Karnataka is renowned for being one of India’s richest states when it comes to wildlife. A wildlife tour of Karnataka can be one of the most rewarding experiences. With a forest area of 38,720 sq km, more than 20% of the state of Karnataka is under forests. The western region of Karnataka is included in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity spot. Karnataka is home to more than 20 wildlife sanctuaries making it a delight for wildlife lovers, photographers and enthusiasts. It is home to a large variety of wild animals like the elephant, the tiger, the leopard, the bonnet macaque, the slender loris, the common palm civet, the small Indian civet, the sloth bear, the gaur, the sambar deer, the chital, the muntjac, the dhole, the striped hyena and the golden jackal.The Bandipur and Nagarhole parks actually form a part of India’s biggest biosphere reserve called the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Be it the lovely lush greenery of the Western Ghats or the scrubbed forests of the plains around them, Karnataka is blessed with some of the finest regions that are apt for wildlife sanctuaries. As a result, it is rich and diverse in wildlife and attracts tourists from all across the globe.
Here are some of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka that you must not miss.
Bandipur National Park
Bandipur national park is Karnataka’s most popular wildlife sanctuary. Located on the Mysore-Ooty highway in the Western Ghats, the park covers an area of about 874.2 sq km. It is a part of India’s biggest biosphere reserve called the ‘Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve’ together with Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala and Nagarhole National Park in the northern part of the state.
Bandipur National Park is ideal for a getaway amidst nature as it is surrounded by natural beauty. Kabini, Nugu and Moyar rivers pass through the park. From deciduous forests to grassy woodlands, Bandipur is abundant is spectacular landscapes. The forest is rich in teak and rosewood.
Bandipur is known especially for its large numbers of the Bengal tiger. It is known to offer more frequent tiger sightings than the other wildlife sanctuaries in the country. Bandipur is considered as one of the better-managed national parks in India. Apart from the tiger, the park is also home to other animals like gaur (a type of bull), sambhar, chital, mouse deer, sloth bear, and panther. It is also home to the mammoth Asiatic elephant. You will also find malabar squirrel, four-horned antelope, wild dogs, wild boar, jackal, porcupines and the black-knapped hare. Birds found here include jungle fowl and green pigeon.
How to reach Bandipur National Park:
The Bandipur National Park is just two and a half hours away from Mysore and is located on the Ooty-Mysore highway. You can reach Bandipur is at a distance of 264 km from Bangalore International airport. The closest railway station from Bandipur is Mysore which is 80 km away. It is well-connected by road to all major cities of Karnataka.
You can do the 1-hour open jeep safari in the morning between 6.00 am and 8.00 am
The evening timings are 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm.
Rs 300 per head for Indians
Rs 1100 per head for foreigners
Where to stay in Bandipur: Chamapakaranya is one of the best places to stay at Bandipur as it is located right in the middle of nature. You can also try out Ambuja farms or The Serai Bandipur for a comfortable stay.
Bannerghatta National Park
The Bannerghetta National Park is one of the most popular national parks in India. It is just 22 km away from Bangalore making it the only park so close to a major city. It was founded in 1970 and became a national park in 1974. Then, in the year 2002, a part of it was made into the Bannerghatta Biological park. The Biological park attracts tourists from all across India and serves as an ideal biological recreational centre for the children of Bangalore.
Bannerghatta has several sections like the zoo and the butterfly park and offers separate safaris for herbivores like spotted deer and carnivores like lions and tigers. The park is currently home to 32 lions and 36 tigers. It is also renowned as the first biological park in India to have a separate fenced elephant sanctuary. The zoo is just 4 km away from the Ragihalli reserve forest and the route to the safari is extremely picturesque with amazing green hillocks all around.
How to reach Bannerghatta National Park:
Bannerghatta National park is located a mere 60 km from the Bangalore airport. It is just 35 km from the Bangalore Railway station and is well-connected by roads to all major cities of Karnataka.
The safaris at the Bannerghatta National Park are divided into Lion and Tiger safari, Bear safari and Herbivore safari.
The safari timings at Bannerghatta National Park are 10 am to 4.30 pm.
Rs 260 per head for Indians
Rs 400 per head for foreigners
Jeep safari costs Rs 2,500 – 4,000 depending upon number of members.
Where to stay in Bannerghatta:
The Bannerghatta Biological Park has Bannerghatta Nature Camp Jungle lodges which are right inside the park and the best accommodation option available here. You can stay at Bangalore which is not too far away and has several options in all kinds of ranges.
Dandeli wildlife sanctuary
One of the lesser known wildlife sanctuaries in India, Dandeli wildlife sanctuary in the Uttara Kannada district is a must-visit for wildlife lovers. Located 1,551 feet above sea level, Dandeli on the banks of River Kali is amidst natural beauty and is spread across 834.16 sq km. With its dense forest cover, Dandeli forms a great natural habitat for wild animals. It was included in the Project Tiger along with its neighbouring Anshi National Park. It is home to several wildlife species such as tigers, leopards, elephants, gaur and langur. However, the main attraction here is the stunning black panther. A ride down the river gives you a great opportunity to spot hornbills, darters and kingfishers.
Jungle jeep safaris in Dandeli wildlife sanctuary can be the most thrilling experience as many of the animals also climb atop the vehicles during these safaris. The Dandeli wildlife sanctuary is the second largest sanctuary in Karnataka. The nearby Sintheri rocks is a famous tourist attraction.
How to reach Dandeli Wildlife sanctuary:
Belgaum is the nearest airport to Dandeli at a distance of 90 km. The nearest railway station is Alnavar which is 35 km away. Dandeli is well-connected by roads to all major cities of Karnataka.
The safari timings at Dandeli National Park are 6 am to 9 am and 3 pm to 6 pm. The main park is open from 1st of October to 30th of June. Even during the time period from 1st July to 30th September, safaris are allowed in the national park periphery at the buffer zone area.
The wildlife jeep safari at Dandeli wildlife sanctuary costs Rs 40 for Indians and Rs 80 for foreigners.
Where to stay in Dandeli:
Hotels for all budgets are available in Dandeli. Dandeli Jungle Inn is an excellent choice on the banks of Kali River offering a comfortable stay in quaint and beautiful colonial bungalows. Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) guesthouses are also available at affordable prices for a pleasant stay. The Dandeli Kingfisher is another good option for a comfortable and pleasant stay amidst nature.
Nagarhole National Park
The Nagarhole National Park is located in the Nilgiri mountain range. It is considered to be one of the finest parks in the country and forms the Nilgiri Reserve along with the Mudumalai, Wayanad and Bandipur forests. This reserve is known for its dense tiger population. It is home to around 48 tigers. The park covers an area of 3300 sq km separated from the Bandipur National Park by the Kabini reservoir. Nagarhole was set up as a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and became a national park in 1988. However, it was not until the year 1999 that it was declared a tiger reserve.
How to reach Nagarhole National Park:
The nearest airport is the Mysore airport and the nearest railhead is Mysore too at a distance of 87 km. Nagarhole is well-connected by roads to all major cities.
The safari timings for Nagarhole National Park are 6 am to 9 am and 4 pm to 6.30 pm. The park is open all year round but it is best to avoid visiting during monsoon.
Rs 50 for Indians and Rs 150 for foreigners
Where to stay:
Nagarhole national park does not have a lot of accommodation options. There are government run guest houses inside and near the park but they get occupied really fast so you would need to book well in advance. The Jungle Inn located near the park and The Kings Sanctuary located around 26 km away are options worth trying.
Kudremukh National Park
Located amidst the Western Ghats, Kudremukh National Park is Kudremukh’s prime attraction. It is the second largest protected region in the Western Ghats. The name Kudremukha literally means “horse-face” which is how one side of the picturesque view from the mountain is shaped. Kudremukh has a very dense forest cover making it a great natural habitat for wildlife. Spotting animals here is not very easy and one needs to go deep into the jungle for a safari. It requires prior permission to go on a safari at Kudremukh National Park. Spread across 600 sq km, the Kudremukh National Park is home to leopards, tigers, jackals, wild dogs, langurs, macaques, barking deer, malabar giant squirrels and chitals.
Three major rivers — Bhadra, Nethravati and Tunga — originate from this area. Trekking along the trails that lead up to these rivers is a popular activity among visitors. These trekking trails offer various difficulty levels. The fresh mountain air and lovely rare orchids that you see on the trek make the effort totally worth it.
The Kudremukh range of mountains was declared a national park in the year 1987. Prior permission and a licensed guide are required to trek the summit. The best time to visit Kudremukh is between October and February. The region in and around Kudremukh receives about 7,000 mm of rainfall per year.
How to reach Kudremukh National Park
Located in the state of Karnataka, Kudremukh is about 98 km away from the Mangalore airport and can be reached by road in around 2 hours and 15 minutes. Its nearest railhead too is the Mangalore railway station located 114 km away. Kudremukh is well-connected by roads to all major cities in Karnataka.
The park is open during the day all year round but the best time to visit it is during the winter months of November to February.
A prior permit needs to be obtained to enter the Kudremukh National park. You can get your permit from the Reserve Forest Office opposite the Police Station at Kuduremukha town. The permit costs Rs 200 and there is an additional trekking fees of Rs 75.
Where to stay
The Forest office is a great place to get recommendations for places of stay. Upasana Retreat and Silent Valley resort are great options for a comfortable and affordable stay.
Bhadra wildlife sanctuary
Located in the Chikmagaluru district of Karnataka, Bhadra wildlife sanctuary is a part of the Project Tiger. It has a wide variety of flora and fauna. The sanctuary was originally named Jagara wildlife sanctuary in 1951 and later renamed to Bhadra wildlife sanctuary in 1974. It was then declared as Project Tiger Reserve in the year 1998. Bhadra is also popular for being the first tiger reserve in the country to complete a successful village relocation program. It is an excellent biodiversity hotspot as it is home to dry and moist deciduous forests as well as semi evergreen ones. There are close to 33 tigers in Bhadra. Several other animals like elephant, gaur, sloth bear, jackal, wild dog, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, wild boar, black leopard, jungle cat, common langur, and bonnet macaque. Other animals found here include slender loris, small Indian civet, flying squirrel and the Malabar giant squirrel, common palm civet, pangolin and porcupine. Small carnivores like leopard cat, rusty-spotted cat, ruddy mongoose, stripe-necked mongoose and otters are also found on the Bhadra wildlife sanctuary making it one of the best places to witness wildlife in Karnataka.
How to reach Bhadra wildlife sanctuary
Bhadra wildlife sanctuary is located around 250 km from Bangalore. The route to take is Bangalore – Tumkur – Tiptur – Arsikere – Tarikere – Lakkavalli – Bhadra WLS. Bangalore is well-connected by road, rail and air to the rest of India and the world. The nearest international airport from Bhadra is Mangalore. And the nearest railhead is Chikmagalur.
You can take the safari from 6.30 am to 8.30 am and 4 pm to 6 pm. It is open on all days of the week. However, the best time to visit Bhadra wildlife sanctuary is from November to February.
The park entry fees for Bhadra wildlife sanctuary is Rs 5 (Rs 100 for foreigners) and the safari cost is Rs 10.
Where to stay
The River Turn lodge is a popular choice for a comfortable stay amidst nature. There is a forest guest house at Lakkavalli which can also be considered. Cheap accommodation is easily available in and around Bhadra beginning at as low as Rs 200 per night.
Daroji Sloth Bear sanctuary
Located in the Ballari district in Karnataka, the Daroji sloth Bear sanctuary, as the name suggests, was created exclusively to preserve the Indian sloth bear. It is just 15 km away from the World Heritage site of Hampi. One of the best experiences here is to witness bears descending from the adjacent hillocks during evening hours from the watch tower which is located within the sanctuary opposite Karadikallu Gudda. Between 3 pm and 6 pm, the forest department staff feed a mixture of jaggery and corn to the bears at one particular designated place of the sanctuary. Since the bears arrive in large numbers at this spot, they can be seen enjoying their meal from the watch tower.
There are around 120 Sloth Bears in this sanctuary. It is also home to Leopards, Hyena, Jackals, Wild Boars, Star Tortoise, Monitor Lizard, Mongoose, Pea Fowls, Partridges, Porcupine, Pangolins, Painted Spur Hen, and Quails. It also has around 90 species of birds and 27 species of butterflies.
How to reach Daroji sloth bear sanctuary
Daroji is well-connected to Bangalore by road. You can take the Bangalore- Chitradurga – Hospet – Kamalapura route. The nearest railway station is Hospet which is connected to Bangalore and Hubli.
The sanctuary is open for visitors on all days from 6 am to 6 pm. The best time to visit the Daroji Bear sanctuary is between August and April
The entry fee for Daroji sloth bear sanctuary is Rs 50 per head for Indians and Rs 300 per head for foreigners. It costs Rs 500 per car and Rs 1500 per bus.
Where to stay
There are several guesthouses around Daroji bear sanctuary for a pleasant stay. The Forest Guest House at Kamalapur and Gunda Forest Guest House at Vyasanakere near Hospet are good options. KTDC’s Mayur Bhuvaneshwari at Kamalapura is another option.