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Photo Courtesy: Creative Commons

Explore your wild side in these six jungle safaris!

Why would you spend your Diwali vacations in crowded touristy places when you can find peace amidst nature? These six national parks are so good, we would trade our souls to be there right about now!

1. Jim Corbett National Park

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Photo Courtesy: Pranay Bahira 

India’s oldest national park is also perhaps the most recognizable of the lot. It is named after Jim Corbett, the well-known author-conservator in the mid-50s, who also helped establish it in 1936 as Hailey National Park. The most predominant feature of the park is its member of the cat family, tigers. People from across the country and indeed the world visit the Corbett National Park to catch a glimpse of the Bengal Tigers. Spread across some 520 sq km, the area consists of marshy lands, riverine bets, hill tops and lakes. Various species such as Himalayan Tahrs, fishing cats, gorals, deers and several others can easily be spotted here as well.

Location: Jim Corbett National Park, Ramnagar, Nainital, Uttarakhand

Best time to visit: March to May

Cost: Rs 3600 per jeep (maximum of six people in a jeep)

2. Sunderbans National Park

Want to watch a tiger swim? Sunderbans is the place to be. After all, it isn’t just India’s largest tiger reserve, the Sunderbans National Park is also one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. What’s more? You primarily explore the 1,350 sq km of the park in a boat! Accommodation is readily available within the park.

Location: West Bengal

Best time to visit: September to March

Cost: Rs 3,000 per boat

3. Kanha National Park

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Photo Courtesy: Pranay Bahira

Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh was built in 1955 and is famously known for it Swamp Deer (Barasingha) that is on the verge of extinction. Wildlife attractions in the park include bisons, gaurs, barking deers, black deers, black bucks, mouse deers, sloth bears, porcupines and hyenas. Kanha is also said to have been the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

Location: Madhya Pradesh

Best time to visit: February to May

4. Ranthambore National Park

 

Question: How many national parks can boast of having a fort in their midst?

Answer: One!

History and wildlife come together at the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, at whose center is the 10th-century Ranthambore Fort with ancient temples and mosques, crocodile-filled lakes and chhatris (cenotaphs) thrown in for good measure. Indeed, the ruins lend Ranthambore a unique and refreshing appeal. Tigers at Ranthambore National Park are accustomed to human presence making it one of the best places to photograph tigers. It also boasts of about 300 species of birds.

Location: Rajasthan

Best time to visit: March to May (even though it tends to get really hot, it is also the best time to view tigers who venture out into the clearings).

5. Gir National Park

Home to the majestic Asiatic Lions, Gujarat’s Gir National Park is without a doubt a shining gem in Gujarat’s crown. The park also shelters around 300 species of birds, 26 reptiles and 32 mammals. Once the hunting grounds of the Nawabs of Junagadh, Gir was declared a ‘protected’ area  as early as 1900 by Nawab Sir Muhammad Rasul Khanji Babi. His son, Nawab Muhammad Mahabat Khan III further helped conserve the lion population that had dropped to as little as 20 thanks to unchecked trophy hunting. Latest figures peg the population at around 350.

Location: Gujarat 

Best time to visit: October to May

Cost: Rs. 4000 per jeep (maximum of six people in a jeep)

6. Bandhavgarh National Park

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Photo Courtesy: Pranay Bahira

Known for its Royal Bengal Tigers, Bandhavgarh National Park is spread across 450 sq km in Madhya Pradesh and is known for its thriving flora and fauna. Home to white tigers, the park is also a habitat for Indian bison, sambars, langurs and cheetals. The former game preserve of the kings of Rewa, Bandhavgarh became part of Madhya Pradesh in 1947 after the princely state merged with the Union of India. However the hunting rights remained with the Maharaja of Rewa until 1968 when it was declared a national park. Most tourists head towards the Tala and Magadhi areas of the National Park, which have some of highest concentrations of wildlife.

Location: Madhya Pradesh

Best time to visit: February to May