Mad about cats? Want to take a walk on the wild side on your next vacation? Check out these hot spots to catch a glimpse of the world’s biggest and most ferocious cats!
1) Bengal Tigers, India
Found in regions of South Asia, Bengal tigers are some of the most striking of big cats. It is estimated that less than 2500 Bengal tigers remain in the wild, and they have an aggressive, solitary nature.
This makes viewing them difficult, so visit a conservation area like Rathambore Reserve in Rajasthan, India.
Accessible from Jaipur, the best time to see Bengals is in the hot months of May and June, when the soaring temperatures send the tigers flocking to waterholes.
2) Siberian Tigers, China
Also known as Amur tigers, Siberian tigers are the world’s largest species of cat and are nicknamed “King of the Forest.”
Although their climate is cold and harsh, Siberian tigers prefer the openness of their vast woodland habitats.
Because of their geographic isolation, the best place to see them is at the world’s largest conservation and breeding ground for Siberian tigers in Heilongjiang, China.
3) African Lions, Kenya
African lions and their wild manes are synonymous with the grassy savannas of sub-Saharan Africa.
The African lion is known for its fearsome reputation and perhaps for good reason: loss of habitat due to human encroachment is the number one threat to these big cats.
There are lots of places to see African Lions in the wild but in the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, lions can be seen hunting in prides during the annual wildebeest migration— dramatic experience not to be missed.
4) Asiatic Lions, India
Highly symbolic in both Buddhism and Hinduism, Asiatic lions are revered across Asia for their fearlessness and beauty.
Lions in Eurasia once roamed from Greece to India, but wild Asiatic lions are now found exclusively in Gir National Forest in Gujarat, India.
5) Jaguars, Brazil
The third largest cat behind tigers and lions is South America’s jaguar.
Prominent in Native American cultures, the jaguar is known in some traditions as the lord of the underworld. Seen as a symbol of strength, the jaguar is the national animal of Guyana and was the mascot of the Olympics held in Mexico City.
In the Mato Grosso do Sul region of Brazil, jaguars roam free in the Pantanal conservation area. But be prepared to be patient–sightings of these solitary cats is extremely rare.
6) Leopards, Botswana
Leopards are some of the world’s fastest and most graceful cats.
The leopard’s spotted coat provides excellent camouflage and leopards can appear to vanish before your eyes. This makes them difficult to spot in the wild.
One place to try is in Botswana’s Okavango Delta where the streams of the Okavango River spread across the plans of the Kalahari. This area has been called “Africa’s Eden” and is teeming with leopards and other wildlife.
7) Snow Leopards, Pakistan
Snow leopards are rare and beautiful big cats located in the mountains of Central Asia.
Known for their graceful ability to leap great distances, snow leopards have wide paws that function like snowshoes.
Their thick gray fur makes them a target for poachers who can command a high price for pelts and sell their organs for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
Because of this, Snow leopard populations are decreasing dramatically. To see these mystical animals in the wild, spend some time in Pakistan’s Hindu Kush Valley, where trekkers have been known to spot them.
8) Cheetahs, Namibia
Cheetahs are super-animals: they can go from 0-60 miles (96km) per hour in 3 seconds, they have razor-sharp eyesight, and they only need to drink once every four days!
The world’s fastest land animal is found mostly in Africa and southwestern Asia.
The best way to see a cheetah is to visit one of the foundations working to combat poaching and conserve cheetah populations, like the Cheetah Conservation Fund located 50 km from Otjiwarongo, Namibia.
9) Cougars, US West Coast
Also known as mountain lions, cougars are the largest members of the cat family in North America.
Nocturnal animals, cougars are masters of staying hidden while hunting and are always on the move.
Cougars can be seen in the wild in many places, but cougar tracking is especially popular on the west coast of the United States in California, Oregon and Washington.
10) Ligers, Miami, Florida
The largest known cat in the world is actually a human invention, a cross between a male lion and a female tiger.
Ligers generally have the coloring of a lion with the striped patter of a tiger, with variations depending on the coloring of the parents.
Since lion and tiger habitats do not overlap in the wild, ligers only exist in captivity.
The world’s largest cat, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is a liger named Hercules who resides at the Jungle Island theme park in Miami, Florida.
Have you seen any of these amazing cats in the wild? Where do you think is best place for a big cat sighting? We want to hear about it!
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Main image: African lion by Jaamzp