Nagarhole National Park also known as ‘Rajiv Gandhi National Park,’ is located 94 km from Mysore. It is spread between Kodagu and Mysore districts. Located to the northwest of Bandipur National Park, Kabini reservoir separates the two. These were exclusive hunting reserves of the former rulers of Mysore.
The park has rich forest cover, small streams, valleys, and waterfalls. Its area stretches to 575 km².
In Kannada, Naga meaning snake and hole referring to streams, rightfully means the place with snake. Set up in 1955, it is one of the best-managed parks in the country, with the office of the Deputy Conservator of Forests situated in Hunsur, about 47 km away from Nagarhole. The climate is tropical; summer is hot and winter is pleasant. The park boasts a healthy tiger-predator ratio, and tiger, bison, and elephant are much more populous here than in Bandipur.
The park is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Nagarhole, in the Coffee land of Coorg was declared a National park in 1974. It has recently been renamed ‘Rajiv Gandhi National Park.’ Gentle slopes and shallow valleys surround it on all sides. You find a variety of trees and shrubs often making it a sanctuary for illegal timber traders. Huge herds of Asian Elephants flock here together and it is blessed with wildlife abundance. Among reptiles, the marsh crocodile, monitor lizard, rock python and several other species can be found. Aquatic and terrestrial tortoises, frogs, toads and tree frogs and myriad insects, including some very colourful butterflies, adorn this lovely southern jungle of India.
To the south-east lies the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary while to the west, coffee plantations separate the park from Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary. This entire stretch is one of the finest remaining habitats of the Asian Elephant. Huge herds hang about in Nagarhole, and it’s said that summer is the best time to see them. It is held that Nagarhole is worth visiting in the dry season, when wild animals are spotted in large numbers near the water bodies but don’t bet your money on it. Successive dry spells have shrivelled the water sources so much that the animals feel content lying in the shade, away from view.
Then, as the pre-monsoon showers bring the forest alive with streams, the resident birds start their breeding activities and the air resounds with melodious calls. Sprouting grass in the meadows and view lines attract elephants and gaur in large numbers. As rains intensify, the river resuscitates and the grandeur of Nagarhole slowly begins to unfold.