10 Best Wildlife Sanctuaries in India

From east to west, north to south, Indian forests are superabundant in wildlife. With more than 500 wildlife sanctuaries and 104 national parks to its bounty, India is a paradise for wildlife explorers. The diversity and richness of flora and fauna in this South Asian country attract millions of tourists every year. Here is a rundown of the 10 best wildlife sanctuaries in India.

A Quick Glance Through

  1. Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary
  2. Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary
  3. Gir Wildlife Sanctuary
  4. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
  5. Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary
  6. Little Rann of Kutch – Wildlife Sanctuary
  7. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
  8. Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary
  9. Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary
  10. Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

1. Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary

Nilgai at Rann of Kutch
A Group of Nilgai (Source)

Situated in the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the largest seasonal saline wetlands in India. It turns into a saline desert after the rainy season.

The sanctuary is spread across an area of 7506 sq km and is home to a wide variety of water birds and mammals like chinkara, fox, hyena, nilgai and caracal.

With the excavation of buried city Dholavira of Harappan civilization, this place holds enormous historical significance and attracts archaeologists from all over the world.

Flamingo city, nestled in the mudflats of Rann of Kutch, is a major attraction here. You can see many other species of resident and migratory birds in the sanctuary, including houbara bustards and raptors.

Flamingos
Flamingos

Winter is the best season to visit this sanctuary as the weather is usually hot and humid here.

Plan your visit during Rann Utsav if you want to add extra fun to your holiday experience. It is one of the most unique festivals of Gujarat held every year in the month of December.

How To Reach Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary

Bhuj (110 km) houses the nearest airport. The second nearest airport is in Ahmedabad, nearly 320 km from the sanctuary.

The nearest railhead is also in Bhuj, which is well connected to the major cities in the country. Regular buses ply from Ahmedabad and Bhuj to Rapar, the closest bus stand to the sanctuary.

2. Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary

Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary
Entrance of Srisailam Tiger Reserve (Source)

Spread over three districts of Andhra Pradesh – Kurnool, Prakasam, Guntur and two districts of Telangana – Nalgonda and Mahbubnagar, Srisailam wildlife sanctuary is the largest tiger reserve forest in India spanning across an area of 3568 sq km.

Recognized by the Project Tiger in the year 1983, this reserve forest has been renamed as the Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary in the year 1992.

The sanctuary offers breathtaking landscapes replete with lofty hills, perennial rivers, deep valleys and gorges and is amongst one of the most popular wildlife sanctuaries in India

It provides shelter to a plethora of wildlife, including several species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Blackbuck
Blackbuck

The main mammals found in this sanctuary are Bengal tiger, leopard, Indian pangolin, sambar deer, sloth bear, blackbuck and chinkara.

October to June months are considered the best months to visit this sanctuary. Avoid a trip during the monsoon season.

How To Reach Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary

The nearest domestic and international airport is in Hyderabad approximately 200 km from Srisailam town. From there, you can catch a bus or hire a private taxi to reach the sanctuary which is around 30 km away.

Cumbum is the nearest railway station, located at a distance of 60 km from Srisailam. It enjoys excellent connectivity with cities like Bengaluru and Vijayawada via rail and road.

3. Gir Wildlife Sanctuary

A Pride of Lions in Gir - One of The Best Wildlife Sanctuaries in India
Gir – One of The Best Wildlife Sanctuaries in India

Renowned for its majestic Asiatic lions, Gir forest spreads over an area of 1412 sq km, of which 1154 sq km is protected as a wildlife sanctuary and remaining 258 sq km as a national park.

Gir wildlife sanctuary lies in Talala in Gir Somnath district of Gujarat and is one of the most visited wildlife sanctuaries in India. It boasts of a thriving lion population, that grew from 359 in 2005 to 523 in 2015.

The sanctuary is abound in floral and faunal diversity. More than 2000 distinct species of shrubs, plants, evergreen and semi-evergreen type of trees are present in the sanctuary.

It is also habitat to various species of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. Besides Asiatic lions, you can spot many other carnivorous animals, such as striped hyena, leopard, jungle cat and Indian gray mongoose.

The reptile population in the sanctuary includes mugger crocodile, Indian cobra, python and monitor lizard.

Striped Hyena
Striped Hyena (Source)

The best time to visit Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is from November till March as it is not very hot during the day time. April and May are the best months for viewing a multitude of wildlife and photography.

How To Reach Gir Wildlife Sanctuary

You can reach by a flight till Rajkot, situated at a distance of 156 km from the sanctuary and then cover the rest of the distance by car. Another nearby airport is in Diu which is almost 110 km from Gir.

Junagadh and Veraval are the nearest railway stations for reaching Gir sanctuary and are well connected to other major cities of the country. The sanctuary is easily accessible by road from the nearby cities – Junagadh (55 km), Rajkot (156 km) and Ahmedabad (348 km).

4. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary - One of The Best Wildlife Sanctuaries in India
Stunning Landscape of The Sanctuary

Nestled in the Cardamom Hills and Pandalam Hills of the southern Western Ghats, the sanctuary packs an assortment of rare and endemic species of flora and fauna.

It is spread over an area of 925 sq km across Idukki, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts in Kerala.

The flora of the sanctuary comprises tropical evergreen and moist deciduous forests, grasslands and a wide variety of flowering plants. 

The protected forest area is known as an important tiger and elephant reserve. Periyar forest is popular for sighting herds of wild elephants in India.

You might spot extremely rare white tigers here. Commonly spotted mammals are elephant, sambar deer, Indian bison, jungle cat and Nilgiri langur.

Nilgiri Langur (Source)

It is one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in India for bird watching. There are around 266 avifaunal species in this forest. Explore to sight birds like, Malabar grey hornbill, blue-winged parakeet, Nilgiri flycatcher and eagle owl.

You may also like: 15 Most Beautiful Birds in India

A wide variety of reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects are also found here. The best season to visit Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is from October to June.

How To Reach Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Madurai (140 km) is the nearest city reachable by flight and Kochi airport (200 km) is the second nearest airport to the sanctuary.

The nearest railway station lies in Kottayam (114 km). Kumily situated at a distance of 4 km is the nearest town to the sanctuary. Regular bus services are available from Madurai, Ernakulam and Kottayam to Kumily.

5. Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary

Koyna Dam
Koyna Dam in The Sanctuary (Source)

A UNESCO world heritage site, Koyna wildlife sanctuary is surrounded by Shivsagar lake on one side and the slopes of the Western Ghat on the other side. It forms the northern part of Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and is located in Satara district of Maharashtra.

Spanning 423 sq km, the sanctuary offers mesmerizing landscapes and many distinct species of flora and fauna.

With the rivers Koyna, Solashi and Kandati passing through the sanctuary, it boasts of immensely rich vegetation and provides an ideal environment for wildlife to thrive.

You can spot mammals, like leopard, Bengal tiger, Indian bison, sambar deer, Indian giant squirrel and common gray langur in the sanctuary.

Indian Giant Squirrel
Indian Giant Squirrel

It is also home to several species of birds including rufous woodpecker, Asian fairy bluebird and crested goshawk.

An endemic frog Bufo koyanansis has its only habitat in this forest. Spectacled cobra and large Indian pythons are also found in this sanctuary. Without any doubt, it is one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in India to include in your bucket list.

How To Reach Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary

Pune airport is the nearest airport situated at a distance of 167 km from the sanctuary. The other nearest airport is in Mumbai, 265 km away. The nearest railhead is in Kolhapur at a distance of 65 km from the sanctuary.

6. Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary

Wild Ass
A Small Herd of Wild Asses

One of the last places on earth to spot the endangered wild ass, it is known as Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary. This is situated in the saline desert of Little Rann of Kutch, sparsely populated with vegetation.

You may also like: 7 Most Fascinating Deserts in India You Need To See.

The Little Rann boasts an extremely strange and unusual terrain that is barren but teeming with wildlife. Encompassing an area of 4,954 sq km, it features amongst the largest 5 wildlife sanctuaries in India.

The sanctuary provides shelter to some of the rarest forms of wildlife including caracal, desert fox, dalmatian pelican, and lesser flamingo.

Pelican bird
Pelican Bird

It attracts many migratory birds like houbara bustard, dalmatian pelican, hawk, harrier and falcon.

The sanctuary gets filled with shallow fresh water during rains offering vast breeding ground to several kinds of fish, molluscs and the famous Kachchh prawns. The best season to visit the sanctuary is after monsoons till winters last.

How To Reach Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary

The two nearest airports are located in Ahmedabad (105 km) and Rajkot (140 km). The closest railway stations is in Dhrangadhra at a distance of about 22 km. Other nearest railway stations are Ahmedabad (100 km) and Rajkot (140 km).

There are regular buses from Ahmedabad and Rajkot which will drop you to Dhrangadhra bus stand, around 16 km away from the sanctuary.

7. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary - One of The Best Wildlife Sanctuaries in India
Known For Its Plentiful Wildlife (Source)

Bordering the protected forest area of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka in the northeast and Mudumalai of Tamilnadu on the southeast, Wayanad wildlife sanctuary abounds in wildlife and biodiversity.

Extending over 345 sq km forest area in the four ranges namely Sulthan Bathery, Muthanga, Kurichiat and Tholpetty, this sanctuary is an integral part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

It is the second-largest wildlife sanctuary in Kerala after the Periyar wildlife sanctuary.

The flora in the sanctuary comprises of a mix of moist deciduous forest with plantations like rosewood, venteak, bamboos and semi-evergreen forests. 

Some of the common mammals found in the park are elephant, Bengal tiger, wild cat, panther, civet cat, bison, monkeys, wild dogs and deer.

Wild Elephant
Wild Elephant

It is also home to various species of birds like babbler, peacock, owl and woodpecker. The best season to visit the park is after monsoon from the months of October to May.

How To Reach Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

Wayanad doesn’t have an airport. The nearest airport is in Kozhikode around 124 km away from the sanctuary.

The closest railhead is Nilambur Railway Station in Malappuram district of Kerala. It connects to some of the prominent cities in Kerala namely Palakkad, Ernakulam, Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram.

The other major railway station is in Kozhikode 112 km away from the sanctuary and is well-linked with other parts of the country. There are regular buses available from cities like Bengaluru and Mysore to reach Wayanad.

8. Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary

A flock of flamingos in one of the most popular wildlife sanctuaries in India
A Flamboyance of Flamingos

Also known as Nalabana Bird Sanctuary, Nalabana is a major island in the center of Chilika lake in the state of Odisha covering an area of 15.53 sq km.

As one of the most popular wildlife sanctuaries in India for spotting exotic birds, the region attracts thousands of tourists every year.

The sanctuary gets fully submerged during monsoons. With the water level subsiding during winters, plenty of birds flock to the island to feed on its vast mudflats. It is a winter habitat for migratory birds from Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions.

Chilika Sea Mouth
Chilika Sea Mouth (Source)

Chilika lake offers splendid views of the beautiful vistas of the surroundings. So, photographers and nature lovers adore this place.

It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest coastal lagoon in the world. The lagoon supports a unique assemblage of several rare and endangered marine, brackish and freshwater species.

Enjoy spotting many forms of aquatic life in the blue waters of the lake, such as dolphin, red crab and lobster.

The best time to visit the sanctuary is during winters from November to February. This is the time when you can see a wide variety of migratory birds in the sanctuary.

How To Reach Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary

Bhubaneswar airport located at a distance of 120 km is the nearest airport to the sanctuary. The nearest railheads are in Puri and Bhubaneswar. Chilika lake is accessible by road from both the cities.

9. Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary

Black Panther
The Elusive Black Panther

Surrounded by thick forests, deep valleys and steep hills along the Western Ghats, Dandeli wildlife sanctuary is located in the state of Karnataka.

Spanning over an area of 866 sq km, the sanctuary is a part of Anshi Dandeli tiger reserve. It is also an important elephant reserve meant to protect wild elephants.

The Abundance of wildlife in this forest makes it one of the most sought after wildlife sanctuaries in India. The sanctuary is home to the elusive black panther, Indian pangolin, sloth bear and many other mammal species.

It is immensely rich in avifauna with nearly 200 bird species recorded in the sanctuary. You can see birds, like Malabar pied hornbill and great Indian hornbill.

Malabar Pied Hornbill
Malabar Pied Hornbill (Source)

The sanctuary also offers a unique experience of crocodile spotting, which a major attraction here.

The best season to visit Dandeli wildlife sanctuary is from November to May. The ideal time for bird watching is during winters from November to February. Summers are the best time for spotting a plethora of wild animals.

How To Reach Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary

The nearest airport to Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary lies in Hubli at a distance of 78 km. Alnavar is the closest railhead located 32 km away from the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is well connected by road from Dharwad and Alnavar. You can catch a local bus or hire a private taxi to reach the sanctuary.

10. Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

Sea Turtles Hatching on The Beach
Sea Turtles Hatching on The Beach

Extending from Dhamra River mouth in the north to Brahmani river mouth in the south, Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is the largest breeding beach for Olive Ridley Turtles. They travel all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the coast of Gahirmatha to breed.

Spread over an area of 1,435 sq km the sanctuary is part of Gahirmatha beach situated in Kendrapara district of Odisha. 

Enjoy a thrilling boat ride in the serene waters of the river gradually moving into the wide sea. Don’t miss admiring the breathtaking landscapes while you are out exploring nature’s bounty. You can even see the turtles hatching eggs if you visit the beach at night.

An Olive Ridley Turtle laying eggs
An Olive Ridley Turtle Laying Eggs (Source)

How To Reach Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

Bhubaneswar airport (75 km) is the nearest airport to the sanctuary. Bhadrak is the nearest railhead at a distance of 49 km. Hire a taxi or a jeep to Bhitarkanika Forest Reserve and from there rent a boat to reach Gahirmatha.

Over To You Now…

Blessed with plentiful wildlife and biodiversity, Indian forests are a delight for nature and wildlife admirers.

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