Maharashtra is home to bewitching biodiversity owing to its varied climate and topography. All these elements of nature come together beautifully to form the jungles of Maharashtra. The fact that the state receives regular downpour also helps in maintaining the flora and fauna of the region. That’s why you can explore some of the largest eco-hotspots, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in and around the state – a delight especially to wildlife aficionados from different corners of the globe. By Team T+L
1. Melghat Wildlife Sanctuary
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Melghat Wildlife Sanctuary is located where Maharashtra meets Madhya Pradesh in the Satpura mountain ranges. And the interesting undulating landscape is what makes Melghat so special. Though this makes sighting of glamorous animals a little difficult as compared to the flatter forests, you will be blessed with a great jungle experience. Whether it’s taking picture-perfect photographs of the Sipna river beautifully weaving its way through the dry deciduous forests, or taking a walk with the Korku adivasi as he catches fish, you will end up collecting many stories to tell after your visit here. Among the wildlife, you can spot tigers, leopards and the endearing sloth bears. There are a huge variety of birds that you can spot here as well such as the Indian pitta, crested serpent eagles, crested hawk eagles and the racket-tailed drongo. You could combine your trip to Melghat with a visit to the beautiful hill station of Chikhaldara, where you can trek to the imposing Gavilgad Fort and reach some spectacular waterfalls.
2. Rehekuri Wildlife Sanctuary
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If you wish to see black-bucks in Maharashtra, you can find them at Rehekuri Wildlife Sanctuary; a deciduous scrub forest that also offers interesting exploration trails. This is especially a great park for a nature enthusiast, with an incredible variety of flora and fauna. You can spot wildlife such as chinkaras, wolves, and the Indian fox but it’s the most fun spotting the elusive black-buck from behind a tree, when they’re out to graze on the grassland territory. Earlier, in the 1980s, the park was home to about 15 to 20 black-bucks, but the numbers have steadily increased to more than 300 as of today. In Maharashtra, the black-buck is referred to as ‘kalvit’ and the male black-buck easily stands out from among a group of antelopes for its long spiral horns, which it uses to impress the females.
3. Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve
Tadoba is arguably one of India’s finest tiger reserves. The success of protection and conservation mechanism of the tigers over the years have led to an increase close to the optimal holding capacity; which is indicative of the fact that there’s a healthy balance of the herbivore population as well as the flora. The best way to explore this park is on an open gypsy vehicle. To spot most birds, you can wait by the lakeside where the eagles, buzzards and falcons fly down to take a sip of water. Of course look out for the tiger – but also enjoy the sight of the heavyweight Indian gaur, sambars and spotted deer or even the langoors. Another member of the Tadoba that you must observe are the crocodiles in the central lake; their stealthy movements underwater making for an interesting experience that will stay will you long after.
4. Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary
Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary (also known as Dajipur Sanctuary) in Kolhapur offers a great experience of sighting wild animals in their natural habitat and some fantastic variety of flora that adds colour to the surrounds. Nestled in a hotspot of biodiversity – the Western Ghats – its aesthetic and recreational values attract a large number of wildlife enthusiasts from all across the globe. The Indian Bison is the flagship species of this sanctuary; but other notable fauna include the tiger, leopard, sloth bear, giant squirrel, mouse deer and barking deer. Numerous streams, perennial and seasonal, flow through the park, making the surrounding forests a conducive habitat for animals, birds, insects and reptiles. The sanctuary is also a favourite among trekkers; the single road traversing from Dajipur to Savarai Sada takes the trekker across a section of the region’s lovely landscapes, enabling him/her to appreciate the ecological significance of the area and its natural beauty.
5. Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary
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Nagzira is located on the eastern part of Maharashtra, right on its border with Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Comprising of some of the last remaining pristine forests of India, Nagzira has an excellent habitat that supports a strong wildlife population including the charismatic tiger. They also have simple accommodation located on the banks of the central lake, where a motivated traveller often finds himself/herself. In the absence of electric supply, basic lighting is provided by solar energy, which also means the place is home to absolute quiet, so if you are thinking of a great wildlife vacation, you should really consider Nagzira.
It is a birder’s delight as well — with a number of birds flocking to the lake side especially in the afternoons. You will spot eagles, orioles, drongo, ground thrush, and the grey-headed fish eagle among many others. Among the mammals, there’s a strong herbivore population of spotted deer, sambar deer and gaur. Tigers and leopards too are frequently spotted – but the main appeal of this forest is when the alarmed call of the deer, langur and peacock tells us that a predator is on the prowl. Other wildlife to watch out for is the wild-dogs that are mostly seen in large groups and sloth bears that are generally seen roaming the forests alone or the females in the company of their cubs.