Cradled by the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Indian Ocean to the south and the Arabian Sea to the west, South India is the abode to pristine natural wonder and beauty. Blanketed by both the Western and Eastern Ghats, South India has a rich and diverse wildlife population, offering unique safari experiences.  The national parks, sanctuaries and forests are home to amazing species of animal and a haven for photographers, as well as wildlife and nature enthusiasts. These parks come alive in hues of green during monsoon, while in the summer, they showcase a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

Kalyan Chakravaty and I share a passion for travel, writing, photography, and of course the great outdoors. Here, we list our favorite wildlife sanctuaries from the many journeys we have made together, in a two-part series.

 

Bandipur National Park

Shadowed by the Western Ghats, this is one of the important wildlife parks in the Nilgiri biosphere.  Once a hunting ground for the royal family of Mysore, this 874sqft park is now a protected wildlife sanctuary and tiger reserve. The woody grassland and vast open terrain filled with bamboo makes this a fertile ground for rich and diverse flora and fauna.

01 bandipur south indian wildlife parks

Sightings: Look out for tigers, leopards, elephants, Indian gaurs, sloth bears, jackals, variety of snakes and turtles, birds such as serpent- and hawk-eagles, hornbills etc.

When to Visit:  November to May (Bandipur transforms into a beautiful bride all decked in green during the monsoon).

How to get there: 

By Air  The closest airport is Bengaluru (220km). 

By Road – Bandipur is located 220km from Bengaluru, 80km from Mysore and 188km from Coimbatore. Buses ply regularly from Bengaluru, Ooty and Mysore.

By Train – The closest train station is Mysore at 80km.

 

Kabini National Park

02 kabini south indian wildlife parks 1

The magic of Kabini forest is one to be experienced.  Originating in Wayanad, Kabini river fills the Kabini reservoir with the resource that turns the land into a fertile ground for the best wildlife and bird sightings.  Spread over 640 acres, Kabini has a high density of big cats due to its wonderful habitat and diversity of animals.

Sighting: Look out for black panthers, tigers, leopards, elephants, Indian gaurs, wild dogs, sambar and barking deer, a variety of reptiles and turtles, birds such as red-headed vultures, blue-winged parakeets, spotted eagles etc.

When to Visit: November to May

How to get there: 

By Air  The closest airport is Bengaluru (210km). 

By Road – Kabini is located 210km from Bengaluru, 80km from Mysore and 120km from Madikeri. Buses ply regularly from Ooty and Mysore.

By Train – The closest train station is Mysore at 80km.

 

Nagarhole National Park

Also known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, it’s an important component of the Nilgiri biosphere.  Stretching over 645km to the north of the Kabini River and south of Bandipur, it boasts of tall and dense forests with large grassy swamps inside within.

03 nagarhole south indian wildlife parks

Sighting: Look out for leopards, Asiatic elephants, tigers and Indian gaurs. other mammals include the common langur, mongoose, giant Malabar squirrel and jackal. The park also has a wide variety of birds, which makes it a true bird watcher’s paradise.

When to Visit:  November to May.

How to get there: 

By Air  The closest airport is Bengaluru (220km). 

By Road – Nagarhole is located 220km from Bengaluru, 63km from Mysore and 93km from Madikeri. Buses ply regularly from Bengaluru and Mysore.

By Train – The closest train station is Mysore at 63km.

 

BR Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

BR hills, or Biligirirangana Hills, situated in the Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka is every wildlife and nature lover’s favorite getaway.  This lofty hill range is the passage that connects the Eastern and Western Ghats, thus making this an important pathway in the Ghats ecosystem.  Wide varieties of animals, birds, reptiles and butterflies have made the BRT (Biligiriranganatha Temple) Wildlife sanctuary their home. Compared to the other tiger reserves in Karnataka, less than 5% of its area is dedicated to tourism, thus helping it retain its natural grandeur.

04 br hills south indian wildlife parks

Sightings: Look out for Asiatic elephants, tigers, leopards, bears and Indian gaurs. Other animals include barking deer, chousingha or four-horned antelopes. The park also has a wide variety of birds and butterflies.

When to Visit: October to May.

How to get there: 

By Air – The closest airport is Bengaluru (254km).  

By Road – BR Hills is located 254km from Bengaluru, 63km from Mysore and 180km from Coimbatore. Buses ply regularly from Bengaluru, Coimbatore and Mysore.

By Train – The closest train station is Chamarajnagar at 46km.

 

Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

Situated amidst the lofty and lush peaks of the Western Ghats is the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary (also known as the Muthodi Wildlife Sanctuary) which is also a well-known tiger reserve. The Bhadra river ensures the land is fertile and rich with diverse flora and fauna.

05 bhadra south indian wildlife parks

Sightings:   Bhadra is a tiger haven. Other animals found here include Asiatic elephants, panthers, leopards, sloth bears, Indian gaurs, wild dogs and jackals. Don’t miss the barking deer, Sambar deer and mongoose. The sanctuary also has a wide variety of birds such as king vulture and black-winged kite.

When to Visit:  October to February.

How to Get There: 

By Air  The closest airport is Mangalore (180km). 

By Road – Bhadra Sanctuary is located 265km from Bengaluru, 38kms from Chikmagalur and 160km from Mangalore. Buses ply regularly from Bengaluru and Chikmagalur.

By Train – The closest train station is Kadur at 40km.

Like this article? Also read: Celebrating Bengaluru’s Favorite Green Spaces

Photographs by: Kalyan Chakraborty 

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