India has a plethora of places to visit for the wildlife enthusiast. This is one country that is so ecologically diverse that you can find mountains, deserts, forests, seas and oceans here. This geographical diversity impacts the fauna too and while in one corner of the country you may find Tibetan sheep, in another part, you’ll find rhinoceros. You can trek, take boat rides, cycle or take jeep safaris depending on where you are or what you want to experience. You can pick and choose a place depending on whether it is bird gazing you want to do or do you want a close encounter with tigers.
The top ten wildlife sanctuaries to visit are:
- Hemis National Park: The largest national park in south Asia, what sets this national park is its location. Situated in Jammu & Kashmir, this National Park is at a high altitude and home to snow leopards, great Tibetan sheep, Tibetan wild ass, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan snowcock, streaked rose finch. Trek the hills to take in the sights. Best time to visit: May and September, however the best time for spotting Snow Leopards is January and February.
- Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary: Also known as the Keoladeo Ghana national park, this sanctuary is situated in Rajasthan. Take a rickshaw or cycle around the park to gaze at a varied species of birds such as common teal, heron, migrant duct, sandpiper, osprey, spotted eagle and sea eagle among others. Best time to visit: October to March.
- Ranthambore National Park: Also located in Rajasthan, this park is famous the world over for its Royal Bengal tigers. Apart from the tigers, you can also find hyena, leopard, sambar, wild boar and sloth bear here. Ranthambore National Park is considered as one of the famous and former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, today it is a major wildlife tourist attraction. Best time to visit: March to June.
- Jim Corbett National Park: Established in 1936 as Hailey National Park, was later renamed to ‘Jim Corbett National Park’ after the famous hunter turned conservationist James Edward Corbett, to protect the endangered Bengal tiger. It is the oldest national park in Asia and known for its diversity. You can find tigers, deers and wild elephants in abundance here along with other species. Best time to visit: November to March.
- Kaziranga National Park: Located in the north-eastern state of Assam, this park is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Kaziranga has flat expanses of fertile, alluvial soil, formed by erosion and silt deposition by the River Brahmaputra. It is home to tigers, water buffalo, swamp deer, bog deer, Indian fox, wild boar, jackals, elephants, leopards, about 100 species of birds & around 2/3rd of the world’s population of Single Horned Rhinoceros. It is identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International. The park is also surrounded by lush green tea plantations. Best time to visit: November to April.
- Bandipur National Park: Situated in Karnataka and well-connected to Ooty and Bangalore, it is a World Heritage Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Known for its tiger reserves and dry deciduous forests, this park was the private hunting reserve for the Maharaja of Mysore. It houses several species of India’s endangered wildlife such as gaurs, sloth bears, muggers, Indian rock pythons, jackals and dholes among others. Best time to visit: October to February.
- Eravikulam National Park: Situated in Idduki district of Kerala, this park is famous for animals such as Nilgiri Tahr, gaur, jungle cat, leopard, sambar deer, ungulates, Indian porcupine, ruddy mongoose, elephants and others. It also houses some exotic birds such as wood pigeon, Nilgiri flycatcher, Nilgiri pipit, laughing thrush and others. Take a forest jeep or a bus safari to sight-see. Best time to visit: September to November and the best season to visit is September to November and from April to June.
- Sasan Gir National Park: Located in the western part of Gujarat, Sasan Gir or Gir National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary is a blend of dry deciduous forest and savannah forest. Gir has about 400 lions and 300 leopards, making it as one of the major ‘big cat’ concentrations in India. Besides wildcats, there are Jackal, Striped Hyena, Langur, Porcupine, Black-naped Hare, Sambar, Chital, Blue Bull, Four-horned antelope and a large population of marsh crocodile. Best time to Visit: December to March
- Kanha National Park: Situated in Madhya Pradesh and spread over 1,940-sq-kms, Kanha National park is considered the largest National Park of the state. Kanha National Park is home to Royal Bengal Tiger, sloth bear, leopards, Indian wild dog, Barasingha, blackbuck, sambhar, chital and swamp deer. Best time to Visit: Mid-October to June
- Panna National Park: Situated in the Chhatarpur and Panna district in Madhya Pradesh, this park is known for its bird watching experience. Regular visitors of this park are king vulture, bar-headed goose, changeable hawk eagle, Indian vulture and others. You can take a boat ride, elephant safari, jeep safari and even a night safari to spot these birds and the animals found here. Some of the animals to spot here are tiger, sambhar, sloth bear, chital, nilgai, chinkara and leopard. Best time to visit: October to June.
The whole experience of watching majestic tigers walking free (and not on television), wild animals in their natural habitat, and a gamut of other species of chirpy birds is priceless and worth enough to be explored at least once in a life. So what are you waiting for? Take a pick from all these experiences and book a trip now to treat that wildlife and nature lover in you!