India has captured the interest of many nature lovers and at present boasts of almost 500 wildlife sanctuaries, 100 national parks and 14 biosphere reserves, making it one of the best destinations for wildlife safaris. Odyssey Travels presents the best national parks, distinct wildlife experiences and the best eco-tourism lodges to stay promising an unforgettable, guilt free trip into the country’s animal kingdom.
The Popular Tiger Reserves in India
India is home to 37 tiger sanctuaries out of which 17 of them have a healthy tiger population making them popular with wildlife enthusiasts and tourists alike. A few of India’s finest tiger reserves are:
Bandhavgarh National Park - Bandhavgarh, in Madhya Pradesh, is best known for its spectacular setting encompassing 32 hills covered with a mixed forest of sal, dhobin & saga along with large stretches of grasslands of bamboo grooves, and has the highest concentration of tigers in any park in India. Bandhavgarh is relatively a small park with an area of 105 square kilometers and is difficult to reach but it offers the best chance of seeing tigers in their natural habitat.
Kanha National Park - 'Tiger Land’, Kanha National Park is located in the Maikal hills of the Satpura Ranges in the state of Madhya Pradesh and has the honor of providing the setting for Rudyard Kipling's classic novel, ‘The Jungle Book’. Kanha is the largest park of central India and the park's topography ranges from plateau of about 300ft from mean sea level to low lying land where the clay like soil is known as ‘Kanhar’ which probably gives the name. Kanha offers the best possible sightings of the majestic tiger and is the perfect place to spot this ferocious beast, roaming freely in the wilderness of its natural habitat.
Ranthambore – Ranthambore, located in the Sawai Madhopur district of South Eastern Rajasthan is the ideal destination for wildlife buffs. Ranthambore gets its name from the magnificent Ranthambore fortress which lies within the National Park itself. The major attraction in Ranthambore is the presence of a significant population of tigers whose number is estimated around 30-40. Bakaula, Lakarda, Nal Ghati, Semli, Anantpura and Kachida are the most popular spots in Ranthambore from where you can watch these predators in action.
South India's Best Wildlife Parks
The foothill forests of the Western Ghats of south India are possibly the best locations to observe and photograph an impressive list of large mammals that are found within this ecoregion. These are few of south India’s best wildlife destinations:
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in the Western Ghats, this picturesque, 192,000-acre wildlife sanctuary offers a supremely lush habitat in eastern Kerala on India’s southwest coast. Periyar has a pictorial lake at the heart of the sanctuary which acts as a lasting source of water for the local wildlife. Tiger sightings are uncommon, but animals found here include elephant, sambar, gaur, wild boars and a variety of snakes & birds. The animals are viewed from motor launches on the lake and from watch towers. An innovative eco-tourism project funded by the World Bank creates unprecedented recreational opportunities, including guided hikes and boat trips around a central reservoir that allow visitors to observe various animals quenching their thirst.
Nagarhole National Park
Nagarhole National Park also known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, was set up as a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and later christened as a national park in the year 1988. Situated in the Nilgiri mountain range, it spreads across Kodagu and Mysore districts of Karnataka. The park derives its name from the combination of two Kannada words. 'Nagar,' meaning snake, and 'hole,' meaning streams. The original forest was once an exclusive hunting ground for the erstwhile Maharajas of Mysore.
The park is also a part of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, and is being considered by the UNESCO for selection as a World Heritage Site along with the Western Ghats. Wildlife varieties are numerous in number and the park teems with over 250 types of birds, elephants, sloth bear, bison, tiger, leopards, deer, and wild boars. Elephants in particular are seen the most, and they can be spotted enjoying their natural habitat at its best.
Bandipur National Park
Bandipur in Karnataka is a tiger reserve with an area of 900 square kilometers and was established under Project Tiger. Bandipur became one of the first Tiger Reserves in India in the year 1973 and the southernmost of the nine reserves especially established under Project Tiger. Declared a National Park in 1974, Bandipur once served as the hunting ground of the Mysore Maharajas. Home to the tiger and herds of wild elephants, Bandipur National Park has plenty to offer to wildlife enthusiasts and those looking for a relaxing respite from the concrete jungles.
Elephant Safaris in Pench National Park
Pench National Park is one of the secluded areas of central India offering a breathtaking landscape of the mild Satpuda Hills, criss-crossed with rivers and streams. The park comprises an area of 758 square kilometers and is roughly divided into east and west, dissected by the Pench River from which it gets its name. Pench National Park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1983, and was then included in the umbrella ‘Project Tiger’ in 1992. Pench has the highest density of herbivores animals in India having an exceptional number of deer; chital, sambar, nilgaim gaur, muntjac and langur monkeys. Pench is known as a paradise for birders and it is no surprise once you learn there are almost 250 discovered species; with crested serpent eagles, white eyed buzzard, hornbills, parakeets, kingfishers, orioles, wagtails and more. Opt for an elephant safari which can be especially rewarding experience for sighting some rare animals. The best time for a safari is early dawn when the animals come out in the open in search of food and water, helping you appreciate the full richness of the park.
Cycle Safaris in the Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary)
India’s finest bird reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Keoladeo National Park is an unparalleled breeding ground for the Painted Stork, Purple Heron, White Ibis and Eurasian Spoonbill. The park was named after an ancient Shiva temple inside the ghana (dense) vegetation. This 28.7 square kilometer mixed wetland, woodland, grass and scrub is home to 400 plus species of birds. This land was developed by the Bharatpur rulers in the mid 18th centuries by diverting the waters of a nearby irrigation canal to create a private duck reserve. This world heritage site is one of the major wintering areas for large numbers of aquatic birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia.
The best time to visit the sanctuary is from October to late February when many migratory birds can be seen, including the highly endangered Siberian crane. An excellent way to see the park is to hire a bicycle. A cycle safari allows you to sight a variety of water birds, domestic land species and migratory birds. It’s also the only way to watch the numerous kingfishers at close quarters-as any amount of noise or human activity frightens them away. Also, there are cycle rickshaw-puller-cum-guides who can guide you through the park area, and help you spot some of the most rare and endangered species of birds.
The best Eco-Tourism lodges to stay in at the National Parks in India
Eco-Tourism is an effective way for promoting the conservation of endangered species and habitats. By creating economic incentives of communities, eco-tourism encourages local guardianship of biological resources. India has its fair share of eco-tours, some of the best ones being:
Shergarh in Kanha
Shergarh is a wonderful camp is situated just 03 kms from the Mukki Entrance gate of Kanha National Park. It’s owned and managed by experienced naturalist Jehan and his English wife, Katie. The camp has its privet water reserve situated in the middle of the camp & remains filled to the brim all round the year by natural springs. Service is kept very personal with only 6 tents well spaced out around the lake with plenty of trees for shade and wildlife. Every tent is housed under locally handmade baked mud tiles to keep it cool in summer & enough warm in peak winters. Providing all the rustic comforts, Shergarh also offers most of the food items like fruits, vegetables & salad ingredients from its in house garden or from nearby villages, taking a good care of their guest’s appetites.
Mary Budden Estate in Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary
Mary Budden Estate located in Uttarakhand, is one of five privately owned estates in the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. Spread across five serene acres of land, it’s perched at almost 8,000 feet above sea level. The sanctuary was established in 1988 after a prolonged local movement for its formation. The estate has two charming cottages –the Mary Budden Cottage and the Rhododendron Cottage. The rooms are tastefully furnished and fully restored as a heritage home dating back to the 19th century. Reconnect with nature in the heart of the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary lovingly restored for comfortable and elegant living.
Sarai at Toria at Panna National Park
The Sarai at Toria is a riverside resort situated on a beautiful riverside site, close to Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh. It’s an earth-friendly small retreat spread over nine acres of land with the river on one side and a small forest patch at the back. Keeping environmental concerns in mind, the spacious cottages are fabricated in mud, with thatched roofs and combined with traditional methods & modern architectural designs. The Sarai at Toria at present has 6 independent cottage rooms, each having attached bathrooms, verandas and private courtyards. Meals are memorable as they are served in lantern-lit ambience comprising home-style Indian dishes cooked by Raghunandan Singh Chundawat himself. This earth-friendly small retreat is envisaged as the founding component of a wider project that seeks to play a positive role in the economic and social development of the local area, providing a base for conservation activities and for wildlife research.
About Odyssey Travels
Odyssey Travels is a leading IATA accredited Travel Company, established in 1992. We specialize in planning customized holidays in India and abroad for our clients which includes air ticketing, worldwide hotel reservations, inclusive tours, sightseeing activities, visa assistance & travel insurance services. For further information or to make a booking contact 020-66442929 or visit http://www.odysseytravels.net/