Safari alternatives for nature lovers

From tracking down tigers to watching wrestling dinosaurs (okay, not quite – but close), here are a handful of alternative ways for travellers to admire the unparalleled spectacle of the natural world.

 

Looking for tigers in northern India

Tiger numbers have crept up in recent years according to official statistics from the Indian government: in 2016, India was estimated to be home to 2500 of them – 70 percent of the global population. But in a country this vast, it’s still hard to see one.

With accredited naturalists working as guides, Himalayan Footsteps (himalayanfootsteps.com) offers a 13-day trip taking in the Bandhavgarh and Kanha national parks. Sightings are by no means guaranteed, although it’s said the best time of year to see tigers is between February and April, so it’s smart to plan ahead. If you don’t spot one, you’ll stand a better chance of seeing sloth bears, jackals and grey mongoose. Bandhavgarh is also home to 250 species of birds, so make sure you pack your binoculars.

 

Birdwatching in Peru’s Islas Ballestas

Don’t listen to anyone who dismisses Peru’s Islas Ballestas as ‘the poor man’s Galapagos’; these uninhabited islands might not have inspired Darwin when HMS Beagle passed this way in the 1830s, but they are home to a huge seabird colony, as well as sea lions and fur seals.

Due to the fragile nature of the islands, visitors can’t make landfall, but boats can be chartered along with dedicated guides from nearby Paracas. Peruvian pelicans and Humboldt penguins vie for real estate on these rocky outcrops, sea lions howl above the din of crashing waves, while blue-footed boobies, related to the gannet, dive-bomb the surrounding waters in a desperate search for fish.

March for wildlife and nature

Visit thundering waterfalls in South America or spot kaleidoscopic birdlife in the Caribbean; try your luck tracking Shere Khan through the Indian jungle; or coo over baby Pandas and admire the spring blossoms in China.

 

Spot dazzling birdlife and watch nesting sea turtles in Trinidad and Tobago

This emerald isle afloat off the coast of South America is everything you’d expect from a Caribbean paradise – palm-fringed beaches, relaxed pace of life, sunshine – and plenty you might not expect. Rather than big cruise ships and package tourists, little Tobago attracts nature-lovers, snorkelers and divers.

March has the fine weather you’d want on a beach holiday, but also brings nesting sea turtles – green, leatherback and hawksbill – who return to the patches of sand from which they hatched to lay their own eggs. Watch – with care – as the lumbering females haul themselves ashore, or join monitoring and conservation programs to help these threatened beauties. Sprawling across the eastern end of the island, Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve is bustling with birdlife – more than 200 species call the island home, including dazzling hummingbirds – and spectacular snorkelling can be enjoyed at various points around the coast.

  • Trip plan: Tobago’s international airport is at its far western tip, and most beaches and resorts are along the southwest coast, though the natural attractions lie at the opposite (eastern) end of the island.
  • Need to know: All three species of sea turtle found on and around Tobago are in trouble – hawksbill turtles are critically endangered. Be careful not to harm or disturb nesting turtles.
  • Other months: Jan-May – warm, dry; Jun-Dec – heavy but usually short downpours.

 

Gawp at Brazil’s mighty Iguazú Falls in full flow

A spectacle with a split personality – is it Iguazú or Iguaçu? – these hundreds of mighty cataracts arcing nearly 2 miles (3 km) thunder 269 ft (82m) down into a gorge dividing southern Brazil from a slender finger of Argentina. While January and February are hottest and most humid, they also bring most visitors from those two countries. By March, crowds have thinned, the weather is becoming more temperate and less damp, but the falls are still dramatically powerful.

This isn’t a point, shoot and leave kind of spot: the falls are surrounded by luxuriant rainforest, a national park with several excellent (and easy) walking trails bustling with wildlife and providing various views of the cataracts, most famously the Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat), into which half the flow plunges.

  • Trip planner: Beyond the falls themselves, there’s plenty to see on both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of the national park, and a trip south alongside the Paraná River reveals the fascinating remains of 18th-century Jesuit missions. Cross the river to visit Paraguay and complete a week-long tri-country adventure.
  • Need to know: There are international airports on both the Argentine and Brazilian sides of the falls.
  • Other months: Jan-Feb – busiest, prices high; Mar-May & Sep-Oct – driest; Jun-Aug & Nov-Feb – wet.

The best free things to do in India

This lotus-shaped temple was conceived and created by architect Furiburz Sabha in the suburbs of South Delhi, close to the burgeoning commercial district of Nehru Place.  In step with the tenets of the Bahai religion, the house of worship is open to all and everyone is invited to worship according to their own customs. Reflected in nine encircling pools, the gleaming marble structure is set in expansive gardens that teem with visitors, yet it retains a peaceful air of prayer and contemplation. Dusk finds the monument painted in surreal colours by floodlights as the sun sinks over the cityscape.

 

Soulful stirrings at the Nizamuddin Auliya shrine

You can step back seven centuries at the shrine of Delhi’s most beloved Sufi mystic. Every Thursday evening, singers fill the air with soulful qawwalis (spiritual songs) honouring both the Sufi mystic Hazrat Khwaja Syed Nizamuddin Auliya and his disciple, the poet Amir Khusrao, also buried here. A warren of narrow streets lined with hawkers, mendicant holy men and snack stands leads to the shrine, which is a riot of colours, fragrant with heady incense and sweet-smelling rose petals.  Irrespective of faith, gender, or age, the Nizamuddin Dargah is one of Delhi’s most emotive and stimulating spots.

 

Calm green spaces and crumbling mausoleums

The Lodi Gardens, formerly Lady Willingdon Park, are one of the city’s favourite green spaces, visited by neighbourhood residents for daily constitutionals, and a favourite spot for canoodling couples and picnicking families. Sitting pretty in the heart of New Delhi, these sprawling but well-tended acres are criss-crossed with tree-lined walking and jogging paths. Between the flowerbeds are crumbling medieval monuments – mosques, tombs, and ceremonial bridges harking back to vanished Afghan dynasties – lending the park a romantic demeanour; unsurprisingly, it’s a favourite spot for romantic selfies.

How to find craft brews in India

Bengaluru is a city that loves its pint. Ever since the British arrived here in the early 19th century the capital of Karnataka has enthusiastically embraced the culture of grabbing a drink at the end of the day. Today Bengaluru is chest-thumpingly proud of its drinking culture and home to a roaring craft beer scene with an ever growing number of microbreweries. Visit our pick of Bengaluru’s best bars and you’ll soon understand why.

The Bengaluru drinking scene spans the spectrum, from nostalgic holes-in-the-wall to chic cocktail lounges that could hold their own in Paris or New York. Keep a particular eye out for the city’s craft beers – local brewers create everything from wheat beers to pale ales and stout – and Bengaluru mixologists who add Indian herbs and spices to the standard cocktail palette. Here’s our pick of the best places in Bengaluru to wet your whistle after hours.

 

Daytime tipples at Noon Wines

The appeal of Noon Wines & Scottish Pub (No 17/21, Vasavi Complex, St Marks Road) lies in its nonchalance. This ‘hole in the wall’ outpost of colonial-era Bengaluru is open for only five hours in the day (12-5pm), but nostalgia seekers flock here for inexpensive wines and an agreeably short menu with simple potato wafers as a best seller. The Heritage wine is extra sweet and extra potent in nature, served in shot glass-sized wine glasses.

 

Cocktails like grandma used to mix

Take a map of Bengaluru and stick a pin in its heart and you’ll find yourself on the threshold of The Permit Room (thepermitroom.in), a welcome retreat from the hubbub of MG Road. Cosy interiors decked out in the iconography of South Indian slang make you feel like an insider immediately. The moody mixologist, inspired by his ajji (grandma), has reimagined hearty home cooking as well as the cocktail menu; for our rupee, Paati’s Magic Rasam curry, Highway Pandi Curry, and filter coffee-flavoured pot de crème are all decided winners.

 

Ten of the best at Arbor Brewing Company

Start your love affair with the brews of Bengaluru with a choice of ten in-house craft beers at this spacious, minimalist American-style microbrewery. The pub fare at Arbor Brewing Company is best enjoyed at long communal wooden tables, with low hanging lights running along the centre. Sip crispy Hefewiezens, confident stouts, German-style pilsners, Belgian fruit beers and pale ales with lingering bitterness to wash down amply portioned dishes with a US flavour.

 

Wheat beer that pulls in a crowd at Toit

Back in 2010, Toit Brewpub almost single-handedly salvaged Bangalore’s flagging pub scene with a sprawling wooden-floored brewery, providing space for close to 400 happy beer drinkers. Of the six house brews, the Bavarian-style Toit Weiss wheat beer trumps the competition any day of the week. Check out the curious logo, inspired by Pepé Le Pew (the skunk of Looney Tunes fame), with the motto ‘sending it since 2010’ (a local phrase for downing a drink).