Karnataka may be well known for its thriving cities, its
unspoiled beach towns, and its architectural landmarks, but India's
seventh largest state is also a nature lover's dream.
Located between Kerala and Goa along the coast of the Arabian
Sea, Karnataka is home to huge stretches of lush jungle, hidden
waterfalls, historic nature preserves and plenty of wildlife.
Asiatic elephants, tigers, and leopards are all native to the
region, in addition to hundreds of other species of flora and
fauna. Whether you're looking to go for a longer journey or want to
retreat back to nature after discovering Bangalore and the state's
other buzzing urban centres, these wildlife sanctuaries in
Karnataka offer some memorable explorations.
The stunning Western Ghats are
one of the richest areas for biodiversity in the world © naveen0301/iStock/Thinkstock
Karnataka comprises a huge swath of the Western Ghats: an
ancient mountain range that stretches along the subcontinent's
western coast. A UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the Western Ghats
are also known as a biological hotspot, and host one of the most
diverse ecosystems in the world. It's no wonder, then, that the
region offers incredible wildlife spotting opportunities.
Rajiv Gandhi National Park (also
known as Nagarhole National Park) is home to the world's largest
tribe of Asiatic elephants © Venkatesh Murthy/iStock/Thinkstock
One of the best wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka is Rajiv
Gandhi National Park (also known as Nagarhole National Park).
Comprising over 600 square kilometres, the park is home to the
world's largest herd of Asiatic elephants, and is bisected by the
winding 'Snake River,' which gives it its name. Others among the
hundreds of species that call the region home are leopards, wild
dogs, tigers, bison, otters, lizards, and more. Jungle safaris are
available to take small groups of travellers through the dense
Travellers can go tiger-spotting
in Bandipur National Park © Ram0208/iStock/Thinkstock
Adjacent to the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, and just as
essential for visitors to the area, is Bandipur National Park. The
region has long been full of wildlife, though it wasn't always
protected: in fact, Bandipur National Park began as hunting grounds
of the local Maharajas. These days, the park, just 90 km south of
Mysore, is a sanctuary for animals of all stripes, including Bengal
tigers, which visitors can attempt to spot on local safaris.
The Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
can be explored on expert-led boating tours © Sharada Prasad CS
Beyond these two, Karnataka has no shortage of other nature
escapes that showcase its biodiversity. The Ranganathittu Bird
Sanctuary comprises a cluster of small islands that are home to
herons, kingfishers, ibises, and more: the park is explored on
expert-led boating tours. The Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary,
meanwhile, is an opportunity to spot the elusive bears, in addition
to porcupines, boars, and a number of other species.
After time spent trekking through forests and undergrowth,
craning to spot wild animals, travellers can head to a resort that
offers luxury in an all-natural setting. The district of Coorg in
southwestern Karnataka hugs the Western Ghats, and hosts a number
of high-end retreats. Orange County accommodates guests in private
villas couched in the midst of fragrant coffee and spice
plantations, while the on-site Ayurveda Village completes the
The Vivanta by Taj in Madikeri
combines luxury with immersion in the region's rich natural setting
© Vivanta by Taj
The Vivanta by Taj in Madikeri is one more
destination that mingles rich landscapes with opulence, providing
traditional Coorg style houses in the midst of 180 acres of
rainforest. Comprising 63 eco-conscious rooms and villas, the hotel
features a Jiva Grande Spa which will cater to those in need of
pampering. After time spent relaxing, guests can trek to Coorg's
highest peak, bike off-road and even zip-line.
The best wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka aren't simply for
rough and ready trekking. Between the nature safaris and the
restful time spent in verdant retreats, they're the makings of a
unique and unforgettable holiday.