Rajasthan has no dearth of wildlife. Home to countless animal species, the migratory path for birds, and vast open spaces, this colourful state has its way of weighing heavy on the ‘green’ quotient. Explore this natural beauty by walking through some of its lesser-known sanctuaries and parks. By Bayar Jain
When it comes to wildlife, Rajasthan has long-lured travellers. With an abundance of flora and fauna that is further blessed with many sunshine months, it comes as no surprise that this state has often occupied top-spot for wildlife enthusiasts. Ranthambore Park, roughly 14 kilometres from Sawai Madhopur, invites travellers looking to sight the elusive tiger—as does Sariska Tiger Reserve, a famed tiger reserve. Tourists heading towards Udaipur and Kumbhalgarh often stop by at Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary which brings together the city’s historic grandeur and fuses it with sightings of a number of endangered species such as jungle cats, hyenas, jackals, leopards, sloth bears, nilgai, sambhar, chausingha, chinkara, hares, and many more.
Look a little further, and Rajasthan unravels many lesser-known sanctuaries and parks. Here are five such places that are ideal for wild adventures!
Desert National Park, Jaisalmer
Often, a desert isn’t the first place one would expect to find abundant wildlife. But Desert National Park in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan busts this myth with ease! Formed by undulating sand dunes, jagged rocks, dense salt lake bottoms, this ecosystem houses varied species. While animals like black bucks, chinkara, and desert fox seek refuge here, the highly endangered Great Indian Bustard—one of the world’s heaviest flying birds—are also known to give cameos. Come winter, and the park serves as grounds for migratory birds like Himalayan and Eurasian griffon vultures, eastern imperial eagle, and the saker falcon.
How to reach: Jaisalmer houses a civil airport facility with direct seasonal air connectivity from Jaipur, New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Surat. The national park is approximately 60 kilometres from the airport.
Where to stay: Consider staying at any of the various resorts in desert area of Jaisalmer.
Tal Chhapar Sanctuary, Churu
Located around 210 kilometres from Jaipur at Chhapar village in the Sujangarh Tehsil of Churu, Tal Chhapar Sanctuary is a safe haven for black bucks. The open grasslands and scattered trees—akin to a savannah—also make the sanctuary a bird watcher’s paradise. Some of the avian friends that can be found here are eastern imperial eagle, black ibis, demoiselle cranes, skylarks, ring doves. One can also spot the desert fox and desert cat.
How to reach: The nearest airport is Jaipur International Airport, approximately 200 kilometres away. The airport is well-connected with multiple domestic and international flights from major cities.
Where to stay: Tal Chhapar Forest Rest House, located within the sanctuary, is ideal for a comfortable stay.
Jhalana Safari Park, Jaipur
While Rajasthan’s Pink City rightly steals the thunder for its historic architecture, few are aware of its diverse animal life. Tucked away on the south eastern border of Jaipur, Jhalana Safari Park covers a massive 1,978 hectares. Until 1860, this forest block served as a royal ground for sports as well as a means to fulfil fodder needs for neighbouring villages. Today the wild park is dotted with 15-20 panthers, striped hyenas, desert fox, golden jackal, chital, Indian palm civets, blue bulls, jungle cat, and many more. The skies are graced by various species of birds, including the Indian Pitta, dusky eagle, owl, spotted owlet, Indian roller, sikra, and hawks, among others. A majestic shikaar oudhi built in 1835 by Sawai Ram Singh, a big temple of Kali Mata, and a Jain Chulgiri Temple complete the park’s offerings.
How to reach: The Jaipur International Airport offers various domestic and international connections from major cities. Jhalana Safari Park is situated approximately six kilometres away from the airport.
Where to stay: Being a tourist destination, Jaipur has many hotels and resorts to choose from.
Sajjangarh Biological Park, Udaipur
Sitting at the foothills of Bans-Dahara hills, outside the Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary—a man-made habitat which is home to chitals, panthers, hares, blue bulls (nilgais), jackals, wild boars, hyenas, and sambhars—lies Sajjangarh Biological Park. Spread across 36 hectares of land, this green space sees carnivores and herbivores moving around in their natural habitat. Consider walking through the park on foot or driving through the wilderness on a golf car available on a payment basis.
How to reach: The closest airport, Dabok Airport, also known as Maharana Pratap International Airport, is approximately 30 kilometres away from the sanctuary. The airport offers daily flights to New Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Kolkata.
Where to stay: There are some of the top-rated resorts near the sanctuary.
Bikaner in Rajasthan is often credited as one of the best places to spot vultures. Another 12 kilometres ahead, however, a variety of more raptors can be found. Jorbeed, considered an ideal spot to witness the largest congregation of eagles and vultures in Asia, is a bird watcher’s dream come true. Here, birds like steppe eagles, griffon vultures, and Egyptian vultures are common. On luckier days, one can even spot the rare yellow-eyed pigeon cooing on the trees.
How to reach: Civil Airport, Naal, has direct connectivity from New Delhi. Jorbeed is approximately 30 kilometres from the airport. Bikaner also has railway connections to several destinations in India including Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Churu, Jodhpur, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, and more. Jorbeed is roughly 10 kilometres from the Bikaner Junction.
Where to stay: Some of the most top-rated accommodations and heritage hotels are available at Bikaner.