Travel guide - Dudhwa National Park
Dudhwa National Park is nature’s great green temple.
Bird-calls warning of tiger-whereabouts echo through dark green Sal woodlands. The great one-horned rhinoceros laze in the water in their only home away from Assam. Birds rule the silver green haven. Herds of Swamp deer Barahsinga, spotted deer, hog deer and barking deer graze in breeze-trained grass.
Butterflies by the dizzy hundred prance around on fairy-wings in the shrubbery. Monitor lizards and pythons meditate in quiet solitude. Hispid hares scurry in dark undergrowth. Crocodiles sun themselves on sandy riversides. Otters gurgle with joy at the abundance and variety of fish. Tigers and leopards thicken the night air with growls and roars, as you sleep snugly in comfy huts. This is Dudhwa National Park for you in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Dudhwa is nature’s great green temple. Earlier this was a hunting ground for royalty. In 1958, Sonaripur sanctuary was set aside to preserve the pristine diversity of wildlife here. Dudhwa National Park was born in the year 1977.
In the year 1987, the area was extended to cover nearby Kishanpur sanctuary which came to be called Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. Project Tiger was started here to further support to wild flora and fauna here. Dudhwa National Park is now spread over 884 sq km, including the buffer zone.
In 1984, the rhinoceros was reintroduced to Dudhwa, as an epidemic in the last century had wiped out the entire rhino population here. RN Bhadoria, then chief conservator of Forest, UP goes misty eyed as he recalls the thrill involved in bringing the special cargo home.
The Herculean effort of carting one male and five females rhinos from Assam and Nepal has been rewarded by a flourishing rhino population here now. They live in a special area in the park, which has restricted entry.
Dudhwa’s core competence is its large platter of woodland, grassland and wetland, rolled in one! Dudhwa’s bio-diversity is remarkable because of this. The Terai eco-system flourishes here sandwiched between the cool Himalayan foothills and the hot plains.
Dudhwa National Park is in district Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh. To the north it extends to the Indo-Nepal border, and river Suheli in the south restrains its southern limit. The nearest township is Palia (10 km).
The soft blue morning haze reminds of the Himalayas not far away. Dotted with silver water bodies, bordered by tall grassland and guarded by thick jungle, Dudhwa is a maze for nature-lovers to explore forever. Bird-watchers pitch their tents here for months to see the private life of over 450 bird species.
The moist terrain of the Terai flaunts its natural finery here. 50% of the green cover is Sal trees growing to awesome heights. Teak, Jamun, Khair, Kachnar, Neem, Peepal, Bargad and Semal trees offer variety in accommodation and food for winged residents and visitors.
Echelons of migratory birds visit Dudhwa because of its diverse offerings in flora and habitat. Hornbills, red headed martins, lager falcons, and swamp partridges raise families in this green cover with abundant food and security. Bengal floricans, Sarus cranes and Coon teals among others hang around silver lakes amidst breezy grasslands.
Amaltas trees announce the warm season with yellow blossoms that attract sunbirds, red-headed martins, bulbuls, mynas, woodpeckers, warblers, babblers, cuckoos, pheasants, peafowl, wagtails, orioles, barbets, minivets, bee-eaters, drongos, doves, sparrows, and crows among others. Petite Munias swing on slim new stalks that are gifts from spring.
Parrots chatter as they dine on wild fruit. Bejewelled peacocks and peafowls nurse their young ones without inhibitions. Raptors like ospreys, fishing eagles, kites, shikras, buzzards and marsh harriers circle the skies exciting the water-birds to scoot for cover. Twelve kinds of owls alone call the shots at night!
From November to March, blizzards of wings over lakes are routine as migratory birds home in the hospitable precincts of Dudhwa. Bengal floricans, painted storks, black storks, egrets, kingfishers, sarus cranes, lapwings, moorhens, cormorants, herons, coots, teals, pochards, mallards, brahminy ducks, grebe, greylag and bar-headed geese, all live off the plentiful fish in Dudhwa’s lakes.
The most popular lake with bird-watchers is Banke Tal. In breeding regalia birds look lovely in post-monsoon and spring, this means November to March.
Here comes the king
Elephant rides and jeep safaris take you around the park. While bird-watching you never know when the king of the jungle, the Bengal tiger might benevolently honour you with his presence. The tiger is the king of the wild here, but it’s regal nonetheless and is amicable unless threatened. Forest rest houses within Dudhwa National Park enhance the forest magic.
The rest house at Dudhwa is the most popular. Rest houses at Sonaripur, Sathiana, Bankati and Kila have their own advantages with scenic spots and wildlife sightings. Large herds of Barahsingha swamp deer grazing freely at Sathiana is a sight beyond words! March to April is the most fruitful time to be here as new fawns are born and are up on their feet in minutes!
With the green grass turning ochre, a sudden view of the magnificent tiger ambling on the muddy track, surveying the setting sun is a grand sight. Sometimes a tigress lolling with her cubs in the dark shade of trees near a water-hole can be sensed because of compulsive warnings by birds, barking deer or black-faced langurs who keep track of their royalty’s whereabouts at all times.
When you stop your jeep engine to hear the sounds of the jungle, monkeys, deer, birds, butterflies and grasshoppers will make their presence felt all around you. Grasshoppers zing about everywhere to the tune of bird orchestra. Spiders weave their orbs to catch food and decorate the sun rays that happen to pass through. Thick undergrowth, tall trees overhead, open grasslands a little beyond and the sound of birds flapping on the waterfront, are fascinating.
You don’t have to be an avid bird-watcher to make the most of Dudhwa. But when passionate forest guides show you around, the secrets of bird and animal life at Dudhwa will charm you.
A train journey from Dudhwa to Gauri Phanta or Chandan Chowki is an unparalled experience. Watch towers in the jungle are also islands in the green canopy from where you can watch at leisure, minus the drone of the jeep engine.
Nature’s charisma is very strong here and having visited Dudhwa National Park once, nostalgia will force you to return to this peaceful bounty to marvel at life itself. Dudhwa’s fine-tuned balance with bio-diversity and eco-systems attunes visitors naturally.
25 km from Dudhwa stands a palace retreat built in Indo-Saracenic style by the rulers of Singahi estate. Its architectural details, lush lawns, fountains and swimming pool are worthy of a visit.
135 km from Dudhwa lies a one of is kind Frog temple at Oyal. It was built by the rulers of Oyal estate. The temple’s base is sculpted like a large frog!
Map of Dudhwa National Park
Nearest Town: Palia 10 km
Distance: Delhi 430 km, Lucknow 230 km
Railway stations: Dudhwa 4 km, Palia 10 km, Mailani 37 km
Airports: Lucknow 240 km, Dhangarhi in Nepal 35 km
From Delhi 430km; Route: Delhi-Moradabad-Bareilly-Pilibhit (or Shahjahanpur) - Khutar-Mailani-Bhira-Palia-Dudhwa.
UPSRTC buses run between Lucknow and Palia and also between Palia and Dudhwa.
Season: The park is open from 15th November to 15th June every year.