11 Popular Wildlife Sanctuaries in South India

Every individual has been to a zoo or a circus at least once during their childhood. While being in the zoo/ circus we often wonder about watching the tigers, elephants and all those beautiful animals in their natural habitat. The feeling of watching the wildlife in their natural habitat close to mother nature is once in a lifetime experience. For experiencing the best of the wildlife, a National Park or a Wildlife Sanctuary is that one location which brings along many elements of surprise in your way.

India is one such beautiful land which is a home to some of the best National Park or Wildlife Sanctuaries that attracts even foreign tourist during their peak season. There are many beautiful but not so popular National Parks or Wildlife Sanctuaries that are as beautiful as the very famous Ranthambore National Park or the Corbett National Park.

In this article, we will get to know some of the beautiful and popular wildlife sanctuaries in South India where you can spot a wide variety of species:

Madhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu:

Mudumalai_National_Park_-_Elephant_Family_
A group of elephants at Madhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary | by Kirtishankar075 (CC BY- SA 4.0)

Situated on the north-western side of the Nilgiri Hills, in Nilgiri District, about 150 km north-west of Coimbatore city in Kongu Nadu region of Tamil Nadu. Madhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary boundaries with the states of Karnataka and Kerala. The sanctuary is divided into 5 ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota.

Read more: Everything to Know about Mudumalai National Park and Tiger Reserve

Being an essential part of the Nilgiri Biosphere, the Madhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary acts as a corridor to few another important protected area like Bandipur National Park and Nagarhole National Park and at its west is the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary along the south corner is flourished with Mukurthi National Park and Silent Valley National Park. Covering an area of 321 sq. kilometers it is a home to several endangered and vulnerable species. It’s a home to more than 266 species of birds that includes critically endangered Indian white-rumped vulture and long-billed vulture etc.

Wildlife at Madhumalai: Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, gaur, Indian leopard, sloth bear, wild boar, the red giant flying squirrel etc.
Getting here: Coimbatore railway station ( 116 km) is the nearest junction. Coimbatore (160 km) is the nearest airport.
Best Season to visit Madhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary: October to June

Bandipur National Park, Karnataka:

Sambar_pair_at_Bandipur_National_park
Sambar pair at Bandipur National Park | by Dineshkannambadi (CC BY- SA 4.0)

One of the most popular tiger reserves in India, the Bandipur National Park was once a private hunting ground for the Royal Family of Mysore kingdom. It was established in 1974 in Gundlupet taluq of Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka and it falls under the Nilgiri Biosphere. As it is located about 80 kilometers away from Mysore on the route towards Ooty, hence it is mostly visited by tourists of Mysore and Ooty trip.

Spotting one or more tiger in a short span along with a lot of peacocks at Bandipur is the reason it is attracting more and more tourist with each passing years. More than 300 bird species have been recorded in the park which includes some rare species like Malabar Grey Hornbill and the Blue Winged Parakeet.

Wildlife at Bandipur: Tigers, elephants, sloth bear, chitals, sambar, flying squirrels, Indian python, cobra, peacock.
Getting here: Mysore (80 km) is the closest railway station. The closest airport is Bengaluru (260km).
Best time to visit Bandipur National Park: November to June

Periyar National Park, Kerala:

Gaur_(Indian_Bison)_at_Periyar_National_Park_&_Wildlife_Sanctuary
Indian Bison at Periyar National Park | by Anand2202 (CC BY- SA 4.0)

The Periyar National Park is located at about 110 km west of Madurai city and 120 km southeast of Kochi, Kerala. This national park is known for its scenic beauty and a large number of Asian elephants. It is located in the Cardamom Hill range that encompasses the Periyar and the Pamba rivers which flows through the park and are known to have many endangered species of plants across their banks. The 925 sq. kilometers area of Periyar National Park is an ideal home for many endangered and endemic species of flora, mammals, reptiles, fishes, amphibians, and birds.

Read more: Things to Do in Thekkady: 7 Eco Tourism Programmes in Periyar Tiger Reserve

Wildlife at Periyar National Park: Elephants, Tiger, Sambars, Gaur, Leopard, Wild dog, Barking deer, Mouse deer, Monitor lizards, and a variety of birds and reptile species.
Getting here: Cochin international airport ( 190 km ) is the nearest airport. Kottayam (114 km) is the nearest railway station.
Best time to visit Periyar National Park: October to March

Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka:

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Tiger at Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary | by Yathin S Krishnappa (CC BY- SA 3.0)

Another important part of Nilgiri Biosphere is the Nagarhole National Park which is located in Kodagu and Mysore  District of Karnataka. The Nagarhole forest was another private hunting ground for the Royal Family of Mysore kingdom which was later declared as a Tiger Reserve. The park has rich forest cover, small streams, hills, valleys, and waterfalls. The Kabini River that flows around the park act as a border between the Nagarhole and Bandipur National Park.

The Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the banks of Kabini River and is known to be dominated by a large number of elephants. It is a part of Nagarhole National Park and one can easily witness a duel between the tusker near the Kabini River.

Wildlife at Nagarhole: : Elephants, Tiger, leopard, panther, sambhar, monkeys, bison, sloth bear, spotted deer, cheetal, antelope, crocodile, panther and 250 species of birds.
Getting here: Mandakalli Airport ( 98 km ) is the nearest airport. Mysore (96 km) is the nearest railway station.
Best time to visit Nagarhole National Park: October to May

Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka :

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Tiger at Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary | by Girish.hc2016 (CC BY- SA 4.0)

 The Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area and it was declared as the 25th Project Tiger of India in 1998. The sanctuary has been named after the Bhadra river that flows through the dense forest. The Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary is dominated by Asian Elephants, Guar, Sambar along with the Royal Bengal Tigers.

The moist and dry deciduous forest of Bhadra consists of more than 120 species of trees, which include Teak, Rosewood, Mathi, Honne, Nandi, Tadasalu and Kindal. One can also spot a huge range of exotic butterflies here, which include blue pansy butterfly, yamfly, baronet, crimson rose, southern birdwing, tailed jay, great orange tip, bamboo treebrown.

Wildlife at Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary: Tiger, leopard, wild dog, jackal, elephant, gaur, sloth bear, sambar, and spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, wild boar, common langur, bonnet macaque, slender loris and the Malabar giant squirrel and more than 250 species of birds.
Getting here: Mangalore Airport ( 185 km ) is the nearest airport. Kadur (40 km) is the nearest railway station.
Best time to visit Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary: October to February

Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka:

Hornbill_at_Dandeli_Wildlife_sanctuary
Two great Hornbill at Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary | by Namratha Aroor (CC BY- SA 4.0)

Lush green valleys, overflowing rivers and rolling hills along with Indian sloth bear here and there, the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is another hidden treasure in Karnataka. Dandeli covers an area of 866.41 sq. kilometers and is known to be the only Tiger Reserve in India where one can spot elusive black panther very frequently. The dense deciduous trees at Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary interspersed with bamboo and teak plantations gives you an amazing view of Mother Nature.

It is also a heaven for birdwatchers with more than 200 species of birds which includes the great hornbill and the Malabar pied hornbill. Famous heritage attractions like the Kavala Caves and Syntheri Rocks are also the park of this beautiful wildlife sanctuary. One can also take out a day trip from Goa which is located just 150 Kilometres away from Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary.

Wildlife at Dandeli: black panther, sloth bear, tigers, elephants, wild pigs, wild dogs, monkeys, deer and mongoose, flying squirrels, deer, great hornbill, crocodiles.
Getting here: Hubli (75km) is the closest airport. Londa (48km) and Alnavar (32km) are the closest railway stations.
Best time to visit Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary: October to May

Bannerghatta National Park, Karnataka:

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White Tigers at Bannerghatta National Park | by Amol.Gaitonde (CC BY- SA 3.0)

Established in 1974, the Bannerghatta National park is situated in the hills of the Anekal range of Karnataka. This national park is a unique combination of safari zone and zoo. Bannerghatta is spread over an area of 260.51 sq. kilometers and very much known for having a fair number of rare White Tigers and aggressive lions. Apart from zoo and safari zone, the park also contains a pet corner, an animal rescue center, a butterfly enclosure, an aquarium, and a snake house.

It is also a popular destination for trekking and hiking hence attract a huge number of skilled trekkers throughout the year. Bannerghatta acts as a corridor for the elephants migrating from the Eastern Ghats to the Western Ghats, hence it is widely loved by professional photographers. On can also easily spot animals near the Suvarnamukhi stream which flows through the park.

Wildlife at Bannerghatta National Park: lephants, gaur, leopard, jackal, fox, sloth bear, Indian gazelle, spotted deer, barking deer, common langur, bonnet macaque, porcupine, hare, wild boar, pangolin, Asiatic lion, Royal Bengal tiger, 100 species of birds etc.
Getting here: Kempegowda International Airport  (22 km) is the closest airport. Bangalore City Junction (40 km) the closest railway stations.s.
Best time to visit Bannerghatta National Park: September to January

Mathikettan Shola National Park:

Anaimudi_and_Pampadam_Shola_National_Park_of_Nilgiri_Hills,_Kerala
Pambadum Shola National Park | by Ravi Varghese (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Established in 2003, the Mathikettan Shola National Park is located near the queen of hills, Munnar in the state of Kerala. Even though the national park is spread over an area of 12.82 sq. kilometers, which is very small as compared to standard national parks, yet it is home to a few beautiful and rare animals. It is another a very important elephant corridor in south India.

Trekking is a popular activity in Mathikettan Shola as the trails that run through the forests providing amazing views of the region, along with spotting wild animals in their natural habitat and bird watching.  A part of the land is also known for best quality Cardamom cultivation. Also, varied species of medical herbs and plants are found in the Mathikettan Shola National Park. The park also contains a huge variety of snakes, so do not forget to put long fully covered footwear while walking through the National Park.

Wildlife at Mathikettan Shola Park: tigers, panthers, wild elephants, giant grizzled squirrel, flying squirrels, spotted deer, Nilgiri tahrs, cobras, pythons, vipers and rat snakes, turtles, crocodiles, and lizards.
Getting here: Cochin International Airport (140 km ) is the nearest airport. Theni railway station ( 55 km ) is the nearest railway station.
Best time to visit Mathikettan Shola National Park: November to March

Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala:

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Peacock at Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary | by N. A. Naseer, ((CC BY-SA 2.5 IN)

The Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary is seated on the junction of Nelliampathy – Annamalai landscape of the Southern Western Ghats in Kerala. Abundance in wildlife, refreshing weather and dense forest makes it one of the most popular wildlife sanctuaries in the Southern Western Ghats. The overall area of this piece of land has been declared as a protected area. It was declared as Tiger Reserve during 2009 with a total area of 643.66 sq. Km, which includes a core area of 390.89 sq. kilometers and 252.77 sq. Km Buffer area.

Read more: Parambikulam Forest Stay & Trekking Packages provided by Kerala Forest Department

Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary is popular for various ecotourism activities, wildlife safaris, and trekking. 268 bird species have been recorded in the sanctuary. Among which, 134 species of birds are listed as rare and 18 species are endemic to the Western Ghats. Some of the birds are the lesser adjutant stork, grey-headed fish-eagle Peninsular bay owl, broad-billed roller and great pied hornbill etc.

Wildlife at Parambikulam:: lion-tailed macaques, Nilgiri tahr, elephants, Bengal tigers, Indian leopards, wild boar, sambar, bonnet macaques, Nilgiri langurs, sloth bears, Nilgiri marten small Travancore flying squirrel, peacock, and gaur.
Getting here: Coimbatore airport (55 km) is the nearest airport. Palakkad railway station (80 km) is the nearest railway station.
Best time to visit Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary: August to January

Eravikulam National Park, Kerala:

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Nilgiri Tahr at Eravikulam National Park | by Asheen Anoop (CC BY- SA 4.0)

The very famous Eravikulam National Park is the first National Park established in Kerala and has gained the status of UNESCO World Heritage site. The Eravikulam National Park is best known for Nilgiri Tahr which is an endangered species. A huge number of colorful butterflies (some are of a rare kind) can also be found in Eravikulam National Park.

The Neelakurunji flower found in Eravikulam National Park makes it unique among all the national parks in South India. Neelakurunji is a blue colored kurunji flower, which blooms once in 12 years and during summer the land is beautifully carpeted with this blue colored flower.

Wildlife at Eravikulam: Nilgiri Tahr, lion-tailed macaques, gaur, Indian muntjac and sambar deer. Golden jackal, jungle cat, wild dog, dhole, leopard and tiger, elephant, squirrel, 132 species of bird, butterfly etc.
Getting here: Kochi Airport (148 km) is the nearest airport. Alwaye (120 km) is the nearest railway station.
Best time to visit Eravikulam National Park: September to December (1st week) and April to June end

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala :

Sambar_herd_in_vayal_Muthanga_Range_Wayanan Sanctuary
Sambar_herd_in_vayal_Muthanga_Range_Wayanan Sanctuary

Spread over 344.44 sq. kilometers of area, the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is divided into four ranges namely Sulthan Bathery, Muthanga, Kurichiat, and Tholpetty. With lush green dense forest and rich wildlife, the Wayanad is the second largest Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala. As it is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere hence it also shares its border with Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka in the northeast, and with Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu on the southeast.

Read more: Eco-Tourism Activities at Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

The moist Deciduous forests, West coast semi-evergreen forests and plantations of teak, eucalyptus and Grewelia makes it an ideal habitat for wild animals. The Muthanga range is dominated by elephants. As the wildlife sanctuary comes under Protect Elephant, hence one can spot the herd of elephants roaming in the area on a frequent basis along with peacocks.  You can also spot some rare species of butterflies during your way through.

Wildlife at Wayanad Sanctuary: elephant, tigers, bison, panthers, barking deer, bee-eaters, hornbill, woodpeckers.
Getting here: Kozhikode (100km), in Kerala, is the nearest railway station as well as the airport.
Best time to visit Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary: October to February

 

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