Did you know how exotic the backyard of colorful India is? If I say that out of 1300 orchid variety found in India, 800 varieties are found in the Northeast just imagine how beautiful will the forests look with the exotic flowers springing out to sight everywhere.
I call this region the country’s backyard because it is connected to India by a small corridor in West Bengal called Siliguri corridor or the ‘Chicken’s Neck’. But this small corridor will lead you to a massive beauty. And when conserved, it has the best of the region catered for nature lovers. So let me name some of the natural museums (I mean National Parks) of the endemic and diversity rich region. Even though I am from northeast India, I haven’t been to all of them. That’s how we are negligent towards what is easily available, even if it is one of a kind.
- Keibul Lamjao National Park (Manipur):
It is the only floating national park in the world. A major portion of the Loktak Lake –the largest freshwater lake in India is in the middle of the park.
Image source: http://www.thehindu.com
The waterway through Keibul Lamjao national park gives access to canoes coming through the Loktak Lake towards the Pabot Lake.
So you can also canoe into the park.
The most interesting part of the lake is the round shaped floating decomposed plant materials called ‘Phumdis’ by locals which form almost 3/4th of the park. The floating mass is created by the accrual of organic garbage and biomass. The swamps touch the ground during the dry season and float up during the monsoons. This park which is too deep to be called marsh, and too shallow, to be called a lake, is surrounded by three hills. Summing up, with all the amazing work this is the final look of the place (a bird’s-eye view).
Image source: northeasttourism.gov.in
The wonder doesn’t end here. Let me tell you a bit about the state animal of Manipur which is conserved in this park. Shanghai or the brow-antlered deer is housed in this park. Sangai was almost on the verge of extinction. It increased from 6 individual to 14 and after continuous and strict conservation measures to around 250 now. This park is the only home in the world for the endangered beauty.
The Manipur Forest department filmed Keibul Lamjao National Park in a documentary “The Return of Sangai” which featured the endangered Sangai –the brow-antlered deer or the dancing deer of Manipur.
*Some trivia about the place: In Manipuri tradition respecting Sangai means respecting nature, and slaying of Sangai is considered a sin.
What to do: Fishing and canoeing in the peaceful lake with scenic beauty around makes for a richer experience.
What to see: Eld’s deer, Thamin deer, Sangai, otter, large Indian civet, wild boar, Fox, Jungle Cat, Bay Bamboo Rat, Musk Shrew, Flying Fox, Sambar, fishes, and both migratory and resident birds can be seen. During monsoons, most of the animals migrate uphill.
Best time to visit the place: October to April. If you like to see the animals before their drift to the hills, come before the monsoon, if you want to see the ‘Phumdis’ floating come during the monsoons and trek the hills.
How to reach: The park is accessible by air, rail and road. The nearest Airport is Imphal airport, and the nearest railway station Dimapur.
Where to stay: Hotels are available in and nearby Imphal. Basic accommodation of forest rest house without boarding facilities is available at Phubala and Sendra islands inside the park and at Moirang town not very far from the park.
- Namdpha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh:
In India, this is the only park that houses four out of five big cat species found in the country –leopard, snow leopard, clouded leopard, and tiger. This is Namdpha’s pride.
The third largest park in India in terms of area is recognized as one of the richest in biodiversity. Home to a variety of birds, big cats, endangered Hoolock Gibbon and a whole reserve of butterflies, this park became a tiger reserve under the Project Tiger Scheme in 1983.
It is the largest protected area in the Eastern Himalayas. Namdpha stretches along the international border between India and Myanmar.
*Some trivia about the place: The park derives its name from the words ‘Nam’ that means forest and ‘Dapha’ that means keeping. This indicates that forest shouldn’t be cut down. What else can cause the park to be the largest protected area in a region?
What to do: The tallest trees which are almost 150 meters add to the density of the forest making navigation difficult after a certain point. It thus offers challenging trails for trekking.
Image source: taxidiarist.blogspot.in
What to see: Rare orchids like the Lady’s Slipper, Blue Vandal, Foxtail and Dendrobium are found in this park. Even if you couldn’t make it to the Sessa Orchid Sanctuary, the land of orchid will not disappoint you.
Have chance encounters with any of the Leopards, Snow Leopards, Clouded Leopards, or Tigers, or maybe all of them.
Smaller carnivores like Red Panda, various otters, civet and two mongoose species can be seen.
Herbivores like Indian Elephant, Wild Boar, Musk Deer Indian Muntjac, Hog Deer, Sambar, Gaur, Goral, Serow, Takin, Bharal, Stump-tailed Macaque, Slow Loris, Hoolock Gibbon, Capped Langur, Assamese Macaque, and Rhesus Macaque are found.
The park has about 425 bird species. The park has a very wide variety of butterflies and moths. Have you seen butterflies of your palm size? You will see it here.
Best time to visit: Throughout the year. Every season of Arunachal Pradesh has wonder. The months from November to March is mostly recommended though.
How to reach: You can take a flight till Assam. From Assam, you can go by road till Miao. From there one has to take a link road. Yes, it does sound interesting to be linked to a place named ‘Miao’ to get to see a place full of cats. Tinsukia and New Jalpaiguri are the nearest railway stations.
Where to stay: Forest rest houses are available that can be reserved. The forest department also offers campsites in Bul-bulia, Haldibari, Hornbill, Rani Jheel and Firmbase, near Noa Dihing River.
- The Murlen National Park in Mizoram:
The Murlen National Park which falls in Champai district and is adjacent to Lengteng National Park is one of a kind, surrounded by six caves, small rivulets and brooks, and precipices. The total area of the park is around 200 sq km. The park has evergreen and semi-evergreen forest where some of the trees are about 350 years old. The forest is so thick that in the area of about 80 sq. km only 1% of the sun rays can penetrate on a sunny day. Thus, gaining the name ‘losing area of seven fellow-man’ where not even a single ray of light is seen. So if you get ready to get lost in a Harry Potter forest, just avoid this spot. Stick to the caves and precipices.
Image source: thenortheasttoday.com
One visiting this park can also visit Phawngpui National Park that has the magnificent shaped Thlazuang Kham cliff. The cliff has a sight every trekker would want to behold. The mountains of Phawngpui are mostly covered with a thin stretch of cloud because of which it is also called Blue Mountain National Park.
Image source: thenortheasttoday.com
*Some trivia from the place: The conservation of animals faced challenges due to the tradition of hunting for New Year’s feast. But the government was successful in stopping the practice of hunting by 2010.
What to do:
The forest has peaks, rivers, caves, and plains which makes trekking a complete experience.
What to see:
Birds: Birds such as Humes Bar-tailed Pheasant, Kallej Pheasant, Grey Peacock-Pheasant.
Image source: www.flickr.com/photos/36917655@N08/4432553087) – Grey Peacock-Pheasant
Animals: the Bengal tiger, Hoolock Gibbon, Serrow, Ghoral, Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Sambar, Barking Deer, Malayan Giant Squirrel, Rhesus Macaque, Common Partridges, Hill Myna, Dark-rumped Swift and Wild Boar.
Best time to visit: The park is over throughout the year. This park is full of orchids, so visiting during spring is best to see most of the orchid varieties.
How to reach: The park is situated near Aizawl. Nearest airports are Aizawl and Shillong. The nearest rail station is Silchar. By road, Aizawl is connected with the rest of the country through Silchar. Buses and taxis are available from Silchar to Aizawl.
Where to stay: There are a number of hotels in Aizawl.
- Kaziranga National Park:
There is enough information about this park in Assam, hence we will keep it short. But if you haven’t been here yet, plan a trip soon. This world heritage site hosts two-thirds of the world’s one-horned Rhinoceroses. Kaziranga National also has the highest density of tigers among the protected areas in the world and was declared a tiger reserve in 2006.
image source: http://www.kaziranga-national-park.com
An orchid park which was opened in 2015 will give an easy access to get to see most variety of orchids at one place.
*Some trivia about the place: This Park has three different types of vegetation, from marshlands to grasslands (with tall elephant grass) to broad-leafed forests. The park has only three seasons -summer, monsoon and winter.
What to do: Jeep Safari. While spotting other endangered animals spot as many rhinoceroses as you can because they are found the most here.
What to see: This is the oldest sanctuary and the forest has grasslands, marshes and shallow pools. You can see one-horned Rhinoceros and Swamp Deer –the only place where Swamp Deer is found.
Best time to visit: The park remains closed from mid-April to mid-October due to monsoons, so anytime other than this period.
Image source: http://www.nenow.in
How to reach: Jorhat and Dimapur are the nearest airports from Kaziranga. Furkating is the nearest railway station. It is connected by road through NH 37.
Where to stay: There are a number of resorts in Kaziranga.
- Manas National Park:
Located at the base of the foothills of Himalaya and extending itself into Bhutan, it is a tiger and elephant reserve. The extended part in Bhutan is called Royal Manas National Park. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a sanctuary in 1928 and in 1985 it was designated as a World Heritage site.
The best thing about the place is the river Manas flowing through it and the Himalayas surrounding the rich habitat.
image source: www.indiamart.com
*Some trivia about the place: The sanctuary was initially a reserve forest used by the Cooch Behar royal family and Raja of Gauripur as a hunting reserve. Later the area was increased and declared a sanctuary. It was also declared a World Heritage due to poaching and terrorist activities, but later was removed from the list of danger and was commended for its preservation efforts.
What to do: Go for a jeep safari, capture the royal beast proudly splashing the water if you are lucky to find it being sporty in the water (I am only saying so because of the picture above –lucky photographer!), or see the elephants basking in the sun or go for river rafting in Manas River that flows through the park.
What to see: Manas wildlife sanctuary is home to a great variety of wildlife like Tiger, Golden Langur, Wild Buffalo, Hispid Hare, Pigmy Hog, Capped Langur, Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, Elephant, Gaur, Hog Deer, etc.
Manas has 55 species of mammal out of which 21 are India’s Schedule 1 mammal and 31 of them are endangered.
Image source: http://www.tripoto.com
Best time to visit: Throughout the year. Monsoons make the river swell, Winters make the Himalayas beautiful, and springs make everything bloom.
How to reach: It is close to Guwahati Airport. It is also close to Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Bagdogra. By rail, the nearest station is Barpeta road railway station and New Bongaigaon railway station. It is connected by road by NH 31.
Where to stay: Hotels and resorts are easily available near the park.