Lesser Known Sanctuaries In The Himalayan Wilderness

A string of sanctuaries in these mountainscapes protect the region's unique flora and fauna
A view of the Churdhar Wildlife Sanctuary environs
A view of the Churdhar Wildlife Sanctuary environsShutterstock

Nestled within the Himalayan range lie several lesser-known wildlife sanctuaries, each harbouring a wealth of biodiversity and natural wonders. From dense forests teeming with elusive species to rugged terrains sheltering diverse avian life, these sanctuaries promise unforgettable encounters with Himalayan wildlife. Whether seeking tranquility amid alpine meadows or exploring oak and pine forests, these hidden gems provide a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers alike.

Rupi Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary

Rupi Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary has the Rupin Pass, a popular trek route
Rupi Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary has the Rupin Pass, a popular trek routeUnsplash

Known for its varying altitudes, this sanctuary is nestled in the Middle Himalaya Range where the forest is fed by rains and melting glaciers. It spans a wide area, from River Sutlej (at 909m above sea level) the forest cover ascends to a height of 5,650m, touching the Great Himalayan National Park in the west (at 5,650m) and the Pin Valley National Park in the north. The northern portion of the park is laced with glaciers and the forest is irrigated by several rivers. 

Trekking and camping are two of the biggest attractions here. All permissions for treks inside the sanctuary have to be obtained from the Chief Wildlife Warden at Kinnaur. All treks wind through high-altitude areas, so make sure you are physically fit. 

Getting There: The sanctuary lies in Kinnaur district. The nearest rail and air head is Shimla and nearest town is Bhabanagar.  

Renuka Sanctuary 

A view of Renuka lake
A view of Renuka lakeWikimedia Commons

The Renuka Sanctuary includes the oldest zoo in Himachal Pradesh. The Renuka Mini Zoo was established in 1957 with the aim of providing shelter to rescued animals from the surrounding forests. The lake here attracts a number of birds, so don't forget your binoculars. The forests are home to a variety of wildlife including leopard, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, jackal, hare, jungle cat, palm civet, porcupine, blue jay, black partridge, drongo, hill crow, scarlet minivet, bulbul, common coot, and green pigeon. You can make a weekend outing to the nearby Renuka lake, 83 km from Nahan in tHimachal Pradesh. 

Getting There: The nearest town from the sanctuary, Dadahu is about 2 kms. Chandigarh is the nearest airport. Ambala Cantonment is the nearest railhead.

Churdhar Sanctuary 

A view of the Churdhar Wildlife Sanctuary environs
A view of the Churdhar Wildlife Sanctuary environsShutterstock

The 66sq km Churdhar Sanctuary is situated on the pilgrimage route to Chur peak (11,965 ft), the highest in southern Himachal Pradesh. Perched atop the peak is a beautiful Shiva temple. The peak has been mentioned in John Keay's novel The Great Arc. Around 1834, George Everest made numerous astronomical observations and glimpses of the Himalaya ranges from this peak. He conducted the original survey of India's whole length and made some extremely precise measurements of the earth's curvature while serving as Surveyor General of India. You can spot several birds here including Himachal's state bird, the spectacular monal, and koklass and kaleej pheasants. The forests are home to the canine-toothed musk deer and the endangered Himalayan black bear.

Getting There: The nearest airports are at Chandigarh and Dehradun. Taxis/buses are available for Nohradhar at all places. The nearest railheads are Chandigarh and Kalka. 

Chail Sanctuary

Chail Wildlife Sanctuary
Chail Wildlife SanctuarySushant Singh/Flickr

Stretching from the Krishna River to Giriganga is this small wildlife sanctuary, which houses several small villages besides the wild langur, leopards, bear, hogs, deer (ghoral, sambar), goats and wild pheasant (including the endangered kaleej). It is one of the few notified regions in the state where humans and beasts live side by side. The Chail Sanctuary, spread across 109sq km, is ideal for camping. According to forest officials here, it is possible to spot wildlife on the way to Kali-ka-Tibba and Gaura, besides the stretch between Chail Palace and Janerghat. 

Getting There: The nearest airport is Chandigarh (110 km), and nearest railhead is Kalka

Simbalbara Wildlife Sanctuary

The gate to the Simbalbada Sanctuary
The gate to the Simbalbada SanctuaryFacebook

The picturesque Simbalbara Wildlife Sanctuary lies mainly in the lower Shivalik region, but merges into the middle and upper reaches with an altitudinal range that goes up from 350m to 700m. It shares a boundary with the Kalesar forest to the west, and is contiguous with the Darpur, Majra and Nagli reserve forests, which together have much larger populations of wildlife.

It was originally the hunting ground for the Maharaja of Sirmour, and historical records point to elephants in the region it's believed they were driven away when the Yamuna barrage cut off their migratory corridors. Perennial waterholes, streams and pools are spread over the sanctuary area in which goral, sambhar, chital and wild boar are easily seen. Leopards and barking deer lurk about less commonly, quite like the Himalayan yellow-throated marten. Rhesus macaques, pangolins, crested porcupines, Hanuman langurs, wild pigs, Himalayan black bears and Indian muntjacs also make this sanctuary theirs.

Getting There: Well-connected to Ambala (63km from Nahan), the nearest major railhead. Dehradun (79km) and Chandigarh (82km) are other options, both endowed with airports as well.

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