Kaziranga National Park
In the heart of Assam, picturesque down to the wide Brahmaputra river lies the wonderful Kaziranga. Kaziranga is a 430 km2 pristine reserve with huge areas of evergreen elephant grass and scrub, alternating with smaller areas of dark green jungle. Kaziranga has over 1,000 Indian armor rhinos – the world’s largest population – and the large animals are easily seen from the jeep. Like the wild buffaloes are more numerous than in any other area of India. There is a pretty good chance of seeing tigers, as the population of the food animals – the smaller deer – is large.
Gibbon monkeys testify to the proximity to Southeast Asia. The bird life is rich in great rarities, such as white-winged duck and white-bellied heron among the more frequent pelicans, rust-toothed and stork-billed kingfishers. The place’s best accommodation is Wild Grass Resort. Wild Grass Resort is a wooden hotel with large, spacious rooms and all the activities one associates with a hotel. The resort is located by a world-class game area: jeep and hiking in forests and tea plantations as well as culinary specialties of local origin.
Sariska National Park
According to health-beauty-guides, Sariska is one of several game reserves in the vicinity of Delhi. Since 1979, Project Tiger has been responsible for the reserve, which covers 800 km2 and is beautifully situated in a wooded valley surrounded by rugged mountains. The park is located 107 km from Jaipur and 200 km from Delhi and is thus perfect if you have quite a short time in Rhajastan.
The main attraction is of course the tiger, which is especially seen in the morning and late afternoon, where from jeep tours there is a real chance to see the impressive animal that lives off the park’s fine population of Sambar and Sika deer as well as the Nilgai antelope. As everywhere where forest and water meet, bird life is impressive. The nearby Sariska hunting lodge houses a collection of trophies from the time when tigers and leopards were more common. In the last 2-3 years, there has been a large increase in poaching in Sariska and no tigers have been observed since 2005. However, in 2008 tigers were translocated to Sariska, whereby it is hoped that the population can recover.
Bharatpur (Keoladea) National Park
Bharatpur is India’s best known bird sanctuary and among Asia’s best. The 29 km2 reserve was originally the Mahajaas’ hunting grounds – up to 4,237 birds have been killed in a single hunt. However, the last shot has long been heard in Bharatpur, which became a reserve in 1971, thanks to a unique effort from the great man of Indian ornithology, Salim Ali. Bharatpur consists of shallow lakes with stands of dead trees and elements of loosely overgrown meadows that are breeding grounds for numbers of herons and ibises.
In winter, thousands of geese and ducks from Asia overwinter, monitored by the site’s large eagle population. A specialty is the snow crane – an endangered Siberian species, which is therefore not seen regularly. However, the cranes are still represented by the impressive and very loud Saru cranes – a sacred bird in parts of India. There are birds everywhere, and specialists in birds will in a week’s time be able to see approx. 200 different species. The tranquility seems almost overwhelming – no motor traffic is allowed and you therefore rent bicycles or are ridden with bicycle rickshaws on the gravel roads, from where the sumptuous bird life can be overlooked.
Gir National Park
Gir National Park is just over 1400 square kilometers, and consists predominantly of hilly landscape with deciduous forest on dry ground. Gir Forest contains the wood’s only population of Asian Lion, which differs primarily from the African lion by having smaller and more tousled, light mane and by being slightly smaller.
That the lion is smaller, however, is not striking when the lion suddenly stands in front of one in the middle of the road. The population is up to 500 animals (see under mammals: “Asiatic Lion”). Trips into the reserve are only possible as 3-4 hour trips purchased on site. Lots of providers available! You drive in a jeep accompanied by a forester (of very varying quality and motivation – we were all over the spectrum, from excellent people to incompetent uniformed talent).
Velavadar, Gujarat National Park
In the flat landscape of eastern Gujarat lies the 34-square-kilometer Velavadar National Park. 25% of India is under forestry (Guha 1989). In most areas, alternating use of nature is possible, but in the 5% of India’s land designated as National Parks, the highest possible protection of nature is ensured. Velavadar consists of one of India’s last major steppes – vidhis – and also has stretched woodlands, a small water hole and part of the rather narrow river Alang.
The reserve was created to protect the large population of Blackbuck (formerly the purpose of the Maharaja of Bhavnagar’s hunts), and is an ornithological gem known for its population of max. 2,000 overnight Hede- and Steppehøge – probably the largest known accommodation for the two species! However, the number is spread around 4-5 different night quarters, and probably largest quite early in the winter, as the largest counts are from January. From a similar accommodation in Andhra Pradesh it is mentioned that the number is greatest in October and it has been declining since January (Ganesh & Kanniah 2000).
In addition, Velavadar has a good population of the rare Syke´s Crested Lark, several thousand overwintering Cranes and a small population of Wolves. In the monsoon is the endangered Lesser Florican, which, however, prefers to unknown areas during the dry season (but a few can remain all year round). Velavadar is located 64 km. from Bandvahgar, the largest city in the area. There are several hotels here, but it is advisable to apply for accommodation at the Forest Department’s guest house, Kaliya Bhavan, located a few hundred meters from the main entrance. Newly built after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, these houses offer a reasonable standard (though the food is bland) – as well as superb views of all the delights of the rooms themselves.