THERE WAS A TIME when the vast plains of the North were covered with forest and grasslands and the wilderness crouched at the edge of every settlement. Hunts, shooting parties and game drives were popular sport and records of these expeditions list a phenomenal number of kills. But the pressure of population and deforestation eventually took its toll and the wounded forests retreated. Fortunately, there were many among the hunters who realised, before it got too late, the importance of preserving the natural heritage of the land. The Corbett National Park, set up in 1936, became India’s first wildlife sanctuary.
Project Tiger was initiated in 1973, a concerted effort directed towards increasing the tiger population of the country by preserving its habitat. Today, a network of about 80 National Parks and 441 Sanctuaries, covering four per cent of its land area. Attempts are being made to link these increasingly isolated pockets of wilderness by creating ‘corridors’ that will allow animals a much greater range. There are also, in some parks, large areas of pristine forest where any kind of human intervention, even the picking of dry twigs, is prohibited.
Every one of these parks provide ample opportunity for wildlife viewing. From camouflaged machans, boats, jeeps and elephant back you can watch the jungle go about its business. The thrill of coming upon, in its natural habitat, a herd of wild elephants on its way down to water or a tiger crouched behind a rock, selecting his evening meal from amongst the herd of deer grazing in the meadows, cannot really be matched. The majority of these parks are in Northern and Central India. You will be travelling through the untamed jungle heartland of India.
The geological topography of Indian subcontinent has produced an incomparable diversity of eco-systems and these includes the world’s highest mountains, arid desert, great flood plains, cloud forests, swamps and scrub lands. Some Indian Jungles are thick and dense, predators as well as their prey depend on stealth, camouflage and surprise rather then their number or speed, for this reason tracking these animals is an unforgettable ecstasy. India has a network of about 80 National Parks and 441 Sanctuaries, covering four per cent of its land area. Depending on the area and terrain, these parks provide ample opportunity for wildlife watching Visitors have a choice of watching flora and fauna from elephant back, watch towers, boats, jeeps and on foot. The thrill of spotting herds of wild elephant, deer, a rhino and a tiger, in its natural environment, is very rarely matched. Majority of these parks are in Northern and Central India. You shall be travelling through the Jungle heartland of India.
A THRIVING AVIAN POPULATION hops and feeds and wings its way about the many national parks and reserve forests. Particularly rich in birdlife, over 500 different species having been spotted here, are the evergreen forests that fringe the western coast of peninsula India. Naturally this makes the region a birdwatchers paradise. Enthusiasts flock here to spend time spotting and photographing some of the most sought after Indian birds.
This itinerary takes you to the National Parks of Periyar, Eravikulam, Top Slip and Mudamalai. However, these are not isolated forests. The entire region, as your drive to Munnar and Ootacamund will reveal, has extensive tree and ground cover, a lot of it made up of the lush tea estates and spice plantations that the region is famous for. Moreover, there has been, in recent years a deliberate policy to link forest reserves to allow for the natural movement of wildlife from one forest reserves or national parks to another, without coming into direct contact or conflict with human habitation. This also provides the avian population, both resident and migratory with extensive habitat, a lot of which is protected.
Your tour has been planned to ensure that you have an excellent chance to see most of those species regarded as endemic to South India, as well as a representative selection of the region’s birds: Grey-breasted Laughing thrush, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Ceylon Frogmouth, Great-eared Night jar, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Brown Fish Owl, White-rumped Needletail to name just a few. And as you ramble through the forest or crouch behind your hide who knows which jungle inhabitant could walk nonchalantly by.