One of the oldest civilizations in the world, India is a mosaic of multicultural experiences. With a rich heritage and myriad attractions, the country is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It covers an area of 3287263 sq. km, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity.
Fringed by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. As you travel the expanse of the country, you are greeted by diverse nuances of cuisines, faiths, arts, crafts, music, nature, lands, tribes, history and adventure sports.
Central India has fascinated me for a long time, purely because of the few remaining National parks which play host to a variety of wildlife. It is here where I have been hosting our Incredible India expeditions and I have totally fallen in love with it.
It is incredible to think when one is sitting in Delhi with all the hustle and bustle, that there is still some land where wildlife occurs. Traveling by road gives you a great understanding about the challenges faced in India, where prosperity and poverty are neighbors, to the unhealthy pollution in the big cities. It also gives you a better understanding of just how far and remote some of these national parks are.
In the past I have visited 3 of India's National parks, Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh and thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them.
Pench National Park
Pench National Park served as an inspiration for the famous novel 'The Jungle Book'.
The park is well administered and extensively mentioned in the Indian history for its vivid fauna and flora. The landscapes of scrublands, deciduous forest of Teaks and many lakes, streams and Pench River can be instantly associated with the incidents and wild mentions of the animal life in the jungle book of Sir Rudyard Kipling. The established corridor between Pench and Kanha National park, adds to the glory of both the parks with many animals frequently traversing between the park boundaries.
Pench is a protected area in the southern extensions to the hills of Satpura, Central India and park was established in 1975, subsequently declared a tiger reserve, Kanha-Pench Tiger Conservation unit under Project tiger in 1992.
Kanha Tiger Reserve
Kanha Tiger Reserve is spread over an area of 1,949 sq km (940 sq km of core area and 1,009 sq km of buffer zone), making it one of the best habitats for tigers in India. The park is situated in the Central Indian Highlands, which are part of the extensive tableland that forms India’s main peninsula. Kanha’s undulating landscape is dotted with dense groves of vegetation, hillocks and meadows. Of all these habitats, it is Kanha’s meadows that are its lifeline, as they sustain large numbers of Chital, Sambar, Barasingha and Gaur, which in turn support populations of predators and co-predators (tigers, leopards, wild dogs, jungle cats and foxes). The park is primarily a moist Sal and moist mixed deciduous forest featuring Sal, Bamboo, Tendu, Jamun, Arjun and Lendia. It is home to over 1,000 species of flowering plants and about 350 species of birds.
Its greatest achievement has been the preservation of Hard Ground Swamp Deer or Barasingha from near extinction (they numbered just 66 in 1970). Today, they number more than 400 and are the only surviving population of Barasingha in the wild.
Bandhavgarh National Park
Bandhavgarh was established in 1968 as a National Park, and is spread over an area of 1150 sq. kms. This national park was declared as a tiger reserve under Project Tiger in the year 1993. It is predominantly covered with vegetation like SAL, SALI, DHOBIN and has vast stretches of grasslands spread over 32 hills, the region though smaller than other wildlife parks has one of the highest density of tigers in the world. Bandhavgarh was earlier the hunting reserve of the Maharajas of Rewa, the region was a major hunting ground of animals where Maharaja Raman Singh himself shot a stupendous figure of 111 tigers by 1914. Bandhavgarh also became world renowned for its population of rare white tigers.
The historical links of Bandhavgarh are to be found in India’s worshipped mythological heroes Rama and Laxmana. The name “bandhav-garh” translates to “the brother’s fort” and believed to be gifted by Hindu God Rama to his devoted ‘bandhav’ (brother) Laxmana on his return from victory over Lanka (Ceylon). Inside the park there are 12 natural waterholes, several other historical monuments and remains of ancient caves that exhibit a 2000 year old rich historical past.
The vegetation is chiefly of Sal forest in the valleys and on the lower slopes, gradually changing to mixed deciduous forest on the hills and in the hotter drier areas of the park in the south and west. The wide valleys along the streams carry long linear grasslands flanked by Sal forests. Rich mixed forests consisting of Sal (shorea rubusta), Saja, Salai, and Dhobin etc. with dense bamboo thickets occur in many places. These together provide Bandhavgarh its rich biodiversity.
With the tiger at the apex of the food chain, it contains 37 species of mammals, more than 250 species of birds, about 70 species of butterflies, a number of reptiles.
Apart from these three amazing parks, there are still another 49 parks in India that can be explored.
Take into consideration the incredible diversity from a culture point of view, combined with amazing cuisine and spectacular landscapes from Sal forests to the breathtaking Himalayan mountains, it is no wonder why India is such a popular tourist destination.
India should most definitely be added to your bucket list, you won't regret it.
Till next time...