Cover Photography By Sarosh Lodhi
“It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.” mentions one of the fundamental duties of all Indian Citizens as per the Indian Constitution in its Article 51-A (g).
India is blessed with abundant forests along with a rich variety of flora and fauna to its credit. Ours is the only country in the world which is home to both Tiger and Lion in their natural habitat along with Indian Leopard, Snow Leopard. Due to the ever growing human population and the need to satisfy its growing list of requirements, Indian forests are dwindling as a result of the pressure. Yet our Jungles have a charm about them which attracts thousands of wildlife enthusiasts from India & abroad.
The state of Maharashtra is no exception to this and houses many jungles small & large which are home to varied species of flora & fauna, reptiles & amphibians, mammals & birds. There are many forests in Maharashtra which are beautiful but are less visited in comparison with the popular ones. The difficulty in finding lodging & boarding facilities in the surrounding areas of these Wildlife Sanctuaries makes it less visited. Unlike the other well known Jungles of Maharashtra like Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Pench National Park & Nagzira National Park which have hotels and resorts doted around the park with good facilities.
Here are five of the Lesser Visited Wildlife Sanctuaries of Maharashtra.
Melghat Tiger Reserve
Melghat Tiger Reserve is credited as one of the first 9 tiger reserves that were listed in the Project Tiger in the year 1973-74 by Government of India. Situated in the Satpura hill ranges of Central India, Melghat Tiger Reserve lies in Melghat Forests of Amravati district in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. Melghat shares its borders with Madhya Pradesh in the North and East. Chikhaldara, Semadoh, Kolkas & Harisal are the 4 areas through we one can enter this Tiger heaven. The vast area of around 1670 Square Kilometres is mainly dry deciduous in nature, is home to Bengal Tiger, Indian Leopard, Sloth Bear, Dhole (Wild Dogs), Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, Langur, Rhesus Macaque, Nilgaai, numerous birds including the critically endangered Forest Owlet.
There are few local homestays and small hotels around this tiger reserve where one can stay and hence this makes it a comparatively less visited place.
Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary
Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is comparatively a small forest area spread over an area of 148.63 Square Kilometres offering an idea getaway for the wildlife lovers. It is situated in Patanbori and Parwa Ranges of the Pandarkawad Forest Division of Yavatmal District. The major portion of the forest area is dominated by firewood, timber, and teak. Important rivers like Krishna, Bhima, Tapti and Purna flow through the forest area making it an ideal place for birds and mammals alike. Tipeshwar forms a habitat for a huge variety of species like Hyena, Chital, Blackbuck, Sambar, Jackal, Wild Boar, Peacock, Monkey, Blue Bull, Wildcat, Bear etc. Tipeshwar is home to almost 180 species of birds, 29 species of mammals, arachnids and almost 26 species of reptiles.
Accommodation is available at Irrigation Rest House which has 1 VIP room and a residence for 16 pax, thereby limiting the number of visitors to this sanctuary.
Bor Tiger Reserve
Bor Wildlife Sanctuary was officially declared as a Tiger Reserve in the 2014. This tiger reserve is small heaven tucked in an area of roughly 138.12 Square Kilometres of area near Hingni in Wardha District. This is a dry deciduous forest with Teak as the key species along with Ain, Tendu & Bamboo and various medicinal herbs that are found in the reserve. Mammals like Tiger, Indian Leopard, Gaur, Wild Dogs, Nilgaai, Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, Monkeys, Sloth Bear, Wild boar etc. are found in this reserve along with almost 160 species of birds make Bor their home. As per survey in 2011-12 by Wildlife Institute of India, Bor has an estimated tiger count of 12 which is now up to 15 as per latest reports.
There are very limited options of staying near Bor Tiger Reserve, the only being the FDCM Guest House or known as Bor Ecotourism Complex with 4 AC rooms & 10 Tents.
Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary / Radhanagari Bison Reserve
Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary is also known as Radhanagari Bison Reserve due to the population of Bison (Indian Gaur) found in this reserve. This is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. This reserve is well fed by the rivers Dudhganga, Bhogavati, Dirba, Kallama & Tulsi making it a heaven for various types of Mammals and birds. Indian Gaur / Indian Bison is the key species of this reserve along with Indian Leopard, Sloth Bears, Mouse Deer, Barking Deer, Wild dogs, Giant squirrels etc. are found living in unison with large variety of birds like Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Vultures and also including the globally threatened Nilgiri Wood Pigeon. Birdlife International designates this reserve as an Important Bird Area. Many threatened species of reptiles are also found in this reserve making it a real treat for the nature lovers.
There is a Forest Rest House which houses 4 suites, 1 Bungalow & 1 Dormitory.
Gautala Autramghat Wildlife Sanctuary
Gautala Autramghat Wildlife Sanctuary / protected area is located 65 Kilometers away from Aurangabad City located in the Satmala & Ajantha Hill Ranges. The name Gautala is derived from the name of the village adjoining the protected area. This area is typical southern tropical dry deciduous forest with presence of grasslands in abundance. The main species of tree found here is the Teak along with Anjan, Bel, Awla etc. to name a few. Among the mammals found here are the Chinkara, Nilgaai, Sloth Bears, Jungle Cat, Barking Deer, Hares, Indian Leopard, Fox, Jackal etc. along with approximately 250 species of birds that are found in this protected area. Unlike other Wildlife Sanctuaries this one is open in the month of monsoon. This wildlife sanctuary offers adventure activities like rock climbing and jungle survival camps are arranged by some of the local adventure groups in this Sanctuary.