India is firm favourite as a wildlife destination, thanks to tigers, elephants and leopards. In fact there are around 96 National Parks throughout India with a further 70 locations earmarked for development. Whether you looking to spot the elusive Bengal Tiger, take an elephant safari or spot rare birdlife, these parks cover all bases;
Jim Corbett National Park, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India
This is the oldest wildlife park in India and was first established in 1936. Originally called the Hailey National Park, it was quickly renamed after the British conservationist Jim Corbett, who was instrumental in establishing the national parkland. The park is famous for the wide range of wildlife including leopards, tigers and elephants along with its picturesque location. The topography of this 201 square mile park varies and contains riverine and hilly areas in addition to some marshy sections. You will find 448 different plantlife species here, with 110 tree species along with 50 mammal species. You can also find 25 reptile and 580 bird species in this huge wildlife park. The administrative centre and the tourist information centre of the Park are located at Ramnagar (the nearest city) and the most convenient method to explore the Park is via jeep safari. The Jim Corbett National Park is the also the busiest wildlife destination in India with some 70,000 visitors every year.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India
Bandhavgarh National Park is situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh, close to the city of Katni and although it is difficult to reach and explore, most visitors make the special journey as Bandhavgarh offers the best chance of Bengal Tiger spotting in India. Bandhavgarh NP is located 200 km northeast of Jabalpur and was established in 1968. The park covers some 169 square miles (437 sq. km) and can be accessed via Tala, a small local village. You can reach Jabalpur via air, road or rail. The best time to visit Bandhavgarh is in March and April as the tigers come out to cool in the water holes during the heat of Indian summer. You can take an elephant ride here to view a tracked tiger. Although this is a relatively small park, Bandhavgarh is well worth a trip for the Bengal tigers alone; schedule two safaris whilst here for your best chance at spotting the elusive creatures. And for a more authentic safari experience try an elephant safari for wildlife spotting.
Spread across an area of 1412 square km, this forested national park has been home to a huge number of birds and animals since 1965. It is one of the important big-cat hubs of India and is particularly popular with wildlife enthusiasts hoping to spot the mighty Asiatic Lion. The breeding programme has been immensely successful and the park is actually overrun with Asiatic lions. The park covers 545 square miles (1,412 sq. km) and also boasts of 40 other animal species, including some 300 leopards and 300 lions. You will also find other animals such as spotted deer, sambhar, chinkara, antelope, chousingha, gazelle and Wild Boar at the park. The Gir wildlife sanctuary is accessible by rail, road and air. A domestic airport is available close to the sanctuary at Keshod near Junagad. The ideal time to visit the sanctuary is between late November and early March.
Kaziranga National Park, Kohara, Assam, India
The National Park of Kaziranga is located in a bio-diverse hotspot in India’s north east region of Golaghat and Nagaon in Assam state. It is also a home to the four of the greatest animals found in India including one-horned Rhinos (in fact the largest population in the world), Asian Elephants, Asiatic Buffalo and the Royal Bengal Tiger. You will find a large number of swamp deer in the park as well as numerous endangered bird species. It is one of the world’s biggest success stories in terms of animal conservation. It had 12 rhinos in 1908 and had 1,700 when counted last in 2005. Poachers here are dealt with a shoot at sight order.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Vandiperiyar, Kerala, India
This Tiger reserve is located in the southern state of Kerala. The park was created along with a dam in 1985 and today covers some 118 square miles (305 sq. km). Although it is primarily a tiger reserve, many visitors come here to see the Indian elephants playing in the Periyar Lake. You can see Sambhar, Barking Deer, dole, mouse deer etc here. This wildlife park also habitats the much elusive Nilgiri Tahr very rarely seen. Boat cruises are normally considered as the best method to explore the wildlife sanctuary. The best time to visit the national park is during October to June. You can access the park via Kumily and Periyar.
Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal
The Sundarbans national park and tiger reserve is located near the mouth of the river Ganga. The national park is situated in the state of West Bengal, India and 130 km south of Kolkata. You can also access it by train with the nearest station being at Canning. The park is a tangle of Mangrove trees that are only of their kind in the world. This sanctuary is spread across 54 islands and a part of it extends in Bangladesh, the neighboring country. The tiger reserve is spread across 2585 square km including the 1330 square km national park full of reptiles, birds, wild boar, deer and monkeys.
If you’ve been bitten by the wildlife spotting bug then we have several India wildlife tours that offer the chance to explore the various national parks of the country. Read about it before you go as well with our informative guide with ideas and advice.
Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India
This Kanha national park is a famous tiger reserve situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh in the Mandla and Balaghat regions. “Kanha” means ‘Kankar’, which is the clayed soil of the hilly area. It is spread across 1945 square kilometers and is one of the few places where the tigers can actually be sighted. The best time to visit the wildlife park is between Feb to June. The park is home to several wild animals such as jackals, blackbucks, spotted deer, Sāmbhar and birds. You can also access some recreational facilities here such as a multi-cuisine restaurant and a swimming pool. The best place for accommodation is “the bagh” a forest retreat with excellent amenities.
By Julie Bowman