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Wildlife of India: National Parks, Wildlife & Bird Sanctuaries

The wildlife of India is diverse and its national parks and biosphere reserves are home to many endangered wildlife species like Royal Bengal Tigers and Red Panda, the vulnerable one-horned Rhinoceros and Snow Leopards, and critically endangered Great Indian Bustard, among many other species of flora and fauna.

India boasts 104 national parks, 551 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 131 Marine Protected Areas, 18 Biosphere Reserves, 88 Conservation Reserves and 127 Community Reserves, covering a total of 1,65,088.57 sq km. In total, there are 870 Protected Areas which make 5.06% of the geographical area of the country.

The oldest national park in India is Corbett National Park. Sprawling in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, this national park was established in 1936.

It is spread in 520.82 sq km area, and is home to a rich flora and fauna, including the Royal Bengal Tigers.

India's first biosphere reserve was established in 1986 and is called Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. This reserve includes Wayanad, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Mudumalai, Nilambur, Silent Valley protected areas situated in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.

The Great Rann of Kutch, with an area of 12454 sq km, is the largest biosphere reserve in India. On the other hand, with an area of 4400 sq km, Hemis National Park in Ladakh is the largest national park in India.

UNESCO World Heritage Wildlife Sites in India

Some of India's national parks have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

Flora & Fauna in Indian National Parks

According to a study, India is among the 17 megadiverse countries which together possess 60-70% of world’s biodiversity. The national parks and wildlife reserves in India are home to around 400 species of mammals and 1300+ species of birds.

These wildlife reserves are home to some rare and unique wildlife species like the Indian Sloth Bear, the Chausinga (four-horned antelope) and the Barasinga (swamp deer). In fact, India is the only country where both tigers and lions can be found. It also boasts the highest deer and tiger population in the world.

Along with rich fauna, the Indian wildlife reserves are blessed with abundant flora. There are estimated to be around 15000 species of flowering plants, which make about 6-7% of the world’s total plant species. The Valley of Flowers National Park in Uttarakhand alone boasts 600 species of flowering plants including the famous and exclusive Brahma Kamal.

Some of the Best National Parks to Visit in India

There are around 104 national parks in India spread across the country’s length and breadth. These wildlife parks are home to a variety of animals and birds, and some of them are the safe shelters for unique and threatened animals like one-horned rhinos and Royal Bengal Tiger. Some of the top ones on the list of national parks are:

Best Bird Sanctuaries to visit in India

India is home to more than 1300 species of birds and about 467 Important Bird Areas (IBA) which include 59 bird sanctuaries. These sanctuaries and IBAs are inhabited by birds like Indian peafowl, pheasants, quails, francolin, hornbill, and snowcocks. Some of the top bird sanctuaries on the list of wildlife adventure are:

Best National Parks for One-Horned Rhino Sightings

India is a native place for the vulnerable species of one-horned rhinos that inhabit the northeastern part of the country. Therefore, Northeast India is the best place to go for sighting one-horned rhinos. Kaziranga National Park in Assam is known for the highest density of one-horned rhinos and thus, is the best place for rhino sightings in India. Apart from Kaziranga, following are some of the best national parks for rhino sighting in India:

  • Manas Nationa Park, Assam
  • Jaldapara National Park, West Bengal
  • Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam
  • Orang National Park, Assam
  • Gorumara National Park, West Bengal

Best Time to Visit Indian National Parks

Most of the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India are open between October and June. In the monsoon season, most of the wildlife reserves close down between July and September. The best time to visit the national parks in India are between October and March, when the weather is pleasant in most parts of the country. The average winter temperature in India ranges between 0°C - 20°C in North, Northwest, Northeast, and Central India, and 18°C - 25°C in South India.

There are some national parks in India that remain open/partially open in the monsoon season.

Partially Open in Monsoon

  • Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
  • Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

Open in Monsoon

  • Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
  • Periyar National Park, Kerala
  • Hemis National Park, Ladakh

Accommodation in & around National Parks

The staying options near national parks in India can be found in abundance and in variety. Accommodation ranges from budget hotels to luxury and boutique hotels depending on the popularity of the national parks. While budget accommodation and mid-range places to stay are available around every wildlife reserve, luxury/4-star/5-star properties are available around popular national parks like Corbett, Ranthambore, Kaziranga etc. In Corbett, one can also have the opportunity to stay inside the forest, in a lodge.