Rajaji National Park

Lying in a 820 sq km swathe across the Shivaliks, at the foot of the Himalayas, the Rajaji National Park spreads across three districts of Uttaranchal- Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal. In 1983, the three wildlife sanctuaries of Rajaji, Motichur and Chilla were amalgamated into a single contiguous park consisting of several distinct vegetation zones. These include broadleaved deciduous forests, riverine vegetation, grasslands, and pine forests in the upper reaches.

Inhabiting these dense green jungles are an impressive array of creatures- furred and feathered, docile and dangerous. 23 species of mammals- including tigers, leopards, elephants, deer, jungle cat, wild boar and sloth bear- and 315 species of birds are found in Rajaji. The most prominent avian species include pea fowl, woodpeckers, pheasants, kingfishers and barbets, supplemented by a number of migratory species during the winter months. Besides that, the rivers which flow through the park harbor fish such as trout and mahseer.

Rajaji’s history of conservation has been rather rocky in the recent past. The park’s been besieged by a host of problems, ranging from soil erosion to poaching. Despite all these issues, Rajaji continues to be one of northern India’s major wildlife reserves- and one of the best places to see the fauna and flora of the terai.

Entry Requirements

All visitors to Rajaji National Park need entry permits in order to be allowed into the park. Permits are available at each of the gates to the park, and cost Rs 30 for Indians and Rs 350 for foreigners. These permits are valid for three days; if you wish to stay longer, you’ll have to pay Rs 20 a day (if you’re Indian), Rs 175 per day if you’re not. Additional charges are levied for cameras and vehicles. Still cameras are free for Indians and Rs 50 for foreigners; vehicles are Rs 500 for both Indians and foreigners.

Access

One of the reasons for Rajaji’s popularity is that it’s conveniently situated for anybody coming from Delhi. The national capital is only 231 km from the park, and there are convenient overnight trains from Delhi to Haridwar and Dehradun, from where there are connecting buses to Rajaji. Similarly, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, is linked by bus to Haridwar and Dehradun. From Rajaji, the nearest airport is Jolly Grant, at Dehradun, while the most convenient railheads are Haridwar and Dehradun. Both have railway connections to the rest of the country.

Rajaji is accessible through different gates; the Ramgarh Gate and Mohand Gate are within 25 km of Dehradun, while the Motichur, Ranipur and Chilla Gates are just about 9 km from Haridwar. Kunao Gate is 6 km from Rishikesh, and Laldhang gate is 25 km from Kotdwar.

Within the park, the only way of getting around, if you haven’t got your own vehicle, is by elephant. Elephant rides of about 2½ hours each are organized by the park authorities and cost between Rs 50 and 100 per person.

Best time to visit

Rajaji National Park is open to visitors between November and June. The months from December to March are usually the best time to visit, as the weather’s at its best. Beyond April, things start hotting up, though it never gets unbearably hot.

Accommodation

Within the Rajaji National Park are ten forest rest houses, at Beribara, Chilla, Ranipur, Dholkhand, Kunnao, Motichur, Kansrao, Satyanarain, Phandowala and Kasarodi. The rest house at Dholkhand is currently not open to visitors, but the others charge approximately Rs 75-150 (for Indians) and Rs 225-450 (for foreigners). Chilla has, in addition, a tourist complex operated by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam.

The accommodation provided is fairly basic, and there are no catering facilities. You’ll have to bring your own food along, and do your own cooking- utensils and crockery are provided.

Staying outside the park, at hotels and tourist complexes in Haridwar, Rishikesh or Dehradun, is a good idea if you’d rather not rough it out. All three cities have a wide range of accommodation options, ranging from budget to mid-range and even luxury; and considering the close proximity of these towns to the park, it’s not too difficult getting to Rajaji for the day’s wildlife-watching.

Further information is available from the Rajaji National Park office at 5/1 Ansari Marg, Dehradun (Tel: 0135-2621669 / 2744225). Alternatively, you can contact any of the offices of the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN).