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India being a land with diverse topography, is home to about 102 National Parks that covers 1.21 percent of the country’s total surface area. Located in different parts of the country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, presence of These National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries have become imperative for protection and rescue of wild animals.
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Primarily started as protected areas for endangered animals, today they are home to some of the most exotic species of flora and fauna. As a part of their wildlife tours, they organise several wildlife safaris throughout the year. These sanctuaries are the finest examples of preservation and attract several tourists including wildlife tour enthusiasts, naturalists, botanists and ornithologists throughout the year.
National Parks that offer wildlife safaris in India have played an integral role in boosting tourism in the country. Most of these parks are easily accessible while some are located in remote areas of the country. Trekking,exciting bird watching and camping offered by these parks also give an opportunity to every tourist to experience nature at its best.
National Parks in India have become ideal places to control the dwindling population of a few endangered species.
Here are some of the best Wildlife Safaris in India:
1. Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
A former hunting ground, National Park situated in Ranthambore, Rajasthan is well known for its healthy population of tigers, leopards, chital and nilgai. There are 272 species of birds here including Greylag goose, Woodpeckers, Indian Grey Hornbills and others. Covering an area of 400 Sq Kms, the park is a diversified land that is also home to some endangered animals. It is closed from July to September. The ideal time of visit Ranthambore National Park is between October and June. A wildlife safari in India beckons the true adventurer to soak in the beauty of nature’s finest creations. And, Ranthambore offers that experience to all.
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Its identity as a site of historical heritage and easy tiger spotting makes it one of the most frequently visited national parks in the country. The park also conducts an open jeep (6 seater) and canter (20 seater) tour as a part of its wildlife tours under the guidance of a park member. The tour usually lasts for 3 to 3.5 hours. The shorter duration of daylight in winters makes the entry time much earlier during the day and exit time quite soon in the evening. Prior booking is necessary in order to ensure that you enter without any hassles. The park also offers weekend packages and bird watching tours as a part of their ‘wildlife safaris in India’ package.
The air conditioned tents of Oberoi Vanyavilas and Aman-I-Khas in the lap of nature arranges for wildlife safaris at the park. Although the canter ride is a bit bumpy, riding in the jeep is amazing. Zone 2, 3, 4 and 5 are best for tiger spotting. While online booking for safari confirms the seat, zones of these safaris cannot be chosen beforehand. The park organises one of the most exciting wildlife tours in India.
2. Bandhavgarh National Park, Madya Pradesh
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Bandhavgarh National Park, the pride of traditional Madhya Pradesh, is located in the Umaria district and is known for its largest tiger population in India. 122 miles from Jabalpur, it is home to leopards, chausingha, sloth bear, nilgai, dhole, Indian fox and so on. You can take a jeep safari or even an elephant safari in order to travel to locations where exotic animals are usually spotted.
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Open jeep safaris are the best way to come spot tigers here. Being a well known national park for rich flora and fauna, a tour here can be enjoyed best under the guidance of a park naturalist. A beautiful location for adventure lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, the park is best to visit in the dry season from October to May. Advance booking is imperative due to the cap on the entrance of the number of jeeps. This is one of the few places that offers a mesmerising wildlife safaris in India.
Bandhavgarh National Park is divided into four zones with the Tala and Magadhi zone having the maximum wildlife concentration. Re-introduction of Gaur’s is one of the specialities of this National Park. Identity proof is necessary for entrance to the park. Good connectivity to other parts of Madhya Pradesh makes it easily accessible. Although November to March is the ideal time to visit, if you would like to spot tigers then visiting between March to May would be advisable. Aside from organising a one-of-its-kind wildlife safaris in India, the park offers a moment of tranquility for those seeking a peaceful retreat.
3. Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
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Rugged terrains of Corbett National Park located in the Uttaranchal state is renowned for its 140 Tigers, 600 species of birds, 50 mammals and 25 reptile species. It is the first National Park to be established in mainland Asia. The park is also a reserve for Asiatic Elephants and a treasure trove for naturalists, ornithologists and botanists. Mainly popular for tigers and elephants, and rich avifauna makes it one of the most sought after tourist destinations.
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Corbett National Park welcomes visitors from mid November to June and is closed during the monsoons. Jeep safari and elephant safari under the guidance of a naturalist from the park is one of the best ways to explore this place. However one has to stick to the restricted path allowed for visitors. Visitors with a full day ticket can spend time in one of the rest houses in the afternoon and do some bird watching.
Permits for a day’s visit can be obtained at the entrance of the park, but permit for stay at night has to be obtained from the CTR reception office at Ramnagar. Dhikala, Gairal and Bijrani are the tourist complexes which provide accommodation. Reservation of accommodation allows one to collect the reserved permits at the CTR office.
Non-vegetarian food and alcohol is strictly prohibited in this park. Apart from offering some of the most breathtaking sights, the park offers some of the best wildlife tours in India.
4. Kanha National Park, Madya Pradesh
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A well known Tiger reserve, also inhabited by the Swamp Deer, Sambhar, Chital, Blackbucks and a good populace of birds, National Park in Kanha was the source of inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s unforgettable classic ‘The Jungle Book’. Swamp deer locally known as Barasingha is one of the prime attractions of this park.
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About 175 kms from Jabalpur, Kanha is easily accessible making it one of the popular tourist destinations. Tropical climate of this place, makes winters pleasant to visit. The park is closed during monsoons from July to mid-October. Identification proof is required entrance.
Jeep safaris are the best way to explore this park. Kipling camp on the outskirts of the park which is operated by the Wright family provides decent accommodation and is said to have its own jeep safaris. During the peak season, Mukki gate is the best entrance that can be used as it is less crowded.
5. Sasan-Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, Gujarat
Junagadh in Gujarat is home to Sasan-Gir Wildlife Sanctuary which is the only protected area for Asiatic Lions in the world. With a populace of 411 Lions and 300 Leopards, Gir is focused on the Lion breeding program and is said to be successful. Also found here are the Sambhar, Hyena, Chinkara, Chausingha, Wild Boar, Mugger Crocodiles, Black naped Indian Hare and 40 other species of reptiles and amphibians. The rich avifauna of this place has recorded 250 species of birds.
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Jeep safaris are conducted in the Gir National Park. Timings are from 6 am to 9 am, 12 noon and 3 pm to 6 pm. Charges are also levied for cameras and video recordings. The park is open to visitors from mid October to mid June and is closed during the monsoons. December to April is the best time to visit.
Though not commercialised, this place has few resorts and is less crowded in comparison with other national parks. Make yourself at home at The Gateway Hotel Gir Forest or The Fern Gir Forest located nearby. It is situated close to the Marsh Crocodile breeding centre which is located next to the park permit office and the museum. Moreover, the tours offered in the sanctuary redefines the rustic experience offered by a wildlife safari in India.
6. Periyar National Park, Kerala
God’s own country, Kerala is home to Periyar National Park which is renowned for its rich flora and fauna. This popular Tiger Reserve is located in Thekkady in the wilderness of the western ghats of southern India. The diversified terrain also supports the habitation of pachyderms. Under a strict supervision this National Park has seen a rise in its tiger population. Giant malabar squirrels are one of the prime attractions of the park .
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Located at an elevation of 1,700 m, it has pleasant weather throughout the year. Ideal time to visit is from October to February. The peak period is between September and December. The two-hour slow boat rides conducted inside the park are the best way to spot these wild animals and birds. It also conducts all-day rafting trips. However best sighting of animals is if you take the first boat ride early in the morning. As a part of their tour packages, the park also promises a memorable wildlife safaris in India.
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A huge part of eco-tourism project which is funded by the World Bank, Periyar National Park has plenty of recreational activities like guided hikes, boat trips around the central reservoir and ox-drawn cart ride to nearby villages. Spice village resorts offers decent accommodation and also organises several activities including water safari, boat rides at Periyar Tiger Reserve, forest treks and also a visit to the plantations.
7. Hemis National Park, Jammu and Kashmir
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Located on the catchment of Markha, Rumbak and the Sumdah Nalas, Hemis National Park is in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. At an elevation of 17,000 ft, it is popular for its snow leopards, Tibetan argali sheep, ibex, urial the wild mountain goat and blue sheep. In fact, you can also spot chukar, snow roosters and golden eagles in the park. The safaris organised here provide ample opportunity for tourists to catch a glimpse of some of the most exotic flora and fauna. Chances of sighting these endangered animals is high in the month of February as they move towards the lower altitudes. People are also educated about these endangered animals through the guided winter trek tours organised by the park.
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The park comes under the protection of the Department of Wildlife Protection of Government of Jammu and Kashmir. Any activity in the park is possible only with the permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden of Jammu and Kashmir. Many projects on biodiversity conservation have been initiated and implemented here. Best time for trekking is between June to October. Homestays in neighbouring villages provide adequate accommodation along with the Hemis Monastery which offers rooms for stay. Weather conditions can become extreme here.
8. Kaziranga National Park, Assam
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Kaziranga National Park is a name synonymous to the one horned Indian rhinoceros. Popularly known for conservation of these animals, it is also home to wild elephants, wild buffalo, monitor lizards and also birds like the bar-headed goose, grey headed lapwing and spot billed pelican. With almost 500 species of birds, this park is a paradise for ornithologists.
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Encompassing an area of over 430 sq kms, Kaziranga is one of the best places for naturalists. The best time to visit is from mid-November to April. The park is closed during monsoons.
Located alongside the banks of Brahmaputra, the park also organises some of the most mesmerising wildlife safaris in India. The park is divided into four zones: the central or Kaziranga Range; the western or Bagori Range; the eastern or Agaratoli Range; and the Burapha Range. And, elephant safaris are usually conducted in the Western range. Common activities here include guided tours by jeeps and elephant safaris. Three tourist lodges provide accommodation inside the forest.
9. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam
Project Tiger Reserve, an elephant reserve, a biosphere reserve, these are some of the tags attached to the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary of Assam. A paradise for avifauna species it is home to tigers, water buffalos, rhinoceros and Bengal florican (an endangered two feet tall bird). It also has a healthy population of Giant Hornbills, Ospreys and so on.
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The park also organises walking tours, trekking tours, the river rafting and bird watching tours. Although the park is open from October to April, the best time to visit is between January and March due to pleasant weather. The safaris conducted here provide tourists an opportunity to appreciate and understand the diverse varieties of fauna thriving here. One can easily spot a large variety of resident and migratory birds here during the tour. Almost half of the park is covered with grasslands and deciduous forests. It also has rich aquatic flora along the banks of Manas River.
Lodges located near the park provide adequate accommodation and also arranges for the safaris and trips to the nearby places. The place is well connected to other places in Assam making travelling easier.
10. Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Rajasthan
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A haven for birds, Keoladeo was a duck shooting preserve for Maharaja Surajmal of Bharatpur in the royal Rajasthan. Storks, Cranes, Eagles, Hawks, Pythons, Porcupines, Wild Boar, Nilgai have made Keoladeo Ghana National Park their homes. It is the best breeding ground for birds.
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Hunting is prohibited here since 1970 and in 1985 it was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Vehicles are allowed till Shanti Kutir which is about 1.7 kms from the entrance. From then on the modes of transport are bicycles and cycle rickshaws. When the water level increases, tonga or boats are the most preferred modes of transportation. It is a wonderful experience to explore the beautiful landscape on foot, for the park is an abode of exotic birds and animals. Apart from jeep safaris, they also organise bird watching tours from time to time.