1. Pakke, Arunchal Pradesh
Like all rainforests, it keeps its wild jewels well hidden. It takes persistence, creature discomforts, and walking to discover them. But just being in its sanctum sanctorum is ample reward.
2. Agumbe, Karnataka
Although adjacent to Kudremukh, Agumbe is not as tourist friendly. Large mammals don’t seem to like its wetness, but the volume of rainfall nurtures a diversity of small life forms. Lion-tailed macaques, black-footed gray langurs, dhole, and a range of birds are easily visible.
3. Narcondam, Andaman Islands
A lone island, it’s one of the few places on earth that make you feel insignificant, and the rest of the world irrelevant. The raucous Narcondam hornbills, scared witless water monitor lizards, and numerous rats make you contemplate nature’s adaptability and evolution.
4. Little Andaman
If people are to be believed, saltwater crocodiles are taking over the east coast of this island. While tourists shriek at the mere sight of one in Havelock, people of Little Andaman live with these reptiles without much fuss. On the west coast, another reptilian leviathan, the leatherback turtle, comes ashore to lay its eggs in numbers that would warm the cockles of any conservationist’s heart.
5. Wilpattu, Sri Lanka
An extensive forest with ponds, rivers, and coastal cliffs, it gives a glimpse of what the Indian coast must have been like centuries ago. Elephants, bears, leopards and crocodiles are aplenty, but are shyer than those at the tourist-overrun Yala.
6. Sonora Desert, Arizona
Birdwatching in this spectacular landscape of mountains and columns of saguaro cactus is effortless. Hard-working hummingbirds, aglitter with flashing yellows and reds, and metallic green and blue, hover in front of your face. Cruise the roads at night to see stout western diamondback rattlesnakes and cartoonish gila monsters.