Dudhwa National Park

This park was established despite opposition from interests that wanted to log its majestic 100- foot-tall (30-m) sal forest, regarded as the best in India, and to shoot its rare Barasingha or swamp deer as well as tigers, leopards, beautiful demoiselle cranes (now gone), and others. Due largely to efforts by the late prime minister Indira Gandhi and famed conservationist Billy Arjan Singh it became a protected sanctuary in 1965 and in 1977 a national park, 190 square miles (490 km2) of forest and grassland watered by perennial streams in northern Uttar Pradesh along the Indo- Nepal border.

Now-rare but once-abundant Indian one-horned rhinoceros were reintroduced in 1985, also due to Mrs. Gandhi’s efforts. Snub-nosed crocodiles or muggers bask on riverbanks, given a wide berth by otters, pythons, and huge monitor lizards alike. Feisty Indian ratels, well-nicknamed honey badgers, break open monstrous hanging beehives, insulated from stings by a thick fat layer under their handsome black and light gray fur (protection also when they aggressively compete with animals much larger than they).

Elephants cross over from ROYAL BARDIA NATIONAL PARK in Nepal. There are sloth bears, civets, fishing cats, jungle cats, leopard cats, jackals, wild pigs, and sambar deer, largest deer in Asia. Spotted deer or chital, considered by many the world’s handsomest deer, share grasslands with horse-like nilgai or blue bulls, largest Asiatic antelope, curly-horned blackbucks and smaller, rarer hog deer and muntjac or barking deer.

Rich birdlife includes eight kinds of owls, among them greater Indian horned and forest eagle owls, brown and tawny fish owls, scops owls, and jungle owlets. Eight vulture species include the cinerious. A few rare Bengal and lesser floricans are here.

Imposing scarlet-headed sarus cranes coordinate spectacular courtship leaps with lifetime mates. Eight kinds of storks include painted, open-billed, and black-necked, with a multitude of colorful woodpeckers, orioles, kingfishers, minivets, sunbirds, hornbills, and warblers. Hundreds of migrants, especially waterfowl, come to rest here after flights over Himalayan foothills.

Threats here include poaching, cattle grazing and encroachment by human settlements.

Best times are December–June. Accommodations are forest rest houses and Billy Arjan Singh’s farm, famed for successful tiger and leopard re-introductions (write Tiger Haven, P.O. Palia, District Kheri, Uttar Pradesh).

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