National Parks and Sanctuaries : Nagarahole (Rajiv Gandhi National Park)
Considered by one expert to be the 'finest tiger turf in the country' Nagarahole is also one of the best places to see Asiatic Elephants. It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, which consists of a contiguous complex of Protected Areas.

The park derives its name from the 'Nagarahole' or Snake River which flows through the Northern end of the Park. The Southern end is drained by the Kabini river which has now been dammed to create a large reservoir, much of which lies within the Park. The waters of the lake support crocodile and otter. Other animals include Leopard, Wild Dog, Gaur, Sambar, Chital and Barking Deer.

The birdlife of Nagarahole is particularly exciting with Malabar Trogon, Indian Great Black Woodpecker, Blyh's Baza, Crested Serpent Eagles, Osprey,Peregrine Falcon, Scarlet Minivets, Blackheaded Cuckoo Shrikes, various species of Barbets, Owls, Cuckoos, Flycatchers, etc. being recorded here. The game viewing is by jeep, coracle and motor launch.



The name Nagarahole is derived from the winding river which flows through the Park (In Kannada the word 'Naga' means snake and 'Hole' means stream). Nagarahole National Park is located in the foothills of the misty blue Brahmagiri mountain range and straddles the picturesque districts of Kodagu (Coorg) and Mysore. Initially constituted as a Sanctuary in 1955, it was subsequently enlarged and conferred the status of a National Park in 1974. The Southern end is drained by the Kabini river (a tributary of the Cauvery) which has now been dammed to create a large reservoir, much of which lies within the park and which today separates Nagarahole National Park from Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

Hunter-gatherer tribes have inhabited these forests for several centuries. Of the 1500 or so people that live within the park and an approximate 5 to 6 thousand on the fringes, most are tribals called Jenu Kuruba, Betta Kuruba and Yerava. These tribals later took to slash and burn farming and collecting non-timber forest products for sale to urban markets. Today, many of these people work as labourers in coffee plantations or farms and also engage in seasonal work provided by the Forest Department.

Between 1870 and 1980, 14% of the area of the present Park was clear-cut to raise monocultures of teak. Dense secondary forests now occur in places where these plantations failed. Until recently, both the moist and dry deciduous forests have been selectively logged.

The long term management goal of the British was to replace natural forests with the more profitable teak and they actively pursued this until Independence. Between 1947 and 1955, the new Indian Government's policy turned to harvesting as much of timber as possible, and to grow more food. Tribal and non-tribal people were encouraged to occupy Nagarahole's 'hadlus', they were encouraged to cultivate rice and in addition provided cheap logging labour. There were no wildlife protection laws and hunting of predators was actively encouraged. In 1955, hunting of large mammals became illegal, but logging and encroachments into the Park continued. It was only in 1974, when Nagarahole was declared a National Park and tough new wildlife protections laws came into force that the situation started to change. In a complete reversal of roles, the management now tried to curb poaching, livestock grazing and removal of illegal encroachments! Between 1970 and 1980 about a 1000 squatters were moved out of the Park into resettlements. Forest product exploitation was regulated in response to lobbying by wildlife conservationists and a core zone of 200sq. km. was demarcated to the exclusion of forestry activities and tourism.


Location:The Park is located in the South-Western corner of the state of Karnataka. Its Western boundaries touch that of the state of Kerala - and the Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary.

Latitude: 11°45' - 12°15' N
Longitude: 76°5' - 76°25' E

Area: 644 sq. km

Altitude: The Park is situated at an average elevation of 800 -850m (2625 - 2789 ft) above mean sea level. The highest point is the Masalbetta peak 959m (3146ft) and the lowest, the Kabini River 701m (2300ft).

Climate: Nagarahole in general has a moderate climate. Summer temperatures touch a maximum of 32° C (89.6° F) during the months of April / May, whilst winter temperatures seldom go below 15° C (59° F)

Rainfall: June to September are the wettest months with an average of 1500mm. (59 inches)

The northern and western parts of Nagarahole National Park receive higher rainfall (above 1200mm /47inches) and the vegetation here is characteristically moist deciduous. The moist deciduous forests are tall and dense. The dominant tree species are valuable timber trees such as Mathi (Terminalia tomentosa), Nandi (Lagerstroemia lanceolata), Honne (Pterocarpus marsupium) and Tadasalu (Grewia tilaefolia).

These forests are also home to two most expensive timbers - Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) and Teak (Tectona grandis). Bende (Kydia calycina), whose bark is favoured by elephants is ubiquitous as is Bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus). An interesting feature of these moist deciduous forests is the open swampy grasslands called 'hadlus'. The soil in the 'hadlus' being clayey and perennially moist supports a lush growth of green grass throughout the year. The 'hadlus' therefore attract large concentrations of ungulates like gaur and sambar and significantly boost the carrying capacity of these forests .

The South-Eastern part of Nagarahole is drier and consequently covered by dry deciduous forests. The predominant tree species here are Dindalu (Anogiessus latifolia), the Indian laburnam (Cassia fistula), the 'Flame of the forest' (Butea monosperma) and bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus)


Considered by one expert to be the 'finest tiger turf in the country' Nagarahole is also one of the best places to see Asiatic elephants (Elephas maximus). There is a seasonal movement between the four Protected Areas of Wynad, Bandipura, Nagarahole and Mudumalai, which together form the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.During the wet season and shortly thereafter, fodder, water and therefore wildlife is evenly distributed.

With the advent of the dry season the waters of the Kabini reservoir are released for irrigation to farmers further downstream. As the waters of the reservoir recede, the exposed strip of land between waterline and tree line, is covered by lush young grass, which provides excellent forage for the herbivores. The congregation of Elephants that gather in large numbers to take advantage of the rich food source is an amazing spectacle thus making the months of March, April and May the most rewarding along the backwaters of the Kabini for observing Elephants.

While Elephants take centre-stage, there is plenty of other wildlife here, both along the Kabini backwaters and elsewhere in the Park. Nagarahole is one of the best places to see Indian Bison or Gaur (Bos gaurus) at such close proximity. Normally, very shy and retiring, Gaur here are habituated to vehicles and allow close approach. Other animals include Chital (Cervus axis), Sambar (Cervus unicolor), Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa). The common tree dwellers include the Common Langur (Semnopithecus entellus), the Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata) and the Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica). The ever active Smooth Indian Otter (Lutra perspicillata) is also seen here along the water bodies. Nagarahole's prey base is so rich and diverse, that it supports a correspondingly high density of predators. The Tiger (Panthera tigris), the Leopard (Panthera pardus) and the Dhole (Cuon alpinus) are all found here in good numbers. It has been documented that Gaur are a regular feature of the tiger's diet in this Park. Sloth Bear (Melurses ursinus)are also seen in this park particularly after the first rains (April).

The birdlife of Nagarahole is particularly exciting with over 250 species of birds. The species mix reflects the different habitats of this area, and includes birds like Malabar Trogon, Indian Great Black Woodpecker, Blyth's Baza, Crested Serpent Eagles, Honey Buzzards, Peregrine, Scarlet Minivets, Blackheaded Cuckoo Shrikes, various species of Barbets, Owls, Cuckoos, Flycatchers.

During the summer months Cormorants, River Terns, Ducks, Teals, Waders, Herons, Painted Stork and Ibis are commonly seen, along the backwaters of the Kabini. The abundance of fish in the lake means that birds like the Greyheaded Fishing Eagles and Osprey are also attracted.

Hard to miss are birds like the Common Peafowl, the Grey Jungle Fowl, Racket Tailed Drongo, Stork Billed, Pied and the Common Kingfishers, and a variety of Woodpeckers.

Reptiles and Amphibians
The most conspicuous of reptiles in Nagarahole are the Marsh or Mugger Crocodiles
(Crocodylus palustris)
often seen basking on the 'islands' dotting the reservoir, during the dry season. The Monitor Lizard is sighted occasionally in the forested areas, with lizards like the Calotes quite common especially around habitation. The Flying Lizard (Draco dussumieri) and the Indian Chameleon (Chameleon zeylanicus) are also found here. Amongst the snakes, the Python, Common Cobra, Rat Snake, Vine Snake and the Bamboo Pit Viper are also reported, but extremely hard to see. The Pond Terrapins are seen in the forest waterholes and are quite numerous.

Among the butterflies, Common Grass Yellow (Tetrias hecabe), Common Jezebel (Delias eucharis), Crimson Rose (Tros hector), Common Rose(Tros aristolochiae), Common Tiger (Danais plexippus),Blue Tiger (Danais limniace), Common Indian Crow
( Euploea core) and Danaid Eggfly (Hypolimnas missipus) to name a few, are quite visible and easy to see and more so after the onset of the monsoon rains (May/June)

K.Ullas Karanth, Mel Sunquist and K.M. Chinappa :Long -term monitoring of tigers : lessons from Nagarahole ; ('Riding the Tiger' - Tiger conservation in human dominated landscapes- Edited by John Seidensticker, Sarah Christie and Peter Jackson Published by Cambridge University Press, 1999. )
Best time to visit
Though the Park is open throughout the year, the monsoon period is best avoided. The ideal time to visit the Park is between September and May.

How to get there

Air: Bangalore
Rail : The nearest railhead is Mysore which is well connected from Bangalore and Chennai. Road: The nearest town to Nagarahole is Kutta (7 km). Major towns that are accessible by road are Madikere (93 km), Mysore (96 km) and Bangalore (236 km). One could take a taxi from Mysore to either Nagarahole or to Karapura where the Kabini River Lodge is situated. There are also State Transport buses operating between Bangalore and Kabini River Lodge and Mysore and Mercara.

There are Forest Rest Houses at Nagarahole, Kalhalla, Murkal and Tithimathi. The tariffs range from Rs.600/- for dormitories to Rs.1000/ to Rs.2000/- for a suite.

Whom to contact

Assistant Conservator of Forests,
Wildlife Sub-division,
Vani Vilas Road,
Mysore- 570 002,
Ph : + 91 821 211559.

Deputy Conservator of Forests,
Wildlife Division,
Aranya Bhavan, Ashokpuram,
Mysore 570 008.

Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife)
2nd Floor,
Aranya Bhavan,
18th Cross, Malleswaram,
Bangalore 560 003.
Ph : + 91 80 3341993/3345192.

The Kabini River Lodge has 14 well-appointed rooms, 6 cottages and tented accommodation as well. It offers a jungle plan for its clients, which include board, lodging and 2 safaris drives (including an elephant ride and a coracle ride) into the Park in open vehicles accompanied by trained naturalists.

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