Red Pandas are native to the eastern Himalayas (including parts of Nepal, Tibet, India, Bhutan, Myanmar) and Southern China. The word Panda has been derived from the Nepalese word “Ponya” which means bamboo eater.
Slightly larger than a domestic cat in size, they are solitary in nature and remain largely sedentary during the day. Forests of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya and Darjeeling in West Bengal are habitats to red pandas in India.
It is an endangered species facing the loss of habitat due to excessive deforestation and farming. Here is a rundown of some of the national parks you can visit to spot the fascinating red pandas in India.
A Quick Glance Through
- Namdapha National Park
- Nokrek National Park
- Balphakram National Park
- Khangchendzonga National Park
- Neora Valley National Park
- Singalila National Park
1. Namdapha National Park
Namdapha derives its name from two Singpho words “nam” means forest and “dapha” means keeping. Singpho is a dialect of the Jingpho language spoken by locals of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
The park is situated in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, near the international border with Myanmar.
Namdapha National Park was declared as a tiger reserve in the year 1983 under the Project Tiger. It is the fourth largest national park in India spread over 1,985 sq km, out of which 1,808 sq km is the core area and the buffer zone covers 177 sq km.
It is a well-known biodiversity hotspot in the eastern Himalayas with immensely rich biodiversity but faces constant depletion of native vegetation.
More than 1000 species of flora and about 1400 species of fauna have been recorded in the park so far.
It is one of the best places to spot the elusive red pandas in India. If luck is on your side, you can get rare sighting of Namdapha flying squirrel, a critically endangered species.
With about 425 bird species recorded in the park, birdwatchers will also love this place. You can spot birds, like blue-eared kingfisher, white-tailed fish eagle, Himalayan wood-owl and pied falconet.
The best season to visit the park is during the months of October to April till the onset of monsoon season.
How To Reach Namdapha
Dibrugarh airport in Assam is the nearest domestic airport at a distance of about 182 km from Forest Rest House, Deban located inside Namdapha National Park.
The closest international airport is in Guwahati. Tinsukia Railway Station in Assam is the nearest railhead located at a distance of 141 km from Forest Rest House, Deban.
By road, you can reach up to Miao which is the entry point of Namdapha. It is almost one hour scenic drive from Miao to Deban through a charming landscape filled with falls, several streams and narrow gorges.
2. Nokrek National Park
Placed at a distance of about 45 km from Tura a hilly town in West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, Nokrek National Park stretches over an area of 47.5 sq km.
It forms a part of the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve. The park is teeming with lush green bushes and dazzling scenic beauty.
Nokrek is the highest peak in Garo Hills and is inhabited by numerous rare and endangered species, including red panda, Asian elephant, clouded leopard, golden cat and pangolin.
The park also provides shelter to seven species of primates. You may spot here, the rare stump-tailed macaque, pig-tailed macaque and hoolock gibbons during the trek to the peak.
Presence of the remnant population of Red panda in Nokrek National Park has got the world wondering. It is counted amongst one of the best national parks to sight red pandas in India.
The park is also said to be the habitat to Mande Burung (jungle man or ape-man) and reported cases of sightings around the villages of Nokrek.
It is home to a very rare species of citrus-indica, which locals call as memang narang (the orange of spirits).
This national park is considered an Important Bird Area. It boasts of a wide variety of birds, such as green pigeon, slender-billed vulture, hornbill and many types of pheasants. It is an ideal birding spot in Nokrek Biosphere Reserve.
You may also like: India’s Most Beautiful Birds.
The best time to visit Nokrek National Park is from October to May as there is heavy downpour during monsoons.
How To Reach Nokrek
The nearest railway station is Guwahati, which is around 160 km away from the park. The nearest airport is also located in Guwahati at a distance of about 128 km.
You can hire a cab or board a bus to reach Nokrek by road from Guwahati and Shillong.
3. Balpakram National Park
Situated in the South Garo Hills District and about 167 km from Tura, Balpakram National Park is spread across an area of 220 sq km.
The western part of the park adjoins with Siju Bird Sanctuary along the banks of the Simsang river. It is popularly known as the “abode of perpetual winds”.
An unperturbed piece of land, brimful of picturesque landscapes, the park is home to many forms of wildlife, including black bear, leopard, bison, elephant, tiger, and golden cat.
Different species of baboons and monkeys are also found in this forest. It is one of those places where you can spot the extremely rare red pandas in India.
The best months to visit Balpakram National Park are from November to May when the weather is pleasant with little or no rainfall.
How To Reach Balphakram
You can reach Balpakram National Park from Shillong, which is well connected by roadways.
Guwahati Airport serves as the nearest airport to the park. The closest railhead is also located in Guwahati, nearly 220 km away.
4. Khangchendzonga National Park
Also known as Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, it lies at the heart of the Himalayan range in Sikkim and covers an area of 1784 sq km.
The park includes unique diversity of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular snow-capped mountains.
This national park gets its name from the third highest peak in the world, Mount Khangchendzonga. It literally means the “Abode of Gods”.
UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 2016 recognizing its significant natural and cultural heritage.
The park is home to many mammal species including snow leopard, Himalayan black bear, Tibetan wild ass, Himalayan blue sheep, serow, goral and the elegant red panda.
You may also like: 10 Best National Parks to Spot Snow Leopards in India.
It starts to snow heavily during winters (December to February) and rains arrive in June which continues till October. So, the best time to come to the park is between March to May and September to mid-December.
If you want to know about some of the most beautiful places to visit in Sikkim, check this post: 5 Most Scenic Attractions in Sikkim.
How To Reach Khangchendzonga
Bagdogra Airport in Darjeeling, West Bengal is the nearest airport at a distance of about 122 km from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.
Regular bus services are available from Bagdogra to Gangtok. You can hire a cab from Gangtok to reach Khangchendzonga National Park which is merely 46 km away.
You can also catch a flight from Kolkata to Pakyong, the only airport in Sikkim. Spicejet runs regular flights to and from Pakyong Airport.
The nearest railway station is in New Jalpaiguri, which is approximately 120 km away from Gangtok. It has good connectivity with other major cities of the country.
5. Neora Valley National Park
Spread over the core forest area of 88 sq km, Neora Valley National Park is situated in the Kalimpong district of West Bengal.
The highest point of this park is Rachela Pass (10600 ft), where it forms a boundary with Sikkim in the North and Bhutan in the North East.
It is one of the richest biological zones in eastern India owing to the presence of many types of mammals, reptiles and birds. It is an ideal destination for wildlife explorers in the state.
Nestled in the utmost serene and rugged hilly terrain, it is the land of the alluring red pandas in India.
The park is teeming with beautiful birds. It is heaven for birdwatchers. Some of the birds found in the park include Red-headed bullfinch, Darjeeling woodpecker and golden-throated barbet.
Neora Valley National Park is open for tourists from mid-September to mid-June. It remains closed for 3 months, from 16th June to 15th September.
How To Reach Neora Valley
The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, almost 100 km away from the Park. Bagdogra airport has good connectivity by road to Neora Valley National Park.
Darjeeling is the nearest railhead located at a distance of about 30 km from the Park. The entry to the Park is through a small village Lava, situated in Kalimpong subdivision of Darjeeling district. It is also the starting point for trekking into the Neora National Park.
6. Singalila National Park
Nestled in the Singalila ridge in Darjeeling district of West Bengal, Singalila National Park lies at an altitude of more than 7,000 feet above the sea level and spans across reserved forest area of 78.6 sq km.
Initially, a wildlife sanctuary it became a national park in 1992. The park is full of different types of flowering plants including a wide range of orchids, rhododendrons and magnolias.
Singalila National Park is one of the most popular birding destinations in the eastern Himalayas with more than 100 rare and exotic species of birds found here. The park has a resident population of about 42 Red Pandas.
It is also habitat to other high altitude animals, like clouded leopard, Himalayan black bear, serow and takin. This sanctuary is a must-visit when in Darjeeling, one of India’s famous hill stations.
The best time to visit the park is from mid-September to mid-June. It remains closed for tourists from 16th June to 15th September due to intense rains.
How To Reach Singalila
Bagdogra Airport is the nearest airport, which is about 100 km from the park and takes 3 to 4 hours by road. The Jeep safari starts from a small village called Manebhanjan at the base of Singalila ridge.
You can hire a taxi or shared jeep to reach Manebhanjan from Darjeeling and the travel time is about 65-75 minutes.
Ghum railway station of Darjeeling Himalayan railway is the closest railhead to the park. Situated at an altitude of 2,258 m, Ghum is the highest railway station in India and is located 30 km away from Tonglu, the entry point to the Singalila National Park.
Red Pandas are shy and secretive animals which makes it difficult to spot them. You need to trek through the hilly terrains of these high altitude national parks to be able to get a glimpse of the gorgeous Red Pandas in India.
Over To You Now…
Have you ever sighted the exquisite red pandas in India during your wildlife excursions? Share your experiences with us in the comment section below.
Subscribe to our email list to discover many more exciting nature and wildlife destinations across India.