Betla National Park is a beautiful national park which is spread over the hilly terrain of the attractive Palamau district, west of Ranchi. Wild elephants wander without restraints in the forests of this park. Though there are relatively fewer tigers here, a visit to this ancient area of Jharkhand will be worth it because it provides a deeper insight of the rich tribal heritage of the state. Betla stands as an acronym for Bison, Elephant, Tiger, Leopard and Axis-axis. What makes this park stand out from the rest is the presence of two forts inside its premises. The primary attractions here is observing wildlife from a close range.
The animals found here include elephant, leopard, panther, jackal, monkey, Indian civet, chital, sloth bear, sambhar, nilgai, langur, mouse deer, porcupine and chinkara among others. The birdlife of the Betla National is also very rich featuring birds such as the hornbill, peafowl, red jungle fowl, black partridge, white necked stork, black ibis, swamp grey, pied born bill, wagtails, the harial, doves, drongo, the crested serpent-eagle, forest owls etc. Aquatic birds like teal, duck, snipe and geese are also found near the Kamaldah Lake.
Betla National Park is set up in the Palamau district which is the place where the first tiger census was carried out in the year 1932. It was set aside as a protected area under the Indian Forests Act in 1947. Finally, it was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1973. In 1974, the Palamau Tiger Reserve came into existence having an area of 1014 sq km. The Betla National Park had the honour of being one of the first tiger reserves in the country under the government's Project Tiger. It was declared as a National Park in 1986.
This national park is open at all times of the year, but the best time to visit is November to April. If you can bear the scorching heat of summers, the month of May is ideal for tiger spotting as at that time the forest cover is lessened and animals venture out to look for waterholes.
Air: The nearest airport to the Betla National Park is Ranchi, 180 km away. The airport has flights connecting to major Indian cities like Kolkata, Patna, Mumbai and New Delhi. Taxis and cabs are available from here to go to the national park.
Rail: Daltonganj which is also the nearest town to this national park is the nearest railway station. Ranchi and Gaya are the other main railway stations which are close to Betla.
Road: By road, the national park can be reached from places including Daltonganj via Khudia morh (6km), Ranchi (140 kms), Hazaribagh (190 kms), Netarhat (211 kms), Patna (384 kms) and Kolkata (575 kms).
Private jeep safaris are available at the park gate. You will also have to hire a local guide to accompany you. The park provides two pachyderms for elephant safaris, which give a better opportunity of wildlife spotting. You can click better pictures this way too.
The well maintained and renovated Tourist Lodge is the best place to stay at Betla National Park. With clean rooms and spacious balconies, LCD TV and bathrooms this Forest lodge is the best option for accommodation. There are various accommodation options available inside the national park complex which includes tourist lodges with canteen, three-star hotels, log huts and tree houses. It is quite fun to stay at the tree house since they are located a few yards away from a watering hole where the animals gather to drink water in the summers. The grasslands near the tree house attract herds of Spotted Deer for grazing.
Purana Quila and Naya Quila are popular attractions of the place. Enjoy sightseeing from the watchtowers and the ground hides. They have been developed to boost the charm of wildlife spotting here. Other sightseeing places one can see are waterfalls and hot springs.
The Core Area Division runs a tourist bus on Saturday and Sunday for the local tourists which cover the Palamu Quila, Kechki Confluence, Betla Park and return to Daltonganj.
Jeep safaris and elephant safaris are the most popular activities in this national park. The fee for elephant safari is INR 400 for up to 4 people for one hour.
Eight local tribes reside around the forest of Palamau in small villages. Experience their culture while visiting the forest.
Lazeez restaurant, Manohar Chat wala, Lakhan Hotel, City Avenue are some of the popular hotels around the place.
Reach Betla national park and check into a forest lodge. Have a meal at the canteen which will cost INR 100 per thali. After this, hire a guide and a safari jeep to visit the park. Go for elephant or jeep safaris. You can also see the hot springs in the place. Go back to your hotel and check out the nearby restaurants to enjoy the local cuisine.
If you have more time to spare, this trip can be combined with an expedition to the ruined Palamau Fort, a 16th-century fortress of the local tribal Chero dynasty which is located within the forest. Along with this, you can also plan a picnic on the sandy banks of the picturesque Kechki River. Jeeps are available from the park to these places.
1. Travelling through an agency is recommended because of inadequate local transport and safety issues in this isolated part of the state. Contact the park office or ask your travel agent for security advice before visiting the place.
2. Carry loads of water with you as it might get quite hot in the month of summers. Remember to carry your summer hats too.
3. Since it is a national park, try to stick with your guide for the entire trip.
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