This winter, when the mercury dips and there’s a nip in the air, take off on a journey into the wilderness and explore the hallowed depths of nature.
When the stress of daily work bogs you down, its time to relax both body and mind. Head to one of the many sanctuaries and national parks in India and step into the very heart of nature. Get mesmerised by the sheer diversity of flora and fauna, enjoy the slow, gentle breeze that runs through your hair, and unwind in the serenity of the wild. A true feast for the senses, let the innumerable shades of green and brown soothe your eyes, enjoy the melodious symphony of the birds and calls of the beasts, try the local cuisine and bounty of nature while experiencing the real jungle, away from the metropolis.
Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
Once a private hunting reserve for the Maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore, Bandipur National Park is a popular getaway from Bengaluru. Established in 1974 as a tiger reserve, Bandipur is known for its rich flora & fauna. The park lies in the centre of an enormous forest, situated at the junction where the Western Ghats meets the Nilgiri Hills. Spread across an area of 874.2 sq km, the park is part of a biosphere reserve along with Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala, Nagarhole National Park to its north and Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, named as the ‘Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve’. If lucky, one may even spot other big cats such as leopards or panthers. The Nugu river runs through the park, while the Kabini river makes its way along the north of the park and along the south lies the Moyar river.
Bandipur is also popular for its tiger population and according to 2015 data, the number of tigers in the region has increased substantially, making this park the most visited tiger reserve in the country.
Apart from the striped beasts, be prepared to witness ambling herds of Asiatic elephant, Bandipur National Park, Karnataka multitudes of gaurs, chital, fourhorned antelopes, wild boars and sambhar, while even spotting the dark-toned malabar squirrel, porcupines, the lazy sloth bears and even the elusive jackals.
Those who indulge in birding will enjoy scanning the dry and moist deciduous forest landscape, as there are over 200 species of birds reported here. Note the backwaters in the region that attract a number of wildlife in general, and even during drier days, the pools of water pull in a number of birds.
Birders can keep an eye out for Malabar Trogon, Brown Hawk Owl, Nilgiri Flycatcher, King Vulture, Greyheaded Fishing Eagle, Honey Buzzar, Pompadour Green Pigeon and more.
Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, Goa
Although the sanctuaries and national parks of Goa may not be as popular as its beaches or nightlife, when travelling to this western state, ensure a visit to this sanctuary. The Western Ghats are a lush geographic region in the subcontinent, rich with a variety of flora and fauna. Spread across 240 sq km, the region is a protected area in Sanguem taluk in Goa. Located near the town of Mollem and at a distance of 53 km from Panaji, this region is home to the famed and beatific Dudhsagar Falls.
Earlier known as Mollem Game Sanctuary, the region was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 and given the name, Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and within it lies Mollem National Park. Situated on the eastern border of Goa, the region is home to a number of endangered and rare wildlife species.
The topography of the land supports a deciduous forest and a tropical and semi evergreen forest with over 720 species of flowering plants in the region. Many species of birds that take shelter here, such as Emerald dove, Common grey hornbill, White-bellied woodpecker, Wagtails, White-rumped spine tail, Crested Serpent Eagle and Great pied hornbill among others. Those who love winged creatures of a different sort will be pleasantly excited to see a wide variety of butterflies, such as Blue Mormon, Plain tiger and Lime butterfly among others.
Although the park is known for big cats like tigers and leopards, visitors will also be enthralled by Indian civet, hyena, jungle cats, flying fox, sloth bear, Bonnet macaque, Slender loris, ant eaters, pangolin, deer, chital and porcupines, among many others. There is even an observation deck inside the park, for birders and wildlife enthusiasts.
Set at the foothills of the Western Ghats, it is the perfect spot to relax in the peaceful countryside of the state.
Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu
One of the largest and well preserved wildlife sanctuaries in the state, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary & National Park is located south of the Palghat Gap in the Western Ghats. Spread over 950 sq km in Coimbatore district, it was established in 1976 as Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, and renamed in 1987.
The Anamalai Hills have varying heights, from the foothills at 300 mt to Valparai Plateau at 1000-1250 mt above sea level. Thus, the region includes a range of habitats, from dry thorn forests to tropical wet evergreen forests and even grass hills. The landscape has mixed deciduous forests along with sholas and over 100 species of orchids, ferns, grasses, medicinal plant species, etc.
The sanctuary has a vast range of fauna and a number of species that are exclusive to this region. The area is host to the endangered Bengal tiger, Indian elephant, Asiatic wild dog, Gaur, wild boar, leopard, sloth bear, giant squirrel, lion-tailed macaque, smooth-coated otter, Indian crested porcupine, etc.
For birdwatchers, the sanctuary is home to a wide variety of species, some of which are Painted bush quail, Mountain Imperial pigeon, Alpine swift, Rufous bellied eagle, Red Tree Pie, parakeets, Asian fairy bluebird, Malabar trogon, Ceylon frogmouth, woodpeckers, drongos, and much more. There are also a number of species of reptiles such as Kerala forest terapin, Green keelback, Common wolf snake, Bamboo pit viper, Travancore cane turtle, Marsh crocodile, Spiny lizard and Sand snake among others.
Topslip, northeast corner of the park, is a major tourist attraction, offering ample accommodation, rides and nature walks.
Tourists must visit elephant camp at Chinnar, located at a distance of 25 km from Topslip for a wonderful experience.
Bannerghatta National Park, Karnataka
Founded in 1970, Bannerghatta National Park is in the southeastern part of the state. In 1974, it was declared as a national park with a portion of being earmarked as a biological reserve in 2002. Situated almost 22 km south of Bengaluru, it is one of the most well-preserved wilderness spots close to a urban area. Sprawled across an area of 104 sq km of dense deciduous forests and scrub lands, the park is lined with villages along the border.
The park is flanked by Talli Reserve Forest and Bilikal Forest in the southern region, and the Suvarnamukhi stream cuts through the region. The forest area is maintained by the forest department.
The Bannerghatta Biological Reserve has a fenced forested elephant sanctuary where the ambling giants can roam freely and there is a wildlife corridor for elephants that connects Sathyamangalam forest and BR Hills.
Apart from elephants, the other fauna at the park are the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, leopard, Slender loris, Bonnet Macaque, the arboreal Slender loris, porcupines and scaly pangolins, Indian gazelle, wild boar, along with reptiles such as monitor lizard, python and cobras.
A butterfly park in the premises is very popular among tourists. This unique project is set up across 7.5 acres, visitors walk a trail of 1 km to reach the conservatory that is home to almost 48 species. There is even a museum and media-centre here that prove to be quite educational for everyone. The zoo here has over 1,200 animals that are both endemic, i.e., from this region and exotic. A nearby auditorium with a capacity of 120 seats, screens movies and documentaries related to wildlife.
Written by : Mia Gandhi