Skip to main content.
Navigation: Home | Map Of India | Travel Tips | Currency converter | Distance Calculator | Shop | Contact Us | Site Map

Nature Trails

India has a wealth of about 80 National Parks and 441 sanctuaries. Many of the wildlife sanctuaries and a few national parks have been established in erstwhile private hunting reserves of the British Raj and Indian aristocracy. Often, a park is better known for a particular animal. Thus Gir (Gujarat) is famous for its Asiatic lions, the Indian rhinoceros is the pride of Kaziranga (Assam), elephants steal the show in Periyar (Kerala), and tigers are synonymous with Kanha (Madhya Pradesh) and Bandavgarh (Madhya Pradesh). The mangrove forests of Sunderbans are the unique habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger.These are literally a living museum of nature's creations with a variety of animals, plants, landscapes and rock formations. Though the Indian subcontinent has a great variety of wildlife, but the thick and dense forests account for poor visibility. The spotting of wild animals depends greatly on their habit and distinct daily and seasonal patterns of activity. The frequency of wildlife sightings in national parks and sanctuaries varies depending on the time of the year.

Flora: India has a mind-boggling diversity of vegetation and wildlife. As many as 16 forest types are found in India, with over 15,000 species of plants. However, the impressive statistics are fast dwindling, and if measures are not taken to check deforestation, it won't be long before barren stretches replace jungles.

The Himalayan belt is a botanist's delight. The thick tropical forests in the eastern region of India are in sharp contrast to the pine and coniferous woodlands of the western Himalayas. Natural cover varies with altitude; evergreen forests with mainly high alpine meadows nearer the snowline have more of temperate forests in the lower elevations. The chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) grows throughout the northwest Himalayas, with the exception of Kashmir. Chilgoza (pine nut), oak, maple, ash (Fraxinus xanthoxyloides) grow abundantly in the Inner Himalayas. The rain-soaked foothills are covered with deciduous trees, shrubs, fern and grass. The Brahmaputra Valley also wears patches of tea plantations and fluorescent-green rice fields, while mulberry trees on which tussar silk worms are bred, abound on the slopes.

The most luxuriant rain forests, however, lie on the southwestern coast, in Kerala - where the lagoons are canopied by coconut trees, leading to the longest uninterrupted stretch of rain forests in the country. The Andaman Islands and Arunachal Pradesh are other regions with well preserved rain forests. Dense sandal, teak and sisoo (Dalbergia sissoo) forests, where elephants roam wild and free, flourish on the wet Karnataka plateau. Nudging this is the dry Telengana plateau in Andhra Pradesh, which offers only thorny scrub and wild Indian date palm.

The Thar Desert presents a very different picture. The trees are short and stout, stunted by the scorching sun. Apart from cacti, there are the reunjha (Acacia leucophloea), khejra (Prosopis spicigera), kanju (Holoptelia integrifolia) and ak (Calotropis gigantea). Tropical moist deciduous forests that cover most of the heartland are interspersed with tropical dry deciduous trees. The species include sal (Shorea robusta), teak (Tectona grandis), semul (Bombax ceiba), laurel, rosewood, mahua (Madhuca indica), amla (Emblica officinalis), khair (Acacia catechu), common bamboo, to name just a few.

Fauna: Even though India is known for its tigers, elephants and rhinoceros, it is home to over 500 mammal species. Antelopes and deer like the chinkaras (Indian Gazelle), barasinghas (swamp deer), chitals (spotted deer), muntjacs (barking deer) and sambars (India's largest deer) can easily be spotted in forests and wildlife reserves. Other animals that are easy to spot include buffaloes, massive Indian bisons (gaurs), striped hyenas, wild pigs, jackals, Indian foxes and wild dogs. Among the smaller mammals are mongooses and giant squirrels. Big cats include leopards and panthers, short-tailed jungle cats, and the beautiful leopard cats. Monkeys are a very common sight, especially around temples.

The country also has about 2000 species and sub-species of birds. The numerous sanctuaries across the country are not only breeding colonies for these feathered creatures, but serve as resorts for migratory birds from higher altitudes, as well. Add to all this over 500 species of reptiles and amphibians. King cobras, pythons, crocodiles, large freshwater tortoises and monitor lizards are only some of them. There are also some 30,000 insect species, including some very stunning butterflies. Look around a bit on a bright summer morning, and you'll know what we mean.