The species that make up the Panthera genus of the felidae family – aka the "big cats" - have enthralled and fascinated human civilisation since ancient times. The power, beauty and indomitable spirit of the Lion, Tiger, Leopard and Jaguar garner respect, awe and fear, and the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in the wild is a lifetime dream for many. |
With the concept of dedicated wildlife travel, these days it's possible to get closer than ever before to the big cats. From Jaguar holidays in Brazil to wildlife safaris in Africa, these are the best places to see the Pantheras in the wild.
The Lion – Panthera leo
There can no more enduring symbol of Africa than the Lion, and while the big cats used to have free range throughout the entire continent (as well as some parts of Europe and Asia), nowadays their habitat is primarily in the southern and eastern parts of Africa. Lions can be seen in safari parks in Zambia and Botswana, but probably the most renowned are the Serengeti National Park, in Tanzania, and the vast Masai Mara National Reserve, in Kenya.
The Tiger – Panthera tigris
The habitat of the Tiger includes Southeast Asia, Korea, China and Russia, but with over half the global population of the animal found in India, it is the best place to see them in the wild. Solitary and very private animals, in order to provide the best sightings wildlife tours generally operate in areas where the big cat has become habituated to vehicles, most notably the Ranthambore National Park and Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Leopard – Panthera pardus
The majestic Leopard is also a solitary animal, but it is extremely adaptable to its surroundings and can survive in a diverse range of habitats. Notoriously difficult to observe in the wild, the best places to experience a sighting of this elusive big cat are reserves where the animals have become accustomed to vehicles. In Botswana, Zarafa Camp is popular with wildlife lovers on the trail of the Leopard, as are the famous Sabi Sands Game Reserve and Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. In Zambia, they can be seen in the Luangwa National Park.
Jaguar – Panthera Onca
Panthera onca's current range extends from Northern Argentina and Paraguay up through Central America and Mexico, but the most significant populations are found in the remote regions of South America in the Amazon Basin. There's no doubt that the best way to enjoy the thrill of an encounter this spectacular big cat is on Jaguar holidays to the vast tropical wetland of the Brazilian Pantanal. Dedicated, eco-friendly Jaguar holidays take participants into the wetlands, open grasslands and rivers of the Pantanal at different times of the day for the best chance of multiple sightings. While this secretive apex predator is an expert sleuth, during the dry season, between the months of June and November, there's an excellent chance of a sighting.
Today, more than ever before, adventurous nature lovers have many extraordinary opportunities at their disposal to get up close and personal with the world's most fascinating and beautiful wildlife, including these magnificent big cats.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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