India does not just offer historical monuments, temples, palaces, forts, busy bazaars, congested city streets, beaches, and mountains to the tourists. It also offers the tourist the opportunity of viewing a wide variety of animals, reptiles, and birds in their natural habitat. Who has not heard about the Bengal tigers, and the elephants, and the one-horned rhinos of India? Thanks to the many national parks that now exists, and a large number of local tour operators, even an ordinary tourist can view these large and ferocious animals quite comfortably these days. The experience is unforgettable. That is why people go to India these days not only to see the Taj, but also to see the tiger. I have seen tour packages offered by local tour operators having names like, "Taj and Tiger" or similar. Got the idea? Just go to India, and come back with memories that will last for the rest of your life.
Besides numerous reserve forests, game sanctuaries, and wildlife sanctuaries, India has about 80 national parks today for conservation of wildlife. Every corner of the country has a national park and one can view wildlife in them. The oldest and probably the finest national park is the Corbett National Park near Nainital in Uttaranchal. The park was created in 1936 and it was then called Hailey National Park. In 1957, it was renamed as Corbett National Park honoring the famous British hunter who later turned into a conservationist, Jim Corbett. Corbett had made India his home and authored books like "Man-eaters of Kumaon", "Jungle lore", and "The man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag". Corbett park is the place where Project Tiger was born in 1973.
Corbett National Park is in the foothills of the Himalayas in the state of Uttaranchal. (Uttaranchal is a new state carved out from the northern hilly areas of Uttar Pradesh in 2000). It is 1318 square kilometers in area which includes 520 square kilometer of core area and 798 square kilometer of buffer area. It is home to a wide variety of animals, such as tigers, leopards, elephants, bears, deers, wild boars etc. Besides, one can see ghorials (fish-eating crocodiles), various kinds of snakes, and a wide variety of birds in the park. The best time to visit the park is between August and February, but if you are primarily interested in seeing the tigers then go during the hottest summer months (April to June) when the tigers come out from the deeper jungles to drink water from the park's lake.
One can travel both on elephants or in jeeps inside the park to see the animals. But if your stay in the park is short, a jeep safari is a much better choice, not only because it is much more comfortable, but because a jeep can cover much more area in a shorter time, and therefore, increases the chance of viewing more animals, specially tigers. Currently, Corbett National Park is the home of some 143 tigers according to count taken in 2003. (The census is done every two years).
There is a little-known Jim Corbett Hideaway Resort deep inside the park where one can stay in a very serene atmoshere in cottages located in a mango-grove. It is a perfect place to rest and rejuvinate your body and mind. The cottages provide all modern amenities. There is a swimming pool, a pool-side bar, and a restaurant that offers both indoor and outdoor sitting and serves Indian, Chinese, and Continental dishes. If this interests you, ask your travel agent about it.
Corbett National Park has been featured in a number of Indian postage stamps. Here are some of them:
Note: You can click on any stamp on this page to learn more about the featured animal or reptile or bird.
Other famous national parks for seeing the tigers are Sariska National Park, Ranthambore National Park, Kanha National Park, and Bandhavgarh National Park even though tigers can be seen in many other National Parks.
Asiatic lions can be seen in Gir National Park in the state of Gujarat (western India). The lions are not as common in India as the tigers.
The famous Indian rhino or one-horned rhinos are restricted in the north-eastern part of the country, in the state of Assam. Kaziranga National Park was created to conserve these animals. Today, the rhinos can also be seen in Manas National Park (also in Assam), but Kaziranga is still the park of chioce for rhino viewing.
Lastly, India has a unique and easy-to-reach bird sanctuary called Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. It is on the highway joining Agra and Jaipur. Hundreds of different species of birds, some residents of the area, some migratory, can be seen here. Painted storks are just one of many birds that tourists look for when they visit Keoladeo Ghana National Park.
I visited Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan in February of 2008. Unfortunately, due to severe drought for the past 2-3 years, the swamps there have dried out and very few birds were there at the time. But I did see various kinds of deer at the park. You can see some of the photographs that I have taken of the park here.