Nagarhole National Park
Welcome to one of the best places in the world to find the tawny, black-striped
Royal Bengal Tiger, elusive and stealthy, noble and regal: Nagarhole. Karnataka's
Nagarhole National Park (officially known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park)
is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, India's largest stretch of protected
forest, an area which includes, besides Nagarhole, the neighbouring sanctuaries
of Bandipur, Mudumalai and Wynaad. Established in 1955 as a wildlife sanctuary,
Nagarhole was designated a national park twenty years later. The park today
stretches in a series of gentle hills and valleys, over an expanse of 640
sq km, north of the river Kabini. The park is centred around a perennial
water reservoir formed in 1974, when the Kabini River was dammed.
Nagarhole's vegetation is refreshingly different from Bandipur's dry scrub-
moist deciduous forests, including bamboo, teak, eucalyptus and cassia,
cover much of the sanctuary, providing a refuge for a wide range of animals
and birds. Nagarhole has all the resident wildlife of the Nilgiri hills:
Nilgiri tahr, Nilgiri langur, bison, leopard, Asian elephant, wild boar,
deer, dhole (wild dog) and porcupine, besides tigers. A high canopy of trees-
up to thirty metres tall in some places- harbours rare birds such as the
endangered Malabar trogon, the Malabar pied hornbill and the crested hawk-eagle.
Nagarhole saw some upheavals in 1992, when quarrelling between the wardens
of the park and the local villagers resulted in arson which had an enormously
adverse impact on the park and its wildlife. It will still take a few
years for Nagarhole's forest and animal count to get back to normal but
there has already been a resurrection of sorts and things get better every
An entry permit, costing Rs 15, is applicable for all visitors to Nagarhole.
It can be obtained at the entrance to the park. Charges for boat rides,
jeep or elephant safaris and accommodation are additional.
The major railhead closest to Nagarhole is Mysore, 80 km away, with train
connections to a large number of towns and cities across peninsular India.
Nanjangud, 55 km away, also has trains coming to it, but theyre
fewer in number. Bangalore, with excellent air and rail links to the rest
of the country, is about 220 km from Nagarhole, while the hillstation
of Ooty is about 240 km from the park. Buses connect Nagarhole to Bangalore
(a ride of about 6 hours) and to a network of smaller towns across Karnataka,
Tamilnadu and Kerala. Alternately, you could hire a vehicle in one of
the larger towns- Bangalore is especially convenient- to get to Nagarhole.
Within the park, theres ample scope for wildlife watching. Jeeps
can be taken for a drive through Nagarhole, or you can go off on elephant
safari- the best way, in fact, to go deep into the jungle. Hiking is also
allowed through the park, although only in some areas where there are
fewer chances of encountering a hungry tiger or a masth elephant! The
lake is open for a slow coracle ride or a swift motorboat skim.
Best time to visit
Nagarhole can be visited all through winter and through the pre-monsoon
half of the summer. The winter months from November-February are exceedingly
pleasant, and are the best time to go if you dont like being hot
and sweaty. The summer, on the other hand, though it may be pretty hot,
is a great time to see wildlife, including the tiger. The dry, hot season
(March-May) is the time when the animals gather at the lake, allowing
for great wildlife viewing. The monsoons (June-September) are best avoided,
as the entire road network gets washed out, and leeches and dense undergrowth
proliferate in the forest.