For someone who loves to be a part of the nature, nothing can be more exciting and exhilarating than setting out on an elephant trail. Spotting those massive animals leisurely roaming across the lush green forests is indeed a visual treat. To encourage conservation of Asian elephants and prevent poaching for Ivory, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, India, had launched Project Elephant in 1992. As a part of the initiative, the ministry in conjunction with conservationists and nature lovers have fostered elephant sanctuaries and reserves across 13 states and promoted the cause by supporting growing tourism initiatives.
Elephant trails of South India
South India tourism is incomplete without a trip to its nature reserves, most popularly, the elephant reserves in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The word, ‘natural reserve’, conjures up hearty images of elephant herds bathing in the river
Kaundinya Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh
Situated at around 87 kms from the popular tourist destination Horsley Hills, this Elephant reserve is spread across a sprawling 358sq km. This is the only elephant sanctuary in entire Andhra Pradesh and it was created to house the 39 elephants that migrated from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Currently this sanctuary has around 50 elephants along with a plethora of migratory birds. The best time to visit this sanctuary is anytime between October and April.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala
A testimony to the nature at its best, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most popular elephant reserves in India. Meticulously made popular through elephant rides and lake cruises, this sanctuary offers one of the most cherished desires to capture the beast in its complete glory through the lenses. With an idyllic setting amongst the dense deciduous forest and a beautiful lake, a trip to Periyar is a dream destination for every nature enthusiasts. The months from October till June are considered to be the best time to visit this place.
Bannerghatta Elephant Sanctuary, Karnataka
Deemed as India’s first fenced elephant sanctuary, the Bannerghatta Biological Park, located near Bengaluru, boasts of secured area for the Asian elephants without any human intervention. This man made elephant reserve is borne out of PETA’s initiative to offer a natural habitat for the Asian elephants. Currently there are 15 elephants including Sundar, the tusker rescued from the Jyotiba temple in Maharashtra in 2014. Replacing the age old punishment methods to manage elephants, this sanctuary boasts of newer care giving and positive reinforcement techniques specially designed by the renowned Elephant expert, Margaret Whittaker.
Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu
The Anaimalai range of Western ghats is known for its dense patches of rainforests and is home to Asian elephants. Anamalais, another name for ‘ Mountain of Elephants’, is known for its three unique and different habitats namely the Grass hills, Karian Shola, Manjampatty and each of them being recognized as an independent national park in 1989. Apart from elephants, this sanctuary hosts a wide variety of birds, reptiles and wild animals.
Elephant trails of the East India
The states like Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha are known for their rich natural reserves and dense forests. Of all, Singhbhum Elephant Reserve in Jharkhand is considered to be the oldest. The Mayurjharna in West Bengal and Similipal-Kuldiha-Hadgarh Elephant Reserve in Odisha are most popularly known in the entire eastern zone. Apart from this, the Chandaka Elephant Reserve, in Odisha, deserves a special mention.
Chandaka Elephant Reserve
With a total area covering 193.39 sq. km, the Chandaka Elephant Reserve is located on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. Sal, thorny bamboos, medicinal plants and Kangada forest patches gives the landscape a unique identity of its own. This reserve offers an amazing experience to experience the wilderness in its glory and therefore, is a popular retreat for the nature lovers.
Elephant trails of North-East India
When it comes to the North-east, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam stands out with their rich natural reserves dedicated to fostering this endangered species.
Kameng Elephant Reserve, Arunachal
Located somewhere between the west and east Kameng districts of Arunachal, this elephant sanctuary boasts of over 377 Asian elephants with rich wildlife. This elephant reserve is known for its pristine forests, untouched and undisturbed, compared to the popular ones. For nature lovers seeking to share their space with Asian elephants in their most natural habitat, then this is place that scores the highest among the rest.
Dehing Patkai, Assam
Recognized amongst the richest biodiversity reserves in the world, Dehing Patkai, located in Assam, covers a stunning 609.55 sq.km areas with over 160 Asian elephants.
India undoubtedly boasts of rich flora and fauna, and for those seeking to take refuge in the nature, the possibilities are endless.