While Ranthambore, Jim Corbett, Gir National Park and Sundarbans are some of the popular wildlife destinations in India, some off-beat wildlife sanctuaries are untapped and are waiting to be explored by nature aficionados. If crowded beaches and risky mountains are not your thing and you find solace in the wild, then you must check out these lesser-known wildlife destinations and take a peek into our country’s vibrant flora and fauna. From Uttar Pradesh to Rajasthan and from Tamil Nadu to Ladakh, these wildlife reserves will surely make your holidays an exciting and exhilarating ride.
Pilibhit Tiger Reserve
Nestled in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh, this wildlife destination is one of the finest examples of a diverse and productive ecosystem. Home to over 127 animals, 326 bird species and 2,100 flowering plants, this reserve is a place where one can spot myriad wild animals and endangered species. Of course, you must go on a jungle safari where you can get up close with big cats like tigers and leopards. Apart from spotting wild animals and birds, you can soak in nature by hitting the Chuka beach where you can relax in bamboo, tree or tharu huts and experience the wilderness at its best. Lal-Pul, Siphon Canal Point, Python Point, Crocodile Point, Barasingha Tal, Jhand Taal, Bhim Tal, etc. are some other major attractions of the reserve.
Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary
Blessed with exotic flora and fauna, Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary is truly a gem. It's situated in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. This green oasis of the State is well-connected with the forests of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and is an abode to wild animals like tiger, leopard, panther, bison, sloth bear, wild boar, spotted deer, four-horned deer, and several others. Reptiles like crocodile, cobra, viper and Indian rock python are often spotted slithering around here. Apart from sheltering more than 160 bird species, this sanctuary is also home to serene lakes like Nagzira, Murapur, Chorkhamara and more.
Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in Khanapur Taluka, the Karnataka-Goa border in Belagavi, the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary is famous for Barapede Caves — the only known breeding area of the Wroughton’s free-tailed bat, a species facing extinction. Tucked away in the Western Ghats, this serene sanctuary is a hub of tropical moist forests, where majestic woodlands and grasslands offer delightful views. Along with catching leopards, tigers, bears, chitals, deers and elusive bird species in action, you can also trek to the Bhimgad Fort, the historic fort which was built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the 17th century.
Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary
Although Ranthambore National Park is one of the most popular national parks in Rajasthan, the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary in the Aravalli hills of Udaipur, is a one-of-a-kind wildlife destination that encircles the massive Kumbhalgarh fortress. From leopard, wolf, sloth bear and chinkara to sambar, nilgai, jackal and jungle cat, you can spot them all here. Lion safari is one of the major attractions of the sanctuary. Renowned for its vibrant wildlife, high hills and narrow valleys, this sanctuary looks mesmerising during the monsoon.
Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary
Move over Sundarbans, because we bring you a new wildlife destination all the way from Chhattisgarh, which is another lesser-known abode of tigers — Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary. One of the notable tiger reserves of India, this sanctuary is also home to wild bison, leopard, blackbuck, Indian giant squirrel, different species of monkeys, hyena, chital, flying squirrel, etc. along with the royal Bengal tiger. Here, one can also find over 600 species of medicinal plants. The magical Maniyari river adds beauty to the sanctuary.
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
If you think Goa is all about beaches, booze and parties, you are wrong! Say hello to Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, a perfect getaway for nature and wildlife lovers. It is located on the Goa-Karnataka border. Here, the wonderful woodland boasts up to 30m tall trees. This jewel of South Goa acts as a perfect habitat for flying squirrel, draco (flying lizard), Indian pangolin, four-horned antelope, slender loris, Malabar pit viper, hump-nosed pit viper, golden-back gliding snake and so on. If you are lucky enough then you may also catch a glimpse of panthers, Indian gazelles, porcupines and hyenas.
Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary
From the land of stupas, monasteries and mountains, here comes a wildlife sanctuary which is located in the Ladakhi Changthang plateau in Leh district, which boasts the highest lake on Earth, Tso Moriri. Rich in flora and fauna, the sanctuary is a place where you can catch a glimpse of the rare snow leopard. Further, you can also spot kiang or wild ass, dark-necked crane, Tibetan wolf, wild yak, bharal, brown bear and mormot in this incredible habitat. Visiting the Korzok monastery in Korzok village is a must when in Changthang. With over 44 types of waterbirds and migratory birds, this place can be the best bet for birdwatching.
Gulf of Mannar Marine
National Park Moving on from forests and mountains, now let’s dive into the mighty Indian ocean to explore the mind-blowing marine wildlife in the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park in Tamil Nadu. Blessed with rich marine biodiversity, this national park is apparently an amalgamation of 21 small islands between Thoothukudi and Dhanushkodi that host various species of marine animals and plants. One of the wealthiest areas in terms of marine biodiversity, this hotspot is home to coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses and seaweeds that make up the beautiful flora of the park. Dugong, a marine mammal is a major attraction of the park. Bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin and dwarf sperm whale and Balanoglossus — a unique ocean-dwelling acorn worm, can be spotted here.