JAYESH PARANJAPE on India’s National Parks and Sanctuaries that will delight adventurous travellers
This summer, go over to the wild side. JAYESH PARANJAPE, Owner, The Western Routes, gives you the details on India’s National Parks and Sanctuaries that will delight the adventurous traveller in you.
As the summer is setting in, wildlife enthusiasts are gearing up to visit various National Parks and Sanctuaries in the hope of spotting tigers and other wildlife. The forests of the Satpuda Range in Central India, which is believed to be the largest continuous tiger habitat in the world, contains approximately one-third of India’s remaining tiger population. This l andscape covers a part of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, and contains six tiger reserves (Melghat, Pench and Tadoba-Andhari in Maharashtra, and Pench, Kanha, and Satpuda in Madhya Pradesh). In this story, we will explore three of these forests in Maharashtra, which probably are one of the best forests to spot tigers and other stunning wildlife.
TADOBA-ANDHARI TIGER RESERVE
Owing to some incredible wildlife sightings these past few years, Tadoba has emerged as one of the most popular parks in the country today. The Tadoba National Park was created in 1955 with an area of 116.55 sq km, and the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1986 with an area of 508.85 sq km. Together, they form the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. As the name suggests, Tadoba gets its name from the local deity Taru, worshiped by the tribals in this region. While on safari, you can have a close encounter with the tiger and witness other wildlife species in action. Visitors to the park report frequent tiger, leopard and wild dog sightings. Apart from these, the reserve is also home to the sloth bear, gaur, spotted deer, sambar, wild boar, four horned antelope and many other mammal species. Among trees, bamboo and teak dominate most of the areas of Tadoba. Scattered through the forest are the lovely Kusum and Silk Cotton trees. Other tree e species include Ain, Bija, Dhauda, Haldu, u, Salai and Tendu. The most striking floral al feature of Tadoba is the numerous Ghost st Trees, which derive their name from the e colour of the bark and their ability to o change colour as per season. During the e summer months, the bark, which is pale e pink otherwise, turns white, giving it a ‘ghostly’ look. The tribal population mainly consists ts of the Gonds. The forest guides employed d are mostly from this community. Make sure you ask your forest guide for local folklore and stories from the forest!
PENCH TIGER RESERVE
The Pench Tiger Reserve is spread across two states, the Seoni and Chhinwara districts of Madhya Pradesh and Nagpur district of Maharashtra. The Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra covers around 257 sq km. Pench was declared as a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger in 1999 and became the 25th tiger reserve of the country. The Totladoh Reservoir, which is a result of the Totladoh Hydroelectric Project, is situated in the heart of the tiger reserve. The park gets its name from the Pench River, which meanders through the forests. It is the panoramic beauty of this region that has been described as early as the beginning of the 20th century by naturalists like Captain J. Forsyth in Highlands of Central India
and by Rudyard Kipling in Jungle Book. The poet Kalidas also wrote about the scenic charm of this place in his epics Meghdootam and Sakuntalam. The Pench Tiger Reserve of Maharashtra is relatively unknown and not visited by many tourists. But it is one of the finest and most bio-diverse forests in Maharashtra. The best wildlife sightings happen between March and June, when the forest thins, smaller streams and rivers run dry and animals congregate at waterholes (locally known as doh) to seek respite from the heat. The Nagdeo Pahadi, the Ambakhori waterfall and Gawli Ghat are probably the best areas in Pench to see wildlife including tigers, leopards and sloth bears. Pench is a birder’s paradise with more than 170 recorded bird species. A trip to Pench (Maharashtra) and an extended two days in Pench (Madhya Pradesh) is highly recommended for those who are always on a lookout for new wildlife experiences.
NAVEGAON-NAGZIRA TIGER RESERVE
A haven for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary lies in Gondia district of Maharashtra and covers an area of 152 sq km. Nagzira and the adjoining Navegaon National Park have been declared as a Tiger Reserve recently. Navegaon is more popular for the number of lakes and reservoirs, which attract a lot of migratory birds in the winter. Nagzira is more visited by tourists who are keen to get a glimpse of leopards and tigers. The Nagzira Lake, which is located right in the core of the sanctuary, is probably one of the best places to observe wildlife. The lake guarantees a source of water to wildlife throughout the year and also greatly heightens the beauty of the landscape. Nagzira
exhibits an a mazing diversity of terrain and this makes it one of t he most beautiful forests i n the country. The terrain ranges from meadows and grasslands to ravines and gorges. The seven peaks surrounding the lake, known as the Saat Bahini or Seven Sisters, is a superb area to spot some incredible wildlife. There are times in Nagzira when you can see several species of large mammals in just one safari ride. This can range from a tigress with her cubs resting in a waterhole, a leopard on a tree, wild dog packs to an occasional sloth bear crossing the road!