5 Best Places To Watch Crocodiles In India
India is home to three species of crocodiles – the saltwater crocodile, the mugger crocodile, and the gharial. For those bold enough to encounter a crocodile in its natural habitat, there are many locations in India where they can be found, but for the more faint-hearted, there are crocodile parks where these cold-blooded creatures can be seen in their natural habitat but from a safe distance.
The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology, Tamil Nadu: It is the first ever crocodile park or sanctuary or zoo set up in India by Romulus Whitaker. Established in the year 1976, the privately owned Trust is known to breed and protect the Indian crocodile species namely the saltwater crocodile, the mugger, and the gharial. Located 40 kilometres from Chennai, this area of 8 acres is a man made enclosure for the crocodile species. The park, with a population of nearly 2500 crocodiles, is popularly known as the crocodile zoo. Being the only one of its kind till 2022, tourists flock to the park in large numbers to have a glimpse of these pre-Jurassic era creatures, whose adaptation to changing environmental conditions is remarkable and unmatched. Though the main purpose is to protect the Indian species, the park has on its roster about 14 out of the 23 known species of crocodiles in the world.
Dandeli Crocodile Park, Karnataka: Set up by the tourism department of the government of Karnataka in January 2022, it is the second such park in India after the well-known crocodile park in Tamil Nadu. River Kali flowing past the Dandeli town is known for its special residents, the crocodiles, which co-existed with humans till recently. With Dandeli growing as a tourist center, it was a prudent decision to build a park for the crocodiles in their natural habitat. The 2 acre park is on the banks of the Kali river, and is built at a place where the crocodiles naturally rest and socialise. This park and the one in Tamil Nadu are the only 2 exclusive crocodile parks in India.
Bhitarkanika National Park, Odisha: The park is recognised as a wetland of international importance in 2022 and comprises marshy areas formed by the streams before they merge with the sea. The park is known for its saltwater crocodile population as the marshy areas and mangroves make up a perfect habitat for them. Though seldom sighted, unless ventured into the area they live around, the crocodiles here are huge and grow beyond 6.5 meters. The yearly count of these creatures regularly goes beyond 1500, which speaks volumes about conservation efforts. The boat rides often give a glimpse of these massive crocodiles, with the largest crocodile ever sighted here measuring nearly 23 feet long.
Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal: Though known for the tigers, which have made these mangroves an unusual habitat, the Sundarbans is also famous for its large population of crocodiles, especially the saltwater ones. These crocodiles, also known as Estuarine Crocodiles, are perfectly at home in mangroves, their most beloved habitat. The gharial species are also found here. A boat ride through the various criss crossing streams would throw up many opportunities to sight these crocodiles sunbathing on the banks and small islands.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands: In this cluster of islands forming a Union Territory far out on the sea from the eastern coast of the country, crocodiles are found swimming around in the sea. The estuaries, creeks, lagoons, mangroves, swamps, and marshy landscapes that dot these islands make great living quarters for these saltwater crocodiles. They are even seen in many freshwater streams inland.