Nagarhole National Park Travel Guide

Get a Glimpse of Elephants in the Wild at Nagarhole National Park

Elephant at Nagarhole.
••• Elephant at Nagarhole. Martin Siepmann\Getty Images.

Nagarhole gains its name from the snake like river that winds its way through it. The park is a place of unspoiled wilderness, with serene forest, bubbling streams, and a tranquil lake. It’s also officially known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park.

Nagarhole teems with over 250 types of birds, elephants, sloth bear, bison, tiger, leopards, deer, and wild boars.

Location

In Karnataka state, 95 kilometers (60 miles) south west of Mysore and bordering the state of Kerala.

The Kabini River, the largest of the park's waterways, lies to its south.

How to Get There

The closest railway station is in Mysore, around four hours away from Nagarhole by road. Alternatively, there is an airport in Bangalore, around six hours away.

The park has two entrance gates -- Kabini (Karapura) to the south, and Veeranahosahalli near Hunsur to the north.  From the Veeranahosahalli gate, there's another gate (Murkal) around 10 kilometers inside the park, followed by the Nagarhole Forest Department office almost 20 kilometers further on.

When to Visit

The best time to view the animals is during the heat of March and April, when the waterholes are dry and the animals come out and visit the lake. However, the temperature is more pleasant from November to February. The monsoon season, from June to October, brings a lot of rain. Hence, depending on the weather, the park may be avoidable then.

Some people say they have still had interesting animal sightings though.

Park Entry and Safaris

The roads that run through the park are open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., all year round. It's possible to drive along them in your own vehicle for free. However, if you want to go deep inside, you'll need to go on a safari.

Jeep safaris using private vehicles were banned in 2011.  Now, the two options for safaris are:

  • Noisy and rather disappointing one-hour minibus safaris, operated by the Forest Department from the Veeranahosahalli side of the park. These depart early in the morning from 6 a.m to 8 a.m., and again in the afternoon from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The cost is 300 rupees per person for Indians and 1,100 rupees for foreigners. This includes the park entry fee.
  • Jeep safaris, booked through hotels and operated by Jungle Lodges & Resorts (owned by the Karnataka government) from the Kabini side of the park. These depart from Kabini River Lodge in the morning at 6.30 a.m. and in the afternoon at 3.30 p.m.  The cost for Indians is 1,500 rupees per person. Foreigners pay 2,250 rupees per person. Depending on occupancy of the hotels in the area, you can expect four to eight people in a jeep. Government-operated boat trips also depart Kabini River Lodge at the same time.

The jeep safaris have two separate zones: Zone A is a wooded area and Zone B is close to the Kabini backwaters. A forest guide accompanies each jeep.

Travel Tips

The Kabini side of the park is more tourist-friendly, with better (albeit expensive) accommodations and facilities for jeep safaris.

On the Veeranahosahalli side, most of the accommodations are located further away from the park entrance.

A good thing about Nagarhole is that the main forest reserve office (where the minibus safaris start from) is situated deep inside the park. This means that visitors can pass through quite a bit of the park area on their own.

The park offers the opportunity to see elephants close up in their natural habitat, and it’s not unusual to see herds of elephants on the river bank. However, the likelihood of seeing a tiger here is rare compared to parks such as Bandhavgarh in the north.

Where to Stay

Jungle Lodges & Resorts Kabini River Lodge, located on the river near the southern edge of the park, is a popular choice and they offer packages including boating, jeep safaris, and elephant rides.

Other top options in the area include Orange County Resorts Kabini, The Serai, and Kaav Safari Lodge.

At the northern edge of the park, Kings Sanctuary, set in 34 acres of mango orchards, is a good luxury option. Alternatively, Kutta has reasonably priced accommodations including homestays. Spice Garden is a recommended homestay in Kutta.