Sasan-Gir Wildlife Sanctuary
Best for: Asiatic Lions, leopards, hyenas, pythons, jackals
Logistics: Located on Western India’s Gujarat Peninsula, across the Bay of Cambay from Mumbai on the Arabian Sea, this park’s rugged scrubland and forests are most effectively explored on a Jeep safari. India’s lions don’t sport massive manes like those in Africa, but they’re just as imposing (and this is the only place in the world where you can see Asiatic lions). Occasionally, these consummate hunters wander beyond the sanctuary to prey on livestock. Peak wildlife viewing is from December to April; the park closes mid-June through monsoon season in mid-September.
Accommodations: Sasan Gir hasn’t felt the commercial pressure of more popular national parks: It has fewer resorts and is less crowded (even during high season), resulting in a relaxing experience. The peaceful Taj Hotel Gir Lodge (which was temporarily closed at press time) has 29 spacious, river-view rooms with private baths, TVs, and refrigerators, plus its own safari guides and drivers (doubles from $80; www.tajhotels.com).
Tip: Marvel at dozens of dinosaur-like crocodiles awaiting release into the wild at the crocodile-breeding center next door to the park permit office.