India, inhabited by close to a billion and a half Homo sapiens, is easily one of the most colorful places on this planet. And that is without considering the variety of mammals, birds, reptiles and other creatures that our forests are full off. When it comes to visiting a nature reserve, though, our ears get inundated with the usual suspects- Jim Corbett, Ranthambore National Park, Kaziranga. So, to expose you to the immense yet unexplored wildlife tourism in India, here’s a list of some of the most underrated wildlife destinations in India.
Rajaji National Park
Cozily nestled in the Shivalik ranges, equal distance between Haridwar and Rishikesh, Rajaji National Park is the gift that we forgot to unwrap. The Broadleaved deciduous forests, riverine vegetation, scrubland, grasslands and pine forests, and the many streams that flow down from the Himalayas make it an ideal habitat for Asiatic elephants and medium-altitude birds. Besides, it is also known for its leopards, jungle cats, sloth bears, several antelopes and a few Bengal tigers. Do if you long for a quiet getaway in the company of the wild, full of click-worthy moments and adventure.
Desert National Park
Located near Jaisalmer, the Desert National Park is an exciting glimpse into wildlife of the Thar Desert. Despite its arid nature, the park is home to several bird species like falcons, eagles, harriers, and the rare Great Indian Bustard, apart from foxes, wolfs and antelopes. A fifth of the park is covered in sand dunes, which makes camel safari a sought-after activity.
Manas National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage site and a Project Tiger reserve, Manas National Park is like a younger sibling overshadowed by its more illustrious elder brother, Kaziranga National Park. With 55 species of mammals, 50 of reptiles and 380 species of birds, Manas is a hotbed of biodiversity, and is famous for its endemic species- the Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur and pygmy hog. The rich wildlife enveloped in majestic views offers the perfect opportunities for shutterbugs to click away.
A true revelation for a birding enthusiast, Eaglenest Sanctuary first gained worldwide prominence in 2006 when the renowned birdwatcher and astronomer Ramana Athreya discovered a new bird species Bugun Liocichla. Home to a staggering 450 species of birds, a visit to this Arunachal Pradesh sanctuary is sure to be obscure but rewarding. The approach is remote, there is no permanent accommodation and the only way to go around is with a guide, but the untouched, unspoiled nature, countless birds chirping in unison, the idyllic weather will uplift your senses and give you an experience best enjoyed yourself.
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve
The Tadoba-Andhari region is a hotspot for biodiversity, with several species of mammals and reptiles including Bengal tiger, striped hyena, sloth bear, sambhar, spotted dear, the marsh crocodile, Indian python, Indian star tortoise; over 190 species of birds; and 74 types of butterflies. One of the best wildlife safaris in India, the locals believe only the unfortunate traveler is unable to spot a tiger in Tadoba, given that there are 65 of them.
Hemis National Park
Hemis National Park takes the concept of jungle safari tours and dials it up to 11. Everything about the wildlife reserve screams ‘surreal’. Perched several thousand meters above sea level in the captivating surroundings of Ladakh, the park overlooks the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers, adding to the already majestic settings. Perfect for wildlife and nature lovers as it is for photography enthusiasts, Hemis is known for being one of the last bastions of the mythical snow leopard.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park
Keoladeo, better known simply as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, has been India’s premier birding destination for a long time now. A lot works in its favor. A mere three hour drive from Delhi, it is home to over 200 species of indigenous exotic and rare birds, and hosts about a 100 more migratory species during the colder months. Paved walkways ideal for treks and cycle rickshaw-pulling tour guides make this one of the best forest tours in India.
Sundarbans National Park
One of the most interesting and diverse places in the whole of India, the Sundarbans National Park is one of the largest and most densely-populated Project Tiger reserves and a designated biodiversity reserve. A curious amalgamation of dense mangrove forests, several streams and rivers forming an estuarine delta, and mudflats, this national park houses a startling breadth of biodiversity- everything from 400 man-eating tigers capable of swimming in saltwater, estuarine crocodiles, olive ridley turtles, dolphins, several species of snakes, foxes and apes, and over a hundred varieties of fish and birds. Navigate the thrilling terrains on a boat safari, or go for nature treks on the beautiful river islands.