Bandhavgarh National Park
Bandhavgarh is a glorious forest reserve, complete with swamps, meadows and rivers of 1,162 km2. This paradise is said to house India’s densest population of tigers (about 50 animals). As a curiosity, Mohan – the legendary white tiger (an albino) who is the father of offspring around the world – hails from here. On jeep tours, there is a good chance of seeing tigers hunting the local, large population of sambar deer.
There are also rhesus monkeys, nilgai, jackal and jungle cat. The bird life is in a class of its own and among the crowds of forest birds are the huge, ugly adjutant stork (the marabou stork’s Asian counterpart), the bankiva hen – the domestic hen’s stem form, fish owls and the huge white – necked plaice. Unlike Sariska in 2005 and now Panna in 2009 where the tiger is unfortunately undead, due to poaching and Ranthambhore, there are only a few visitors in Bandavgarh, which saves the grotesque scenes that are usually at tiger sightings.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
According to harvardshoes, Periyar is a nature reserve of 777 km2 that extends up to 2,091 meters altitude on the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Most of the reserve is deciduous forest, but the area also contains a large, artificial lake that was originally created to provide water for irrigation. Of the wildlife to be mentioned is a population of 750 Indian elephants.
The large animals are often seen from the jeep tours that are arranged – gaurox, wild boar and langur monkeys. In the whole park there are approx. 40 tigers, but you have to be more than usual lucky to see them. Then it is different with the many birds, of which there are several endemic species from Western Ghat. March-April is the best time to visit the park – the heat is never overwhelming and the dry season makes the wildlife concentrated in a few, humid places and therefore easier to see. Visiting the park requires the accompaniment of one of the guides who can be hired on site.
Panna Tiger Reserve
One of India’s tiger reserves is Panna, located in northern Madhya Pradesh. The area is primarily glorious forest of teak, acacia and sal, which in the monsoon becomes dense and green. The park is flooded by the beautiful and mighty Ken River. Panna is wonderfully varied and incredibly beautiful and has several fine waterfalls. The reserve housed 26 tigers until the summer of 2009, when the last one was unfortunately exterminated due to poaching. There is a nice population of leopard, sambar deer, nilgai antelope, wild dog and jackal in addition to up to 100 species of snakes (seen only in the monsoon). Along the rivers there is a nice population of gavial crocodiles. The location is only a 1 hour drive from Khajuraho, creating a perfect combination of nature and culture in an area that quite a few tourists visit.
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
India’s finest and most scenically exciting game reserves are Manas in Assam on the border with Bhutan. The two countries share the 3,500 km2 park, which consists mainly of jungle. Especially on the Bhutan side, the jungle is dense and wild, and is located at an altitude of up to 4,000 meters, with a multitude of orchids. On the Indian side, the reserve consists of lush deciduous forest and grasslands with meter-high elephant grass. The mountains of Bhutan really entice at the sight of the virgin forests towering up on the lush mountain slopes, bounded by the wide, flowing Manas River that passes through the park on its run from the Himalayas to the Brahmaputra.
Nowhere in India are there more mammal species than in Manas, although the population has been reduced in recent years due to poaching. Thus, a former rhino population has now been eradicated. The fabled golden langur monkey, first described in 1953, has its only population in the world here. The best chance to see it is in the forest at the Royal Palace on the border with Bhutan. Otherwise, the equally beautiful Kappelangur is seen quite commonly. The wild buffalo population here is species-pure – unlike many other places where it is mixed with domestic cattle. A river trip provides good opportunities to see the buffalo, the highly endangered river dolphin and grazing elephants in the meter-high grass along the river banks. It’s harder to see Gaur as well as the predators; tiger, leopard, wood leopard and collared bear. However, sightings of the highly coveted tiger are regular and Manas must be considered one of the best places outside the more frequently visited parks to see the big cat. It is immediately much easier with some of the area’s approx. 450 bird species. The area contains specialties such as bengal florikan (here is the world’s largest population), marsh francoline, variegated hawk, several species of rhinoceros birds and a variety of small birds.
However, the species richness is greatest on the Bhutanese side, which may open up for regular visits in the future. Access conditions are still limited as there is only a single “main road” in the reserve (leading to stunning views towards Bhutan), but in the future hiking trails and several tracks for jeeps are planned.
Mudumalai National Park
Mudumalai of 321 km2 is located in approx. 1 kilometer altitude in the northernmost part of Tamil Nadu and continues in the Bandipur and Nagarhole reserves of Karnathaka. Taken together, it constitutes one of the largest contiguous sanctuaries in India. Mudimalai is the most easily accessible part. The park is located on the border between tropical and subtropical climates and consists predominantly of deciduous forest, especially teak. Along the rivers grows meter-high elephant grass.
The reserve is home to many wild elephants (the tame ones are used as riding animals during the search for tigers), gaur and monkeys. Predators such as lip bear, leopard and tiger are found but are difficult to see. The bird life is extremely rich – especially around Masinagudi – which contains several South Indian species, such as gray wild chicken, jeweled thrush, malabar parakeet and gray-headed bulbul – as well as a rich selection of woodpeckers, noise thrushes and other forest birds. However, ornithologists enchanted by the rich variety of birds should not forget that lone elephant bulls can be aggressive and that Mudumalai is home to the notoriously choleric king cobra.