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Into the Wild this Summer | Wildlife Parks to Visit

    The corporate life and the jungle both thrive on the principle of survival of the fittest, and yes the learnings from both are worth treasuring. The wilderness, however, offers you moments of oneness that one truly needs in the hustle and bustle of life today. I’ve found the answers to most of my problems in life when I’m closest to nature.

    Delhi is close to some of the best national parks, and April is the best time to plan your jungle safari, to witness the magic of raw existence, before the parks close down for monsoon in mid June. Here are my favourites in the Jungle-book.

    Ranthambore National Park; Rajasthan

    This dry, deciduous forest lies in the Sawai Madhopur district of eastern Rajasthan. While the reserve is home to over 40 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, 45 species of reptiles and over 300 species of plants, it is the “relatively easy sightings” of wild Tigers that has made Ranthambore famous all over the world.  It is the only forest in Rajasthan and in the entire Aravali hill range where wild Bengal Tigers still exist. I was lucky enough to catch the Man-eater T24 {Tiger} at his pensive best while he took a 20 minute long dip in a water hole amidst 40 odd spectators, and another time, a mother-son duo spending quality time together. It is my favourite jungle for what it gave me in just the first trip. An open jeep safari or one in a Canter {bus} is ideal to get around.

    Getting There: You can drive down to Ranthambore from Delhi or take the overnight train to Sawaimadhopur

    Best time: Any time before the first showers i.e before June end

    Kaziranga National Park; Assam

    Think tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical, moist broadleaf forests, on elephant rides. Yes there are jeep safaris too, but the best feel of this jungle is on an elephant. This world heritage site hosts two-thirds of the world’s Great One-horned Rhinoceroses – the main attraction. Tigers, to be honest, are not too easy to sight here, but it is one of the largest tracts of protected land in the sub-Himalayan belt, and due to the presence of highly diverse and visible species, it has been described as a “biodiversity hotspot”. So there is much to please the eye or the shutterbugs – with four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, and numerous small bodies of water in and around the park that give you the quintessential landscape from an artiste’s painting.

    Getting There: One can fly down to Guwahati and reach Kaziranga by road

    Best time:  November – December is a good time to visit as the fog and sun interplay adds to the dramatic picture

    Bandhavgarh National Park; Madhya Pradesh

    The thick forest of Bandhavgarh National Park sits in a bowl, encircled by cliffs and wooded Vindhyan Mountains. Jungle lore makes it best known for its legendary Tiger pair, Sita & Charger, even today. Sita Tigress was the most photographed Tigress in the world! She was the matriarch of Bandhavgarh. She had a life span of 17 years, which is considered longer than the average age of Tigers. Charger earned his name through his unusually aggressive disposition towards tourist safari jeeps and elephants. He terrorized many visitors, jeep drivers, and mahaouts {elephant keepers} on countless occasions. They had close to 3-4 litters together & have made unmatched contributions to the Bandhavgarh Tiger family.

    Getting There: You can fly to Jabalpur from Delhi and reach Bandhavgarh by road within 2-3 hrs. A stay at one of the forest lodges makes the visit worthwhile.

    Best time: Summer & Winter, both

    Jim Corbett National Park; Uttarakhand

    This one’s a hot favourite amongst many Delhiwaalas, given its proximity to Nainital. What makes it a one of a kind experience is the forest rest houses; Bijrani, Dhikala & Jhirna. It is a haven for spotting Tigers, as well as their prey; Deer, Wild Boar and some lesser known animals. One can sight Jackals and Wild Dogs most times, while Leopard {mostly found in the hilly areas of the park} sightings must be left to chance.  Based on my experience; the weather is always extreme here, and though there is no surity of sightings in the ‘Jungle book’, Corbett is best known for surprising you with sightings of a kill, while you’re on an Elephant ride. The mahaouts are very friendly here. So if you want to be party to jungle lore, you know who your best friend is.

    Getting There: Corbett is best reachable by road or rail

    Best time: Between October and May end

    Sasan Gir National Park; Gujarat

    It is the sole home of the Asiatic Lion, due to which it is considered one of the most important protected areas in Asia. Very recently, it got awarded the ‘best protected area in management {scientific & recreational purpose}’ and the last census recorded 411 Lions here. There is also a Crocodile breeding center here, for a little something beyond jungle safaris.

    Getting There: You can fly down to Diu from Delhi and then drive down further to Sasan; it is a 3-4 hour drive, given the bad roads.

    Best time:  May- June {for Lions}. Interesting birding happens around winter

    The places below make for perfect weekend getaways for Delhiwaalas

    For Bird enthusiasts | Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Okhla Sanctuary, Kalindi Kunj Park.

    For Animal lovers | You must start from your city and visit the Delhi Zoo. It’s worth it. Others include Sariska Tiger Reserve,Kahna National Park, Pench National Park, Tadoba National Park.

    Notes in our Little Black Book |

    Dress Right: Try to wear clothes that cover your legs and arms fully, as there’s no certainty of the kind of wild plants and insects you may come in contact with while in the gypsy.

    Blend In: Always wear jungle colours when in the wild. Greens, beiges, black or cream are ideal. The idea is to blend in with the natural environment and avoid attracting undue attention or disturbing the animals with bright colors.

    Choose the right company: You don’t want to wait for animals for half an hour and have them run away because your friend suddenly remembered a joke!

    Extra Protection: In case you are allergic to animal fur or dust, please carry your medication with you.

    Photographer’s Delight: Carry a good camera and stock up on extra batteries and memory cards before leaving for the wilderness. All those with camera gear MUST carry a windcheater or the ideal ‘all-weather’ camera bag when planning safaris closer to monsoon {mid June to end June}.

    Protective Gear: With Summer round the corner, sunglasses, sunscreen and sunhats are ideal to protect you from the harsh rays of the sun, and sunburn. It is also wise to wear comfortable and covered shoes with socks instead of floaters and other footwear that exposes your feet.

    Carry: It’s best to carry insect and mosquito repellent creams, antiseptic creams, band-aids, a water bottle, a first aid kit, a small torch, personal hygiene products, and raincoats before leaving for your jungle safari.

    Ensure no one is feeding or littering the jungle. Remember, you are venturing into the animals’ territory.

    Avoid carrying cellphones during safaris.

    Save the heart to heart conversations for after the jungle safari.

    It is wise to keep infants and young children away from a serious jungle safari, as the jungle is all about being patient and calm.

    Photography buffs: Photo gear to carry

    Anyone who is fond of wildlife photography must first invest in a decent camera that can support a telephoto lens, which is ideal for wildlife and sports photography. A telephoto lens is great for getting closer to details in these environments. There is a large variety of these lenses available; choose depending on your budget and how close you want to get to your subject.

    If one is to shoot animal portraits {animals that remain close and don’t move much}, one can go for a 70-200mm f 2.8G VR II. Nikon offers a great model.

    If one wishes to capture wildlife in mid-range, then a 70-300mm f 4.5-5 6G VR is best, or the 300mm f/4 AF-S prime lens works; it has the best auto-focus. The 300mm f 2.8G VR II is another phenomenal release by Nikon.

    Beyond this, if you wish to get close to a bird/far off animal, you should go for the Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 lens that is no less than a bazooka and weighs close to 2kg. I carried this on my Ranthambore trip and got amazing Tiger and bird shots. This is the affordable option among the other telephoto lenses out there {400mm, 500mm or a 600mm}.

    Another fix for those who don’t wish to buy such a heavy lens is getting a 300mm f/2.8 lens Nikkor lens and using it against a 1.4X teleconverter, which makes it a 420mm F/4 lens. I used this on my Bandhavgarh & Bharatpur trip and was very satisfied with the results. All a teleconverter needs is a fast lens {f/2.8 etc} and you’re close to a zoom lens.