Wildlife in Himachal Pradesh

01 The Great Himalayan National Park ( Kullu )

The great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is an investment in the physical, mental and spiritual well being of Indians as individuals, and of Himachalis in particular. It is a gainful investment in something as simple and fundamental as good citizenship, love of country and an appreciation of the natural and historic fabric of the natural and historic fabric of the Western Himalaya. Bounded on three sides by the perpetual snow of the Himalayas, the westerly entrance to the park through the Tirthan Valley leading up to the Pin Parvati Pass (5800 m+) in the GHNP is traditionally considered one of the most sacred places in the Western Himalaya. The GHNP proper, the Sainj and the Tirthan wildlife sanctuaries together enrich Himachal by their unparalleled splendour. Each of these highlight a unique niche in the rich mosaic of our natural heritage. You may visit any one to experience the natural mystique of the place. The features that initially attracted and led to the preservation of this area as GHNP were its enormous bio-diversity representativeness of the Western Himalaya. From the critically endangered Western Tragopan to the rare and elusive serow and the most beautiful of the big cats, the snow leopard ; they are all here, amidst the entire range of vegetation and ecological complexes of the Western Himalaya. The GHNP is a true wilderness, one of the few large natural areas remaining intact in this part of the world. Here you meet Nature on its terms, not yours.

02 The Pin Valley National Park ( Spiti )

For unknown aeons, long before man discovered this remote land, several hardy animals and birds inhabited this Himalayan Eden in exquisite equilibrium. The Pin Valley National Park represents the bio-geography of the Trans-Himalayan cold desert with its characteristic flora and fauna. Endangered species such as the precious snow leopard, the endemic Himalayan Ibex, the mighty Bharal or Blue Sheep and Lynx among others are found in these cold and rugged lands. The desolate grandeur accentuated by the utter lack of noticeable vegetation brings stunning lunar-like beauty to the landscape set against the blust of skies. The large variety of indigenous, medicinal herbs that help sustain the ancient Amchi (Tibetan) system of medicine add much to the cultural and floristic significance of this national park. Fossilised crustacea and other marine life forms lay embedded in stone and geologic folds, testimony to the tectonic rise of the Himalaya from the depth of the Tetheys sea.

To be here is to get into a time machine ; geological, biological and cultural. If the real and surreal overlap anywhere, it must be here, it must be here, it must be here.

The wildlife sanctuaries of Himachal Pradesh, scattered over its varied mountains terrain from sweltering sub-tropical lowlands to icy, alpine heights harbour much of our natural heritage, like colorful beads strung together in a time-chain that links our inheritance with our legacy.

03 Renuka Wildlife Sanctuary ( Sirmaur )

Spread over 400 hectares of wood and grass land surrounding the sacred and picturesque Renuka lake, this Wildlife Sanctuary despite its small size, harbours several species of deer like Chital, Sambhar and Barking Deer. The threatened Kaleej pheasant and the more common Red jungle fowl are also found here. The Renuka Lake and temple attract pilgrims from far and near. An added attraction is the lion safari. The sanctuary can be visited all the year round and is easily approachable from Chandigarh or Dehradun.

04 Churdhar Sanctuary ( Sirmaur )

Named after the 3647 m high Churdhar peak, this wildlife sanctuary is a trekkers' paradise in the outer Himalayas. The spectacular Monal, Himachal's state bird, can be easily sighted in the forested slopes of Churadhar along with the Koklass and the Kaleej pheasants. The endangered Himalayan Black Bear and the canine toothed Musk Deer inhabit the higher reaches of the sanctuary.

There is Shiva temple and a sarai at Churadhar and Forest Rest Houses at Nehra, Choras and Sarain. Summer or early winter is the best time to visit.

05 Chail Sanctuary ( Solan )

Chail, the summer retreat of the erstwhile Patiala state, is a popular hill station, only a couple of hours drive from Kalka. Thick deodar, blue pine and oak forests clothe the slopes around this quiet, cool town. Extensive grasslands in the sanctuary are ideal habitat for Ghoral and the rare Cheer pheasant. A herd of european Red Deer, introduced earlier, still roam the forest. An encounter with a Barking Deer or the Kaleej pheasant is a near certainty at dawn or dusk. Trekking is popular with visitors and rewarding. A well appointed hotel housed in the palace of the Maharaja of Patiala is the perfect launch site to make foray into this fascinating wildlife sanctuary. For cricket lovers, Chail incidentally, boasts of the world's highest cricket ground. Summer is cool and winter is very cold.

06 Maharana Pratap Sagar

Himachal's famous wetland, spread over 300 sq. kms, teeming with the anglers' delight, the Mahaseer, the Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary is more importantly the ultimate heaven for birds, both migratory and resident in Himachal Pradesh.

In winter, watching 'commotional' flocks of colorful water birds jostling for space in the sun or in water, against the shimmering backdrop of the snow-capped Dhauladhar range makes for one of the many breathtakingly beautiful sights of this sanctuary. The Ranser Island in the lake has Black Buck and Chital. Elsewhere, Feral Buffaloes chew the cud of contentment, unhurriedly amidst the incessant chattering of Pintails, Porchards, Mallards and Egrets. Visit in winter when the party is on.

07 Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary ( Chamba )

The magnificence of the deodar forest is at its best here. An hour's drive from the well known hill resort of Dalhousie, the Kalatop-Khajjiar Sanctuary, home to the elusive serow and the common Black Bear and numerous well laid out trekking paths is a starattraction for the wildlife tourist.

The curious floating island in a small water body amidst an enchating meadow at khajjiar has become legendary scenery. Nowhere in Himachal is such pure and exquisite wilderness so easily accessible. To experience the bliss of solitude, stay at the Kalatop Forest Rest House. Summer is best here.