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Best national park in India

Discussion in 'Wildlife and National Parks' started by Adidev, Dec 20, 2016.

  1. Adidev

    Adidev New Member

    My son has a great interest in nature and wildlife, and for his coming birthday, I would like to take him to the best national park in India.

    As it is his birthday gift I don't mind how far the park is, what matters is the experience he will get and the fact that he will be visiting the best national park in India.

    I would like forum members to provide me with some details about which is the best national park in India.

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, @Adidev, welcome to the forum!


    Did you know that India is 1 of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world? Mega-diverse countries are the territories harbouring the most diverse species of animals and plants out of all the countries in the world. That is truly something to be proud of, as the country holds even some endemic species of animals and plants that can only be found in its territory. With over 100 national parks and over 500 wildlife sanctuaries, the biodiversity of the country is preserved well, as animals are protected from poaching and trees are protected from illegal logging. As such, you're likely to find wildlife reserves in most regions of India and sometimes, even cities have such reserves. In this guide, we would highlight some of the best national parks in India, so that you can plan your next wildlife safari accordingly.

    Best National Parks in India

    Following the tiger's trail...

    1. Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh) - This national park is located right at the heart of India and is spread over a vast expanse of land. In fact, this is the largest national park in the state and also one of the largest in the country. The forests here are very dense, especially post monsoon, with a combination of sal and bamboo trees, interspersed amongst open grasslands. Landscapes are a mixture of hilly regions and dry river beds, along with numerous lakes and streams which serve as the water reservoirs of the animals. Of course, the Kanha National Park is well known for its tigers, since it has over 100 of them in its premises. Spotting tigers can be difficult though, especially with the dense forest coverings of the park. Sometimes, guides and drivers utilise the warning calls of the barking deer in order to find the tigers. Otherwise, pug marks are great ways of knowing whether tigers have just been in the premises. Even if you can't spot the tigers, the national park is home to a wide variety of other animal species like spotted deers, barasinghas, Indian sloth bears, wild bisons, jackals, Indian palm civets and langurs. The barasinghas here are unique as well, as they are only adapted to hard ground, unlike the other barasingha species. If you want higher chances of spotting the elusive tigers, then make sure you visit the national park during summer season, when forest coverings are less dense and the mighty specie can be spotted on watering holes more easily. Morning safaris are also more recommended as you have a higher chance of spotting animals before they hide or sleep for the day. Plus, morning safaris here are longer by about two hours more. Kanha National Park is divided into four zones but the Mukki zone is regarded as having the highest number of tiger sightings. If you can, try to do at least two wildlife safaris to fully explore the terrains of the national park.
    • Animals to Spot - Royal Bengal Tigers, Spotted Deers, Barasinghas (Hard Ground), Indian Sloth Bears, Wild Bisons, Jackals, Indian Palm Civets and Langurs
    2. Jim Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand) - The oldest national park in the country also deserves a mention in this list. The Jim Corbett National Park was named after renowned conservationist, Jim Corbett. Initially though, the park was named the Hailey National Park, when it was established in the middle of the 19th century. The forests here are a mixture of moist and deciduous ones, with a bit of grasslands in between. Landscapes are mainly rocky, especially in the forest areas of the national park. With over 215 royal Bengal tigers in its premises, the national park is one of the largest tiger reserves in India. Spotting tigers can be quite difficult due to the dense forest covers though the forest guides are quite adept at spotting trails and pug marks. Aside from tigers, you can also spot other animal species such as leopards, elephants, wild boars, hog deers, sambars, jackals and langurs. The Jim Corbett National Park is divided into six zones, namely, Dhikala, Bijrani, Dhela, Jhirna, Sitabani and Durga Devi. For tiger sightings though, make sure you book a safari in the Dhikala, Bijrani or Dhela zones. In order to be eligible for a wildlife safari in Dhikala, you need to stay in the forest lodge. So an alternative instead would be to book your safari in either the Bijrani or Dhela zones. Make sure you book at least 30 days in advance as the tickets for the national park get booked easily. Don't worry if you opt for the zones without forest houses because there are plenty of forest lodges around the national park.
    • Animals to Spot - Royal Bengal Tigers, Leopards, Elephants, Wild Boars, Hog Deers, Sambars, Jackals and Langurs
    Tiger in Jim Corbett National Park (Image from Soumyajit Nandy)

    Animals found only in India...

    3. Gir National Park (Gujarat) - Located on the Junagadh district of Gujarat is the Gir National Park. This is the only home of the Asiatic lions, which once roamed even in distant regions of South Africa, in the world, which is why it is regarded as one of the best national parks of India as well. The Asiatic lions have significantly lesser tuff on their mane, which is why they are distinctly distinguishable from other lion species. The forests of the national park are mostly of the dry and deciduous types, with many teak and savannah forests. There are various watering holes in the national park too, where you can easily spot wildlife. Other animals that one can spot here are leopards, jungle cats, jackals, hyenas, chitals, sambars and nilgais. Other animals such as birds and reptiles also reside in the national park. In order to be able to try a wildlife safari here, you first need to obtain an online permit through the official website of the Gir National Park. Online booking opens as early as three months prior to your preferred schedule. Once you reach the national park, you can just share the jeep safari fee with fellow travellers.
    • Animals to Spot - Asiatic Lions, Leopards, Jungle Cats, Jackals, Hyenas, Chitals, Sambars and Nilgais
    4. Kaziranga National Park (Assam) - Located a few kilometres away from the state capital of Assam, Guwahati, is the Kaziranga National Park. The forests here are very diverse, comprising of tropical semi-evergreen forests, moist mixed deciduous forests, savannah forests and of course, open grasslands. The presence of numerous watering holes, with the Brahmaputra River as well, provides for the basic water needs of the animals. The Kaziranga National Park is renowned as the home of the most number of one-horned rhinoceros in the world. About 2,300 one-horned rhinoceroses reside in the national mark, meaning that about 70% of the world population of these animals are located here. That's not all though, because there are many more species of animals residing here, like tigers, wild buffaloes, elephants, sloth bears, swamp deers, jackals and clouded leopards. On the marshy areas of the river, you can also spot reptiles and amphibians. During winter, you might even be able to spot migratory bird species in the national park. There's a separate entry fee as well as jeep safari fee for the national park. You can even indulge in an elephant safari, though it's not recommended for older individuals. The national park is divided into three zones, namely, Western, Central and Eastern. The Western zone is best for spotting the wild rhinos, the Central zone is best for spotting other big mammals like tigers and jackals. The Eastern zone is best for spotting bird species and elephants.
    • Animals to Spot - One-Horned Rhinoceroses, Tigers, Wild Buffaloes, Elephants, Sloth Bears, Swamp Deers, Jackals and Clouded Leopards
    One-Horned Rhino in Kaziranga National Park (Image from Lip Kee)

    For the bird watchers...

    5. Keoladeo Ghana National Park (Rajasthan) - Just a short distance from Delhi and Jaipur is the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. This is located in Bharatpur, in the state of Rajasthan. A hotspot for bird diversity, the national park has been a favourite amongst ornithologists and even simple bird watchers. It is also designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to the huge number of migratory bird species that reach it, from far away regions like Siberia, China and Turkmenistan. Interestingly, the national park is a manmade one when a natural depression in the area became filled with the reservoir water built by the maharajas. It then started out as a duck hunting reserve of the maharajas of Rajasthan before being converted into a wildlife sanctuary and officially, a national park. It is home to over 300 species of birds and the numbers reach the thousands during migratory season, from November to February each year. Vehicles are not allowed inside the national park, except for environment-friendly ones like bicycles, cycle rickshaws and tongas or horse-drawn carriages. Thus, you can choose any of these options for exploring the national park, or you can also go with just walking. Commonly spotted bird species here are painted storks, Indian peafowls, Indian darters, golden-backed woodpeckers, Brahmin ducks, herons and egrets. The elusive sarus crane can also be found here though they can be harder to spot.
    • Animals to Spot - Sarus Cranes, Painted Storks, Indian Peafowls, Indian Darters, Golden-Backed Woodpeckers, Brahmin Ducks, Herons and Egrets
    Oriental Darter in Keoladeo Ghana National Park (Image from Bernard Dupont)

    6. Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu) - If you find yourself in the southern part of India and you're wondering if there are any bird sanctuaries worth visiting here, look no further with the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary. It is merely 87 kilometres away from Chennai and makes for a nice getaway, just a place to spend time away from the busy city life. This is the oldest bird sanctuary in India, having been established in the middle of the 18th century. The best part about the bird sanctuary is that it has been developed very well, there are various watch towers and view points where one can easily spot the winged species. Aside from that, the premises are well maintained and clean, plus the villagers in the surrounding areas actually do their part to preserve the sanctuary's condition. The best time to visit the bird sanctuary is during the winter season, from November to February, when numerous migratory bird species can be found frolicking in the Vedanthangal Lake. Commonly spotted birds here are pelicans, cormorants, egrets, herons and spoonbills. Less commonly spotted birds are Indian darters, night herons, pintails and white ibises. Entry fee here is very nominal and you can even rent binoculars for better views of the birds.
    • Animals to Spot - Pelicans, Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Spoonbills, Indian Darters, Pintails and White Ibises
    Of other wildlife species...

    7. Periyar National Park (Kerala) - One of the few national parks which allow trekking within its premises is the Periyar National Park. It is located in Thekkady, in the state of Kerala. The Periyar Lake flows freely within the national park, which was created after the damming of the Periyar River. Forests of evergreen and deciduous are mixed with open grasslands, as well as extensive water systems. A boat ride amidst the Periyar Lake is actually the main means of a safari here, unlike the other national parks which utilise land transportation. With the boat ride, you can spot many bird species in the national park. The real attraction though is the trekking that one can don within the national park. The trek, lasts for four hours, takes you through the core jungle areas of the national park. Animals that you are likely to spot during the trek are the giant Malabar squirrels, Nilgiri langurs, lion-tailed macaques and sambars. Larger animals like elephants, tigers and jungle cats are lesser likely to show up but you can keep your hopes up. If you're feeling adventurous, night trekking trails are also conducted by the management.
    • Animals to Spot - Giant Malabar Squirrels, Nilgiri Langurs, Lion-Tailed Macaques, Sambars, Elephants, Tigers and Jungle Cats
    8. Namdapha National Park (Arunachal Pradesh) - Next is the Namdapha National Park, located in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, close to its border with Myanmar. This is the third largest national park in the country and has a range of landscapes, ranging from tropical rainforests, temperate forests and yes, even alpine forests. This diversity makes the national park one of the hotspots for wildlife spotting in India. As compared to the previous national parks though, the Namdapha National Park is a bit on the lesser known side. The mountainous and rugged terrains make the park unexplored by many travellers, even hunters who reside in the region find it hard to traverse the rough landscapes. All four big cat species, tigers, clouded leopards, common leopards and snow leopards, reside in the national park, though spotting them can be tough. The national park is diverse, yes, but it is not that developed or commercialised. As such, you need to explore it by foot and even stay at a guest house if you intend to spend a few nights here. But a short stroll along the Noa Dihing River can render you speechless, as you listen to the nearby chirping of the birds or the encircling butterflies nearby. Other animals residing here are the Indian elephants, red pandas, Indian civets, gorals, sambars and chitals.
    • Animals to Spot - Tigers, Clouded Leopards, Common Leopards, Snow Leopards, Indian Elephants, Red Pandas, Indian Civets, Gorals, Sambars and Chitals
    Blyth's Shrike Babbler in Namdapha National Park (Image from Pkspks)

    Unique experiences to cherish...

    9. Sundarbans National Park (West Bengal) - Considered as one of the UNESCO World Heritages, the Sundarbans National Park is a bit of an off-beat wildlife getaway in West Bengal. Reaching Sundarbans itself is a challenge, as it is located off an island in West Bengal, at the southern region, on the border of the state with Bangladesh. You can reach Kolkata first, and from there, ride a train to Canning, and be on your way by road to Godkhali, one of the entry points for Sundarbans. The journey doesn't end there as you need to ride a motor boat to reach the Sundarbans proper from here. A unique feature of this national park is that it has mangrove forests, the largest of its kind in the world. These mangrove forests are home to numerous animals like fishing cats, saltwater crocodiles and mugger crocodiles. But the national park is famed for its swimming royal Bengal tigers, who have learned to adapt to the region already. However, the tigers are also infamous for their man-eating and man-killing tendencies. Despite all these dangers, the Sundarbans National Park is truly a haven for wildlife lovers. The experience of boating through its mangrove forests and having close encounters with the swimming tigers is unlike any other.
    • Animals to Spot - Swimming Royal Bengal Tigers, Fishing Cats, Saltwater Crocodiles and Mugger crocodiles
    10. Keibul Lamjao National Park (Manipur) - At the end of this list is the world's only floating national park, the Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipur. Prior to reaching the national park, ensure that you obtain an entry permit as you can't get access through walk-in only. You might be wondering why is it called a floating national park? Well, the entire park premises is within the Loktak Lake, where numerous phumdis can be found. Phumdis are floating vegetations, almost like marshy grounds, created from the organic masses of the national park. This is also the sole home of the endangered Manipur brow-antlered deer, locally known as the sangai. The delicate movements of the sangais has earned them the name of the dancing deers. Aside from this specie, you can also find other animals residing in the national park like sambars, hog deers, wild boars and jungle cats. A boat ride amidst the phumdis can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you would truly cherish. Though spotting the sangais can be difficult, you can opt for the various view points in the national park, where you might have higher chances of spotting the dancing deers.
    • Animals to Spot - Sangais, Sambars, Hog Deers, Wild Boars and Jungle Cats
    Phumdis in Keibul Lamjao National Park (Image from Mo's Musings)


    Selecting which is the best national park in India can be quite difficult. It depends really on the interests of the travellers. Some would love to spot the mighty royal Bengal tiger, others would love to see different bird species. So in a sense, it can be subjective, the best national park in India might be different for each traveller. With this list though, you can choose the best national park for you. Whether you would love to be able to spot tigers, or maybe one-horned rhinoceroses, or maybe even Indian elephants, you have options with this list. After all, as diverse as the country itself is the wildlife of India. You won't need to reach the Amazon or even Africa, just to find the best wildlife safari for you. Right at home is where you need to be. Good luck and I hope this helps!