The concrete jungle that is Delhi often makes one feel the need for an escape into the arms of nature. Luckily, this mega metropolis holds a few surprises for nature lovers as well. These wildlife preserves within the Delhi-NCR region are well equipped with amenities and offer a closer look at the rich bio-diversity of the region.
Sultanpur National Park
Who knew that there was a National Park at a mere hour’s drive from Delhi? Located on the Gurgaon-Farrukhnagar Road, 15 KM from Gurgaon is a bird watchers paradise, especially in winters. The number of migratory birds visiting this sanctuary in winters far exceeds the number of winged visitors in summers. However, it still houses some excellent bird species all year round. Some of the resident birds that can be spotted around the park are purple sunbird, Indian cormorant, common spoonbill, white-throated kingfisher, spotbill, painted stork, black-necked stork, white ibis, black-headed ibis, little egret, great egret, crested lark, rose-ringed parakeet, red-wattled lapwing, spotted owlet, magpie robin and weaver bird.
The amenities at the Sultanpur National Park are good, with a well-appointed guesthouse for people who wish to stay for the night. No vehicles are allowed inside the park, although parking facilities are available. A walk around the park’s periphery takes about two hours on foot, and there are four watchtowers at different points in the park. Sultanpur National Park remains open all year round to winged visitors, while human visitors must plan their visit between 7am – 4:30pm during the week, except on Tuesdays when the park is closed.
Okhla Bird Sanctuary
The Okhla Bird Sanctuary is actually an excellent example of development for all species, including humans. The wetlands of this bird sanctuary were created due to the construction of the Okhla Barrage. Located at the point where the river Yamuna leaves Delhi and enters UP, it is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in North India. Resident bird species include blackwinged stilt, oriental skylark, Indian pond heron, brownheaded gull, graylag goose and many others usually join in during the winter migration season including cranes and flamingoes.
The amenities within the park are quite good. However, be prepared to shell out a modest entry fee of INR 30 if you are an Indian citizen and INR 350 if you are a foreigner. Camera permits are also required inside the park, which can be obtained at the entrance for INR 500 (still camera for Indian citizen) and INR 1,000 (still camera for foreigners). Movie camera permits cost INR 5,000 and INR 10,000 for Indian and foreign nationals respectively. No vehicles are permitted inside the park premises, so plan your day accordingly. The park remains open between 7am to 5:30pm in the summers and 7am to 5pm in winters. While, the best-advised time to visit is between November to March, summers, especially monsoons usually have some pleasant bird watching surprises in store.
Asola Wildlife Sanctuary
The Asola Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest wildlife preserve within the city limits of Delhi covering an area of nearly 7,000 acres. It is home to nilgai (blue bull antelope), blackbuck, civet, jackals and jungle cats. This wildlife preserve is also home to a rich diversity of medicinal plants, and 193 species of resident and migratory birds.
The reserve is open to public and there is an entry fee of INR 100 per person. Park timings are 9am-5pm on weekdays, except national holidays. Do remember to check at the entrance for camera equipment fee, as there is no information available on the Delhi Government website regarding that. The sanctuary is easily approached from Tughlaqabad or Mehrauli. The sanctuary is also home to the Conservation Education Centre (CEC) which is run in collaboration with the Bombay Natural History Society and Government of NCT Delhi at the Forest Department building. The CEC staff also runs a nature trail through the scrub jungle to acquaint visitors with the flora, fauna and topography of the area.