Biodiversity, varied climate, and vivid topography, all these best elements of nature come together to form the jungles of Maharashtra. The State is rich in its flora and fauna count, and that’s why it is home to some of the largest eco hotspots, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and bird sanctuaries, which have been attracting nature lovers and wildlife aficionados from the different corners of India and abroad.
Maharashtra is home to 49 Wild Life sanctuaries and 6 National Parks, few of the lesser known sanctuaries and forest reserves.
Popularly known as the ‘The Jewel of Tadoba’, it is one of the best known tiger reserves in India. Conserved under the Project Tiger Initiative by the Indian Government, this reserve has the highest number of tigers (69 tigers). Tadoba national park is located in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. This place is an ideal weekend getaway for wildlife and nature lovers. Here, the safari gives an opportunity to explore the rich wildlife of the park, there are three zones in the reserve that gives access to the Jeep Safari, namely Moharli (Mohurli) Zone, Tadoba Zone, and Kolsa Zone. The park is open for visitors from 15th October to 30th June every season and remains closed on Tuesdays. The main attraction of the Tadoba National Park is Jungle or Tiger Safari in an open top gypsy. There is a good chance to spot the shy Sloth Bear and Wild Dogs.
It is another tiger tourism destination in Maharashtra. It was among the first nine tiger reserves notified in 1973-74 under Project Tiger, a wildlife conservation project initiated in India in 1972 to protect Bengal tigers. The total area of the reserve is around 1500.49 sq. km. When on a wildlife tour to Maharashtra, one can spot unusual avian species at every turn. In the Melghat Tiger Reserve, one can see the ‘forest owlet,’ which according to the researchers are critically endangered. Its discovery in Maharashtra has brought new hope for its existence. Best time to visit this forest in undoubtedly between December and May.
This reserve in Nagpur district spans over 257 sq.km. Pench is home to an abundance of flora and fauna, including 33 species of mammals, 162 species of birds, 50 species of fishes, 10 species of amphibians, 30 species of reptiles and a wide variety of insects. Pench is home to a large number of tigers as it was established as a tiger reserve in 1992. Pench with its exotic wildlife is most welcoming between July and February.
Also the beauty of this place has been mentioned in the classic “The Jungle Book” by the great Rudyard Kipling.
Spread across an area of 2.17 sq.km, the Rehkuri Sanctuary is home to one of the rare animal species, Indian Black Buck. Despite being only 2.17 sq. kms in size, it has enough trails that one can explore. The Blackbuck, called ‘Kalvit’ in Maharashtra, is easily recognised by its magnificent spiral horns, colour and long jump. The Sanctuary is located at a distance of about 80 km away from Ahmednagar City in the Karjat Taluka. The sanctuary was established in the 1980s and today its home to 400 black bucks. One can go walking or trekking along with the guide or in a jeep safari from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM to explore the beauty of the sanctuary. The best time to visit Rehekuri is August to September.
The Western Ghats region of Maharashtra also known as ‘Sahyadri’, although least explored, has assemblage of unique habitats with rich diversity of flora and fauna. There are four serially nominated natural world heritage Sites in Maharashtra, one of which is Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary, a place worth exploring, not only in monsoon but in all seasons. This pristine, lush green, undulating landscape with steep valleys is situated about 80 KM West of Kolhapur city in Maharashtra. One can even trek through the wildlife sanctuaries, which ultimately doubles the adventure quotient. Radhanagari Sanctuary is one such forest reserves where tourists can immerse themselves in the thrill of walking on the pathways in the forest while anticipating the myriads of the area’s flora and fauna. Also here one can see nesting and hatching Oriental Turtle Dove (Rufous turtles). This forest is an abode to the rarely found, Bison. The sanctuary is home to threatened Nilgiri wood-pigeon and some prominent species such as Ceylon frogmouth, yellow-browed bulbul and dusky eagle-owlet. Radhanagari is at the peak of its tourist season between August and February.
Originally to safeguard the natural habitat of the endemic species, the Indian Giant Squirrel which is also the state animal of Maharashtra, Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary has now become a major tourist attraction of Pune and Maharashtra. Bhimashankar is located about 100 km from Pune and 223 km from Mumbai. The densely forest is spread over an area of 120 sq. km. on the Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadri Ranges.
The place is mainly famous for being home to many endemic and pandemic animal and bird species, including leopards, barking deer, wild boars, Malabar grey hornbills, black eagles and many more. It is so rich in flora and fauna that it is considered to be one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. One can enjoy trekking through the well-marked and safe routes within the dense forests, taking in the sheer beauty of nature and experiencing it from close quarters. If walking is not one’s forte, one can always opt for the safari car rides and have a glance at the wilderness in its true form from within the safety of the car. One of the 12 Jyotirlingas (major shrines of Lord Shiva) is situated within the large stretch of the jungle. Preferred by trekkers all around the year, tourists can check this place between October and March for best tourism experience.
The Sanctuary is home to various animal species like leopards, the blue bull, peacock, flying squirrel, wild boar, etc. The Bhamragarh Wildlife Sanctuary because of its close proximity to major cities in Maharashtra enjoys several tourists from different places coming to soak in the natural beauty.
Spread over an area of about 104.38 sq.km the sanctuary is tremendously green and is covered by various species from the plant kingdom including mango, jamun, Kusum, Bamboo trees along with shrubs of Neel, Tarota, Kuda, etc.
The Pamalgautam and Parlkota rivers flow through the sanctuary providing water to the flora and fauna and as well as to the tribes living nearby namely Gonda and Madia tribes which depend on the Forest for their habitation. Bhamragarh is most scenic from October to May.