This jungle oasis in the south of India is less well known than its northern counterparts, but the incredible scenery and wealth of wildlife make it one of India's best national parks.
On a recent trip to India I asked Eric Finley, our very own India expert, which was the best national park to visit in India. He reccomended Nagarhole and I'm so glad he did. Here are my top six reasons to visit Nagarhole National Park.
Taken during a long and intimate leopard sighting at Nagarhole. Image by Zoe Crane.
The number one reason to visit Nagarhole (pronounced nag-ar-hole-eh) National Park is for the wildlife. With the chance to see Tigers, Leopards, sloth bear, wild dogs, hyenas, three types of deer, gaur (or Indian Bison), boar, elephants, monkeys, smaller wild cats such as the civet cat, jungle cat and leopard cat, mongoose, otter, giant squirrel, porcupine, jackal and pangolin, crocodiles, lizards, snakes and frogs. The most sought after are the elusive tigers. Sightings are neither rare nor common, but this is one of the better places in India to see them. We missed out but had an amazing experience of being very close to a leopard (in my opinion the next best thing) for around half an hour.
Birds seemed to be everywhere and we saw a few of these Crested Serpent Eagles on our trip. Image by Zoe Crane.
While I’m not a birdwatcher myself, I met a whole busload when I was there, who seemed to be in bird heaven. There are over 270 species of birds at Nagarhole, with huge variety of woodland species as well as large populations of waterfowl. The opportunity to view wildlife from the river gets you up close to the waterfowl, and you are also likely to see India’s national bird, the peacock, at Nagarhole.
One of the special things about Nagarhole National Park is the Kabini River which runs along one edge, on the banks of which most hotels are set. This not only allows for magical views and an abundance of water birds, but means that safaris can be taken by either jeep through the park, or by boat. Boat safaris are less likely to see the large predators like tiger or leopard, but elephant sightings are very common and birdlife is prolific.
Jeep of tourists shooting the wildlife
Located in India’s less-visited south, Nagarhole National Park has the benefit of having fewer tourists than most national parks in India. Even Bandipur which adjoins the park sees more tourists. This means that not only is the wildlife prolific, but you won’t need to share it with quite so many tourists.
A magical sunset over the river. Photo by Zoe Crane.
With the river as a backdrop the sunsets at Nagarhole are especially beautiful. The air is warm even as darkness falls and it is the perfect time to join fellow guests for a drink and reminisce about the excitement of your day.
For travelers on a budget there is the basic lodge in the park, but the good selection of luxurious safari lodges along the river are worth a splurge for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. These lodges provide stylish accommodations, top-notch restaurants and facilities like a pool. They have their own naturalists who will often go along on the safari with you (subject to the number of guests going from your hotel). There is nothing quite like swinging in your own hammock with the sounds of the jungle engulfing you. Try the Serai Kabini or Orange County Kabini.
See for yourself
Closed during the monsoon season from July to October, safaris run twice a day for the rest of the year. Though all safaris are government run, they can be booked through insider journeys as part of a tailor-made package. Our 14-day Spice of the South small group tour includes one boat and one jeep safari in Nagarhole National Park.