If you are amongst those enthusiastic lovers of wilderness, a visit to India’s National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries will be most exhilarating! India, the land of elephants and tigers, has one of the most interesting wildlife in the World. India offers many wildlife holiday options for enthusiastic wildlife lovers. There are around 99 national parks, 442 wildlife sanctuaries and 43 tiger reserves all over the different states of India. India’s forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and Northeast India to the coniferous forest of the Himalaya. The establishment of these different national parks and wildlife reserves are recognized under the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). These national parks are perfect for the wildlife that consider them as their homes due to the optimum conditions offered by them, for their proper breeding and upbringing. These parks consist of animals like the tiger, elephant, crocodile, cobra, apes, spotted deer, sambar deer, hog deer, barking deer, swamp deer, one-horned rhinoceros, sloth bears, blue bull (neel gai), Indian gazelle (chinkara), Asiatic lions, goats and multiple ranges of bird-species.
Below are some of the major Wildlife National Parks in India.
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
Situated in the Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is one of the most visited parks in India. It is just 180kms away from Jaipur, which is also the closest airport. It has a high density of tiger population in it. Sprawling over an undulating terrain of Aravali and Vindhyan mountain ranges, the park occupies an area of 393 square kms. Three artificial lakes within the park enhances the beauty of the park. Ranthambore national park was taken under the Project Tiger in the year 1974. Besides tigers, other major wild animals include leopard, nilgai, wild boar, sambar, hyena, sloth bear and chital. It is also home to a wide variety of trees, plants, birds and reptiles. The reserve also has a thriving bird population of more than 270 different species of birds. Ranthambore is also the site for one of the largest banyan trees in India. Elephant or jeep safaris are available to explore the park.
Sariska National Park, Rajasthan
Originally the private hunting ground of the Maharaja of Alwar, this national park in Alwar district has allured several wildlife photographers and enthusiasts in large numbers. Sariska National Park is one of the famous tiger reserves in India. Within the confines of the park one can find sites of historical importance including the famed Kankwadi Fort and Pandupol in the hills in the middle of the Sariska National Park which was the place where the Pandava brothers of Mahabharata fame spent their days in exile.
Dudhwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh
Dudhwa National Park or the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve is in the Lakhimpur and Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh, lying adjacent to the Indo-Nepal border. The Dudhwa National Park has excellent natural forests and greenery along the Terai region. Spreading across an expanse of 811 square kms, the park has some of the best forests of ‘Sal’ tree in the world, amongst other flora; and is a virtual unexplored paradise for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers. This park is home to over 38 species of mammals, 16 species of reptiles and numerous species of birds. Some of the species found here are tiger, rhinoceros, swamp deer, elephant, sambar, hog deer, cheetal, kakar, wild pig, rhesus monkey, langur, sloth bear, blue bull, porcupine, otter, turtles, python, monitor lizard, mugger, gharial etc. Of the nearly 1300 birds found in the Indian subcontinent, over 450 species can be seen in Dudhwa Reserve. These include hornbill, red jungle fowl, pea fowl, Bengal florican, fishing eagle, serpent eagle, osprey, paradise flycatcher, woodpeckers, shama, Indian pitta, oroioles, emerald dove etc. During winter the varied water bodies attract a large variety and number of migratory birds making the reserve a favorite haunt for bird watchers. One can explore the park either by jeeps or elephant backs.
Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
One of India’s best known and oldest wildlife sanctuaries, the Corbett National Park lies along the Ramganga river at the foot of the Kumaon hills. It is named after Jim Corbett, the famous naturalist and the legendary hunter of the man-eaters of Kumaon.
The main areas for tourists are the Dhikala Tourism Zone (entry through Dhangarhi Gate) and the Bijrani Tourism Zone (entry through the Amdanda Gate).
Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand
Spread over 820 square kms, the Rajaji National Park is located in the Garhwal, Dehradun and Haridwar districts of Uttarakhand. The park has the biggest population of elephants and tigers. Other species of wild animals include Bengal tiger, Asian elephants, jungle cats, leopards, goral, striped hyena, Indian hare, Himalayan black bear, sloth bear, jackals, king cobras, barking deer, sambhar, wild boar, Indian porcupine, python, langur, monitor lizard etc. There are approximately 315 bird species that give a big visual treat to visitors. Peacocks are found in abundance. Elephant and jeep safaris are both available to explore this park.
Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
Once the personal hunting grounds of Mysore maharajas, the Bandipur National Park in the state of Karnataka is a Project Tiger Reserve — India’s homegrown initiative to protect the tigers’ dwindling numbers. Nesting in the foothills of the Nilgiris, today Bandipur covers 874 square kms, and is home to the asian elephant, leopards, dholes (wild dogs), gaur, chital, sambar and sloth bears. You can also spot giant squirrels, nocturnal porcupine and black naped hare in this wildlife reserve. The Bandipur National Park is also noted for a number of bird species including peafowl, partridge, hornbill, quail and ibis. While visiting the Bandipur National Park, you can also travel to Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary.
Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka
Nagarhole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park is an enchanting 258 square kms long wild reserve located in Kodagu and Mysore district of Karnataka. This was a hunting reserve for the Maharajas of Mysore in earlier times. Adorned with rich forest cover at the west of the Kabini River, the Nagarhole National Park is counted among the well maintained national parks in India. The park was declared as a tiger reserve in the year 1999 to exemplify rich forest cover, small streams, hills, valleys and waterfalls. The park has a healthy tiger-predator ratio, with many tigers, Indian bison, elephants, leopards, wild dogs, sloth bear, hyenas, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, four-horned antelope, gaur, wild boar etc. Over 250 species of avians can also be traced in the Nagarhole vicinity where enormous variety of woodland birds can be explicitly found. Besides, there are large congregations of water fowl in the Kabini river along with other ranges of Nagarhole birds from blue-bearded bee-eater, scarlet minivet and malabar whistling thrush to the more common ospreys, herons and ducks.The most commonly found reptiles are the marsh crocodile, monitor lizard, rock python and several other species. Aquatic and terrestrial tortoises, frogs, toads and tree frogs and myriad insects, including some very colorful butterflies, adorn this lovely southern jungle of India.
Mudumalai Sanctuary, Karnataka
The Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary & National Park is situated at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka on the north-eastern slopes of the Nilgiris. An erstwhile game reserve, Mudumalai was declared a wildlife sanctuary in the early 1940s. With Bandipur Tiger Reserve (Karnataka) in the north, and Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala) in the west the region forms a single, continuous viable habitat for a varied range of wildlife and is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka
The Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary located in Uttarkannada district of Karnataka, is abundantly rich in a wide variety of flora and fauna. Spread over an area of 834 square kms, this reserve is reputed as the largest sanctuary in Karnataka and is an attractive tourist spot. The calm and blissful serenity all across the reserve along with its undulating steep slopes, picturesque deep river valleys and rich hilly forest terrain offers ample opportunity to nature lovers to enjoy the captivating landscape and wildlife.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala
A rare example of human intervention having enhanced an ecosystem, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary situated at Thekkady in the high ranges of the Western Ghats, spreads over an area of 777 square kms. The Periyar Sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger in 1978. Mirror still lagoons, grassy plains and naked hills, make up the landscape of Periyar, providing the perfect foil to the wildlife found here. Elephants, Indian bison and the endangered lion-tailed macaque are some of the wildlife one can enjoy viewing. The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam adds to the charm of the park.
Eravikulam National Park, Kerala
Eravikulam National Park also known as Rajamalai National Park was a hunting preserve for the British during their rule in India. Situated along the summit of the Western Ghats in the high ranges of Idduki district of Kerala, this is also the land of “Neelakurinji”, a flower that blooms once in twelve years. The Park is breathtakingly beautiful, with the highest peak south of the Himalayas – the Anamudi, located here. Nature enthusiasts have ample opportunities for trekking expeditions and wildlife spotting. The park holds the maximum viable population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr, the most endangered mountain goat. Other fauna that one can spot here are Nilgiri marten, ruddy mongoose, small clawed otter, dusky striped squirrel. Elephants, nilgiri langur, nilgiri wood pigeon and a rare tiger or leopard, if one is lucky!
Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh
Located in the north-eastern state of India, the Namdapha National Park is the largest protected area in India and is the perfect Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot. The park harbors the northernmost lowland evergreen rainforests in the world at 27°N latitude. Namdapha and its adjoining areas, are flanked by the Patkai hills to the south and south-east and by the Himalaya in the north and lies close to the Indo-Myanmar-China tri-junction. Due to the presence of different vegetation, this park is known to be the ultimate zone for many of the rare species of animals such as snow leopards, clouded leopards, common leopards, tigers, red pandas, Himalayan bears, dholes, wolves, Asiatic black bears, red fox, Eurasian otter, yellow-throated marten, spotted linsang, binturong, oriental small-clawed otter, common palm civet, Indian civet, masked palm civet, marbled cat, fishing cat, Asiatic golden cat, mongoose, elephant, wild boar, Indian muntjac, forest musk deer, sambar, gaur, hog deer, mainland serow, common goral, takin and bharal. The park also has about 425 species of birds.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Kaziranga National Park in Assam is home to the endangered species of one-horned rhinoceros in India. Located in the Golaghat and Nagaon district, this UNESCO recognized heritage site and National Park is the perfect place to envision high degrees of diversified species with great visibility. The park is stretched across an area of 378 square kms with an addition of 429 square kms along the present boundary of the park. Today this park is home to around two-third of the world’s great one-horned Indian rhinos. Besides that, Kaziranga also has tigers, elephants, wild water buffalo, swamp deer, Indian wild boar , eastern mole , pangolin , Indian gaur, sambar, barking deer, white browed gibbon, hog deer, capped langur or leaf monkey , Assamese macaque , rhesus macaque, leopard , golden jackal , sloth bear , fishing cat , jungle cat , Indian civet, Indian gray mongoose , Bengal fox, common otter , Chinese ferret badger , hog badgers, Ganges and Indus river dolphins ,orange-bellied Himalayan squirrel, black bear, Indian porcupine , snakes, lizards, tortoises, alligator, and crocodile.
Manas National Park, Assam
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, also a UNESCO recognized heritage site is located in the north eastern state of Assam and covers an area of 950 square kms in the plains of the Manas River in the foot hills of the Himalayas, on the border with Bhutan. The sanctuary is the habitat of several species of plants, mammals , reptile species, amphibians and birds. Some wildlife you will find at Manas are tigers, pygmy hogs, gaurs, clouded leopard, sloth bear, Indian rhinoceros, wild water buffaloes, Indian and Asian elephants, panthers, golden langur, hispid hare, Assam roofed turtle and Bengal florican.
The Palamau Tiger Reserve, Jharkhand
The Palamau Tiger Reserve is an ideal park for a rendezvous with the wild. Located on the Chota Nagpur Plateau and one of the earliest Tiger projects in India, the entire Palamau Sanctuary occupies an area of about 1026 square kms, while the core area of 232 square kms was designated as Betla National Park in 1989. The sanctuary which is home to a large number of flora and fauna is rich in biodiversity and is indeed a wonderful place to unwind with nature.
Nandankanan National Zoological Park, Orissa
Nandankanan Zoological Park is located 20 kms ahead of the capital city of Bhubaneswar. Nandankanan serves as the first captive gharial breeding centers of India. The name literally means the “Garden of Pleasure” and is one of the most picturesque parks in India. The park has an array of enthralling facilities like boating, white tiger and lion safaris, a reptile park and aerial ropeway and cable cars amongst others. Spread across an area of 4.37 square kms, the park is a much sought-after picnic destination for both locals as well as tourists. A joy ride in the toy train to observe the wildlife closely is an all-time favorite activity. The park is a bastion of white tigers. Other animals that are frequently seen in the park are Asiatic lion, lion-tailed macaque, Indian crocodiles, nilgiri langur, Indian pangolin, Himalayan black bear, mouse deer, rhesus macaque, black buck, black panthers and more. Nandankanan Zoological Park also boasts of a fascinating lake and wonderful, lush green environs, which is a virtual paradise for birds, inviting native as well as migratory birds. The park has around 75 bird species including some very rare species of birds.
Similipal National Park, Orissa
Occupying an area of 2,700 square kms in the Mayurbhanj district, Similipal National Park is wild and beautiful. Once the personal hunting grounds of the Mayurbhanj Maharajas, the park is now a Project Tiger reserve — India’s homegrown initiative to protect the tigers’ dwindling numbers. Other than tigers, this wild life sanctuary is also the abode of wild animals like leopards, elephants and rare reptiles like mugger crocodiles. Thanks to its varied terrain and abundance of water bodies in the form of hills, waterfalls and rivers, the avian population in the park is also rich.
Sunderbans National Park, West Bengal
The Sundarbans National Park is the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world. It is a tiger as well as biosphere reserve located in the Sundarbans Ganges river delta bordering the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal. The Sundarbans as a whole encompasses 10,000 square kms of land and water, about 5,980 square kms in India and the balance in Bangladesh. A UNESCO heritage site, this region is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. It is also home to a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile.
Gir National Park and Sanctuary, Gujarat
Gir, also known as Sasan-Gir, located 65 kms from Junagadh in Gujarat, is the royal kingdom of the Asiatic lions. Established in 1965 with an area of 1412 square kms, Gir forest is home to Asiatic lions, Indian leopards, Indian cobras, sloth bears, jungle cats, golden jackals, Indian palm civets, striped hyenas, Indian mongoose and ratels. Desert cats and rusty-spotted cats exist but can rarely be seen. Besides these, chital, nilgai, antelope, sambar, four-horned chinkara and wild boar can also be spotted. Blackbucks from the surrounding area can be occasionally identified in the sanctuary.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
The Bandhavgarh National Park, lying in the heart of the Vindhya Mountain range, is a small and compact National Park, yet full of game. The density of the tiger population at Bandhavgarh is quite high. The centre of the park is dominated by the majestic Bandhavgarh Fort which was built in the 14th century, around which are numerous caves containing shrines and ancient Sanskrit inscriptions. The park has four main entrances, Panpatha in the north, Tala in the east, where most hotels are located, Dhamokar in the south-west and Khitauli in the west. Two roads, Umaria-Rewa highway and Parasi-Katni road via Khitauli pass through the park.
Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Kanha National Park is a great holiday destination, away from the hectic pressures of city life. is a beautiful place to unwind with nature by your side and indeed a wonderful experience in itself. The park which forms the core of the tiger reserve was created in 1974 under Project Tiger to protect and increase the population of tigers in the park. Barasingha, or the swamp deer, is the signature animal of Kanha National Park. Occupying an area of 940 square kms, Kanha National Park is one of the parks which inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and its memorable characters Mowgli and Baghheera. Kanha National park is a wildlife enthusiast’s delight.
Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Panna National Park located in Panna and Chattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh is also a Tiger Reserve. Covering an area of 542 square kms, Panna National Park is 57 kms from Khajuraho, a world heritage center. The Ken river flows through this reserve and creates beautiful waterfalls on its way to the valley. The park has numerous sites of historical importance with stone paintings dating back to neolithic era. The ideal home to Indian tigers, Panna is composed of deciduous forests to include other species like leopards, Indian wolf, hyenas, four-horned antelope, vultures, sloth bear, pangolin, rusty spotted cat, leopard, carcal, cheetals, chinkaras, sambhar, and gharial. Today Panna is one of the most outstanding, well-managed habitat for all the wildlife that resides in the forest. There are 200 species of birds including migratory ones in the Park.
Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Pench National Park is in Chhindwara and Seoni districts of Madhya Pradesh. The name is derived from the Pench River that flows through the National Park. The river flows from north to south that divides the park into equal eastern and western halves. The park has several species of animals among which wild guars, tigers, leopard, monkeys , hyena, wolf, jackal, jungle cat, sambhar, chital, muntjac, wild boar, and rhesus macaques. Commonly seen species are herd of deer. The park is close to Maharashtra & Nagpur. There are two famous gates for tourist entry called Turiya and Karmajhiri. There are more than 170 species of birds comprising various migratory ones. Pench National Park has splendid history. The depiction of its magnificence and natural wealth occurs in Ain-i-Akbari , which was a 16th century document written by Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, which recorded Akbar’s administration empire. Pench is also one of the parks that has inspired Rudyard Kipling to write the popular novel ‘The Jungle Book’. Above all, the third part, special Tiger of BBC ‘Spy in the Jungle’ was also filmed in Pench National Park, which was based on the growing of four Tigers in Pench.
Madhav National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Once a famous hunting ground of the Mughal emperors & Maratha royals, Madhav National Park is now a glorious wildlife sanctuary, in the Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh. Spread over an area of 354 square kms, the jungle offers amazing views of lush greenery and architectural wonders, edified by the erstwhile rulers of Gwalior. This park has witnessed a lot of royal movements right from the time of Akbar, who is believed to have captured elephants from here in 1564. Madhav National Park fascinates tourists with its unique surroundings that comprise lakes, dense woodlands, & castles. Named after Madhavrao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior, this park inhabits animals like tigers, leopards, wolf, jackal, fox, nilgai, chinkara, sambar, hyena, sloth bear and crocodiles. The Sakhya and Madhav Sagar lake, located in the center of the forest, support a rich variety of migratory birds. These lakes are a great nesting ground for birds and marsh crocodiles, that can be spotted here in abundance.
Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Positioned amidst the range of Satpura in Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh, Satpura National Park is a pristine wildlife habitat that is spread over an area of 524 square kms. It was first introduced by the popular bird watcher Dr. Salim Ali in the year 1981. The park covers an area of 1427 square kms by adjoining Bodi Sanctuary and Panchmarhi Wildlife Sanctuary. By the year 1999, the park was added to the Project Tiger network.For those interested in archaeology, there are plenty of rock shelters of ancient periods that are embellished with beautiful paintings. En route you’ll find the rugged landscapes commemorated with sandstone peaks, narrow gorge, ravines, and dense forests that make it an inimitable creation of nature. The major attractions of this park are leopard, tigers, Indian bison, crocodiles, black buck, wild dogs, chital, nilgai, four-horned antelope, bhedki, rhesus, monkey, chinkara, wild boar, malabar giant squirrels. Satpura is mostly visited for bird watching and marsh crocodiles. One can explore the wildlife on a jungle safari by jeep or on elephant back. Apart from elephant and jeep ride, boating in Denwa river is also a great experience. You can spot a huge species of birds and animals while paddling mutely along the border of the jungle.
Tadoba National Park, Maharashtra
Tadoba National Park, situated in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra is considered to be the jewel of Vidharba. Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is a pristine and unique eco-system which consists of two declared regions, Tadoba National Park and Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary combined. Endowed with rich biodiversity, the park is home to a large number of species that include tigers, leopards, sloth bears, gaur or Indian bison, rusty spotted cat, Indian mouse deer, spotted deer, sambhar, wild boar, four horned antelope, wild dog and flying squirrel.