Indian forests boast of a unique diversity of wildlife. They are home to some of earth’s most fascinating wild animals. Riverine forests provide excellent habitat for wild elephants also known as Asian elephants, the largest (by size) living mammal in India. The last elephant census shows India has 27,312 elephants in the wild and Karnataka has the highest elephant population (6,049) amongst all states. Scroll down to know which wildlife reserves you can visit to spot Asian elephants in India.
- Bandipur National Park
- Nagarhole National Park
- Manas National Park
- Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary
- Corbett National Park
- Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
- Rajaji National Park
- BRT Wildlife Sanctuary
- Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary
- Periyar National Park
- Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary
- Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
- Kaziranga National Park
- Balpakram National Park
- Simlipal National Park
1. Bandipur National Park
Famous as a tiger reserve, Bandipur National Park also nurtures a large breeding population of Indian elephants.
Once the hunting ground for the royals of Mysore, Bandipur forest was upgraded to national park and tiger reserve in 1974.
The park is spread over 874 sq km and forms a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, which is known to be the largest habitat of wild elephants in India and South Asia.
Bandipur forest is home to several other species of wild animals like antelope, jackal, sloth bear, many types of birds, butterflies and reptiles.
It is located in the foothills of Nilgiris in the Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka. The Mysore-Ooty road cuts through the park and it is merely 2 hours (80 km) drive from Mysore.
A safari ride in Bandipur also offers a panoramic view of the surrounding Nilgiri hills, also known as the Blue Mountains.
The first safari in the morning starts at 6:30 am and the evening safari starts at 4 pm. You can book a permit through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve website.
How To Reach Bandipur National Park
The nearest domestic airport in Mysore (73 km) has direct flights from cities like Bangalore and Chennai.
Bangalore Airport is the closest major international airport located 260 km away from the park. You can hire a cab or catch a bus from Bangalore to Bandipur.
The other nearest airport is in Coimbatore (135 km) with limited international flight options from countries like Singapore and Sri Lanka.
Mysore Junction is the closest major railway station. A lot of taxis are available at the railway station to drop you to Bandipur.
You can board a bus as well from Mysore. Buses plying from Mysore to cities, like Ooty, Thrissur and Ernakulam cross Bandipur forest office.
2. Nagarhole National Park
Tucked between the Deccan plateau and the Western Ghats, Nagarhole National Park is one of the oldest national parks in India.
Nagarhole (literally means ‘Serpent Streams’) was established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1955. This forest was once maintained as an exclusive game reserve for the Wodeyar Kings of the Mysore kingdom.
It was converted into a national park in 1988 and subsequently, in 1999 it was declared a tiger reserve. The park was renamed Rajiv Gandhi National Park in 1992.
Spanning 642 sq km, the park is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Nagarhole is considered one of the best national parks to spot wild elephants in India.
It is situated in Kodagu and Mysore districts of Karnataka, adjacent to Bandipur National park.
Also read: 5 Best National Parks in Karnataka.
The river Kabini passing through the park is the main source of water in the park for wild animals. You can spot herds of Asian elephants near the river banks.
Many other forms of wildlife thrive in Nagarhole forest including leopard, sambar deer, spotted deer, wild boar, gray langur, several types of birds and reptiles.
Morning safari starts at 6 am and evening safari at 3 pm. You can buy the safari tickets at the park entrance one hour before the safari start time.
How To Reach Nagarhole National Park
Mysore airport (95 km) is the nearest domestic airport. Bangalore airport (236 km) is the major nearest international airport. It is almost 5 hours drive to the park from Bangalore airport.
The nearest railhead is in Mysore, 90 km away from the park. You can hire a taxi or hop onto a bus from Mysore to reach the park.
By road, the park is well-connected to all the nearby cities including Mysore, Bangalore, Ooty and Coimbatore.
3. Manas National Park
Located in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas in Assam, Manas National Park is known for its unique biodiversity.
The park gets its name from the Manas river which is a tributary of the river Brahmputra, one of the major rivers in India.
It was declared as a reserve forest in 1928 with an area of 360 sq km, upgraded as a tiger reserve in 1973 and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. The present core area of the forest stands at 950 sq km.
As a part of Manas – Chirang – Ripu Elephant Reserve, Manas National Park is one of the popular destinations to spot wild elephants in India.
The elephant reserve has a per square km elephant density of 2.5, according to the elephant population estimation in 2017. It means, more than 2 elephants are found in each square km area of the forest.
The morning safari starts as early as 6 am and evening safari at 2 pm. You can get the safari booked through your resort or hotel. A half-day safari lasts for 4 hours.
How To Reach Manas National Park
The nearest airport is in Guwahati almost 176 km away from the park. Hire a cab from the airport to reach Manas.
Barpeta Road (20 km) is the nearest railway station to the park. From Barpeta, you can reach the park by bus.
By road, Manas is accessible from all major cities of Assam, such as Guwahati, Tezpur and Nagaon.
4. Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary
Surrounded by the scenic hills in the Western Ghats Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary lies in Chikmagalur and Shimoga districts of Karnataka.
Established as Jagara Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in 1951 covering 77.45 sq km, it was further expanded to create Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in 1974.
It was declared a tiger reserve in 1998 extending over 492 sq km. The sanctuary derives its name from the Bhadra river that feeds the reserve.
Known as a biodiversity hotspot, tigers and elephants are the main attractions for the visitors. It is one of the most preferred wildlife reserves for sighting Asian elephants in India.
The sanctuary supports many other forms of wildlife including bison, sloth bear, wild dog, porcupine and common langur. It is also called Muthodi Wildlife Sanctuary named after a village on its border.
Safari in Bhadra Wildlife sanctuary is available from 7 am and the last safari you can take at 3:30 pm. Each safari duration is around 2 hours.
The main entry point of the sanctuary, Honnala Checkpost lies at a distance of 23 km from Chikmagalur. Merely 2 km away is Muthodi gate, the other entry point to the sanctuary.
You can buy the forest permit at the sanctuary entrance.
How To Reach Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary
The nearest airport is in Mangalore (185 km). The second nearest airport is located in Bangalore (275 km). You can rent a cab or take state-run buses to reach the sanctuary.
Chikmagalur does not have a railway station. By train, you can reach Kadur Junction, located 40 km away from the sanctuary.
From Bangalore to Bhadra Wildlife sanctuary, it is almost 6 hours drive.
5. Corbett National Park
Known as the first national park of India, Corbett National Park is located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand.
Spread over 520 sq km, the park lies in three hilly districts – Nainital, Almora and Pauri Garhwal.
The park was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park, later renamed as Corbett National Park in 1955 and came under Project Tiger in 1974.
Surrounded by lush green Sal forests and dotted with picturesque mountain ridges and river streams, Corbett landscape is truly fascinating.
Corbett is famous for sighting Royal Bengal tigers but elephant sightings are not uncommon in this forest. The park nurtures a large breeding population of elephants.
For wildlife enthusiasts, Corbett is one of the favourite wildlife destinations for sighting herds of elephants in India.
Corbett has several tourist zones and you need to book forest entry permit for each zone separately. Check the Corbett National Park – complete travel guide for details.
How To Reach Corbett National Park
Pantnagar Airport (82 km) is the nearest domestic airport with limited flight options from Delhi and Dehradun. Delhi airport is the major domestic and international airport located 245 km away from the park.
You can either stay overnight in Delhi or drive to Corbett on the same day which is almost 6 hours journey. The closest railhead is in Ramnagar (12 km). You can easily get taxis at the railway station.
6. Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
Nestled in the lap of Nilgiri hills (Blue Mountains), Mudumalai sanctuary constitutes an important part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
It shares a common boundary with Wyanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala) on the West and Bandipur Tiger Reserve (Karnataka) on the North.
The sanctuary was established in 1940 covering 60 sq km, later expanded to its present area of 321 sq km. It was renamed as Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in 2007 under Project Tiger.
Other than the Royal Bengal tiger, the sanctuary has a sizable population of elephants. Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is one of the best wildlife reserves to see Asian elephants in India.
Mudumalai forest supports many other forms of wildlife including leopard, golden jackal, sloth bear, several types of reptiles and birds.
You can book a safari at the Theppakadu reception office. There is no need to book in advance. Safari tickets are issued from 6 am in the morning.
During the holidays and weekends, there is a long waiting period in the queue. Early morning safari is the best to avoid long queues.
How To Reach Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
The closest airports to the sanctuary are Kozhikode (120 km), Coimbatore (135 km) and Bangalore (240 km). Mysore is the nearest railway station, 100 km away from the sanctuary.
The Mysore-Ooty highway passes through the forest thus making it equally approachable from both the cities – Mysore (100 km), Ooty (40 km).
7. Rajaji National Park
Counted amongst one of the most coveted wildlife destinations for sighting Asian elephants in India, Rajaji National Park is a part of the magnificent Shivalik ranges in Uttarakhand.
Rajaji national park was formed in 1983 by merging three wildlife sanctuaries in the area – Chilla, Motichur and Rajaji sanctuaries. In 2015, it became the second tiger reserve of Uttarakhand after the Corbett tiger reserve.
Sprawling 820 sq km area, the park lies in Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal districts of Uttarakhand. The park has been named after famous freedom fighter Sri C. Rajgopalachari, popularly known as “Rajaji.
The dense Rajaji forests are home to distinct species of wildlife. Tigers and leopards are the main predators in the forest.
Some of the commonly spotted animals in the park are spotted deer, Mountain goat and gray langur.
You can rent a safari jeep at the park gate. Morning safari starts at 6 am in summers and 6:30 am in winters. Evening safari starts from 2 pm and all the safari jeeps need to come back by 5 pm.
How To Reach Rajaji National Park
Dehradun (35 km) is the nearest domestic airport, which is well linked by flight from Delhi.
The nearest international airport is located in Delhi (240 km), almost 6 hours drive to the park. Rishikesh (18 Km), Haridwar ( 24Km) and Dehradun (60 km) are the closest railheads.
The closest railheads are at Haridwar ( 24Km.), Dehradun (60 Km) and Rishikesh (18 Km).
8. BRT Wildlife Sanctuary
The forest around the Biligiri Rangaswamy temple, perched on the picturesque BR Hills in Karnataka is known as BRT wildlife sanctuary.
The ancient Biligiri Rangaswamy temple in the sanctuary is dedicated to Lord Ranganathaswamy (Lord Vishnu). BR hills are contiguous with hills in adjacent Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamilnadu.
Set up as a wildlife sanctuary in 1974 with 322 sq km initially, it was expanded to cover 539.5 sq km in 987 and upgraded to a tiger reserve in 2011.
The forest serves as an important wildlife corridor between the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats. It is one of the most popular wildlife destinations for spotting herds of wild elephants in India.
You can buy safari tickets at the entrance itself. Jeep Safari timings are 6:30 am-7:30 am and 7:30 am-8:30 am during morning hours and 3:30 pm-4:30 pm and 4:30 pm-5:30 pm in the evening.
How To Reach BRT Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is located at a distance of 90 km from Mysore via Chamarajanagar and 254 km from Bangalore.
The closest domestic airport is in Mysore and Bangalore airport is the nearest international airport. The nearest railhead is located in Mysore. From there, hire a taxi to reach the sanctuary.
9. Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated along the Western Ghats, Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest wildlife sanctuary in Tamilnadu, covering 1,411 sq km.
Established as a wildlife sanctuary in 2008 it was upgraded to tiger reserve in 2013. It forms an important linkage between the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
The most conspicuous mammal species in the sanctuary is wild elephant. Sathyamangalam and BRT Wildlife Sanctuary are adjacent to each other. If you are visiting one, plan to visit the other sanctuary also.
Sambar deer, spotted deer, wild boar and several types of birds are commonly seen species in the sanctuary.
You can book a safari online through Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve website. The morning safari starts at 7 am and evening safari at 3 pm.
How To Reach Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is well linked by road from nearby cities such as Coimbatore (80 km) and Bangalore (225 km).
Chamarajanagar (40 km) is the nearest railway station. The other nearest railheads are in Coimbatore (80 km) and Coonoor (87 km). From there, hire a taxi to reach the sanctuary.
By flight, you can reach up to Coimbatore or Bangalore and cover the rest of the distance by cab.
10. Periyar National Park
Sitting amid the lofty Cardamom Hills along the Western Ghats near Thekkady in Kerala, Periyar national park is famous as a tiger reserve and elephant reserve.
Spread over 305 sq km (core area), the park lies in four districts of Kerala – Idukki, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta.
In 1934 it was founded as Nellikkampetti Game Reserve by the royals of Travancore kingdom. It became a wildlife sanctuary in 1950 and later upgraded as a national park in 1982.
The park is popularly called as Thekkady. The name Thekkady derives from thekku (teak trees) while Periyar is named after the Periyar river. The park surrounds the Periyar reservoir (lake) which is a source of water for wildlife in the park.
A lot of animals visit the hills around the lake to find food. You have the best chances of sighting wildlife during a boat ride in the lake.
Tiger sightings in this park are not frequent but it’s worth visiting if you are interested in sighting herds of wild elephants in India.
Periyar lake boat safari can be booked at the park main entrance or online through the KTDC boating portal. Boating timings are from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm and duration is 1.5 hours.
If you want to know about the top 20 major and stunning lakes in India, check this post.
How To Reach Periyar National Park
Madurai airport (140 km) and Kochi airport (200 km) are the two nearest airports. By train, Kottayam (114 km) is the closest railhead to reach Periyar.
It is easily accessible by road from all nearby towns and cities, such as Kumily, Kottayam, Madurai and Ernakulam.
11. Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary
About 100 km away from Bangalore, on the banks of river Cauvery lies the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
The sanctuary was established in 1987 covering 1027 sq km forest area, spread across Mandya, Chamarajanagar and Ramanagara districts of Karnataka.
It is home to several endangered and India’s endemic wild species. This sanctuary is considered as one of the last refuges of the highly endangered Grizzled Giant Squirrel in Karnataka.
The sanctuary is fed by the Cauvery river which is the prominent source of water for wild animals. Riverine forests of the sanctuary serve as an excellent habitat for herbivores, such as elephant, antelope and deer.
In the southern part of the country, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary is counted amongst one of the best forests for sighting Asian elephants in India.
Those who love bird watching should also visit the sanctuary. It is listed as an ‘Important Bird Area’ by BirdLife International.
Safari booking in advance is not required. You can buy a safari ticket at the entrance gate.
How To Reach Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is easily accessible from Bangalore (105 km) and Mysore (90 km) by road. It is almost 2.5 hours drive from Bangalore and 2 hours drive from Mysore.
The nearest domestic airport is in Mysore with limited flight options. Bangalore airport is the nearest major domestic and international airport.
By train, you can reach up to Mysore or Bangalore and rent a cab to reach the sanctuary.
12. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Abutting the protected areas of Nagarhole, Bandipur (Karnataka) and Mudumalai (Tamil Nadu), Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary forms a significant part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
The sanctuary was formed in 1973 and became a part of Project Elephant in 1991-92 to protect the wild elephant population.
Other than tigers and elephants, Wayanad forest is home to many endangered wildlife species such as sloth bear and panther.
The sanctuary is blessed with a sizable population of elephants that makes it one of the most popular wildlife reserves for spotting tuskers and herds of wild elephants in India.
Spread over 344 sq km, there are two are the two entry points into the sanctuary – Muthanga range and Tholpetty range. Tholpetty Wildlife Range constitutes the northern section of the sanctuary.
Muthanga Wildlife Range constitutes the southern section of the sanctuary and is popularly known as Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary.
Jeep safari tickets can be booked at either of the entrances. Reach at least 1 hour in advance at the ticket counter to secure a seat in the safari.
You can go for night safari also in the buffer area of the park which is mostly along the road. Check with your hotel or resort for arranging night safari.
How To Reach Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Both Muthanga range and Tholpetty range are accessible by road from the nearby cities such as Mysore (100 km), Kozhikode (112 km) and Bangalore (247).
The closest railheads are in Mysore and Kozhikode. The nearest domestic and international airport is located in Kozhikode. Take a taxi from Kozhikode to reach the sanctuary.
13. Kaziranga National Park
A paradise for wildlife lovers, Kaziranga National Park is famous for its most conspicuous mammal species – one horn rhino.
Amongst the other major forms of wildlife, Asian elephant is one of the ‘Big Five’ of Kaziranga.
You know the two by now. 🙂 The other three are Royal Bengal Tiger, wild water buffalo and swamp deer.
Kaziranga is a popular wildlife destination for seeing elephants in India as it harbours a large breeding population of Asian elephants.
Sprawling 430 sq km, Kaziranga lies in Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam. It was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006.
How To Reach Kaziranga National Park
Jorhat airport is the closest domestic airport with limited flight options from Guwahati and Kolkata.
The nearest international airport is in Guwahati (209 km). It is almost 4.5 hours’ drive from Guwahati to Kaziranga.
Furkating Railway Station (75 km) is the nearest railhead and the other major railhead is located in Guwahati (213 km).
14. Balpakram National Park
Cut off from the tourist circuit, Balphakram National Park lies on the western side of Meghalaya in South Garo Hills district. The pristine forests of Balphakram harbours a healthy population of Asian elephants.
Spread across 220 sq km, the park also supports many other kinds of wildlife including tiger, bear, wild water buffalo and rare birds. Balphakram forest is amongst one of the few wildlife places to sight red pandas in India.
Since the park is not much touristy only the bare minimum facilities are available around the area. Hire a cab in Baghmara (24 km) to reach the park. You can drive deep inside the park if it has not rained.
How To Reach Balpakram National Park
The nearest airport and railhead are located in Guwahati (220 km). From there it is little over 8 hours drive via Tura to the park.
Buses also ply from Guwahati to Baghmara, which is the nearest town to the park.
15. Simlipal National Park
A part of Similipal-Hadgarh-Kuldiha (Mayurbhanj) Elephant Reserve, Simlipal National Park is spread over vast area of 2750 sq km.
The most striking feature of the national park is its diversified landscape encompassing rugged hills, gushing waterfalls, lush green Sal forests and mosaics of grasslands.
Established as a national park in 1980, UNESCO added Simlipal forest to the list of biosphere reserves in 2009
You can see three beautiful waterfalls inside the park namely Joranda, Sitakund and Barehipani, one of the highest waterfalls in India. The reserve forest is fed by several rivers, like Budhabalanga, Khairi, Palpala and Salandi.
The rich vegetation and riverine system of the park provide an excellent habitat to elephants. Simlipal is one of the most coveted wildlife reserve for sighting elephants in India.
You can obtain forest visit permit from Jashipur / Pithabata tourist counter. Vehicles can enter through Kaliani gate and Pithabata gate. There are multiple routes for tourist vehicles covering different lengths inside the forest.
How To Reach Simlipal National Park
Bhubaneshwar Airport (200 km) is the nearest major airport. From there, it is almost 5 hours drive to the park.
The nearest railway station is in Balasore, located 106 km away from the park. Simlipal is well-connected by road from nearby cities like Sambalpur, Rourkela and Kolkata.
Points to Note
If you are planning to visit a wildlife reserve for sighting tuskers or herds of wild elephants in India, here are some golden rules. 🙂
- All sightings in a forest are by chance and no sighting is guaranteed.
- Plan multiple safari visits depending on the spare time you have.
- Go for night safari in the buffer zone wherever allowed
- Enjoy seeing all forms of wildlife in the forest including birds, butterflies, reptiles and other wild animals.
Did you Know?
- Asian elephants are endangered in India since 1986.
- India has created 32 Elephant Reserves since the launch of Project Elephant in 1992, to protect the wild elephant population.
- After Karnataka (6,049), Assam (5,719) has the second-highest elephant population followed by Kerala (3,054).
Over To You Now…
Sighting herds of wild elephants in India is an experience that all wildlife enthusiasts long for. Have you visited some of these wildlife destinations? Share your experiences with us in the comment section below.
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