There is a bit of a wild instinct in every biker amongst us. It’s not without reason that we choose two-wheels to four, give away the comforts that come with other forms of transport to ride, and experience the environs in the most unabated way possible. Riding to a wildlife destination, thus, is an idea that should appeal to a wide majority of biking enthusiasts amongst us. Riding through scenic roads, and then experiencing Mother Nature in its most uninhibited forms is something that a whole bunch of riders amongst us would wish to do. Here, then, is a list of 6 wildlife destinations in India that should be on every biker’s bucket list.
Ranthambore National Park – Rajasthan
Ranthambore is one of the largest and best known national parks in North India. Located in the Sawai Madhopur district, it is about 130 km from Jaipur. The national park is best known for its tigers, which have shown appreciable growth in numbers over the years and are rather easily sighted. A former hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur, the Ranthambore National Park hosts a wide variety of wildlife and draws tourists from all across the world, including wildlife photographers and filmmakers.
The Ranthambore National Park is spread over an area of 392 km and has three lakes – Padam Talab, Rajbagh Talao and Malik Talao, of which Padam Talao is the largest. In addition to tigers, Ranthambore is also home to the Indian leopard, nilgai, wild boar, sambar, striped hyena, sloth bear, southern plains grey langur, rhesus macaque, mugger crocodile and chital. The sanctuary also has a wide variety of trees and is a natural habitat for scores of birds and reptiles as well.
Ranthambore is well connected with highways and can be accessed from Delhi via Jaipur. The distance of 400 km from Delhi can be covered in 8 hours. It’s a destination you must add to your itinerary if you’re visiting Rajasthan. The best time to visit Ranthambore is between October and April.
Sunderban National Park – West Bengal
The Sunderban National Park derives its name from one of the mangrove plants known as Sundari. The national park, which is the largest tiger reserve and national park in India is a part of the world’s largest delta formed by the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. The Sundarban delta extends to Bangladesh, though the Indian part of the formation itself covers a humongous 4262 square km of area. Of this, 2,125 sq km is occupied by mangrove forests spanning 56 islands.
The Sunderbans are home to the famous Royal Bengal Tiger, which thrives in the national park. In addition, you also have reptiles like the monitor lizard, estuarine crocodile and the olive ridley turtle, for which there is a conservation programme in the Indian park. There used to be species like leopard, Indian rhinoceros and Javan rhinoceros in the area, but they’ve become extinct from the delta now.
The best time to visit Sunderbans is during winters between December and February, although the park is open for longer from September to March. This is the period when the maximum migratory birds are also present here. Calcutta is the closest metropolitan town to Sunderbans and is about 120 km by road.
Jim Corbett National Park and Tiger Reserve – Uttarakhand
Jim Corbett National Park, established in 1936 as the Hailey National Park is the oldest national park in India. The park was later renamed as ‘Corbett National Park’ after James Edward Corbett, who started off as a tiger hunter, but later turned into a conservationist of the area. The area came under ‘Project Tiger’ – an ambitious tiger conservation project started by the govt of India in 1971. Corbett National Park is blessed with diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes. Located between the Shiwalik, Himalayas and the Terai, the Corbett has a crisscross of streams, rivers and ridges running through it, giving the area its unique landscape. The terrain within the reserve comprises everything from dry, wet, mountainous, forested and grassland areas, which supports a wide variety of flora and fauna which comprises Himalayan as well as plains ecosystem. The Corbett is primarily known for being home to the Royal Bengal Tiger and the Asiatic Elephant. The sightings of tiger aren’t very common, although herds of the Asiatic elephants roaming the jungles in large groups are spotted with relative ease. In addition, the Corbett is also home to over 550 species of birds and has been declared as an ‘Important Bird Area’ (IBA) by Birdlife International.
Corbett is well connected with major cities by roads and is only 260 km from New Delhi. The cities of Lucknow and Kanpur are also not very far and are only 435km and 460 km by road respectively, although the closest city from the National Park is Nainital, at a distance of about 60 Km.
The park is divided into six ecotourism zones, namely – Bijrani, Dhikala, Jhirna, Sonanadi, Durgadevi and Dhela. Of these, Dhikala is the core zone, with the densest forest and the most sightings. The best time to visit Jim Corbett National park is from October to June.
Gir National Park – Gujarat
Gir has the distinction of being one of the rare few national parks in the world where you can spot lions roaming freely in the wild. It’s claimed to be only the second reserve of its kind besides Africa where the carnivore is found in its natural habitat. The national park was established in 1965 to conserve the Asiatic Lion and was then named the Sasan Gir Wildlife sanctuary. It covers a total area of 1412 square km, of which 258 square km forms the core area of the national park. The area had around 20 lions in 1913, but with the government’s efforts, there are now more than 520 lions in the region. In addition to lions, Gir is also home to more than 300 leopards. Jackal, striped hyena and Indian fox are a few other predators found in the Gir.
There’s a wide variety of deer to be spotted in the Gir too, and it’s a natural habitat for the Sambar, which is the largest Indian deer. Another highlight of the Gir is the Chowsingha, which is the world’s only four-horned antelope. There also are more than 200 species of birds, which has led to the sanctuary having been declared an Important Bird Area by the Indian Bird Conservation Network. Among reptiles, you can spot crocodiles and snakes including some exotic varieties like king cobra, russell’s viper and krait.
Junagarh is the closest town to Gir, at a distance of about 70 km, with another big town close to it being Rajkot, which is about 170 km. The Sanctuary is open for tourism from 16th October to 15th June every year.
Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve – Assam
Kaziranga has to be one of the most exotic wildlife destinations in India. The national park is unique owing to its distinctive vegetation and unique fauna including the one-horned Indian Rhinoceros, which is rare to be found anywhere else. The Kaziranga National Park is spread over 430 square km and has a wide variety of vegetation, including elephant-grass meadows, swampy lagoons, and dense forests. Within the beautiful landscape reside more than 2400 Indian one-horned rhinoceros. That’s a huge number and is about 2/3rd of their entire global population. In the year 1985, the park was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
In addition to the one-horned rhinoceros, the park is the breeding ground of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer. Other animals to be seen inside the park include the hoolock gibbon, leopard and sloth bear. As an icing on the cake, the park has also seen its tiger population rise over the years and was declared as a tiger reserve in 2006. Kaziranga has also been declared as an Important Bird Area and is home to hundreds of bird species – both local and migratory.
November to April is the time to visit Kaziranga National Park, as it remains closed from 01 May till 31 Oct every year for the visitors. The closest city to Kaziranga is Jorhat, which is about 110 km away. Guwahati, which is the largest city in Assam, is about 240 km from the park.
Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary – Kerala
Periyar National Park has to be one of the prime elephant spotting wildlife sanctuaries in India. Located in the lap of Western Ghats, Periyar National Park, situated in the state of Kerala is one of the most scenic wildlife sanctuaries in India. Periyar National Park has its origins in the year 1895 when the British created a lake and a dam in the area and the large source of water slowly started attracting wild animals. The Maharaja of Travancore was kind enough to take note of the phenomenon and granted protection to adjoining forests as well. Periyar is now a national park as well as a tiger reserve with over 40 tigers in the area as per the latest census.
There are over 800 elephants in Periyar, with the hilly-to-flat grassland areas offering a fantastic habitat to the large animals. Other species thriving in Periyar include leopard, wild dog, barking deer, mouse deer, Nilgiri langur (a primate), bonnet macaque, sambhar, porcupines, squirrels, gaur (Indian bison), wild boar and sloth bear. The Nilgiri tahr is a wild goat exclusive to the area, though it’s as difficult to spot as tigers in the area. Reptiles like monitor lizards, pythons, king cobras and flying lizards are also commonly spotted. Periyar also has more than 260 species of birds which further add to the charm of this beautiful wildlife haven.
Periyar is about 270 km away from the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram. The city of Cochin is about 200 km away, while Kottayam and Madurai are 120 and 140 km away respectively. The best season to visit Periyar is from October to March when the weather is cool and pleasant.
There are many other (hundreds) wildlife destinations in India, which are equally exciting to ride to and visit. We’d love to know from you which ones are your favourites. Do let us know which wildlife destinations you would want to visit, and why through the comments section below.