Rajaji National Park is situated in the state of Uttaranchal, now known as Uttarakhand. It is known for its pristine scenic beauty & rich bio diversity. It offers ample opportunity to nature lovers to enjoy the captivating landscape & wildlife. The majestic river Ganga flows through the national park for a distance of 24 kms besides the innumerable streams & brooks making it rich & diverse in flora as well as fauna. The wildlife of the park is blessed with as many as 23 species of mammals & 315 bird species with elephants, tigers, leopards, deer & ghoral as predominant ones. The abundance of nature’s bounties heaped in & around the park is bound to attract nature lovers as well as wildlife conversationalists.
Rajaji National Park, also known as Chilla Park, is situated along the hills & foothills of Shiwalik ranges in the Himalayan foothills. It is spread over 820.42 sq. km. & three districts of Uttarakhand- Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal. Rajaji national park has been named after the famous freedom fighter Late C. Raja gopalachari, popularly known as Rajaji. Rajaji was the second and last Governor-General of independent India and one of the first recipients of India’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna.
In the year 1983, three wildlife sanctuaries in the area namely-Chilla, Motichur & Rajaji sanctuaries were merged into one. Motichur & Rajaji wildlife sanctuaries lie to the north & south of the Shiwalik Ridge & are dissected by many ravines carrying water which descend from the main ridge, becoming broad streams in the plains. These streams remain dry for most of the year but are flooded with water during the rainy season. The park has a very large land area representing Shiwalik ecosystem. The Shiwalik trail is 10 million years old & is very rich in fossils. The park is thickly foliated predominantly by the Sal Forest. Low Alluvial Savannah Woodlands cover the drier southern margins of the park, in contrast to the Shiwalik Chir-Pine on the higher reaches of the hills.
The major attractions of the park are Wildlife jeep safaris & Elephant rides. There is 34 km. Nature safari trail & drive passing through undulating forest track, hilly terrain, lush green valleys, river beds, dense forests & sprawling grasslands. During this drive visitors can see a large no. of peafowl & peacock dancing especially during the monsoons. Trained Elephants along with their trained mahouts are available for rides & is a lifetime experience. The place has been facing some problems in the recent past in the form of soil erosion & poaching. But despite all the odds, Rajaji national park had been one of the prominent national parks in the country & an important place to observe the flora & fauna of the region.
How to Reach Rajaji National Park
Rajaji national park is accessible from many directions by road, rail and air. It is approximately 9 km from Haridwar, 14 kms from Rishikesh & 38 km from Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun. You can take a 50 min flight from Delhi Airport to Jolly Grant Airport which is few km away from the northern boundary of the park. Following are the main roads by which one can reach different areas of the park:
1. Dehradun Delhi State Highway– It almost forms the western boundary of the park. Mohand is the most important station on the route.
2. Dehradun, Doiwala, Rishikesh, Haridwar State Highway– This route is the most comfortable & convenient route and covers major areas of the park like Ramgarh, Motichur, Kunao& Chilla forests.
3. Moradabad, Haridwar State Highway– This route connects Lucknow- Delhi highway & Haridwar. You can follow this path to reach Chilla, Gohri and Ranipur forests.
What to see at Rajaji National Park ?
Visitors may have the adventure of a lifetime vacationing in the Rajaji national park. One may find a herd of elephants roaming majestically in the jungle or a tiger picking its way through the tall grass or may find themselves getting excited on seeing the beauty of these living creatures. It’s location in a transition zone between temperate western Himalaya & central Himalaya enhances the species diversity & consequently the viewing prospects.
Flora -The area is covered with diverse forest types & has been classified under the Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests and can be grouped in to six types- Sal forest, Mixed forest, Riverine forest, Scrub forest, Grassland, Sub-tropical pine forest.
Animals in Rajaji National Park – Dense green jungles are habitat to an impressive array of creatures- furred & feathered, docile & dangerous including tigers, leopards, cheetal, elephants, deer, jungle cat, wild boar, jackal, hyena, civets, Indian cobra, sloth bears etc.
Birds in Rajaji National Park – Rajaji is also home to avian species which are found in forested foothills & in open grasslands. Various species of birds like Greater Scaup, White-naped woodpecker. Great hornbill, Pallas’s fish Eagle, Black- necked Stork, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Scaly Thrush, Rusty-flanked Tree creeper, green Avadavat and Reed Bunting are worth watching.
Be prepared for some real close encounters- vultures flying close by, eagles fluttering their gigantic wings & a myriad of other beautiful birds.
In winters, a large variety of fascinating migratory birds play in the sapphire waters of the River Ganga which itself provides shelter to various species of fishes.
Rajaji National Park Accommodation
Since Rajaji National Park is quite close to Haridwar (around 8 kms.), it is a good option to stay in any of the hotels in Haridwar. One can also stay in Rishikesh hotels or Dehradun hotels & can take a day’s trip to Rajaji national park, but if you want to stay really close to the park in its natural ambience, then there are several options available in & around Rajaji national park. There are few budget hotels and forest rest houses which provide a basic accommodation.
Within the Rajaji National Park are ten forest resthouses, at Beribara, Chilla, Ranipur, Dholkhand, Kunnao, Motichur, Kansrao, Satyanarain, Phandowala and Kasarodi. The resthouse 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.