From Dolphins to Dragonflies, most exotic wildlife experiences of India

1st Apr 2019
Photo of From Dolphins to Dragonflies, most exotic wildlife experiences of India by Shalbha Sarda

Beyond the city-scapes, monuments, and beaches an alternate way to experience India is to delve into its natural beauty within the country's national parks. These parks are treasure troves for nature lovers, containing a wide range of geographical and climatic diversity. Apart from soaring mountains lush rain forests, dense mangroves, and arid Desert, these diverse ecosystems are home to endangered animal species, birds and rare plants. With more than 500 wildlife sanctuaries, we’ve rounded up our favorite national parks for the ultimate exotic wildlife experiences showcasing everything from dolphins to dragonflies.

Ranthambhore National Park- an erstwhile hunting ground of the royals of Rajasthan is now the nations most coveted tiger sanctuary. The place is known to have "friendly" tigers and chances of sighting one here is reasonably fair. The park is like the cross-section of the country’s natural terrain dotted with lakes, grasslands, and hills. It doesn’t come as a surprise that so many incredible species apart from the tiger such as Sloth bears, Sambar deer, Indian fox, call Ranthambhore their home. The park has 10 zones in all. Zones 1-5 are in the core area, while the remaining 6-10 are in the surrounding buffer area. Taking a safari ride on a gypsy, driving in frenzy to spot the tiger based on the monkey and peacock calls is quite like an adrenaline pumping chase. The combination of Ranthambhore national park with the 10th century fort and temple of Lord Ganesh altogether make this place a traveler’s delight.

Location- 158 km from Jaipur in the Sawai Madhopur district of Southeastern Rajasthan.

Best time to visit- It is recommended to visit the park between October and June to enjoy at the fullest.

Sunderbans National Park - Whether you spot a Tiger at Sunderbans or no, it is sure to have spotted you. The Sunderbans National Park is the part of the delta region of Sunderbans. Extending from West Bengal to Bangladesh this forest is the last standing remain of the forests that once covered the planes of Ganges. The biggest mangrove forest in the world comprises of 54 islands altogether epitomizing wilderness with its rivers, estuaries, springs, and creeks. The marshy swamps are home to man-eating variety of the Royal Bengal tiger. Rare aquatic animals such as salt-water crocodile, King Crabs, mudskipper, sawfish, rare Irrawaddy dolphins and bull sharks are found here. Explore the Nilkamalor Hiron and Katka viewpoints for the fantastic view of the wilderness. The Chargheri Char mudflats give an opportunity of coastal trekking in the area.

Location- travel from Kolkata to Gosaba (around three hours of a journey), take a boat from Godkhali Port to Sajnekhali(two hours).

Best time to visit- October to March

Rare Irrawaddy dolphins found in Sunderbans

Photo of From Dolphins to Dragonflies, most exotic wildlife experiences of India by Shalbha Sarda

Jim Corbett National Park - set amidst the foothills of Himalayas along the banks of Ramganga River the Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest National Park in India. You may find leopards, hyenas, Elephants, golden jackal, and migratory birds along with the Tigers in the 500 sq km of the park area. To see these rare animals is a treat for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike. The Park is divided into 5 zones namely Bijrani, Dhikala, Jhirna, Domunda, and Sonanandi. Each zone has a separate entrance covering riverine belts, hills, marshy depressions, and grasslands. There are a number of guesthouses, hotels and other forms of accommodation located just outside the park but for the true Corbett experience try and stay inside the park. Although you can drive around in a jeep but opting for an elephant safari instead that bring you face to face with the King of Corbett’s Jungle is an experience like no other.

Location- Nainital District, Ramnagar, Uttarakhand 244715

Best time to visit- June to November

Kaziranga National Park- for the fans of the Jurassic world this wildlife sanctuary should be on the must-do list to see for themselves the Indian one-horned rhinoceros. Approximately 2/3rd of their total world population, roam around in the area of 450 sq. km at the Kaziranga National park. The tall grass, swampy lagoons, and thick forests make an ideal place for a bit of forest trekking. Embark on your journey with a guide to walk you through the park’s varied flora and fauna. Some of the park’s other honored residents are elephants, South Asian river dolphins exotic migratory and water birds that further to its biodiversity. Visiting the 11th-century Hindu temple inside the park adds up to the overall trip experience.

Location-Kanchanjuri, Assam

Best time to visit- November to February

The Gir National forest- the king of the jungle, The Asiatic lions are the marketing face of Gujrat's tourism. If you want to catch a good look at them, then head straight to Gir. These forests are the last home to the Asiatic lions in the world. With pristine rivers, dense deciduous forests and enchanting valleys, the Gir National Park is a famous destination for the wildlife enthusiast. They can explore the vastness of the park and watch the lions and cubs resting in their lush surroundings on an open jeep safari . Apart from the lions, the sanctuary also houses species such as Black Bucks, Chital, and leopard . After marveling at the sight of the wildlife in the park, head to the temple of Kankai Mata, take a dip in hot springs and visit the picturesque Flamingo Island.

Location- Gir National Park is 60 km from Junagadh, and 360 kms away from Ahmadabad.

Best time to visit- from December to April.

Hemis National Park-Ensconced in the valleys of Ladakh, The Hemis National Park is one of Asia’s most well-known high altitude park. The park is the natural habitat of the Snow Leopard and many endangered animals like Asiatic Ibex and red fox. The Park offers a unique landscape of mountains and cold desert. The mostly barren parkland has only a thin coverage of subtropical pine forests and alpine shrubs with Indus River flowing through the park to feed its diverse wildlife. A number of Tibetan Gumpha and and holy chortens lie in the park confines so you can explore the Tibetan culture and Buddhism deep in nature's hood. Explore the ancient heritage of Leh in the 11th century Hemis Monastery near the National Park. You can also make a short trek to Gotsang Stupa, Shampa Stupa, and Shang Stupa.

Location-Karu, Jammu and Kashmir

Best time to visit- May to September

Mukundpur Wildlife Sanctuary- The sight of a white tiger mesmerizes any wildlife enthusiast. For years they have gushed over spotting this elusive big cat having a white hue because of a rare gene mutation. This color puts them in a disadvantageous situation to camouflage and hunt in the open forests. Thus these white tigers were bred in captivity to prevent the extinction of their species.The Mukundpur sanctuary, spread over an area of 25 hectares provides the rare opportunity to the visitors to see these beasts up close in their natural habitat. The park hosts a diverse range of big cats, like Bengal Tigers, Lions and Panthers.

Location- Panna Khajuraho Rd, Mukundpur, Madhya Pradesh

Best season- October to February

Khangchendzonga Biosphere reserve-A favorite among trekkers, this place has unique biodiversity owing to the presence of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests. The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve in Sikkim, the highest biosphere reserve in the country that includes the third highest mountain peak in the world, Kanchenjunga. The park has recently been included in the UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserve and is home to exotic wildlife species such as the Red Panda, Tibetan antelopes, snow leopard, and musk deer. Besides being a National Park the place is highly revered by the state's local population because of several mythological stories that are associated with the caves, rivers, lakes, forests and other natural elements in this place. It is advisable to stay at hotels at Gangtok, given that very few accommodation options are available at the Park.Indian nationals are required to obtain an Inner-Line Permit from the State Home Department. Permission of the State Chief Wildlife Warden is also mandatory for everybody visiting the park.

Location- Nearest airport is Bagdogra airport, about 222 Km from the Khangchendzonga National Park. Bagdogra airport is well connected by road network to Khangchendzonga National Park.

Best time to visit- The best time to visit is between April and May

Photo of Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim, India by Shalbha Sarda

Periyar wildlife sanctuary- One of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, the Periyar National Park is an epitome of nature’s bounty and charm. Famous for its verdant trees and scenic view, the park shelters many threatened and endangered species, including the Royal Bengal tigers and Elephants among others.

Take a jeep safari to spot the elephants, gallivanting in large groups at the Park or watch the wild boars sleeping under the sun. You can give your sanctuary excursion a spin by taking a boat cruise at the lake to spot the reptiles and aqua-fauna. Take a nature walk across the park to rejoice at its enchanting floral beauty and abundance of teak, rosewood, sandalwood, and Indian Conifer. Many medicinal plants and tea and coffee plantations are also found here. Don’t miss the Periyar Lake, Kumily and Cardamom Hills on your visit.

Location-Kottayam at 114-kms is the nearest railhead from Periyar. Kumily, the nearest town from Periyar is well served by both state and private buses from Kottayam, Ernakulam and Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

Best time to visit- September to April

Karnala bird sanctuary- prepare to find dragonflies, marsh gliders and damselflies at the Karnala bird sanctuary in Raigad Maharashtra. Just a short drive away from the concrete jungle of Mumbai the place is no less than a fairy tale with all kinds of colors soaring in like a canopy. Though small in size the sanctuary is home to more than 150 species of birds. he Karnala fort is located on the top of the hill in the sanctuary. It is about an hour medium hard trek to Karnala fort and the sanctuary being located in the mountain range of the Western Ghats. It is surrounded by many hills and is a trekkers paradise. Climbing Karnala can be a great experience for trekkers. Trekking can be dangerous in the rainy season so it can be done in the rest of the year. While climbing the fort you come across many species of birds in nature. River Patalganga is towards the east of the fort.

Location-is located in Panvel Taluka of Raigad District, outside Mumbai, India near Matheran and Karjat

Best time to visit- October to April

Photo of Karnala Bird Sanctuary, Karnala, Maharashtra, India by Shalbha Sarda
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