Experience India’s Incredible Diversity in 10 of its Biggest National Parks
Home to a number of magnificent species, many of which are rare and endangered, lucky visitors can see and experience the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, Bengal Tigers, Asiatic Lions, Black Buck and the Snow Leopard in their natural habitat.
India is a distinct landmass, a glorious subcontinent with vast expanses and fantastic biodiversity you won’t see anywhere. With 104 National Parks and 544 Wildlife Sanctuaries, including Tiger Reserves, Desert and Bird Sanctuaries, Marine Parks and even a Floating National park - India has them all!
Home to a number of magnificent species, many of which are rare and endangered, lucky visitors can see and experience the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, Bengal Tigers, Asiatic Lions, Black Buck and the Snow Leopard in their natural habitat. Activities like jeep, elephant and camel safaris, treks, and easy accommodation make these parks perfect for the adventure seekers who want to take a trip off the beaten path.
From smallest to largest - let’s take a quick tour through some of India’s largest and greenest natural pockets.
1. Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh) – 940 sq. km
With frequent sightings of tigers, wild dogs, wild boar, sambar and spotted deer the sal and bamboo filled, Kanha National Park is packed with adventure and even a museum to learn more about the topography and other interesting aspects of the park. As evening descends and the sun slips into the shadows, unwind at Bamni Dadar - a magnificent spot to catch the sunset.
Best time to visit: November - April
2. Papikonda National Park (Andhra Pradesh) – 1012.86 sq. km
Better known for its mythological importance in the Ramayana, this “Kingdom of the Apes” was popularly known as Kishkinda. Enjoy the lush greenery from the comfort of a boat trip down the Godavari winding its way through it. Spread across three districts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Papikonda boasts of a range of flora from the Eastern Ghats as well as fauna like Tigers, Jackals, Panthers, Gharial, Crocodiles, Black Buck, Mouse and Barking Deer, Sloth Bears and Hyenas.
Best time to visit: November - March
3. Indravati National Park (Chhattisgarh) – 1258.37 sq. km
Set against rolling hills punctuated by dense Sal, Teak and Bamboo forests, Indravati National Park in Chhattisgarh, is one of central India’s brightest gems. Known for what is said to be the last remaining populations of the endangered Asian wild buffalo, it is also the state’s most celebrated tiger reserve. Flanked by the nearby Indravati river from where it gets its name, visitors can expect to see marvellous Barasinghas or swamp deer, Chausingha (Four-horned Antelope), Indian Bison, Dhole or Wild Dog), Striped Hyena, Muntjac, Wild Boar, Flying Squirrel and Porcupine.
Best Time to Visit: November - June
4. Sundarbans National Park (West Bengal) – 1330.10 sq. km
With the largest mangrove forest in the world and the largest collection of Sundari trees, the Sundarbans National Park in West Bengal needs no introduction. For anyone wanting to experience nature’s circle of life - this UNESCO world heritage site is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger and other endangered species such as the Saltwater Crocodile, Ganges River dolphin, Olive Ridley, Hawksbill turtles, and the Mangrove horseshoe crab. Enjoy stunning views of the wilderness from Hiron Point (Nilkamal) and Katka viewing points or coastal trekking in the mud flats of Chargheri Char.
Best Time to Visit: September - March
5. Guru Ghasidas National Park (Chhattisgarh) – 1440.71 sq. km
Named after the region’s Satnami reformist leader, Guru Ghasidas National park is part of the Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve spread between Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. With dense forests of Sal, Teak and Bamboo forests, it is home to a huge variety of mammals, Tigers, Sloth Bear, Dhols, Leopards, Chinkara, and Barking deer. Bird watchers will find this area of particular interest for its sightings of Golden hooded oriole, Racket-tailed drongos, Indian pitta rufus-treepie, Lesser Adjutant, Red-headed, Cenareous, Indian White-rumped and Egyptian vultures, and flocks of migratory birds.
Best Time to Visit: November - June
6. Khangchendzonga National Park (Sikkim) – 1784 sq. km
India’s first mixed heritage site to make it to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites lies at the heart of the Himalayan range in North Sikkim. The fact that Khangchendzonga (meaning The Home of The Gods) is an independent mountain with its own glacial system is fantastic in itself. Add to this to the fact that you can see Himalayan Tahr, Snow leopard, Himalayan black bear, Tibetan antelope, and over 500 species of birds including Osprey, Himalayan Griffon, Lammergeier, Blood Pheasants and Tibetan snow cock; this park set at 8586 meters is also perfect for the intrepid traveller.
Best Time to Visit: March-May & September - Mid-December
7. Namdapha National Park (Arunachal Pradesh) – 1807 sq. km
With the world’s northernmost lowland evergreen rainforest that goes from 200 meters to 4500 meters in altitude, this national park in lower eastern Himalayas is a fabulous ecological hotspot.
Take a safari or trek through one of the most vibrant bio-diverse parts of the country filled with four different feline species - Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and Clouded Leopard as well as birds like Monal Pheasants, Giant Hornbill, Forest Eagle, Owl White-winged Wood Duck, Fairy Bluebird, Rufous-necked hornbill and Assam Bamboo Partridge to name a few.
Best Time to Visit: October - April
8. Gangotri National Park (Uttarakhand) - 2390 sq. km
A long but an easy trek, the Gangotri National Park is on the way to Gaumukh - the source of the Ganga and sits along the boundary with China. Snow-clad mountain tops, gushing springs and dense forests of Spruce, deodar, chirpine, rhododendrons, oak and fir trees make it home to Tigers, Serow, Black bear, Blue sheep, Brown bear, Himalayan Thar, Ibex, Musk deer as well as dense Alpine scrub forests – quite unique to the area.
Best Time to Visit: October - March
9. Desert National Park (Rajasthan) – 3162 sq. km
The second largest National Park on this list, it’s the largest of its kind extending from Jaisalmer right up to the India-Pakistan border. While the dry expanse of sand dunes cover close to 20% of the park, this exclusive ecosystem is blessed with varieties of rare animals, reptiles and birds like the endangered great Indian bustard in its natural habitat. A one-of-its-kind experience is exploring the national park's collection of fossils of animals and birds - some of which are 180 million years old. Once here, you can even learn about the six-million-year-old dinosaur fossils that were unearthed in the area. Try a safari by jeep or if you’re up for a challenge even a camel back safari.
Best Time to Visit: October - March
10. Hemis National Park (Jammu and Kashmir) – 3350 sq km
Named after Hemis Gompa, a famous Buddhist monastery south-east of Leh, this park is famous as being one of the highest sanctuaries in the world (3,300 m to 6,000 m above sea level). Dotted with rugged valleys and sparse grasslands, the upper mountain slopes have small areas of alpine vegetation.
Known for being a protected home to a high density of Snow leopards and endangered mammals like Asiatic ibex, the Tibetan wolf, Red fox and Eurasian brown bear trekking is common in the area. Birders can look forward to seeing species like the Golden Eagle, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Fork-tailed Swift, Fire-Fronter Serin, Himalayan Snowcock and Red-billed Chough.
Best Time to Visit: May - Mid-October
Whether you are up for a thrilling adventure safari or simply want to soak in the experience while exploring India’s flora and fauna, remember to keep this list handy. Whichever national park, you finally decide to explore, one thing is certain, these trails will leave you with memories you will cherish and a hankering to come back again.
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