Compiled by Maria Varnishwala
While searching for a means to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, we are inclined towards venturing into the hills and mountains. We often tend to overlook the adventures filled with greenery, flora and fauna and gushing rivers which can make us feel alive and energetic again. Nature has reserved a wide variety of beautiful places, spread across the vast expanse of our country, for us to rejuvenate ourselves.
Sundarban Forest, West Bengal:
The Sundarbans is a cluster of low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal and the largest mangroves forest in the world, located in the Ganges River delta in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. The Sundarban forest is about 10,000sq.km, of which 40% lies in India and is a home to many rare and globally threatened wildlife species such as estuarine crocodile, royal Bengal tiger, water monitor lizard, gangetic dolphin and olive ridley turtle.
September to March is the best time to visit sundarban, the winter being the most pleasant period in the area. In summers, temperature could be at its peak but it’s the best time to visit the wildlife sanctuary.
Gir Forest, Gujarat:
Gir National Park once a hunting ground for the Britishers during their reign in India is now a wildlife sanctuary and protected forest protecting a number of rare animals, particularly the pure Asiatic Lions. One can also get a fabulous opportunity to witness around 2,375 distinct fauna species of Gir to include around 38 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, 37 species of reptiles and more than 2,000 species of insects. Other carnivores can be spotted along with the Asiatic lions are 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 be rarely seen.
December to March is the best time to visit Gir as the climate there is cool and pleasant. The park is closed from 15th June to 16 October due to summer monsoon.
Tourist can also visit Somnath temple, Dwarka, Veraval, Jetpur, Girnar and Diu Island.
Sacred Groves, Khasi Hills, Meghalaya:
Sacred Groves originated in Meghalaya since time immemorial much before the advent of Christianity that represents an age old tradition of environmental conservation based on indigenous knowledge, culture and religious beliefs. The tribal people offer sacrifices to their deity for their wished to come true and belief that the deity would appear in the form of leopard if happy or a snake if angry.
The trail inside the forest is easy and don’t have any climbing to do and one can encounter many sacred grove on their way. The forest has about 250 varieties of flora and fauna which are a treat to the eyes and a small enclosure filled with naturally purified water for the tourist to drink, but one can drink in the forest itself as the unwritten rules says “Nothing can be carried out from the forest, only the people of the clan are allowed to take something from the forest.”
Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh:
Namdapha National Park is the largest protected area in the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and is located in Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India. 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 and even Red Pandas. One can also get to watch the Himalayan bears. Various other large predators and herbivores and small carnivores can be spotted in namdapha national park and watching them from one's own eyes make the unique thrilling experience in itself. Rare, endangered or endemic species of plant like Sapria himalayana and Balanophora spp a rare root parasites of lianas and other plants are to be found in the park. Some species, such as Pinus merkusii (Sumatran pine) and Abies delavayi (Delavay's Fir) are found nowhere else in India.
There are two permits essential to visit Namdapha National Park: one is the Inner Line Permit for entry into the state of Arunachal Pradesh, and the other is a tourist permit issued by the office of the Field Director, Namdapha National Park to enter Namdapha.
Namdapha receives rain twice in a year. During southwest monsoon (June to October), rivers and perennial streams are in a wage to become almost impassable for the locals and the tourists. Rains also causes landslides which increases the risk.
October to March is the best time for visiting the park.
Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand:
Jim Corbett National Park, a Project Tiger Reserve lies in Nainital district of Uttarakhand. This magical landscape of Corbett is well known and fabled for its tiger richness which protects the most endangered species and the Royal of India called Tigers. Corbett spans over 520sq.km where the whole area comprises of hills, marshy depressions, riverine belts, grasslands and large lake. It is among the few tiger reserves in India that allows overnight stays in the lap of the National Park. Nature watch and wildlife viewing in the park is done in an open four wheeler Jeep and on elephant back. Corbett is a virtual heaven for bird watchers and is a home to more than 650 species of residents and migratory birds.
There are many activities to do in this park and the best place for the adventure enthusiast like Jungle safari, River rafting and crossing, Rock climbing and rappelling, Mountain biking, Camping and Trekking.
Winters are the best time to visit the park as the weather is quite pleasant during the month of November till February. One can also easily spot animals in the jungle during this period and is also the best time for bird watchers as one can spot quite a variety. The summers are bearable too, but one might not spot fauna that easy. The only sightings then are near the pond.
Bandipur National Park, Karnataka:
Bandipur National Park was once the hunting ground for Maharaja of Mysore which was later established as a reserve in 1974 under Project Tiger and these deciduous forests rich in wildlife have become popular tourist attraction since then. This park is the second highest Tiger population in India and the largest habitant of wild Elephant in South Asia.
Bandipur National Park shares its boundary with 3 other National park namely Nagarahole National Park, Wayanad National Park and Mudumalai National park. Spans over 874sq.km, the park is replete with a wide range of endangered wildlife like elephants, hornbills, deers, pythons, sloth bears, pythons, panthers etc. and multitudes of teak and sandalwood trees.
October to March is the best time to visit and the park is enveloped with lush greenery where animals and birds add up to its enchanting beauty.
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Tamil Nadu:
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve Nature Park is the most popular biosphere reserve In India and the major National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in South India located at the foothills of famous Nilgiri Hills or Blue Mountain. It is the India’s first and foremost biosphere reserve with a heritage and rich in flora and fauna. It includes 100 spieces of mammals, 350 species of birds and 80 species of reptiles including Tigers, Asiatic elephants. Also has largest population of Lion-tailed macaque and Nilgiri tahr which are endangered species. 3300 species of flowering plants grow in Nilgiri and out of them 132 are endemic to this region.
Tribal groups like Todas, Kotas, Irullas, Kurumbar, Paniyas and many other are native to the reserve. Economic activities are strictly forbidden and only a few activities are permitted in the buffer zone, the transition area is occupied mostly by private agriculture enterprises and degraded forests.
Keibul Lamjao National Park, Manipur:
Keibul Lamjao National Park, located in Manipur is probably the world’s only “floating” sanctuary that comprises 40sq.km of wetland overgrown with 1.5m deep vegetation and is a home to the last of the brow-antlered deer, one of the most endangered species of deer in the world. Fauna in this park is also rare and unique. Other species of deer seen here includes Hog deer that are found in parks, Sambar and Muntjac are usually found in the hills. A few Musk deer may still exist higher up in the hills.
Apart from the vegetation, terrain and fauna, the important highlight in the park is the Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in India; a large portion of which fall in this park. People of Manipur are socially, economically, culturally and ecologically connected with the Loktak lake and the Keibul Lamjao National Park. The lake has been the source of water for domestic generation and has been referred to as the “lifeline of Maipur”
The best time to visit Keibul Lamjao National Park is between October and March as the Lake water levels are suitable to explore the park. It is best to visit the park from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM and 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM because the Sangai deer mostly comes out during these times to feed in herds.
Hemis National Park, Ladakh
With Indus and Zaskar Rivers flowing at its boundaries, Hemis National Park is a picturesque holiday destination, which is flanked by five villages namely Shingo, Chillinga, Yurutse, Rumbak, and Sku-Kaya. Tucked in the lap of pristine valleys in Ladakh, this park is one of Asia’s most well-known natural habitats of the Snow Leopard. Named after the 400-year-old monastery, Hemis Gompa, the altitude of Hemis National Park ranges between 3000-6000 meters, the highest in the country.
All you need is the map and the heart willing to explore and experience something magical. It’s an heaven for the people that take an interest in bird watching. Trek to the great Gotsang Gumpa, another place that you can visit is other name of serenity that lies at a distance from Hemis Monastery and it’s suggested to take a solo trip to reach here. The Hemis National Park Safari is absolutely animal cruelty-free and pollution-free, no motor vehicle are allowed in the premises.
The most suitable time to explore the Hemis National Park area tends to be between May and October. However, if you plan your visit during mid-summer, you can check out the famous festival organized by the Hemis Monastery. It is not advisable to visit this place after October as the roads are closed due to rain.