Walk With Deers, Elephants and More At Nagarahole National Park
Be it a good day or a bad one, nature always has what is needed to make us feel centered and rooted. When all else fails, you know this is one space where you can experience an unadulterated calm, and feel a beautiful stillness without having to try or strive for it. The best part about it is that it’s always there ready to embrace us with arms wide open. It doesn’t matter what one’s caste, creed, orientation or any other differences are, nature is nature to all, and reveals herself in the same measure to all. Nature doesn’t discriminate, and being around it is one of the most freeing experiences any of us could ever have. It heals us in more ways than we can imagine. Being in nature and being able to spend time with it is truly one of life’s greatest blessings. And that is all the more reason for us to nurture and care for it and not treat it carelessly.
One such place that is a perfect break from the hustle and bustle of city life is the Nagarahole National Park in Kodagu, Mysore. Kodagu is a small town surrounded by lush green hills of the Brahmagiri whose land is covered with thick foliage owing to the heavy rainfalls that frequent the region. It is a thriving haven for several species of birds, plants, and other beautiful creatures that live in tandem with us but often go unnoticed. Nestled in the same lush green forest region, and home to some of the most beautiful creatures is the Nagarahole National Park, the 37th Tiger Reserve in India. The name Nagarahole perfectly describes the region - “nagar” meaning “cobra” in Kannada, and “hole” meaning “streams”. The name is quite apt considering the way serpentine streams are spread across the tropical forest region with waters gushing eastward and piercing through the center. However, apart from the many serpentine streams, it is the thin, long, narrow stretch of the Kabini river that runs through the forest and is one of the park’s largest waterways, that is the reason for its peculiar name, Nagarahole.
History of Nagarahole National Park and Tiger Reserve -
The beautiful sprawling expanse of Nagarahole was once a hunting reserve exclusive to the Maharajas or Kings of the Wodeyar dynasty, and was spread over an arching area of 258 sq. km. With a wider expanse back then, the forest area included the regions of Arkeri, Nalkerin Kodagu and Hatgat, until more forest regions were added to it from the adjoining district areas of Mysore in 1974. Around that time, the park came to be called the Nagarahole Game Reserve. Ultimately, in 1988, the game reserve area was further extended and the Nagarahole Game Reserve was upgraded to the status of a National Park covering a wide belt of over 644 sq. km.
In the year 1999, owing to the depleting number of tigers on account of illegal poaching and hunting, the national park was declared a tiger reserve as an endeavour to protect its dense population of felines who were on the verge of extinction. Today, the Nagarahole National Park and Tiger Reserve is an experience in itself with its rich forest cover, small and narrow streams, hills, valleys and waterfalls that make it the trip of a lifetime.
Nagarahole’s Rich Biodiversity -
The green cover at Nagarahole is thick and populated with moist deciduous forests that line the north Western Ghats. Trees like rosewood, teakwood, sandalwood, silveroak, the Indian kino tree and cotton trees are among a few of the trees found in this thick forest cover. There are an innumerable number of trees that often makes Nagarahole susceptible to deforestation and felling. Not just that, over time the land has experienced change owing to construction work and other man-made activities that have resulted in encroachment of the land. Apart from that, due to forest fires much of the wildlife has been displaced while some have been destroyed. Due to the fires, many creatures have migrated and/ or found newer homes in other surrounding regions.
It’s not just the terrain and flourishing flora that makes Nagarahole such a thrilling experience - the park is said to have a very healthy tiger-predator ratio with over 125 adult tigers, and is also home to leopards that frequent the jungle. Apart from the tigers and leopards of the region, the park is also a haven for several other creatures and animals like the Indian bison, elephants, different types of deer, sloth bears, wild boars, golden jackals, and the grey mongoose among many others.
The park also protects and conserves several endangered birds and animals, and is said to be a conservation hotspot for over 270 species of birds among which many fall under the critically endangered wildlife spectrum. Some of the birds found here are the oriental white-backed vulture, the vulnerable species of adjutant storks, greater spotted eagles who are straddling the threatened species line, darters, nilgiri wood-pigeons among many others.
Due to its thick cover, the terrain is also home to a broad species of reptiles like the bamboo pit viper among others. The place has a thriving insect biodiversity with over 96 species of dung beetles and over 60 species of ants.
Things to do at Nagarahole National Park -
Being known widely as a tiger reserve is one of the main reasons people flock to Nagarahole. However, Nagarahole is a lot more than just its tiger and leopard population and there is much to see and admire in this green haven.
Tours & Minibus Packages -
To make the region accessible, there are several tours and mini-bus packages that are open to the public as well as jeep safaris for a more intimate experience of the park.
Go down the river on a boat -
Due to water streams that are embedded across its terrain, one can also hire a boat or a coracle that takes you down the river for an unforgettable experience.
Elephant rides -
For those who aren’t afraid of elephants, you also have the option of hopping on for a 2-3 hour stroll along the park.
Additionally, if you’re in a car, you can also have the experience of driving through the forests as you admire and drink in the beauty that surrounds you. However, if you’re in a car, it is best advised to not stop for breaks or step out as a precautionary measure, so as to not alarm or cause any disruptions to the natural habitats of these creatures.
If you’re one of those thrill-seekers, then a safari trip is your best entry into Nagarahole. Safaris are the best ways to venture deep into the belly of the forest and explore wildlife like no other. They are usually the most popular activity at the Nagarahole National Park so one may find that it’s crowded at any given point in the day. Because of that reason, it is best to pre-book a tour to Nagarahole so you’re in time to witness the best part of any jungle trip - i.e., a jungle safari.
Walking trails -
For the adventurous lot, there are options to walk through these forest covers with a tour-guide or expert to guide you with the routes. Going with a guide is best for your safety as walking or hiking solo might bring you face to face with an alarmed animal that might be trodding the same paths.
The park is said to be one of the few parks in India where you get to set off on hiking trails or walk for long distances. There are narrow paths designed for walkers and hikers who enjoy the trail into the forest where you may either pass through the river sides or through the thick of the forest cover.
Some of the popular trails that avid hikers and trekkers use are -
The South-East Nagarahole Walking Trail
This is a bit of a rough-patch when it comes to hiking, so you will bump into experienced hikers and trekkers who know their way through a difficult trail. It curves and bends through overgrown foliage in the middle of a thick deciduous forest which makes it one of the most adventurous trails at the Nagarahole National Park.
The North Nagarahole Walking Trail
On the banks of the Kabini river is this beautiful, scenic trail that is a sight to die for. Just walking through the dense greens and you will be able to hear the sound of different birds and insects that are thriving in this vastland. Along the north trail you will come across water bodies where several wildlife gather together and drink from streams, each one to their own. It is truly a sight to witness as animals grazing near water bodies isn’t an everyday sight one gets to witness.
The West Nagarahole Walking Trail
Love yourself a good waterfall and dips in streams? Then this might be the perfect hike for you. The trail passes through several water streams and valleys that are lined with waterfalls, and is a great sight to see. You will also get to witness reptiles, insects and different types of trees along this route. However, since the trail is close to streams, it’s best to go with a tour guide who knows the place well enough to keep you away from crocodiles and snakes and other dangerous reptiles that are found near the water.
The Central Nagarahole Walking Trail
This is said to be one of the easier trails to venture out into, one that doesn’t require a tour guide or someone who is familiar with the area. The trail is perfect for an easy walk with your family and friends to enjoy a calm and quiet walk in the middle of the forest without having to constantly be on high alert for wildlife. If you’re lucky, as you walk you may come across gaur grazing, and elephants trodding their regular path. You would be safest if you looked and admired from a distance, as when elephants are disturbed or sense danger, they can get aggressive to a fatal point.
How to get to Nagarahole National Park -
Since Nagarahole National Park is in Karnataka, the best way to get there would be to first reach Bangalore by flight, train or bus.
Once you’re in Bangalore, book a bus, train or a flight to Mysore which is about 94 kilometres away from the national park. There are direct trains and buses to the park which makes it one of the easiest ways to travel there. The bus stop is at HD Kote which is about 30 kilometres away from the park, after which there are several taxis for hire that will take you all the way into the Nagarahole National Park.
The park has three gates of entry from where the safaris tours begin - Veerana Hosahalli which is on the north-facing side of the park, Nanachi which is the west-facing side of the park and lastly, Antharasanthe (also the side that takes you through the Kabini river) is on the side facing Mysore, i.e., the eastern side.
It bodes well to remember that one of the best times of the year to visit Nagarahole is during peak summers when the animals get out of their hiding and have their own rendezvous at the nearest water body. This is one of those rare times where you may get to witness more than one species of animals congregating in the same place all for the sake of quenching their thirst.
A visit to Nagarahole is filled with promise and wonder and is the perfect way to get some much needed time away from the daily routine and mundanity. Nature has a beautiful way of centering us, and what better way to witness its beauty than through a visit to a national park where you get to see and drink in the beauty of the entire package - flora, fauna, et al.
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