiger. Although poaching and lack of
organisation are detrimental factors, the country is finally
becoming more aware of its wildlife heritage, and it is well
worthwhile exploring a wildlife park or two.
Among the best parks are Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Nagahole,
and Gir (where the last of the Asian lions still exist).
Kanha National Park is spread over 1,300 square miles of thick
forest and savannah plains in the Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh
and is the area that inspired the writings of Rudyard Kipling, in
particular The Jungle Book.
Elsewhere there is the completely unexploited Satpura National
Park in Madhya Pradesh. Spread across the highest stretch of the
rugged Satpura mountains, the National Park is classic tiger
country, supporting an astonishing array of prey species including
gaur, sambar, chital, wild boar, chausingha, nilgai antelope and
their predators - tiger, leopard, wild dog, wolf and sloth bear -
in such numbers that every foray into the jungle all but guarantees
sightings of some impressive beastie or other.
Away from the Indian wildlife, the centre of India also boasts
some of the country's cultural highlights. In Uttar Pradesh,
Varanasi - the city of Shiva - has been a centre of learning for
thousands of years, and is one of India's holiest cities, where
colourful (and seriously photogenic) religious rituals take place
on the ghats by the Ganges.
In Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho has some of India's best known
temples, a thousand years old and covered with erotic carvings.
At Bhimbetka see rock paintings dating back more than 10,000
years, while Ahoka has an ancient stupa, and Gwalior a forbidding