One of the largest active deltas in the world, The Sundarbans, which derived its label from the Sundari Mangrove trees, is spread across India and Bangladesh. It is unique for its coastal mangrove forest covering 40,000 sq. km. With over 260 species of birds and the majestic black striped Royal Bengal tiger, the forest has 102 islands with 54 among them inhabited.
Best Time to visit: September to March. The onset of autumn and gradual winter is pleasant. Summers are especially hot in the delta.
Where to stay: Gosaba is the largest and densest island with unique accommodations for tourists.
Things to do: Boat safari in the island waterways to sight tigers and dolphins though creeks and canals, bird-watching in Sajnekhale Bird Sanctuary and a visit to Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project, night safari to witness phytoplanktons.
One of the oldest forest reserves in the country, Jim Corbett National Park was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park and named after Edward James Corbett, a British hunter, naturalist and a writer. With 488 species of flora, dense, moist deciduous forest covering of 73%, 50 species of mammals, 580 species of birds and 25 reptiles, the park was the first project under the Tiger Reserve Initiative.
Best Time to visit: November to February. Although one can visit Jim Corbett Park throughout the year, due to its temperate weather, it is best to visit during the mentioned months as all the zones are open then.
Things to do: Elephant Safari, Jeep Safari, Canter Safari.
The Khasi Hills are a delight to the eyes. Rightly nicknamed as the ‘Scotland of the East’, these low mountain formation on the Shillong plateau has its own culture and is inhabited by Khasi dwellers who traditionally live in chieftain-ships. They follow a unique convention of the matrilineal system. Cherrapunjee, the wettest place on Earth is located in this region.
Best Time to visit: September to March. One should visit the Khasi Hills during the onset of winter or summer and try to avoid the rainy season while visiting the wettest place on earth.
Ever wondered what was the inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book? It was the very same Kanha National Park which was later established in 1955 and included as a tiger project in 1974. One remarkable achievement of Kanha was the savior of the Swamp Deer or Barasingha from extinction and making it the mascot of the national park.
Best Time to visit: Mid-October to June. The park remains closed during monsoon due to non-navigable roads.
Things to do: Jeep safari, sunset sighting, museum tours etc.
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The second largest mangrove forest in the world, Pichavaram is an off-beat forest, perfect for your peaceful weekend trip. With 50 islands, 4400 canals, 200 bird species the forest acted as a buffer zone in the 2004 tsunami to protect the inland territories, which, sadly, hindered its growth. However, this forest is a hub for smugglers due to its confusing waterways.
Area: 1,100 metres
Best Time to visit: November to February, when the weather is pleasant. Try to avoid summers as it is very hot and humid in the region.
Things to do: Bird watching, Fishing, Kayaking, Boating etc.
It is quite interesting to note that this is the only place beside Africa where lions roam freely. The forest was set up in 1965 to conserve Asiatic lions, which it has been quite successful in. From 20 lions in 1913, the population has risen to 523 in 2015 along with 300 leopards. The forest is dry deciduous with several species of deer and Chowsingha- the world’s only four horned antelope found.
Area: 1412 sq km.
Best time to visit: November-March. Winters are pleasant and summers are especially hot.
Things to do: Lion tour, jeep safari, jungle safari etc.
Nilgiri which translates into the Blue Mountains is the meeting point of Western and Eastern Ghats and a revered hotspot reserve. Featuring seasonal rainforest, tropical montane forest and moist deciduous forest towards the plains in the Eastern end, the Nilgiris have 3500 species of flowering plants, and is an excellent habitat for flora, fauna and other microbial forms. Spreading over Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it is home to a number of tribes with distinctive rituals and customs.
Best Time to visit: Throughout the year
Things to do: Visit to Silent Valley National Park, Madumalai National Park, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Nagarhole National Park, Wanayad Wildlife Sanctuary etc.
Spread over 192 acres, Mawphlang Sacred Forest is the holy abode of the local deity, Labasa who takes the form of leopard or tiger to protect the locals and preserve the society. The most important and unique rule of this forest is that nothing can be taken out of the premises. The monoliths inside depicts the local tradition of animal sacrifices. The forest has a variety of fauna with medicinal properties.
Best Time to visit: October-March. It is not advisable to visit Meghalaya during the monsoon as the roads can be non-navigable and dangerous.
Things to do: Trekking in the forest
The fourth largest national park in the country covering an area of 1985 sq. km, Namdapha is a rich bio diverse hotspot with 1000 floral and 1400 faunal species, extensive bamboo forest and evergreen rainforests in the Eastern Himalayas. ‘Nam’ means water and ‘dapha’ refers to origin. It was originally a wildlife sanctuary and later became a Tiger Reserve in 1983.
Best time to visit: October to March, but almost throughout the year.
Saranda Forest, Jharkhand: The forest was the private hunting ground of the Singh Deo royal family of Saraikela in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. With an area of 820 km sq. inhabited by Ho people, the forest is rich in iron ore, minerals, sal trees and other wild animals including leopards. The name ‘Saranda’ refers to water from rocks with its exquisite lush green forest and diverse ecosystem.
Best time to visit: Spring time
A hilly, forest area, Abujmarh has been harbouring the Maoists and Naxals and is often nicknamed as the ‘liberated zone’. It is home to many indigenous tribes including the Gond, Muria Maria etc. The Government lifted the entry of restriction to this forest in 2009 and since then, it has been a major forestry where one can understand about the region and its upheaval.
Best Time to Visit: October to March when the surrounding is lush green with pleasant climate.
While these are a few of the forests to tick off your bucket list, there are many wildlife sanctuaries and national parks that helps you connect with nature. Now, now, you can go and photograph, trek and experience nature in its unscathed form before climate change ruins all your plans in a few years!