The state of Karnataka in India is home to the breath-taking Nagarhole National Park, recently renamed and commonly known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park. It is made particularly beautiful by its abundance of dense forests, thundering waterfalls, deep valleys and surging streams; truly paradisiacal conditions within the heart of the subcontinent. Nagarhole presents over 640 square kilometres of pristine habitat, which extends across both the Mysore and Kodagu districts, just above the famous Bandipur National Park. For conservation purposes, the Nagarhole, Bandipur, Madumalai and Wayanad national parks are combined to form the largest protected area in all of South India (with a combined area of 2183 square kilometres).

The Nagarhole National Park was established in 1955, after being the prime hunting grounds for the Mysore Maharajas in centuries past. These royals ensured that they killed huge numbers of tigers, elephants, leopards and other valuable creatures as a status sport. This led to the major depletion of the wildlife population numbers. Fortunately, through committed conservation efforts, these numbers have been rehabilitated. In 1975, the park was extended to include more forested areas. This park is known today for its top-notch management systems; an essential key to the successful running of such an essential initiative.

The Nagarhole National Park is abundant in forests, comprising mainly 1) Moist Mixed Deciduous Forests, 2) Dry Tropical Forests and 3) Sub-mountain Hill Valley Swamp Forests. These provide the ideal habitat for the Bengal Tiger, Asian Elephant, bison and leopard to roam, and visitors will be impressed by the sheer number of these animals. Other fascinating residents include the Gaur, Wild Dog, Sloth Bear, Sambar, Gray Langur, Chital, Four-horned Antelope, Lion-
Image of The Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor)
The Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor)
tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Tahr and Nilgiri Langur. It has particularly large populations of elephant and bison, making for plenty of sightings during safaris. To spot these animals within their natural environment is a very special experience, one that is not soon forgotten. The swampy areas and streams also ensure an abundance of birdlife. In fact, approximately 250 different species have been discovered to date. The jungles are ideal places to spot the iridescent wings of countless butterfly species, while swamps are home to Marsh Crocodiles and toads.

Nagarhole enjoys a sub-tropical climate, meaning that summers are hot (over 30 degrees Celsius) while winter days are pleasant with chilly evenings. It also implies humidity and moisture. The rainy season extends from June to September, during which time the park is closed as accessibility and visibility are severely negotiated by the heavy showers. This lush environment is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

In addition to its sheer aesthetic beauty and its abundance of plant- and animal life, Nagarhole National Park is also accessible and within close proximity to various large towns and cities. Madikere and Mysore are both less than 100 kilometres away, while the Bangalore Airport is only 220 kilometres from the park. There are accommodation facilities available in and around Nagarhole. Tourists are advised to visit between October and May, the most abundant months being April and May.

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