There is an unspoken exhilaration involved in exploring wildlife sanctuaries – it’s akin to stepping into an alternate world, an elusive world of the wild. By providing natural habitat to a variety of flora and fauna, some of which are rare and endangered, these wildlife sanctuaries help in maintaining an ecological balance. Maharashtra is home to a total of 41 wildlife sanctuaries Here is the list of 12 best wildlife sanctuaries in Maharashtra.
Bhamragarh Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in the year 1997 and spread over an area of 104.38 sq. kilometer (km), the Bhamragarh Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Bhamragarh town of Chandrapur district in Maharashtra. This sanctuary is home to a variety of animals, namely leopards, wild boar, peacocks, the blue bull and flying squirrel. Covered in lush greenery, the trees that are most commonly found here are the mango and bamboo trees. The area around is sanctuary is inhabited by a few local tribes, mainly the Gonda and Madia tribes. The Bhamragarh sanctuary is particularly famous because of its proximity to cities making it an easily accessible destination.
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve
Apart from Bhamragarh, Chandrapur is also famous for the Tadoba National Park and the Andhari Tiger Reserve. Created in 1955, the national park is one of the oldest, largest and the finest tiger reserves in Maharashtra. Home to the Gond tribe, the main highlight is, as the name suggests, the majestic Bengal Tiger. However, the other animals that can be spotted here are the leopards, gaurs, wild dogs, peacocks, langoors, spotted deer and sambars. The park has a central lake which is inhabited by crocodiles – which are quite incredible to watch while they snap up their prey in the blink of an eye. For nature lovers, Tadoba is the ideal weekend destination in the months from February to May.
Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary
Apart from being one of the twelve “Jyotirlinga” (shrine of Lord Shiva) and a popular trekking destination, Bhimashankar also boasts of a sanctuary created in 1985. Located in the Western Ghats with an area of about 131 sq. km., this sanctuary mainly serves to protect the habitat of the Indian Giant Squirrel (Giant flying squirrel). Also, this sanctuary is home to a wide variety of animals as well birds such as leopards, hyena, the barking deer, black eagle, green pigeon, Malabar grey hornbill, grey jungle fowl and many more. The best time to visit Bhimashankar is in the monsoons since during this time, Bhimashankar becomes alive with greenery and the natural wildlife.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary
Located in Panvel (Raigad district) just outside Mumbai, the Karnala Bird Sanctuary is perhaps the best place for bird watchers/ornithologists. Created in 1968, this sanctuary is quite small with an area of just 12.11 sq. km., however, it serves as the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai. This sanctuary is home to a plethora of winged beauties, part of which are resident species, part are winter migratory birds and some of which are rare. The Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Malabar Parakeet, Paradise Flycatcher, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Magpie Robin and many more such birds can be sighted here. Apart from birds, this sanctuary boasts of an abundant variety of butterflies.
Nagzira WildLife Sanctuary
Located in Eastern Maharashtra, the Nagzira wildlife sanctuary was established in 1970. Home to the Gond tribe, this sanctuary boasts of abundant vegetation and an equally diverse population of mammals, birds, reptiles as well as amphibians. The main highlight of this sanctuary are the big cats – Tigers and Leopards. Apart from them, the other animals that are frequently spotted are the wild dogs and sloth bears. Also, this sanctuary is home to winter migratory birds as well as endangered species of reptiles. Teak and Bamboo trees are predominant in the forests here along with a generous spread of other trees, shrubs and grasslands.
A hill station, a coffee plantation and tigers – that’s Chikhaldhara for the uninitiated! The only coffee-plantation in Maharashtra, this hill station is situated to the north of Amravati in Vidarbha region. In addition to valleys, lakes and waterfalls, Chikaldhara boasts of the Melghat Tiger Project which is home to 82 tigers. This place has an innumerable species of plants and trees due to which the wildlife has flourished here. The other animals that can be seen here are panthers, leopards, sloth bears, Indian gaurs, barking deer, wild dogs, cheetal and sambar. Since it’s a hill station, the best time to visit Chikhaldhara is summer.
Painganga Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in 1986, the Painganga Wildlife Sanctuary, as the name suggests, is surrounded by River Painganga on its three sides. Covering an area of almost 324 sq. km., this sanctuary is located in the Umarkhed Tehsil of Yavatmal district. Exhibiting a diverse variety that is not only limited to animals and birds but also extends to the vegetation, Painganga can be termed as a jungle safari in itself. The animals that can be spotted amongst the dry teak trees here are leopard, black buck, four horned antelope, nilgai, chinkara, fox, porcupine, sambar and jackal. Paingaga is most enjoyable in the months from January to June.
Sagareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary
Created in 1985, the Sagareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is an artificially cultivated and developed forest spread over an area of 10.87 sq. km. Located at the conjunction of three Tehsils of Sangli district, this man-made sanctuary without an all-year round supply of water has most of the wildlife and trees that are “introduced” in this region. Residing amongst the Nilgiri, Neem, Tamarind, Acacia, Khair and Agave trees, are the animals such as sambar, deer, wild boars, fox, wolf, hyena, peacocks and even reptiles such as pythons. The best time to visit this place is from August to February.
Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary
Cradled in the Western Ghats, this natural World Heritage Site was the first declared wildlife sanctuary in Maharashtra. Located in Kolhapur and spread over an area of about 351 sq. km., it is also known as the Dajipur Wildlife Sanctuary. Consisting of tropical evergreen forests, the main highlight of this sanctuary is the Indian Bison (gaur) and hence is also known as the “Bison Sanctuary”. The other animals here include leopard, tiger, Mouse Deer, Barking Deer, Giant Squirrel and wild dogs, in addition to a plethora of birds, reptiles and butterflies. Home to the endangered Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, this sanctuary is also designated as an “Important Bird Area”.
Rehekuri Blackbuck Sanctuary
Situated in Ahmednagar district, this 2.17 sq. km. reserve draws a large number of nature lovers and photography enthusiasts. As the name suggests, this sanctuary is famous for its beautiful blackbucks, however, it also boasts of other myriad species of animals and birds. Consisting of deciduous forests, the other animals that can be seen here are the various other types of antelopes, wolves, Indian fox and chinkaras. For the travelers, this sanctuary has a number of trails, walking through which you can spot the recluse blackbucks with their long spiral horns.
Navegaon National Park
Home to the Navegoan Lake that attracts almost more than half of the avian population – resident as well as migratory – in Maharashtra, is the Navegoan National Park. Situated in the Vidarbha region, this National Park also boasts of a Tiger Reserve along with a rich wildlife that includes leopards, spotted deer, sloth bears, sambar deer, langurs and peacocks. However, the main highlight of this park are the stunning views of the flocks of beautiful migratory birds that arrive at the Navegoan lake every winter. Do not miss the views from the treetop houses as well as the jungle safari which are a must experience in this park.
Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in 1977, the Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over 148.63 sq. km. in the Pandarkawada Tehsil of Yavatmal district in southern Maharashtra. Abundant in vegetation, this sanctuary is also known as a “Green Oasis” as the forests here are the source of timber to the villages around. Home to a wide variety of animals such as the panther, black buck, sambar, wild boar, blue bull, peacock, monkey, wild cats and so on, this place also harbors an equally wide variety of birds and reptiles. The best time to visit Tipeshwar is in the months of April and May.