Welcome to one of the best places in the world to find the tawny, black-striped Royal Bengal Tiger, elusive and stealthy, noble and regal: Nagarhole. Karnataka's Nagarhole National Park (officially known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park) is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, India's largest stretch of protected forest, an area which includes, besides Nagarhole, the neighbouring sanctuaries of Bandipur, Mudumalai and Wynaad. Established in 1955 as a wildlife sanctuary, Nagarhole was designated a national park twenty years later. The park today stretches in a series of gentle hills and valleys, over an expanse of 640 sq km, north of the river Kabini. The park is centred around a perennial water reservoir formed in 1974, when the Kabini River was dammed.
Nagarhole's vegetation is refreshingly different from Bandipur's dry scrub- moist deciduous forests, including bamboo, teak, eucalyptus and cassia, cover much of the sanctuary, providing a refuge for a wide range of animals and birds. Nagarhole has all the resident wildlife of the Nilgiri hills: Nilgiri tahr, Nilgiri langur, bison, leopard, Asian elephant, wild boar, deer, dhole (wild dog) and porcupine, besides tigers. A high canopy of trees- up to thirty metres tall in some places- harbours rare birds such as the endangered Malabar trogon, the Malabar pied hornbill and the crested hawk-eagle.
Nagarhole saw some upheavals in 1992, when quarrelling between the wardens of the park and the local villagers resulted in arson which had an enormously adverse impact on the park and its wildlife. It will still take a few years for Nagarhole's forest and animal count to get back to normal but there has already been a resurrection of sorts and things get better every year.
Best time to visit
Nagarhole can be visited all through winter and through the pre-monsoon half of the summer. The winter months from November-February are exceedingly pleasant, and are the best time to go if you don’t like being hot and sweaty. The summer, on the other hand, though it may be pretty hot, is a great time to see wildlife, including the tiger. The dry, hot season (March-May) is the time when the animals gather at the lake, allowing for great wildlife viewing. The monsoons (June-September) are best avoided, as the entire road network gets washed out, and leeches and dense undergrowth proliferate in the forest.