This wonderful, exciting animal kingdom was once ruled by the Gond kings. Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary gets its name from a nag temple situated in the heart of the sanctuary and the temple of Mahadeo. ‘Zira’ (zara) in Marathi means a perennial source of water that comes out from a hill in Pongezara, Nagzira. This is a lush green forest, surrounded by hilly slopes, which form part of the Gaikhuri Hills of the southern Satpura range. The hills are interspersed with narrow plateaus and the eastern portion is predominantly flatland. Dry, deciduous trees, grass and thorny plants abound. Teak trees flourish on the hilly slopes – good quality forest is found in pockets of deep moist soils in valleys and along nullahs. In the central portion of Nagzira, bamboo is found in abundance. On the outer fringes bamboo is absent or of poor quality, due to illicit cutting – erosion due to grazing has also taken place in these areas. This wildlife sanctuary is a living repository of various economical, medicinal, aromatic and ornamental plant species.

Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary is a miraculously preserved green oasis covering 152 sq km in the northeastern corner of Maharashtra. This small reserve has a great importance from a biodiversity and conservation point of view. It is an important corridor linking southern and central forested areas, like Tadoba Andhari and Kanha tiger reserves. Nagzira is a magical place – home to tigers, leopards, dholes, jungle cats, sloth bears, spotted hyenas, jackals, and herbivores such as gaurs, sambars, nilgais and chitals. An astonishing variety of butterflies and birds, reptiles and amphibians also flourish in this living outdoor museum.

Unfortunately it has been observed that tourists litter the forest floor, wear bright colours and chatter incessantly. This disturbs the peace and ruins the beauty of the forest. Silence within safari vehicles must be maintained at all times.

It takes around three hours to reach Nagzira by road from Nagpur while Gondia is about an hour’s drive away. The sanctuary has eight entry gates – Nagzira, Kosamtondi, Murpar, Murdoli, Balapur, Pongezara, Mangezari and the Chorkhamara.

Park Entry Indians  50; Foreigners  100 Vehicle Entry Car/Jeep  150, minibus  200 Guide fee  300; Closed 16 June to 30 September Safari Timings 6.00–11.00am, 3.00–6.00pm

Reeti Paandharipande
Wild boars and gaurs gathering around a watering hole
Wild boars and gaurs gathering around a watering hole

Things to See

The safari Gypsy slowly wound around a bend in the jungle track. Oblivious to the blazing sun and hot breeze, our eyes were glued to the dirt track, looking for pugmarks on both sides of the road. Suddenly, we saw them – the dholes! A family of 14, no less – gambolling around the solar water pumps and small artificial pond installed by the forest department. The older adults looked wary, but the younger ones trotted forward curiously, then frolicked into the The safari Gypsy slowly wound around a bend in the jungle track. Oblivious to the blazing sun and hot breeze, our eyes were glued to the dirt track, looking for pugmarks on both sides of the road. Suddenly, we saw them – the dholes! A family of 14, no less – gambolling around the solar water pumps and small artificial pond installed by the forest department. The older adults looked wary, but the younger ones trotted forward curiously, then frolicked into the water as we inched out way up to the pack. Stopping short of them, we eyed each other before they turned and loped away. Amazingly, further on, the dholes emerged again, unconcernedly padding along he jungle road. They were intent on the call of a sambar up ahead. Holding our breath, we admired these fierce little warriors, excited to be in such close proximity with predators who can hold the tiger at bay.

On the same trip mentioned above, while returning to the camp, we were lucky enough to come upon a large herd of gaur, browsing quietly on leaves and grass on both sides of the track. Three handsome young bulls crossed the road right in front of our vehicle. One of them faced us squarely with a penetrating stare – an arresting picture, on which we gazed mesmerized. As dusk began to fall, a wild boar mother and her little piglets scuttled away from the road to join up with a very large sounder of wild boar converging on a waterhole – at least 20 of them.

And the icing on the jungle cake! A stunningly beautiful male leopard at a waterhole, barely five minutes away from the jungle camp – crouching low, lapping water, eyeing us warily, then shrinking away through the foliage, only to emerge and cross the road behind us.

Gaur and sambar graze peacefully on hilly tracts early in the morning and at dusk. Herds of chital can be seen grazing by day on the flat meadows, surrounding Nagzira lake. Nilgai and barking deer enjoy the grass and shrubs on the outskirts and the sloth bears enjoy the fruit trees and huge termite mounds, honey and mahua flowers.

Dinodia Photo Libary
Crested serpent eagle, Nagzira WLS
Crested serpent eagle, Nagzira WLS

The prey base is ample enough to keep the apex predators happy and Nagzira is home to many tigers. The most famous tiger in recent years, Jai, was born and lived here for a couple of years before moving on to new territory. Jai’s father, Dendu, another handsome specimen, is still seen here.

Nagzira is also a birdwatchers’ paradise. There are about 166 species of birds, including migratory land and water birds. Cormorant, egret, heron, stork and the black-winged kite are sighted regularly. Other birds frequently seen are peafowl, the grey jungle fowl and the red spur fowl.

Thirty-six species of reptiles, and 45 species of amphibia thrive here. Rock pythons, dhaman, the Indian cobra, and the common monitor have made these forests their home. Fortynine species of butterfly belonging to nine families flit here, including the common sailor and the lime butterfly

For those looking for extras, there’s also an Interpretation Centre and Museum in Nagzira Tourist Complex. The museum with a variety of stuffed birds, wildlife photos and plaster casts of pugmarks, is still in its infancy. Informative films and slides on wildlife, forest and nature are screened here. Watchtowers and cabins for wildlife observation are situated at Nagzira hill, Nagzira lake, Nagzira well, and at Chital Road.

Where to Stay & Eat

Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra provides clean and comfortable guesthouses within the forest. Lata Kunj and Madhu Kunj have two suites each, costing  1,000 per room. Tents are also available (Tariff:  1,000). A canteen within the reserve takes care of your meals. For bookings, contact the Divisional Manager, FDCM, Bhandara (Tel: 07184-252406). Bookings can be made at mahaecotourism.gov.in.

Among the private resorts, Nagzira Tiger Resort (Cell: 09673387561; Tariff:  2,700–3,500, with meals) near Chorkhamara Gate, has a good location with clean rooms and good food. They arrange safaris too. Also in the same area is Nagzira Nature Camp (Cell: 08380871850, 085549 76873, 09657335277, 09167036314; Tariff:  6,000–7,000, with meals) has rooms and tents. They also have a restaurant. Muba Jungle Camp (Cell: 09303037453, 09770623046; Tariff:  5,500, with meals) is close to the Pitezari Gate. It has a restaurant and wildlife library. Safaris and trekking with an in-house naturalist can be arranged.

Fast Facts

When to go February to May is the best time, although the sanctuary is open from October to June. It is closed during the monsoon

Tourist/ Wildlife Offices

MTDC
Mumbai
Tel: 022-22044040, 22845678

Chief Conservator of Forests
Navegaon-Nagzira WLS
Balaghat Road
Gondia
Tel: 07182-251232, 251250

Divisional Manager
Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra
Forest Project Division
Nagzira WLS
Bhandara
Tel: 07184-252406
mahaecotourism.gov.in
STD codes Bhandara 07184
Gondia 07182 

Region Vidarbha

Location In the eastern part of Maharashtra in Gondia and Bhandara districts

Distance 122 km E of Nagpur

Route from Nagpur NH6 to Sakoli via Bhandara; state road to Nagzira

 

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Nagpur (122 km/ 3 hrs). Taxi costs approx  1,500–2,000

Rail Nearest railhead: Gondia Railway Station (50 km/ 1 hr). Taxi costs approx.  700–1,200. Buses also available upto Sakoli

Road It is a 3-hour-drive from Nagpur on NH6 upto Sakoli that takes you to Nagzira WLS.

Bus The nearest bus stand is at Sakoli, 22 km away from the park. ST buses from Nagpur, Gondia and Bhandara ply upto Sakoli. From here, take a taxi to the Park. Taxi costs about  500