By Aarti Kapur Singh
India is a favored destination for wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world. The varied topography and rich fauna make Indian forests among the most popular amongst scientists, travellers as well as explorers. If you are thinking of taking a quick wildlife getaway, right now really is the best time! Simply because in some forests, the snow is just giving away to new forms of life and the others are playing host to a variety of migratory species. Moreover, spring – when it is neither too hot and nor too cold is a beautiful season in the wild too – when not just the fauna, but also the flora will charm you.
Here are 5 wildlife getaways in India that you need to take right now, before it gets too hot…
On The Trail Of The Snow Leopard
The Snow Leopard is undoubtedly one of the most hard to pin down among the wild animals. And the best place to try and spot this elusive feline is the Hemis National Park – 40 kms from Leh. And now, with the cold receding, the chances of spotting this gorgeous beast are at their peak. The Hemis National Park is home to a population of more than 200 snow leopards. But be patient with this animal – it is not for nothing that it is referred to by local residents as ‘the ghost of the snow’. Even if you don’t immediately spot it, there will be many tell-tale signs of its presence – some droppings, a tell-tale pug mark, a distant coughing – all to keep you excited about a possible sighting. But it is not just the snow leopard that is the only resident of this utterly gorgeous Himalayan forest. The Bharal or Blue sheep, the Tibetan Wolf, Bearded Himalayan Vulture are all equally beautiful. One word of caution – to maintain its exclusivity as a protected reserve, no hotels are available in or near Hemis National Park – though you can stay in any homestay in the six villages in the Hemis National Park – Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling. Some accommodation is also available at the historical and beautiful Hemis, but food options are limited. It would be prudent to carry food for yourself. Another thing to remember is that the altitude takes some time to get used to – so do keep a day aside for that.
Wellness Amidst Wilderness In Jim Corbett National Park
Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Corbett National Park is one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries of India and is spread over almost 530 square kilometres. This region is also blessed with diverse topography and vegetation which explains the several species of animals and birds that inhabit it. The reason is the rich diversity in habitats available in the forests here. Corbett has a natural habitat of more than 50 species of mammals is nature in its most abundant and undisturbed state. It is neither in the hills, nor the plains, but nestled comfortably in the foothills. The national park is host to about 65000 tourists annually. But the incredible variety of mammals, birds and vegetation is not the only draw at Jim Corbett. A large number of spa resorts around the park are also becoming popular. The best among these is the Aahaana Resort that offers a variety of spa therapies, wellness holidays and detox getaways from the city. And all in the middle of extremely luxurious facilities.
Beyond Tigers In Bhadra
Bhadra is a Project Tiger protected reserve located 38 km northwest of Chikmagalur in Karnataka. There are about 40 tigers in Bhadra at present, and it is possible that you may not spot even one. But that should not disappoint you at all. Other mammals that you can spot in the sanctuary include elephant, Indian bison or gaur, barking deer, Wild Boar, Jungle Cat, Jackal, Wild Dog, Jackal, Sambar, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Slender Loris, Small Indian Civet, Common Palm Civet, Pangolin, Porcupine, Flying Squirrel, Malabar Giant Squirrel, and if you are super lucky, even a black leopard. The best time to be here is from September to March. Since this area is prone to forest fires in the summer months, safaris are cancelled during April and May.
Royal Retreats In Ranthambore
Image Credit: Flickr
Located near the town of Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park is one of the most popular wildlife destinations in India. Popular amongst Indian and foreign tourists alike, Ranthambore was a hunting ground for Maharajas and royalty of yore. This habitat of tigers, leopards, deer, marsh crocodile and many other species is also dotted with several ruins that were formerly forts, palaces or temples of the various rulers from Rajasthan. The Ranthambore Fort, that dates back to the 10th century stands majestically on a hilltop. The Ganesh Mandir is a temple dedicated to the elephant-headed god and the Padam Talao Lake (famed by its stunning water lilies) are sites that won’t make you feel bad in case you don’t spotted a tiger. If that isn’t enough, try staying at one of the many royalty-inspired jungle lodges or resorts such as The Baagh and your vacation will be made. The stark landscape that makes Ranthambore so beautiful is best enjoyed before April as after that it gets unbearably hot – reducing the chances of spotting its resident beasts as well.
Go Wing-Spotting In Bharatpur
Situated a few hours’ drive from Delhi, the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, commonly known as Bharatpur, is actually a world heritage site. This forest has the traits of a woodland, wetland, scrub and grass forest. It is spread across a little more than 30 square kilometres. The Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary hosts almost 400 species of feathered beauties – including Indian birds as well as migratory birds who make a stopover in India.
Bharatpur is an ideal location for those interested in bird-watching. The park is home to about 400 species of birds – some that are from India and most others that make a stopover on their migratory journeys. If you are persistent, and can rise before the morning light, it is not difficult to strike a century in bird-spotting – you can spot that many species in a single day. A good guide, oodles of patience and a good pair of binoculars is all you will need.
The Common Teal, Comb Duck, Indian Shag, Open Billed Stork, Painted Stork, White Spoonbill, Ibis, Sarus, warblers, bee-eaters, partridges, buntings, quails, Tawny eagle, osprey, Crested Serpent eagle etc are some easily seen birds. Sometimes one can spot jackals and wolves too. The best time to visit is between November to March – for that is when the migratory birds are in maximum attendance.
Popular tourist destinations are too crowded, so why not do something different and go on the wild side and get closer to nature?