Where to see big cats

The thrill of seeing big cats in the wild is doubled when you appreciate that your trip is playing an essential part in the fight to save them from extinction.
Like so many apex predators, big cats face significant threats to their survival, their numbers diminished by poaching and habitat destruction. Yet populations survive, and are protected, around the world from the frozen peaks of the Himalayas to the jungles of Madhya Pradesh, the plains of Africa to the marshland of Pantanal. Learn where to go on a big cat safari and witness nature at its most red-toothed and clawed - next to impossible without the help of expert guides that can narrow the search through their knowledge and experience.
Clouded leopards in Borneo

1. Clouded leopards in Borneo

Travel by 4x4 and boat deep into the forests of Sabah in search of Sunda clouded leopards, flat-headed cats and marbled cats. Nighttime expeditions led by expert zoologists and naturalist guides use spotlighting and extensive local knowledge to track the wildlife down, and interpret behaviours that are almost unknown given the rarity of these creatures.

When to go:
August to September.
Snow leopards in the Himalayas

2. Snow leopards in the Himalayas

Snow leopards are notoriously difficult to track. Living in remote, inhospitable mountain landscapes, their white-grey coats naturally blend into the snow and rock, and they’re most active at night. Yet with the assistance of skilled guides and technology, your chances of seeing leopards as they scale rock faces in search of bharal sheep and ibex, are much improved.

When to go: November to March.
Tigers in India

3. Tigers in India

India is the best place to see tigers, with (relatively) large populations found in several national parks including Kanha and Bandhavgarh. There are only around 4000 tigers left in the wild, in fact it’s thought there are more in American zoos, so watching them as they patrol their natural habitat is a truly humbling experience.

When to go: November to March.
Lynx in Lapland

4. Lynx in Lapland

Head to a mountain cabin in northwest Swedish Lapland so isolated that you need to travel part of the way by snowmobile and Nordic skis. Here is your best opportunity of seeing the elusive lynx against the frozen wilderness. And by happy coincidence this is also a superb place from which to witness the Northern Lights.

When to go: March.
Jaguars in the Pantanal

5. Jaguars in the Pantanal

The northern part of Brazil’s marshy Pantanal region is a superb place for spotting jaguars, which can often be seen on the riverbanks around Porto Jofre. Guided game viewing can be done on foot, on horseback or by boat, and the Pantanal’s impressive wildlife roster also includes caimans, capybaras and ocelots.

When to go: July to November.
Pumas in Patagonia

6. Pumas in Patagonia

Patagonia’s puma population (try saying that quickly a few times) has increased substantially in recent years. With the aid of dedicated trackers, you will hike for up to eight hours per day around the majestic Torres del Paine National Park in search of the apex predator, along with Andean condors and Chilean flamingoes.

When to go: All year round.
Lynx in Romania

7. Lynx in Romania

Head into Transylvania’s Carpathian Mountains in search of beautiful, elusive lynx. February, mating season, is one of the best times to see them in their natural habitat. With guided expeditions taking place in the early mornings and late evenings you’ll have plenty of time to explore Bran Castle, Piatra Craiului National Park and more.

When to go: February to April.
Tigers & leopards in Russia

8. Tigers & leopards in Russia

Stunning big cat photography opportunities abound in a specialist hide deep in Kedrovaya Pad National Park. There are populations of both Siberian tigers and Amur leopards, and this is where the BBC’s Planet Earth team filmed Amur leopards for the first time. Expect to spend up to five nights in the hide waiting for your moment.

When to go: November to March.
Lions & leopards in South Africa

9. Lions & leopards in South Africa

While you can see lions, and leopards, in many parks and reserves around South Africa, unquestionably the best way is with a walking safari in a private reserve of Greater Kruger. The park is of course home to the Big Five, but game viewing is not the whole story here: you can also take part in fascinating leopard conservation research.

When to go: All year round.
Leopards in Sri Lanka

10. Leopards in Sri Lanka

This small island boasts remarkable levels of biodiversity from Blue whales to dolphins and elephants, but for many travelers the big draw is the leopards of Yala National Park in the southeast, found in greater concentrations here than anywhere else on the planet. Game drives are best in the early mornings, when the animals are most active.

When to go: October to April.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Big cat safaris or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: flowcomm] [Intro: pxhere] [Clouded leopards in Borneo: Charlie Marshall] [Snow leopards in the Himalayas: Pixel-mixer] [Tigers in India: Derrick Brutel] [Lynx in Lapland: Idobi] [Jaguars in the Pantanal: Wolves201] [Pumas in Patagonia: Wolves201] [Lynx in Romania: Aconcagua] [Tigers & leopards in Russia: pxhere] [Lions & leopards in South Africa: John Storr] [Leopards in Sri Lanka: Casey Klebba]