By Aloke Bajpai
India boasts some amazing winter wildlife hotspots. But if you have time to visit only one, go to Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, known as Kipling Country. It was the inspiration behind the famous Jungle Book. Kanha boasts a rich diversity of wildlife and a less dense forest cover.
You can stay in a resort at the periphery of the forest and access the deeper reaches of the Park. I remember spotting a tigress while she was teaching her five cubs how to hunt, just 10 minutes after we began our safari. It was pure ecstasy! I suggest pairing your trip with a two-night stay at Bandhavgarh National Park in the vicinity.
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra is another great destination. It is slowly becoming popular amongst wildlife enthusiasts for its abundant wildlife sightings.
A trip to the North East, I believe, is complete only after you have visited Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh – the only wildlife destination in India with the largest range of altitude. It is home to common leopards, tigers as well as snow leopards.
For bird enthusiasts, I would suggest a visit to Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. Around 375 migratory and non-migratory bird species have been recorded in the wetland, a large number of which populate the area during winter, and you are bound to enjoy your visit there.
Chilika Lake in Orissa is another must visit for a sight of winter migratory birds that come here from as far as the Caspian Sea and Russia. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent. It has also been listed as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the end, however, irrespective of which of these wildlife destinations you choose to go to, remember to soak in the experience and not keep looking for a wild creature during your safaris. From what I have learnt, it is only when you aren’t looking for a tiger that you see one.
Aloke Bajpai is a certified mountaineer and skier, with training in river rafting. His company, Explorers India, specialises in experiential and adventure travel.