When the call of the wild is too loud to ignore, follow it down the dusty trails and lush wooded environs of India’s best national parks, says Aparna Sundaresan
Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, Gujarat
Main Attraction – The Asiatic Lion
Additional Attractions – Indian Leopard, Sloth Bear, Striped Hyena, Chital, Nilgai, Vultures, Crested Serpent Eagle
Best Time to Visit – March to May
Activity Checklist – Go on a jeep safari with a guide
Smoking is forbidden within the park environs, as is walking and hiking.
Gir is the only place in Asia where pure Asiatic Lions are found; the area is thus heavily protected.
Getting There – Diu / Junagadh
Places to Stay – Hotel Green Park, Sukhsagar Gir Resort
Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Main Attraction – Great One-horned Rhinoceros
Swamp Deer, Water Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Indian Muntjac, Storks, Vultures
Best Time to Visit – February and March
- Ride the jeep and elephant safaris
- Visit the coffee and rubber plantation nearby at Karbi Anglong
Opt for government operated safaris over privately operated ones as private operators have been known to cheat tourists by shortening the duration of safaris.
Kaziranga became a protected region on the urging of Mary Victoria Leiter Curzon, wife of the infamous viceroy Lord Curzon after she failed to see a single rhinoceros in the area.
Getting There– Jakhalabandha/Guwahati
Places to Stay – United 21 Grassland, Dhanshree Resort
Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan
Openbill Stork, Painted Stork, Black Necked Stork, Woolly Necked Stork
Migratory waterfowls, Sarus Crane, Northern Pintail, Tufted Duck, Common Pochard
Best Time to Visit – October to February
- Go bird watching either during sunrise or sunset
- Trek through the park either on foot or on a bicycle. Rickshaw rides are also available on hire
- Visit the nearby Bharatpur Museum Which is a syncretic blend of Rajput and Mughal styles of architecture
Keoladeo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been named after a Keoladeo (Shiva) temple within its boundaries.
Getting There– Bharatpur Junction/Jaipur
Places to Stay – Hotel Spoonbill & New Spoonbill, Swaraj Resorts
Periyar National Park, Kerala
Main Attraction – Elephant
Additional Attractions – Gaur, Sambar, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Indian Wild Dog, Nilgiri Tahr
Best Time to Visit –March and April for elephants; October to February for the rest
- Nature walk and hike through the forest
- Bamboo rafting
- Night time jungle patrol
Only the northern precinct of the park is open to the general public. Don’t attempt to wander farther.
Periyar lake, situated at the northern end of the park, is a man-made lake.
Getting There– Kottayam/Madurai
Places to Stay – Bamboo Grove, Periyar House
Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Main Attraction – Royal Bengal Tiger
Barasingha, Indian Wild Dog, Jackal, Black Buck, Indian Gaur, Storks, Teals, Pond Heron
Best Time to Visit –March and April
- Visit the Kanha museum for an informative introduction to the region and the park
- Go on an elephant safari to see the animals in their natural habitat
- Go on a nature trail and do some bird watching
Wear clothes in colours that match the environs, like green and brown, so that animals are not immediately aware of human presence during a safari.
Kanha National Park was Rudyard Kipling’s inspiration to write Jungle Book.
Getting There– Jabalpur
Places to Stay – RTDC Hotel Vinayak, Hotel Sanctuary Resort
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
Main Attraction – Tiger
Sambar, Chital, Nilgai, Gazelle, Boars, Mongoose, Indian Hare, Monitor Lizards
Best Time to Visit – March to June
- You may need to go on several safaris to spot a tiger
- Visit the Bakula region to see tigers and cubs come to the watering holes
- Explore Ranthambore Fort within the Park boundaries which has lent Park its name
- Also stop at the Jogi Mahal within the Park to avail of its tourist facilities
Getting there – Sawai Madhopur/Jaipur
If travelling during winter, carry adequate winter wear as the region becomes freezing cold at night.
Ranthambore Fort was built in the 10th century and was coveted by rulers due to its strategic position between north and central India.
Indian national parks have been a major attraction for many outsiders due to its nature and wildlife. If you have never been to these national parks, you are missing out the true magic of nature. Visit these parks and get lost in its serenity.