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A National Park is dedicated to the conservation of the wild flora and fauna in that region. They are created and protected by the National Governments. In 1969, the IUCN declared a national park to be a relatively large area protecting plants, animals, and geomorphological sites. It also protects habitats with great natural beauty and with special scientific, educational, and recreational interests. Human activity in these areas is very restricted, but some national parks are open to visitors, under special conditions, for inspirational, educative, cultural, and recreative purposes.
Incredible India is a land of diverse terrain and climate. And such geographical and climatic diversity is bound to have diverse flora and fauna. India once boasted of rich wildlife with many endemic species. But the incessant loss of forest cover, encroachment by humans, and trophy hunting led to the loss of our wildlife. This has brought many species on the verge of extinction.
The Jim Corbett National Park, the first in the country, was set up in 1936. From 1936 to 1970, only five national parks were there in India. But in 1971 it was discovered that only about 1800 wild tigers are left in the wild. Since then, India took more proactive efforts towards saving the diminishing wildlife. The Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger were also created. Today, there are 104 National Parks in India. Also, an additional 75 National Parks are proposed in the Protected Area Network Report (Rodgers & Panwar, 1988). The national parks will go up to 176 after the full implementation of the above report.
All the National Parks are equally important in conserving the environment and wildlife. But for those of you who are new to ecotourism and wildlife exploration, here is a list of 10 popular National Parks in India which you can explore:
Jim Corbett National Park
We start our list with the oldest National Parks in India, established in 1936. This is located in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand. It is the first national park established to protect the endangered Bengal tiger. The Park has 792 sq km of the buffer zone and 520 sq km of the core area. There are five zones inside the park- Bijrani, Jhirna, Dhikala, Dhela, and Durgadevi. The Jhirna zone is open all year round, while the rest closes during the monsoon.
Although it is a tiger reserve, you have low chances of spotting a tiger. But since it houses around 650 endangered species of birds and animals, you can spot many other animals. The other animals include several species of deer, leopards, jackals, red foxes, black bear, and sloth bear. You can book jeep safaris to go around the park. There is also an option for trekking around the park but in the company of a guide.
You can do the bookings using the following link- https://www.corbettonline.uk.gov.in/
Pro tip: You can stay in the Dhikhala forest zone in the forest guest houses for the real forest experience. This is a beautiful forest area and the chances of sightings are higher.
How to reach: You can take a train to Ramnagar Railway station. By road, you can find buses to Ramnagar from Delhi, Moradabad, Haldwani, and Nainital.
Best time to Visit: November to June.
Nagarhole National Park
The Nagarhole national park is located in the Kodagu and Mysore districts of Karnataka and covers around 643 sq km area. This is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Since 1999, the park has also become a Tiger reserve. While visiting the national park, you can stay near the Kabini river, which separates Bandipur national park from the Nagarhole forest area. This is a beautiful forest with a lush green cover along with many streams and waterfalls.
The forest has more than 400 species of birds and animals and the gorgeous Kabini river. It is home to a variety of animals like the Elephant, Tiger, Jackal, Gaur, Panther, Sambar, Mongoose, Spotted deer, Sloth Bear, Civet cat and Hyena. The park also has reptiles like vine snake, Tortoise, King Cobra, Indian Rock Python, Krait, Russel’s Viper and Monitor Lizard. It is truly a haven for nature lovers. The Kabini Forest Reserve in the south-eastern part of the Nagarhole National Park is also home to the famous black panther, Saaya.
However, due to the huge area and thick forest cover, it will be difficult for you to spot an animal. You can contact the Forest lodges and resorts as well as nearby hotels for the safari. You can directly contact the forest department for booking the safari. For a safari, you can either book an open jeep or a bus to look around the forest.
How to Reach: You can reach Mysore or Bangalore through air or trains, from where you can take buses and cars to the Nagarhole national park.
Best time to Visit: October to May
Ranthambore National Park
The Ranthambore National Park is one of the most popular national parks in India. It is located in the Sawai Madhopur district, around 130 km from Jaipur. The Park is a treat both for nature and history lovers since inside the park is a 10th-century fort. The Park covers around 400 square km of area and is characterized by rocks and steep cliffs. The national park was established as part of Project Tiger and has been the home of the Royal Bengal Tigers since 1974. Since the area is comparatively smaller and the tigers here are comfortable being near humans, you can spot them quite easily. You can also spot other animals such as bears, leopards, elephants, striped hyenas, bison, several types of deer, and a variety of snakes.
The official site to book safari online is- http://fmdss.forest.rajasthan.gov.in/
How to reach: The nearest railway station for Ranthambore is Sawai Madhopur station. You can also drive down from Kota. The nearest airport is Sanganer airport. It is well connected to the cities by road.
Best time to visit: October to June
Kanha National Park
The Kanha National Park is one of the most beautiful and well-maintained parks in India. It is believed to even have inspired Rudyard Kipling for his famous “The Jungle Book”. The Park is situated in the Maikal range of the Satpuras in Madhya Pradesh. It covers an area of around 950 sq km. Along with the buffer zone of 1945 sq km, it is one of the largest national parks in central India. The forest, with its lush sal and bamboo plants, lakes, streams, and grasslands, is perfect for nature lovers.
There are two main entrances to the national park- Khatia & Mukki. The Khatia entrance falls in the Mandla district and is well connected from Jabalpur & Nagpur, while the Mukki entrance is in the Balaghat district. It has two separate parts, Banjar and Hallon, named after the rivers that flow through it. The separate zones include Kisli, Sarhi, Mukki, and Kanha Zone.
Other than being a famous tiger reserve, Kanha National Park is also home to the Barasingha (swamp deer). Tourists can also hope to spot a wide variety of animals such as elephants, leopards, striped hyenas, sloth bears, and several varieties of deer including blackbuck, chital, and sambhar. Jeep safaris, elephant safaris, and canters are available for tourists. You can either make safari bookings through your hotel or online and is better if done in advance.
How to reach: By air, you can travel to Jabalpur airport, Raipur airport, or Nagpur airport. By train, you can travel to Gondia and Jabalpur railway stations. By road, it is well connected to Nagpur and Jabalpur.
Best time to visit: October to June.
Bandhavgarh National Park
Located in the Umariya district of Madhya Pradesh, the Bandhavgarh National Park is famous for having one of the highest densities of Bengal tigers. It covers an area of around 105 sq km of core area and 820 sq km of the buffer zone. The three Core Zones include– the Tala Zone, Maghadhi Zone, and Khitauli Zone. You can also visit the Cheshpur waterfall in the Johila river in the buffer zone. The Park is quite picturesque, with an ancient fort built on 800 m high cliffs.
Although relatively difficult to reach, this park offers among the best chance of spotting a tiger, making this a must-visit place for all wildlife enthusiasts. It also has an abundance of white tigers. Besides tigers, this park is home to around 250 species of birds and over 22 species of mammal including Asiatic jackals, sloth bears, foxes, jungle cats, wild boars, Chinkara, Nilgai, striped hyenas, and leopards.
How to Reach: By air, you can travel to Khajuraho airport (nearest airport) or Jabalpur airport. By train, you can travel to Umaria Railway Station (nearest railway station) or Katni Railway Station. The road network is well-connected and many buses are operated from Rewa, Satna, Katni, and Umaria in Madhya Pradesh.
Best Time to Visit: October to June
Sasan Gir National Park
This national park is specifically dedicated to the conservation of the Asiatic lions. The forest covers around 1412 sq km. The forest is filled with deciduous trees and vast grassland, which shines golden under the setting sun. Before 1990, this forest was the hunting grounds for the Nawabs of Junagadh. The lion population had dropped to 12 around that time. But with strong conservation efforts, the count has now increased to around 600.
You can tour the forest on a safari, with a total of 8 safari routes. The forest department has also kept two lions and other herbivores like blackbuck, chinkara, bison, and deer varieties in a separate smaller area called Devaliya. so that people do not go disappointed if they cannot spot a lion in the Gir. Other than the lion, the national park is home to various animal species like sambar, chinkara, blackbuck, jungle cats, sloth bears, and wild boar. Many endangered species of birds can also be spotted here.
For online booking, you can use this link- http://girlion.in/
How to Reach: The Rajkot airport and railway station are well-connected to the Gir forest by buses and taxis. The buses are also well connected to other big cities.
Best time to visit: December to March
Kaziranga National Park
This national park is most popular for the one-horned rhinoceros. But it boasts of other large mammals as well. It is home to the big five- Rhinoceros, Tiger, Elephant, Wild Buffalo, and Swamp Deer. It covers an area of 430 sq km. You can tour the park in a jeep or an elephant safari. The National Park is at the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra, in the middle of Golaghat and Nagaon in Assam. UNESCO also announced it as a world heritage site since it resides in an Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspot. It is the habitat of about 66% of one-horned rhinoceroses in the entire world. Despite having a high density of tigers, it is very difficult to spot one due to the camouflage by tall grasses. The Park also offers shelter to many other species. This includes bears, leopards, and several species of local and migratory birds.
How to Reach: You can fly to Jorhat town airport and Guwahati airport, or take a train to Guwahati and Jakhalabandha Railway Station. By road, both public and private buses are well connected through route NH-37.
Best time to Visit: November to April. Park remains closed from May to October due to the probability of floods in the Brahmaputra.
Sunderbans National Park
Sunderbans is the largest river delta in the world formed by the rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Meghna. It is the largest Tiger reserve in India, sprawling around 2585 sq km. It is located in West Bengal. This Park houses a large number of royal Bengal tigers. The tigers stay in the dense mangrove forests and swim across the various delta channels. They are typically shy and hence you can rarely spot them. The park also has many rich and diverse species including saltwater crocodiles, wild boars, foxes, turtles, river dolphins, and a huge variety of local and migratory birds. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and has lots to offer. You can cruise through the waterways amidst the mangrove swamps and estuaries and witness aquatic fauna and unique diversity.
How to reach: The nearest airport is Calcutta, the nearest railway station is Canning, and the nearest town is Gosaba. The only means of travelling within the park is by boat.
Best time to visit: December to February
Hemis National Park
This is a high-altitude National Park located on the banks of the Indus in Ladakh. It has the highest number of snow leopards in the world. Other popular species here include the Himalayan weasels, blue sheep, Tibetan wolves, red foxes, and golden eagles. This national park is near the famous Hemis monastery in the beautiful valleys of Kashmir. The place does not have many nice accommodations, but one can stay here in dormitories and tents.
How to reach: Buses and taxis connected from Port Blair airport.
Best time to visit: November to February
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
This is one of the few marine national parks in India. It is situated in the Andaman Islands and also known as Wandur National Park. It is widely acclaimed for its colourful marine life, including sea turtles and coral reefs. The azure skies and white sand beaches make it really beautiful. And activities like snorkelling and diving make it a popular national park.
How to reach: You can fly to Leh airport or travel to Jammu Tawi Railway Station and drive from there.
Best time to visit: April to October.
There are many more beautiful national parks in India other than the ones listed above. So you can choose to visit any one of them according to your interest and convenience. But whatever National Park you chose to visit, here are some tips for you. It is better if you could book the forest guesthouses to get a more enriching experience of wildlife. Also, it is best to plan your trip properly. Try to know the particular months in which the park is open, and book the safari well in advance for a smoother experience. It is best to visit during summers if you can tolerate the heat since you can get sightings of wild animals around water resources.
And regarding wildlife sightings at the national parks, patience is the key. Often you may not spot any significant wild animal, which needs a lot of luck and lots and lots of patience. But that does not mean your trip has been to waste. Try to enjoy the beauty of the tour, the forest, the sounds of nature, and the aura of the wild. And I assure you that you will have a great time.