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Top Wildlife Sanctuaries In India
Rugged cold mountains, temperate dry flatlands, rainy river plains, dry hot deserts, damp soggy marshes and lilting alpine meadows; you are bound to be enthralled travelling in a country like India. Temperatures vary from sub-zero to scorching hot and humidity from torrential rainfall to extreme draught. It is no wonder then that the flora and fauna has shown remarkable adaptations and variations here. From the Snow Leopards of the far North to the awe inspiring Bengal Tigers of the Sundarbans, there is something or perhaps someone of interest for every wildlife enthusiast. So stock up those supplies, throw in some mosquito repellant, pack some woolies and get started! Here is a list of what we consider as the best Wildlife Sanctuaries in India.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala
The Periyar Wildlife reserve lies cozily cusped within the famous Cardamom Hills of the South. The Periyar River meanders around its contours, providing a permanent source of water for the local wildlife. Periyar is a highly protected tiger and elephant reserve. During the last count, there were about 53 tigers within the park area. Tourists hire barges to view herds of wild elephants bathing in the Periyar Lake. Other animals found here include Gaur, Bison, Sambar, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Mongoose, Foxes, Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur and Leopards.
Govind Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttarakhand
Covering an area of 953 thickly forested square kilometers with stunning views of the surrounding snow clad peaks, the Govind Wildlife sanctuary draws tons of visitors each year. It is a well-known picnic and trekking destination. You might get lucky to get a glimpse of the Snow Leopard here. This park is also home to a number of other exotic species such as Himalayan Black Bear, Musk Deer, Himalayan Serow, Himalayan Monal, Trogopan and many more. Highly recommended for lovers of the cold and to those who love trekking.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Nestled among the Vindhyas, Bandhavgarh was used by the Maharajas of yester-years as a hunting park. Today, it is a highly protected area and boasts of the highest density of tigers in the country. The park is also a large breeding ground for Panthers, and various species of deer including Nilgai and Spotted Deer. A number of luxury Safaris are organised in this park where tourists are taken around through the foggy jungle in open jeeps at the crack of dawn.
Hemis National Park, Jammu & Kashmir
Located in the Eastern Ladakh region of Kashmir, Hemis National Park offers many recreational opportunities including camping, trekking and sightseeing. Hemis has the distinction of being the only national park north of the Himalayas and is home to a healthy population of about 200 majestic Snow Leopards. Other animals that call Hemis home are the Tibetan Wolf, the endangered Eurasian Brown Bear, the Red Fox, the Argali, the Bharal and the Shapu. You may even spot a few Asiatic Ibex if you are lucky. No motorable roads run through the park and you have to cover it mostly on foot. A number of trekking routes open up from mid-June to mid-October.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam
At Kaziranga, you will feel dwarfed by the vast expanses of ultra-tall elephant grass, which is why opting for an elephant safari through the park is a great idea. A World Heritage Site, the park hosts two-thirds of the world's Great One-horned Rhinoceroses. Other exotic species here are the Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo and the Eastern Swamp Deer. Infact, Kaziranga has 57%% of the world population of the Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo which can be found lolling around in the many swamps here. Kaziranga is also home to a large number of birds, predators and scavengers.
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
Jeep and open mini-bus safaris are organised and the rides through the undulating terrain of Ranthambore National Park are exhilarating. People usually take more than one ride because it's not very easy to spot a tiger in one go here. Apart from the Royal Bengal Tiger, you can hope to spot animals like Leopards, Wild Boars, Peacocks, Chitals, Sambhars, Hyenas, and Sloth Bears. They say that one of the country's largest old Banyan trees is growing somewhere in this park. Looks like you're going to have to verify that one for yourself!
Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
Jim Corbett National Park, situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, is a haven for wildlife lovers in India and covers an impressive area of about 1318 sq. kms. The most talked about of Corbett's denizens are the Bengal Tiger and the Asiatic Elephant. Less talked about but more easily seen are the Wild elephant, Langur Monkey, Rhesus Macaque, Peacock, and several types of deer including Chital, Sambars, Hog Deer and Barking Deer. There are also Crocodiles, Gharials, Monitor Lizards, Wild Boars and Jackals. Panthers also prowl this land but aren't as easy to lay eyes on. Corbett is also one of the richest bird regions of India with over 600 different species of birds nesting here.
Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
The lush Sal and Bamboo forests, grassy meadows and ravines of Kanha were the inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling's beautiful novel The Jungle Book. Open grassy meadows have sprung up in place of villages that were evacuated to make way for the animals that now inhabit the sanctuary. There are many different species of grass recorded at Kanha some of which are important for the survival of the majestic Barasingha, with its giant antlers. The park has a significant population of Bengal Tigers, Panthers, Sloths, Hyenas, Peacocks, Mongoose, Jungle Fowls and Langurs.
Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, Gujarat
Sprawled across a massive 1412 sq. kms, Gir is the only place in the world where you can find the Asian Lion in its natural habitat. You can also hope to spot Sloth Bears, Striped Hyenas, Golden Jackals, Four Horned Antelopes, Leopards, Nilgai, Crocodiles and even the very rare Blackbuck. Bird lovers can see various breeds of Owls, Eagles, Quails and Woodpeckers. Gir is a highly protected reserve, as efforts are ongoing to save the Asiatic Lion, only 411 of which remain. Tourists are only allowed on designated routes and their movements are monitored.
Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal
The largest tidal mangrove forest in the world, the Sundarbans covers 10,000 sq kms in the delta of the Bay of Bengal between India and Bangladesh. An interconnected network of waterways makes almost every corner of the forest accessible by boat. With its overhanging vegetation and green pallid waters, one gets the feeling of floating down an Amazonian river. The Sundarbans is home to the famous Royal Bengal Tiger (about 500 of them). It is also well known for its Crocodile and Snake population. If you are lucky, you may even see the Gangetic River Dolphin swimming down the river with you. Definitely one of the top wildlife sanctuaries in India, the Sundarbans is not just about spotting animals, it's about experiencing nature at its finest!
Bandipur National Park
The Bandipur National Park, located in the lush green thickets of the Deccan Plateau, extend into the Western Ghats and call wildlife enthusiasts with its natural charm. The Park is known for its huge population of elephants and there are also so many endangered species like chital, wild boar, sambhal deer etc. Bandipur National Park is renowned for its leading role in Project Tiger, a nationwide initiative that works towards protecting as well as helping tiger population in India. You will also find animals like hares, malabar squirrels, panthers and sloth bears in this forest region.
Bandipur is only about 80 km from Mysore and can also be reached easily by a road trip from Bangalore (215 km).
Keoladeo Ghana National Park
Keoladeo Ghana National Park located in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, is a beautiful wetland that has been artificially made in the aridity of Rajasthan. Created especially for migrating birds, Keoladeo was erstwhile called Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Along with its wide range of bird inhabitants like eagles, hawks, pelicans, stints, shanks, geese, ducks, larks and buntings; the park is also famous for animals like boars, chitals, nilgais, sambal deer and blackbuck. There are separate winter migratory birds and separate set of of summer birds, so research well on which season and which kind of birds you are interested in.
Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka
Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka's Mysore district is another great sanctuary for tigers. Tourists and wildlife enthusiasts flock here to spot tigers among other wild animals. You will find the safaris filled with spottings of rare animals like the Indian Bison, pangolin, mongoose, Indian giant flying squirrel and bonnet macaque. There are also loads of elephants and sloth bears. Other than the animals, you will come across forests of beautiful sandalwood, teak and silver oaks; bringing amazing fragrances and ambience to the thickets.
Also, Nagarhole is the best place to go crocodile spotting in the south, especially for the endangered species of Mugger Crocodile.
Sariska National Park, Rajasthan
Sariska National Park sits in the Alwar region of Rajasthan, and has been a Reserve since '55. It is home to tigers, and owing to their huge population here, Sariska was also declared a Tiger Reserve Forest in '78. Historically, Sariska is believed to be the very first national park of this world which was made adaptable and inhabited by the Royal Bengal Tigers. Here you shall also find other feral animals like the Jackal, hyenas, leopards and jungle cats. Adventures here include Jeep Safaris, elephant safaris, night camps and treks in the area where animals don't venture.
Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Among the many national parks M.P. is famous for, Pench probably tops the list for its literary connection. Well, Pench National Park is the inspiration and also the setting of Rudyard Kipling's story 'The Judge Book,' the one that told the tale of Mowgli and Bhaloo and Shera. The natural endowment and flora and fauna of Pench is reflected in Kipling's writing and if you are a fan of his then Pench must be on your list.
What to find here? Well, there are tigers, sloth bears, deer, birds, wild dogs, leopards, snakes and almost every specie that you saw in Mowgli's homeland. The place is enough to take you back to your childhood.
Dudhwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh
Dudhwa National Park, which forms a portion of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in U.P. is famous for its Swamp Deer. In 1958 it was declared a reserve for Swamp Deer, and twenty years later for tigers too. This place may not be very versatile and may even be less dynamic than the other parks, but if you are in Uttar Pradesh and want to squeeze in a trip to nature, then Dudhwa is it.
The Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh
The Great Himalayan National Park, as the name suggests, is nestled in the hills and valleys of the Himalaya Mountains. Imagine green forests that have conifers and pines rising up and snow peaks that you can see from between them. Located in Himachal Pradesh's Kullu, the Great Himalayan National Park is home to emerald coloured meadows that look like carpets of velvet, snow leopards prowling across them and more than a hundred and eighty bird species bickering from different trees. Other animals worth seeing here include musk deer, blue sheep and Himalayan Brown bear, the patent mountain forest fauna. Treks, safaris and paragliding activities are common in the area too.
Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka
The 2nd largest of its kind in Karnataka, Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary sits by the mighty river Kali and attracts large number of visitors for its vivid flora and fauna. Among the most celebrated animals that call Dandeli home are - elephants, tigers, leopards, flying squirrels and black panthers. All of these are quite easily spotted too, so your trip here will definitely be worth the while.
You will also be astonished to meet crocodiles, snakes and some other amphibians. For adveturers, there is river rafting in Kali, hike and trek routes as well as daring Tiger and Crocodile watching tours avaialble. Those fond of photography, the birds here are breathtaking.
Silent Valley National Park
Silent Valley National Park must have found mention in one of our EE or EVS textbooks at some point or another. Located in the Western Ghats' Kundali Hills, this national park attracted a lot of controversy at the time of its creation. But today it is a renowned wildlife sanctuary in the country and boasts of thickets of fragrant Nilgiris, areas of Palghat and Nilambur as well as Attappadi Reserve Forests. It is located at an elevation of 3600 ft above mean sea level and is blessed with more than 200 species of butterflies alone. There are blooming and flowering plants, birds, creepers and so much more, with the Kunthi river meandering its way through the jungle.
What is the animal kingdom here like? Well, you may find rare species like the Malabar parakeet, the Nilgiri wood-pigeon, Indian Hornbill and Grey headed Bulbul. Other than these there are gaurs, tigers, sambars and leopard with wild boars to accompany.
Tadoba, one of Maharashtra's claim to fame in the wildlife sanctuary circle, is a place very close to Nagpur. It is known to host a bunch of tigers as well as the special Tadoba crocodiles along with other local fauna. Most people flock here on bird watching and wildlife photography trails, as well as to go on a tiger safari expedition. The park only keeps open between mid-October and June end so plan your trip accordingly.
Nanda Devi National Park
Home to the elusive Asiatic black bear, Nanda Devi Park is a place to go to if you want mountains, forests and rare animals for a holiday. It shares borders with the Valley Of Flowers and comes to bloom with Rhododendrons too. You can come here to trek and conquer the mighty Nanda Devi Peak, visit the temples of nearby Joshimath, walk in the alpine valleys with your beloved or admire the views from your perch. Mostly, people come here to see the above mentioned bear, flocks of blue sheep and the pretty Himalayan musk deer. The park is best visited from April to October and can be accessed from Rishikesh as well as Joshimath.
Chilka Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in Orissa, the Chilka Wildlife Sanctuary is a great example of the delights of the eastern part of India. With its stunning collection of species like hyenas, black bucks, spotted deer and golden jackals, Chilka is class apart. Most people club a visit to this sanctuary with a religious trip to the town of Puri where sits the temple of Jagannath Puri. Because it is close to a lake as well as the sea, Chilka Wildlife Sanctuary also protects dolphins, Crustaceans, crabs, prawns and limbless lizards, along with more than 200 fish species. The sunrises from this park are to die for and explorers come here from far and wide to enjoy them; along with the carpets of wild roses and orchids.