With their combination of feline grace and killer instinct, big cats are some of the most alluring animals on Earth. Watching a cheetah stalk its prey or experiencing the power of a lion’s roar are just some of the unforgettable moments you can hope for when seeing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
To help you plan your next wildlife adventure, here are the best places to see big cats in the wild.
The best place to see tigers
Tigers are not only the world’s largest big cat, but also the most endangered. An estimated 3,890 tigers remain in the wild today, with the majority found in India. And with their iconic stripes and amber eyes, tigers are as symbolic of the country as the Taj Mahal.
Consisting of wild jungle and ancient temples, Ranthambore National Park is one of the best destinations to see tigers in the wild. Just a few hours south of Dehli, Ranthambore was once the former hunting ground of the Maharajas before becoming the renowned nature reserve it is today.
Explore the park on either a guided morning or evening safari. Spotting a tiger is often a matter of luck, so be sure to leave time for two or three drives to boost your chances.
The best place to see lions
Spotting a lion making a kill or surrounded by adorable cubs is a highlight of any African safari. These big cats are part of the famous Big Five, with the majority found in the East African country of Tanzania.
Described as ‘ideal big cat country’, the Serengeti National Park is home to the oldest lion research project in Africa. It’s also the best place to see these iconic felines, with a population of around 3,000 inhabiting its vast savannahs.
Time your safari from July to October for the annual wildebeest migration. These months see hungry lions ambushing unsuspecting wildebeest along the Mara River. January to March is wildebeest calving season and also a great time to visit as vulnerable calves make for easier prey.
The best place to see leopards
Despite occupying a wide range across Africa and Asia, leopards are the most elusive of all the big cats. As they are nocturnal, daytime sightings are most often of leopards resting in thick brush or along a tree branch – where you might glimpse the flick of a tail.
Covering over 1,200 square kilometres, Yala National Park is the most famous of the national parks in Sri Lanka. Its fame is largely due to its big cats, boasting the highest concentration of leopards in the world.
The best time to visit Yala is during the dry season from May to August. During these months the vegetation is less dense, making sightings much easier to come by.
The best place to see cheetahs
Famed as the fastest mammal in the world, cheetahs’ sprints can reach up to 114 kilometres per hour. And this is all thanks to their many adaptations, with large lungs and nostrils, a streamlined body and special paw pads allowing for such incredible speeds.
Offering dense herds of game, the Masai Mara in Kenya is prime cheetah habitat and one of the world’s best safari destinations. Cheetahs are often sighted across the open plains eyeing up their next meal, alongside many other iconic African species.
The Masai Mara is also home to the Mara Cheetah Project, which tracks the movements of local cheetahs. You can support their efforts by sending in sighting reports and photos from your safari.
The best place to see jaguars
With a name meaning ‘he who kills with one leap’ in the indigenous Guarani language, jaguars are truly majestic predators. They’ll pursue almost any animal prey and occupy a vast range from South America to the US state of Arizona.
But when it comes to spotting these big cats, the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil are the place to go. Covering a huge 23,000 square kilometres, the Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland area. It’s home to not only jaguars but giant anteaters, capybaras, Howler monkeys and more.
Whilst jaguar sightings are possible throughout the Pantanal, the majority of sightings occour on riverbanks during the dry season from June to October.
Hoping to see one of these big cats in the wild? Take a look at our range of wildlife safari tours.