Nagarhole National Park or Rajiv Gandhi National Park, established in 1988, is a national park standing among India's leading Tiger Reserves along with Bandipur Tiger Reserve, which is adjacent to it. It has been named after Nagarahole, which translates to Cobra river in Kannada and is a winding river running through its centre. The park is not only the thirty-seventh Project Tiger Tiger Reserve but also a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
Nagarhole National Park is situated in the Western Ghats Nilgiri Sub-cluster, which is under deliberation by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in order to be chosen as a World Heritage Site. Strewn with hills, valleys, waterfalls and streams, the region covers a wide expanse of lush forests. These jungles provide habitat to a large number of animals while maintaining a healthy predator-prey ratio.
Nagarhole National Park draws its water primarily from Lakshman Tirtha River, Sarati Hole, Nagar Hole, Balle Halla and Kabini River apart from the water received from the annual rainfall of 1,440 millimetres. Unfortunately, the park has been under threat for the illegal felling of sandalwood and teak trees. Sprawling over 247 square miles, this park's abundance in plants and wildlife is sure to interest one and all.
Location: Nagarhole National Park is located in the districts of Mysore and Kodagu in Karnataka. Its specific address would be Madikeri Road, Hunsur, Karnataka - 571201.
Timings: In the morning, the park is open between 6.45 am - 8.45 am and in the evening, from 4 pm to 6 pm.
Entry Fee: Indians have to pay a fee of 150 INR and those of other nationalities have to pay 1500 INR upon entry. In case, one is carrying a camera, an additional amount of Rs. 200 will be charged. Safari charges are not included in the entry fee.
Best Time: Since the park has a tropical climate, it is suitable to visit at any time of the year. Although the best time to visit Nagarhole National Park would be during the months of April and May when the animals come out to the lake to quench their thirst due to shortage of water in the waterholes. However, weather conditions are more pleasant in the winter season, from November to February with a temperature that drops as low as 10 degree Celsius. Hence, the warm days and chilly nights are quite refreshing for tourists. The safari rides are also best savoured in the month of December. It is advisable to not visit the park during monsoon when it is closed due to heavy rainfall.
Average Temperature: The average temperature at Nagarhole National Park is 22.4 degree Celsius.
Distance from Coorg: The Park is located at a distance of 75 kilometres from the city of Coorg.
How to Reach Nagarhole National Park
By Rail: To reach Nagarhole National Park by rail, one has to alight at the Mysore Station which is at a distance of 80 kilometres from the park. The train ride from Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad to Coorg takes 2 hours, 21 hours and 16 hours respectively. While Mysore has a frequency of around 172 trains from across the country, there is another nearby railway station called Mahe which has a lesser frequency of trains. From Mysore Junction, a number of cabs and buses are available which go to the National Park. It takes around four hours to reach Nagarhole from Mysore Junction Railway Station.
By Road: If one wants to travel to the park by road, one can take a taxi from Bangalore which shall cost around Rs. 5000 or from Mysore which shall cost Rs. 2000. Jeeps and bikes could also be rented from Mysore or Hunsur.
By Bus: KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) buses can be availed from Mysore which stops at a 30 km distance from the park, at HD Kote Bus station from where a cab can be taken to the park. Apart from this, there are buses available from Bangalore and Madikeri as well. Buses that are coming from Kerala and Karnataka halt at Kutta, which is also an entrance point to Nagarhole National Park and is 14 km away from the park.
Flora of Nagarhole National Park
The flora of the park is rich and varied ranging from deciduous forests to swamp forests, rosewood to clumping bamboo. Apart from the commercially important rose, teakwood and sandalwood found in the southern parts, trees like crocodile bark, thorny wattle and axle wood are found in the eastern sections of the National Park. There is undergrowth of Indian gooseberry, beechwood, shrubs like horse nettle and exotic species like bonesets. Trees like golden shower tree and flame of the forest stand out of the lot.
Fauna of Nagarhole National Park
Such dense vegetation is home to an ever diverse range of wildlife. Being a Tiger Reserve, the most important predator is the Bengal Tiger. Leopards, sloth bear and the striped hyena are the other carnivores that one can catch a glimpse of in the forests. In order to balance the predator-prey ratio, there is an adequate number of herbivores like chital, deer, antelope and wild boar. The Indian elephant is quite a sight to behold when it roams around the bamboo thickets.
Among the occasionally spotted mammals are grey langur, jungle cat, mongoose, European otter, Indian giant flying squirrel and the golden jackal. The reserve is also recognized as an Important Bird Area for preserving threatened and critically endangered species of birds in India. Some of these imperil birds include the Oriental white-backed vulture, the Nilgiri wood pigeon and darters.
The blue-winged parakeet and Malabar grey hornbill are exclusive to this region. The Indian peafowl, Indian robin and painted bush quail are often sighted here. Muggers, snakes like Russell's viper and Indian rock python, lizards and toads also find a place in the thriving flora. Dung beetles and ants comprise much of the insect life found here.
Tribal and Native Inhabitants of Nagarhole National Park
The primary inhabitants of this region of the forest are the Jenu Kurubas. Regrettably, the traditional practices and rituals of this tribe from Karnataka, is disappearing gradually. Their entry to the National Park is being checked by the government in order to help them merge with the general population. These honey collectors and food gatherers speak in the tongue of Jenu-nudi, a variation of Kannada. These tribal people are also tremendously skilled in the use of bows and arrows. They have a strong sentimental bond with the forest since it is the suppliant of all the products needed for their day-to-day lifestyle. They are also known to practice agriculture, growing crops such as ragi and Bengal gram. Apart from the Jenu Kurubas, the other tribe identified in Karnataka by the Ministry of Home Affairs is Koraga.
Traveller's Tips for Visiting Nagarhole National Park
- Since the road to the park closes down at 6 pm, it is advisable that tourists reach there before evening sets in.
- Those interested in hiking or trekking through the National Park should preferably visit the park at any time of the year except monsoon.
- The section of the park near the Kabini River is more tourist-friendly and recommended to those who desire better accommodation and facilities for jeep safaris.
- One should be wearing shoes that are comfortable to walk in.
- To catch a glimpse of the elephants, an afternoon boat ride is the best option. It should be kept in mind that the chances of sighting a tiger are pretty less in these forests.
- While in the forest, smoking should be refrained due to the risk of a forest fire.
- Accessories like hats, scarves, etc. should be with the traveler at all times. Also, a torch and mosquito repellent should be kept at hand.
- All the rules of the forest are to be strictly followed.
- Littering the park should be avoided at all cost.
- One should be careful to note whether the hotel that one is staying in, provides jeep safaris or not. If not, then a canter safari that is provided by the Forest Department needs to be booked. To be on the safe side, it is better to reach 1-2 hours in advance as there are long queues for tickets and limited seats. A slightly more expensive but better option is to book a jeep safari. If canter safari is to be availed, then one should use the less crowded Veerana Hosahalli Gate instead of the Nanachi Gate.
History of Nagarhole National Park
The name of the park is made up of two words: naga meaning "snake" and hole meaning "streams". It came into existence as an exclusive hunting reserve for the former rulers of Mysore, the Wodeyar Dynasty. In 1955, it was set up as a wildlife sanctuary. Once its area increased to around 640 km, in 1988, it was converted to a national park. Finally, after 1999, it has been recognized as a tiger reserve.
Wildlife Safari at Nagarhole National Park
Among the various types of safaris offered at Nagarhole National Park, the jeep safari is considered to be the best. Large herbivores like elephants and predators like the tiger and leopard can be spotted from this safari. In order to view the aquatic wildlife, a boat safari is recommended. This safari takes place on the river Kabini where you can get a sight of water birds and crocodiles. An Indian round boat, mainly suitable for slow drifting, called the Coracle is also available for rides. This boat travels along the edge of the river giving one the option to sight land animals as well. To increase the chances of spotting animals, one can choose the bus safari that operates in the morning and evening. The bus can accommodate 16-20 people at once and charges Rs. 150 per head.
The wildlife safari timings are as follows:
Jeep Safari - 5.30 am - 10.00 am and 3 pm - 7 pm
Coracle Ride - 9.00 am - 11.00 am and 5 pm - 6 pm
Bus Ride - 6 am - 9 am and 3 pm - 5 pm
Areas of Nagarhole National Park
North - Surrounded by the Kabini River, this is the best spot to view animals since the mammals drink from this main water source. This region receives abundant rainfall and is hence, covered with moist deciduous forests. Large herbivores are a frequent sight here.
South - This is a comparatively drier section of the park that is ideal for spotting predators and bird watching.
Central - Kabini backwaters make this region reputed. Elephants, gaur and deer are the common animals to be found here.
Western - The landscape in this part is marked by mountains and valleys, streams and waterfalls. Bamboos and sandalwood trees are to be found in plenty here as well as those animals that dwell on these and other trees.
Activities at Nagarhole National Park
Wildlife Safari - The safari usually starts from two gates situated at two ends of the National Park. Since the number of vehicles is limited, it is encouraged that one reaches the gate at least 30 minutes prior to booking. Not just jeep safaris, but boats and buses are also available for rides across the park, each of them proving worthwhile. Ranging from aquatic wildlife to predators, the possibilities of spotting animals is aplenty. The forest is seen in all its beauteous glory from the months of October to March. Peacock, drongo and white-breasted kingfisher are some of the birds while wild dogs, elephants and Sambar deer are some of the animals that can be seen in their natural habitat.
Photography - The spectacular woodlands with its manifold flora and fauna is quite an apt site for the wildlife photographer. The picturesque sunset by the river and the sparkling water serve as suitable backgrounds and ambient lighting for photographs as well. The colorful birds like the Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Racket-tailed Drongo and Grey-headed Fish Eagle among many others are fitting subjects for photography. The elephants, chital, sambar and langurs are sufficiently worthy to be captured on film.
Stay at a jungle lodge - In order to gather a complete experience of the jungle, residing at a lodge within the forests is the best choice. There are many lodges provided by Jungle Lodges and Resorts. Additionally, there is the River Kabini Lodge, which has earned a position among the Top 5 Wildlife Resorts in the World by the British Tatler's Travel Guide. This stay grants an easy view of the wildlife in the comfort of the lodge.
Other Important Information
1. Places to stay
- Coorg Coffee Camp: A serene spot in the lap of nature, known for its food, staff service and hygiene maintenance. Provides complimentary breakfast.
- Otter's Creek Nature Camp: A riverside Camp offering spacious cottages for stay. Smoking and drinking are strictly prohibited on the grounds. Provides complimentary breakfast.
- Pepper Trail: Set in the heart of a colonial coffee and spice plantation, this homestay offers five star services in terms of dining and living experience.
- Tiger Teak Homestay: An ideal spot for family vacations, this homestay is owned and governed by the Nachappa family, and offers homely dining and stay experience.
2. Places to eat
- Shiva Shakti Bhojnalaya: Priced at RS. 400 for two, this restaurant serves delicious South Indian delicacies made from ingredients grown within Coorg.
- Gujarat Bhavan: Gujarat Bhavan has a fairly diverse menu and serves good food from across the country.
- Red Ribbon Restaurant: This pocket-friendly restaurant serves traditional Coorg dishes, and also provides home services to homestays and camps.
- Neel Sagar: Located within the mall Chick Complex, this eatery serves vegetarian dishes, mostly South Indian. It also serves as a sweet shop and sells its own range of South Indian sweets.
The park gate is located about 93 kilometers south-west of Mysore. There are two buses that travel daily to and from Mysore to Karapura, costing around 70 rupees per ride and lasting about 2.5 hours.
4. Medical Facilities
There are no medical facilities available within the premises of Nagarhole National Park. However, the Park is located pretty close to several hospitals in the area, including Still Ramkrishna Sevashram or the Lifeline Hospital.
5. Network Connectivity
Most areas in or around Nagarhole National Park have good network connectivity on mobiles. However, the network coverage becomes weaker as one moves deeper into the forest areas or in the lodges and homestays that are housed deep within the forests. The connectivity, however, depends on the individual network brands on the users' phones. Common brands like Airtel or Vodafone have fairly decent coverage.