Dudhwa National Park, in Lakhimpur-Kheri District of Uttar Pradesh, adjacent to Nepal border, is one of the major projects for wildlife preservation in India.
Spread over an expanse of approximately 811 km² of marshes, grasslands and dense forests, it is a home for over 38 species of mammals, 16 species of reptiles and numerous species of birds. It has two core areas: Dudhwa National Park and Kishanpur wildlife sanctuary. They are 15 km apart with agricultural land between them. Unlike other major national parks in India like Corbett, Kaziranga, its noncommercial environment makes it an ideal place for animal and bird lovers to spend a day or two in peace, closest to nature.
The Park has a sizable number of tigers and leopards, although the thick vegetation makes it difficult to spot one. The area once had a good number of Indian one horn rhinos which eventually fell to indiscriminate poaching. The Rhino, brought in from Assam's Kaziranga in 1984, have once again thrived in the park. As a major environmental success, the park now boasts of over 30 rhinos, which are very likely to be spotted on a safari on the elephant back. The park also has swamp deer also known as 'barasingha' locally, elephants, Sambar, Cheetal and Hog deers, monkeys, langurs porcupines and a host of other animals. Nearly 800 varieties of birds are found in the park, including the Great Pied Hornbill, Flycatchers, Kingfishers, Drongos etc. Water bodies in the park attract a number of migratory birds from September till march and the rivers support a rich variety of turtles, crocodiles and fish. Gangetic dolphin is reportedly found in the Geruwa river. Dudhwa National Park is a home for 38 species of mammals, 16 species of reptiles, 400 species of birds and 90 species of fish. The main attraction of Dudhwa is swamp deer. Half of the world's 4000 swamp deer live here. Apart from this, four more types of deer found here: hog deer, spotted deer, barking deer and sambar. The officials figure on the population of tigers is 101 but according to Billy himself there is not enough prey to support more than 20 tigers. The rhino population has increased from 7 to 16 since 1984. There are a few leopards also and recently a hispid hare has also been seen. Wild boars, elephants and bears also give an occasional sighting here.
Located on the Indo-Nepal border of the Lakhimpur Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh, India, Dudhwa National Park (680 km²), along with two other adjacent parks, the Kishanpur Wild Life Sanctuary (204 km²) and Katerniaghat Wild Life Sanctuary (440 km²) is now named as the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger. It represents some of the best natural forests and grasslands left in the Terai district of Uttar Pradesh and is today the last viable home of the Royal Bengal Tiger in the state, along with species such as swamp deer, Indian one horned rhinoceros and the elusive hispid hare. It has excellent forests of 'Sal' tree, amongst other flora and is a virtual unexplored paradise for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers.
After independence of India in 1947, the locals starting encroaching the wilderness of the jungle and the forests started being replaced by paddy and sugarcane. Its location on the Indo-Nepal border provides ideal environment for poachers who hunt for the animals here and sell their products in Nepal, which being a tourist place gives them a huge market for these things. It was a heaven for poachers, game lovers and locals. It is due to the untiring and single-handed efforts of 'Billy' Arjan Singh that this park now stands with its richness. The area was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1965 which received a lot of criticism from the people benefiting from the area. Standing up to the point of being obsessive, Billy favored the decision and went on to convince the erstwhile Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, to declare the forest as a National park in 1977. In 1984-85, seven rhinos were relocated from Assam and Nepal to Dudhwa to rehabilitate a rhino population which lived here 150 years ago. Four years later, it was declared a Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger and is a major habitat for tigers in India.
Kashipur Wildlife Sanctuary, is the oldest protected area amongst the three areas of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, which was declared a wild life sanctuary in 1972, followed by Katerniaghat Wild Life Sanctuary in 1975, and finally the Dudhwa National Park declared as wild life sanctuary in 1977. Together, the three are sometimes erroneously referred by its most popular name, Dudhwa, although the three are distinctly different parks in close vicinity of one another, enjoying the same terai ecosystem with highly productive habitats of diverse flora and fauna and home to a large number of species.
The Dudhwa National Park is made up of rivers, shallow lakes known as 'taals' which provide adequate supplies of fresh water to the park throughout the year. As a result, the area boasts of lush green forests that support the diverse ecosystem. The river Sharda River kisses the boundary of Kishanpur Wild Life Sanctuary close by, while Geruwa, Suheli and Mohana streams, all tributaries of the Ghagra river, flow through the Park. Some of the important shallow lakes are Bankey Taal, Kakraha Taal and Amraha. The land is fertile and the Park is surrounded by rich farmlands yielding 3 to 4 crops in a year. The encroaching agricultural land, along with a railway track which runs through the park can be seen a major threats to the park in the future. The only approach to the park is by a dual bridge across the river Sharda which works as a common one way bridge for road as well as the railway track. Once the new bridge, which under construction, is completed, the commercial traffic into the park will be affected further.
The forest is in the foot-hills of the Himalyas with the flat land covered by spreads of grasslands, swamps and dense forests of tall sal trees. The area is an extremely fertile vast alluvial plain. This mix of ecosystems plays a key role in sustaining a large number living species. The swamps and vast grasslands with tall, yellow grass provide a natural habitat for tigers, deers, rhino etc while dense forests support a variety of other animals and birds also.
Flora and fauna
The forest of Dudhwa National Park is made up of North Indian Moist Deciduous type. Nearly 60 percent of forest is made up of Sal (shorea robusta) trees while the remaining part represents other varieties typical to the sub-Himalayan terrain.
Temperature drops to 2°C in winter and can be as high as 45°C in the peak of summer. The park has adequate rain fall and it is closed to visitors from mid June to Mid November for the rainy season.
Nearest railway station: Dudwa (4 km), Palia Kalan (10 km), Mailani (37 km), Gola Gokaran Nath (70 km).
You can reach Palia Kalan via Seetapur, Gola Gokaran Nath and Mailani by metro gauge trains from Aishbagh Railway Station of Lucknow.
Nearest airport: Lucknow, Dhangarhi (Nepal, 35 km).
Fees and permits
The park levies an entry fee of ₹50 for Indian visitors and ₹300 for foreign visitors for a period of 3 days. Additional fees are levied for each additional day. Vehicles are allowed into the park at a fee of ₹100. There are also fees for video cameras, while other cameras are allowed free.
Separate fees are charged for each jeep and for elephant safaris.
The park has very few hotels in close vicinity but the park offers a variety of accommodation of moderate standard in the park.
The forest provides no jeep safaris or guides. Jeeps and mini buses can be hired to move around inside the park. Elephant rides through the Park are also available and moreover the mahouts or Elephant drivers also double up as guides.
Private vehicles conforming to standards are allowed in the park. It is mandatory to take a certified guide with you from the park for each visit. Vehicles (jeeps) are also available from the main office for safaris in the morning and in the afternoon. From a point inside the park, morning and afternoon elephant safaris are also available.
Visits along various routes in the park can be fascinating. It is also mandatory to visit the various lakes or 'taals' located at vantage points. The elephant safari can also be a rewarding experience and is the best way to see the Rhino.
While in the region, you can also visit the Kishanpur and the Katerniaghat Wild Life Sanctuaries nearby. A drive along the park to the end of Nepal border (Chandan Chowki) is also interesting.
The park offers a fascinating experience for nature lovers and photographers.
Local mementos such as hats, tee shirts and other tit-bits are on sale at a small shop near the entrance of the park. In winter, a visit to the nearby Palia town (10 km) can get you the usual local purchases.
The park has only one canteen, which is in the Main Office of the park. They serve vegetarian food of reasonable quality at moderate prices. Orders have to be given in advance from the menu.
The park offers a variety of accommodation including one air conditioned room and several huts, rooms and dormitory with different tariffs. Accommodation must be booked in advance from Lucknow at the office of the Chief Wildlife Warden Uttar Pradesh (tel. 0522-2206584).(0587-2252106)
Jungle tents: Pick your luxury suites: Banke, Tara, RLS, Billy, Jogi and many more. The jungle tents are named after the legends of Dudhwa. The tents are large roomy, spacious and comfortable. They are made of canvas and each tent can accommodate 8 students. The tents can be zipped open and closed. The entire tent can be sealed and secured. The tents provide warmth in winters and are cool in summers. Comfortable bedding consisting of mattresses, sheets, pillows and quilts (or sleeping sheets, as per the season). Every room tent is provided a semi-permanent toilet tent.
Food: Karavan's logistics team arrange for healthy dishes, desserts, soups, snacks.
Environment policy: A very strict environment policy of zero-pollution obderved. Wastage of resources (fuel, lighting, water, paper, etc.) is minimal. A conscientious effort is made not to disturb the wildlife by noise and loud music. Only vegetarian food is served. Waste is properly segregated. All the organic waste is disposed in a pit. Bio-non degradable waste is collected in sacks and taken away for municipal disposal.
Transport: Karavan arranges for quality transport: good buses and jeeps.
Beware of monkeys stealing food in the main office of the park.