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15 Incredible Places to See Wildlife in India

Author: David Pettitt

India offers some of the finest wildlife viewing in the whole of Asia and is home to a number of rare species including tiger, leopard, one-horned rhinoceros and elephant. India’s size and geographical diversity means that an incredible range of habitats are found throughout the country’s national parks and protected areas which, in turn, supports an enormous variety of mammal, reptile, amphibious and bird life. From the wilds of the remote north east India and the dusty landscapes of Gujarat to the iconic reserves of central India and the jungles of tropical southern India, this is our selection of the 15 most incredible places to see wildlife in India.

1. Kaziranga National Park, Assam

There are few better places in the Indian Subcontinent to see the rare one-horned rhinoceros in the wild and, for that reason alone, Kaziranga National Park must rank as one of the finest wildlife reserves in the country. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kaziranga borders the mighty Brahmaputra River and forms part of a vast undisturbed area in India’s remote north east. Aside from one-horned rhinoceros, the tall grassland, woodlands and swamps provide an ideal habitat for other large mammals including tiger, leopard, buffalo, deer and bear as well as a wide variety of birds, both endemic and migratory.

Location: Best reached from Guwahati which has regular flights from both Kolkata and Delhi
Best time to visit Kaziranga National Park: November to April

One horned rhinoceros entering a lake in a national park in India
One-horned rhinoceros

2. Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand

India’s oldest national park, Corbett was established in 1935 and is named after the hunter turned respected conservationist Jim Corbett who resided in the region for a number of years. Corbett National Park has a lovely setting beside the Ramganga River and is framed to the north by the picturesque Himalayan foothills. Corbett’s terrain varies greatly from open grassland and wetlands to rocky plateaus and thick forest and, in turn, this diversity of habitats means that Corbett can support a wide range of animal life including tiger, leopard and elephant, 500 bird species and rare species of reptile and amphibian.

Location: Around 300kms to the north east of Delhi and easily reached by car or rail from the capital
Best time to visit Corbett National Park: November to May as temperatures increase

Blue and orange bird sitting on a branch in a national park in India
Indian roller

3. Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Central India is home to a collection of very fine wildlife reserves of which Kanha National Park is the largest. Set in classic Kipling country, Kanha was one of the areas that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’. Largely comprising of hardwood forest, bamboo thicket, rolling grassland and meadow, there are few better places in India to see the majestic Bengal tiger in the wild. Kanha is also home to gaur, leopard, hyena, wild boar, sambar and deer, including the rare barasingha. Over 300 species of bird and more than 1000 different species of flowering plants have also been recorded.

Location: Accessed by air via Nagpur or Jabalpur airports or by road from Khajuraho and Bandhavgarh
Best time to visit Kanha National Park: November to March for birdlife and March to May for tiger

Bengal tiger walking through long sun-bleached grass in a national park in India
Bengal tiger

4. Gir National Park, Gujarat

In many ways the little-known Gir National Park is one of India’s most important wildlife reserves. The dry deciduous forests, scrub and grassland provide a critical haven for the extremely rare Asiatic lion which is now extinct elsewhere on the continent and, this alone, makes Gir both unique and special. The park’s remote location in the south of Gujarat also supports a range of other animals including leopard, jungle cat, hyena, jackal, sambar deer, chital, nilgai, wild boar, porcupine and chousingha, a small four-horned antelope. The many rivers and reservoirs also attract a rich variety of resident birdlife.

Location: Best reached by road from Gondal, Junagadh, Rajkot or Palitana
Best time to visit Gir National Park: December to April, especially just prior to the monsoon

Asiatic lion standing in a pool of water looking to the right in a national park in India
Asiatic lion

5. Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka

Centrepiece of the extensive Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the greatest stretch of protected forest in India, Nagarhole National Park occupies an important position in the ecological life of southern India. Linked to the neighbouring sanctuaries of Bandipur, Mudumalai and Wayanad, Nagarhole was established in 1955 but was previously the hunting grounds of the Kingdom of Mysore. Set in the foothills of the Western Ghats, the reserve is heavily forested with large wetland areas and, consequently, is an ideal habitat for large predators such as tiger, leopard and hyena, various deer species, elephant, reptiles and a number of endangered birds.

Location: Connected by road to Mysore, Coorg, Sultan’s Battery and Ooty
Best time to visit Nagarhole National Park: December to April. The winter period is best for migratory birds

Leopard standing on a stony jungle trail in a national park in India
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6. Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

Arguably India’s best known reserve, Ranthambore National Park is a staple inclusion for those wishing to add a wildlife element to a Golden Triangle holiday. Despite ease of access from some of northern India’s most popular sights, Ranthambore occupies a long-held position as one of the country’s most important wildlife reserves and has been at the forefront of efforts to both protect and increase India’s tiger population. Ranthambore is a particularly beautiful park which, aside from tiger, harbours leopard, langur and Macaque, sambar, chital, sloth bear and wild boar, nilgai, chital, python, cobra and crocodile.

Location: A morning’s drive from both Agra and Jaipur and daily trains to Sawai Madhopur station
Best time to visit Ranthambore National Park: November to April, particularly before the monsoon arrives

Bengal tiger standing in a forest in a national park in India
Bengal tiger

7. Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Located in the picturesque Vindhya Ranges, this beguiling reserve is predominately sal and mixed forest, meadow and grassland punctuated by numerous small streams and hillocks rising up to 1500 feet above the surrounding countryside. A haven for a whole host of different animals, Bandhavgarh is noted for having one of the highest densities of tiger, leopard, sloth bear, sambar, chital, barking deer, gaur and nilgai in India. The reserve also offers excellent birdwatching opportunities and is home to wide variety of birds including hornbill, the crested serpent and variable hawk eagle and parakeet among the many species that can be seen.

Location: Reached by road from Kanha and Khajuraho or air from Jabalpur. Katni is the nearest station
Best time to visit Bandhavgarh National Park: October to January for birds, January to April for tiger

Large white and black bird of prey sitting on a branch in a national park in India
Black-winged kite

8. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Assam

Rarely visited, Dibru-Saikhowa is one of Asia’s most important wilderness areas and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Its relative inaccessibility has created a protective environment for a number of endangered animals and over 380 species of bird – many of them endemic. Located in the east of Assam and bordered by the Brahmaputra River, Dibru-Saikhowa is predominately semi-evergreen and deciduous forest with areas of marsh and grassland. The reserve is home to many rare birds including the greater adjutant, marsh babbler and Palla’s fish eagle and provides a sanctuary for tiger, leopard, slow loris and Gangetic dolphin.

Location: The nearest town to Dibru-Saikhowa is Tinsukia which is a morning’s drive from Dibrugarh
Best time to visit Dibru-Saikhowa National Park: November to April

Leopard crouching down behind a log in a national park in India

9. Chilka Lake Sanctuary, Odisha

Asia’s largest brackish lake, Chilka covers a vast area of coastal Odisha and is classified as a wetland of international importance. Separated from the Bay of Bengal by sand banks and low-lying marshy islands, Chilka is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian subcontinent. The unique ecosystem of Chilka Lake provides sanctuary to a number of endangered or threatened species, many of which fly great distances from Iran, Central Asia and Siberia. Between November and February the lake is home to white-bellied sea eagles, ospreys, golden plovers, sandpipers, flamingos, pelicans and shovellers.

Location: Linked by road to Odisha’s capital Bhubaneshwar and the religious sites of Puri and Konark
Best time to visit Chilka Lake Sanctuary: November to February for the majority of migratory birds

Two pelicans on a lake in India
Spot-billed pelican

10. Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh

The only reserve in India that permits walking safaris, Satpura is the least well known of Madhya Pradesh’s national parks. Spread across the beautiful Satpura hills which form the highest part of the Deccan and protected to the north by the huge Tawa reservoir, Satpura’s rugged and forested interior provide the perfect habitat for a wide range of animal and bird species. The impenetrable core of the park has some of the finest tiger habitat in the subcontinent and although sightings are rare, the reserve is home to other important mammals including leopard, spotted deer, gaur, black buck, sambar, porcupine and sloth bear.

Location: Bhopal, with its air and rail connections to Delhi and Mumbai, is 200kms to the north
Best time to visit Satpura National Park: Winter months for birds, February to April for larger mammals

Large sloth bear walking through a forest clearing in a national park in India
Sloth bear
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11. Nameri National Park, Assam

Nameri National Park is one of India’s most remote reserves. Straddling the boundary between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the hilly terrain of the eastern Himalayas, Nameri is largely forested with areas of open grassland which provides perfect elephant habitat. The reserve also supports tiger, sambar, wild dog, clouded leopard and black bear, but is famed for the quality of its bird watching with more than 300 species recorded. Nameri has a sizeable population of the rare white-winged wood duck as well as three different species of hornbill, ibisbill, blue-bearded bee-eater, white-cheeked partridge and Palla’s fish eagle.

Location: The nearest airports to Nameri are at Tezpur and Guwahati
Best time to visit Nameri National Park: November to April but winter months can be cold

Small brown bird hiding amongst foliage in a national park in India
Abbott's babbler

12. Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Panna is bordered by the Ken River and located close to the town of Khajuraho. More modest in size than some of the other better-known wildlife reserves of Madhya Pradesh, Panna is an attractive national park and a Project Tiger Reserve. Life for the animals in Panna largely revolves around the river and connected tributaries which not only nourish the park’s dense deciduous forest but also support a sizable population of the endangered gharial crocodile. Home to over 200 different bird species including buzzard, vulture and eagle, Panna also has healthy populations of chinkara, sambar, chital and nilgai as well as tiger and leopard.

Location: A short drive from the temple town of Khajuraho which has regular flights to Varanasi and Delhi
Best time to visit Panna National Park: November to May, especially prior to the monsoon

Brown chinkara gazelle standing amongst long grass in a national park in India

13. Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, Gujarat

Located to the south west of Ahmedabad, the wetlands of Nalsarovar form part of one of India’s finest avian sanctuaries and is a place justifiably noted for the extraordinary diversity of its birdlife – especially waders and water birds. Established in 1969, the lake’s extensive reed beds and marshes – which are unique to the region – attract many thousands of migratory birds over the winter months as they pass through the reserve. Nalsarovar also supports large endemic populations of duck, geese, pelican and flamingo, stork, heron and bittern. In total over 250 different species have now been spotted and recorded.

Location: Positioned 65kms from Ahmedabad which has regular air and rail links to Delhi and Mumbai
Best time to visit Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary: November to February when migratory birds arrive

Orange and brown duck in flight in a national park in India
Ruddy shelduck

14. Manas National Park, Assam

Nestled in the Himalayan foothills close to Bhutan’s southern border, Manas National Park is both UNESCO protected and a biosphere reserve. Largely consisting of meadowland and dense deciduous forest, the proximity of Manas to Kaziranga National Park means that the reserve is home to a similar range of animals with, currently, more than 20 species classified as endangered or at risk. Manas is noted for its elephant population and also provides perfect tiger habitat. Aside from elephant and tiger, Manas is home to deer, water buffalo, hispid hare, gibbon, langur, pygmy hog, leopard, rhinoceros and close to 400 species of bird.

Location: Guwahati is the closest airport and is a morning’s drive from the park
Best time to visit Manas National Park: November to February for birds, March to May for large mammals

Family of four elephants playing in a national park in India

15. Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh

At the foot of the Satpura Range, picturesque Pench, along with Kanha and Bandhavgarh, is one of the three famous parks of central India. The teak forest, rivers and open grassland of Pench National Park support a huge variety of flora and fauna – cheetal, sambar, nilgai, gaur and muntjac are common, there are number of large predators including tiger, leopard, wolf, jackal and wild dog and a number of reptile species. The birdwatching in Pench is also excellent with over 250 different resident and migratory birds recorded including four species of endangered vulture, kingfisher, peafowl, junglefowl and Indian roller.

Location: Nagpur is the closest airport. Pench can also be reached by road from Kanha and Satpura
Best time to visit Pench National Park: Winter for bird watching and March to May for tiger and leopard

Light brown jackal walking through a forest in a national park in India
Golden jackal

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