A Detailed Guide For Wildlife Enthusiasts To Explore The Best Of Karnataka!

Photo of Karnataka, India by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Layers of green and blue misty hills as far as the eye can see. A glistening, metallic blue Malabar whistling thrush hopping around in wet forest undergrowth. The shiny nose of a baby king cobra poking out of its egg. Spunky smooth-coated otters on a riverbank, bullying a crocodile into giving up its basking site. Rare glimpses of a less-known marine world, with colourful reef fish swimming among corals. These are some of the captivating stories of Karnataka's rich biodiversity that has always enthralled nature enthusiasts!

Here, we explore the Southern Indian state's well-known and lesser-seen wildlife and wildlands that are worth travelling for!

Explore the Wildlife Sanctuaries

The state is home to over 40,000 sq/km of notified and deemed forests, including 23 wildlife sanctuaries

1. Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve

Bhadra Tiger Reserve; (c): flickr

Photo of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Chikmagalur by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Popularly known as Muthodi Wildlife Sanctuary, it was declared a Project Tiger reserve. But apart from the tiger, it is a great place to sight and observe other mammals, reptiles, and more than 250 species of birds, many of which are endemic to the Western Ghats. The sanctuary is also home to the Jagara Giant, the largest teak tree in the state and is said to be around 400 years old!

Highlights of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary: Jeep Safari, Bhadra Dam, Boating inside Bhadra Reservoir, Sunset Viewpoint, Mullayanagiri Peak; over 120 different plant and tree varieties; spotting a wide variety of birds, reptiles, and wild animals.

Best Season To Visit: October - March

2. Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary

Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary; (c): flickr

Photo of Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary, Belgaum Division by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Located in Khanapur taluk, Karnataka-Goa border in Belagavi district, this sanctuary is known for the Barapede caves, the only known breeding area of the Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat, a threatened species on the verge of extinction.

Highlights of Bhimgad: Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary, Barapede Caves, Bhimgad Fort, Belgaum Golf Course.

Best Season To Visit: November - February

3. BR Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary

BR Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary; (c): flickr

Photo of BR hills temple forest, Punajur State Forest by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Biligiri Ranganatha Swamy Temple (BRT) Wildlife Sanctuary is considered to be the wildlife corridor that connects the Eastern Ghats to the Western Ghats which in turn facilitates the gene flow between the population species inhabiting both the mountain ranges. The hills are covered with a variety of species of plant life, including scrub, dry deciduous, moist deciduous, shola forests, and montane grasslands and mammals, reptiles, and a variety of butterflies and birds!

Highlights of BR Hills: Dodda Sampige Mara (a large Michelia Champaka tree), Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple, forest safari, bird watching, elephant bathing.

Best Season To Visit: October-May

4. Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary

Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary; (c): shutterstock

Photo of Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary, Nadpal by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary has been named after Lord “Someshwara” of the famous Someshwara Temple located within the limits of the sanctuary. It is situated in Karkala and Kundhapur Taluk of Udupi having semi-evergreen and evergreen forests. The Kudremukh National Park lies to the Southeast of this sanctuary. The Agumbe Ghat located inside this sanctuary receives an average rainfall of about 8000 mm and thus called “Cherrapunji‎ of South India”.

Highlights of Someshwara Wildlife Santuary: Waterfalls and river bathing, animal sightings- Jackal, Wild Boar, Spotted deer, Gaur, Wild Dogs, monkeys, and langurs, etc; bird sightings- Macaque, Squirrels, hornbills; reptiles and night animals.

Best Season To Visit: October-April

5. Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary

Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary; (c): shutterstock

Photo of Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary, Seetharama Tanda by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary is the first Sloth Bear Sanctuary in India and Asia, declared exclusively for the protection and conservation of the Sloth Bear. Sightings from machans are normally organized in the evenings as these bears are mostly nocturnal. Home to a large number of free-ranging bears, the sanctuary also has hyenas, wild boars, pangolins, porcupines, jackals, and leopards. Other denizens include star tortoise and monitor lizard, and endemic species of birds such as the painted spurfowl, yellow-throated bulbul, sand grouse, stone curlew, and peafowl.

Highlights of Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary: Animals- Sloth Bear, Leopards, Wild Boars, Pangolins, Mongoose, Hyena, Lizards, Porcupines, Peafowl, etc; Birds- 70 species of birds, different butterfly species are also spotted; watchtower.

Best Season To Visit: August-April

Explore the National Parks

1. Kali Tiger Reserve

Kali Tiger Reserve; (c): flickr

Photo of KALI TIGER RESERVE, Dandeli by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Kali Tiger Reserve, earlier known as Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve, is located in the central portion of the Uttara Kannada (North Canara) district of Karnataka state. The tiger reserve is headed by a Conservator of Forests. There are two sub-divisions, namely, Dandeli and Anshi wildlife sub-divisions, and consist of six wildlife ranges! Kali Tiger Reserve is home to rare black panthers.

Highlights of Kali Tiger Reserve: Jungle safari, Ulavi Caves, Syntheri Rocks, Supa Dam, Shirve Gudda trekking, Forest Safari, Bird-watching: high probability of spotting hornbills and other rare birds; Adventure Sports: White water rafting, kayaking.

Best Season To Visit: March-May

2. Nagarahole National Park

Nagarahole National Park; (c): flickr

Photo of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, Mysore Division by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Located between the Mysuru plateau in Karnataka and the Nilgiri Mountains of Tamil Nadu, Nagarahole is home to an abundant variety of wildlife! Rajiv Gandhi National Park is an important Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and is a major hub of conservation under Project Tiger and Project Elephant, the sanctuary is host to the largest herd of Asiatic elephants in the world and innumerable species of birds, flora, and fauna including large predators, reptiles, gaurs, deer, bears, and smaller animals.

Highlights of Nagarahole National Park: Wildlife- Bengal Tigers and Asiatic Elephants, Wild Dogs, Leopards, Bears, Wild Gaurs, Wild Boar, Sambar Deer, Antelope, Spotted Deers; Forest safari.

Best Season To Visit: November-February

3. Bannerghatta National Park

Bannerghatta National Park; (c): shutterstock

Photo of Bannerghatta biological park, Bangalore Division by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

The Bannerghatta National Park boasts of a Lion and Tiger Safari, with enclosures that recreate their natural habitat. From here, you can watch the giant cats in close quarters. Besides, there is a snake park, a butterfly park, a zoo, and a nature camp for children! Adjacent to it is Bannerghatta Nature Camp, a property of Jungle Lodges & Resorts which has tented cottages, log-huts, and dormitory facilities.

Highlights of Bannerghatta National Park: Zoo, Lion safari, Tiger safari, Butterfly park.

Best Season To Visit: October-June

4. Bandipur National Park

Bandipur National Park; (c): flickr

Photo of Bandipur National Park, Karnataka by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Bandipur National Park is regarded as one of the most beautiful and better-managed national parks of India. Located amidst the picturesque surroundings of the towering Western Ghats on the Mysore-Ooty highway in Karnataka, it is an important part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. One of the thirty reserves identified across the country to save the tiger and its habitat, it’s also one of the last refuges of the endangered Asiatic wild elephant!

Highlights of Bandipur National Park: Sloth bears, gaurs, Indian rock pythons, jackals, muggers, and four-horned antelopes; Over 200 species of birds and a diversity of flora; wide range of timber trees including teak, rosewood, sandalwood, Indian-laurel, Indian Kino tree, giant clumping bamboo.

Best Season To Visit: March-May

5. Atal Bihari Vajpayee Zoological Park

Atal Bihari Vajpayee Zoological Park; (c): shutterstock

Photo of Atal Bihari Vajapayee Zoological Park, Kamalapur by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Atal Bihari Vajpayee Zoological Park is the state’s Third Tiger and Lion Safari at the Ballari District! The park was launched in November 2017 and is 10 Kms from the UNESCO World Heritage Hampi.

Highlights of Atal Bihari Vajpayee Zoological Park: The park boasts of Tiger, Lion, Spotter Deer, Sambar, Barking Deer and others. Several animals like crocs, hyenas, leopard, bear, turtle, fox and langur have been shifted to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Zoological Park from Bellary Mini Zoo.

Best Season To Visit: March-June

Explore the Bird Sanctuaries

1. Attiveri Bird Sanctuary

Attiveri Bird Sanctuary; (c): flickr

Photo of Attiveri Bird Sanctuary, Astakatti by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Attiveri is one of the popular bird sanctuaries in the Uttara Kannada district, centered around Attiveri lake. Attiveri Bird Sanctuary is home to about 75 species of bird. Both residents and migrants can be seen!

Highlights of Attiveri Bird Sanctuary: Birds- Red-naped Ibis, cormorants, hornbills, kingfishers, Spoonbill, Barn Swallow, egrets; Mammals- Wild Pig, Jackal, Jungle Cat, mongoose.

Best Season To Visit: November -March

2. Adichunchanagiri Peacock Sanctuary

Adichunchanagiri Peacock Sanctuary; (c) flickr

Photo of Adichunchanagiri Peacock Sanctuary (Tapovana), Adichunchanagiri by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Established as a sanctuary in 1981 in Karnataka’s Mandya district at Nagamangala Taluk, Adichunchanagiri Peacock Sanctuary is blessed with a ravishing hilly landscape in addition to all its stunning scenic attributes and thus provides an incredible backdrop for the majestic Peacocks, alongside their protection! It is impossible to leave the city without witnessing these lovely birds showcasing their royal demeanor.

Highlights of Adichunchanagiri Peacock Sanctuary: Peacocks

Best Season To Visit: June-November

3. Hornbills of Dandeli

Hornbills of Dandeli; (c): shutterstock

Photo of Hornbills Nest, Muvathoklu by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Hornbills are spectacular birds and hard to miss. With their large, yellow-colored beaks, hornbills are easy to spot and are a bird photographer’s delight. Dandeli in Karnataka is the most popular place to spot hornbills! India is home to about 9 species of hornbills. While at Dandeli, you are likely to see all 4 species of south Indian Hornbills viz Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Great Hornbill, and Indian Grey Hornbill!

Highlights of Hornbills of Dandeli: Spotting Hornbills; Hornbill festival in February

Best Season To Visit: October-May

4. Gudavi Bird Sanctuary

Gudavi Bird Sanctuary; (c): shutterstock

Photo of Gudavi Bird Sanctuary, Gudavi by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Heaven for avid bird watchers, Gudavi Bird Sanctuary, is one of the renowned Bird Sanctuaries in Karnataka! Located on Gudavi Lake banks, it is engulfed with natural beauty and rich biodiversity, attracting tourists from different parts of the world. A visit to this unexploited paradise, is one of the best things to do in Karnataka. During the monsoon, the beauty of this place is in its full glory!

Highlights of Gudavi Bird Sanctuary: More than 217 bird species, including residential and migratory birds. Some of the most popular migratory birds here are Grey Heron, Little Cormorant, Little Grebe, White Ibis, White-Headed Crane – to name just a few.

Best Season To Visit: June-December

5. Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary; (c): flickr

Photo of Ranganatittu Bird Sanctuary, Srirangapatna by Tanvi Shah (travelstoriesbytan)

Declared a sanctuary in 1940 at the behest of the famous ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali, the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is a paradise for bird watchers and nature lovers. Located on the banks of River Cauvery, this bird paradise is the preferred nesting ground for several species of resident birds. Go boating on the river, get a fascinating view of the various species of birds, and catch a glimpse of the marsh crocodiles in the waters!

Highlights of Ranganatittu Bird Sanctuary: 170 different species of birds: Painted Stork, Kingfishers, Cormorants, Darter, Herons, River Tern, Egrets, Indian Roller, Blackheaded Ibis, Spoonbill, Great Stone Plover, and Spot-billed Pelicans.

Best Season To Visit: December-April

Karnataka is renowned for being one of India’s richest states when it comes to wildlife! Have you been to any of the sanctuaries? Let us know in the comments below!

Also Read:

- 7 Best Jungle Lodges In Karnataka To Enjoy The Best Of Forests!

- All You Need To Know About Agumbe, Karnataka

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