Uttar Pradesh (U.P.): The Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary: Visit to earn an audience with Big Cats!

Every morning, I switch on my FM Radio for quick & stress-free updates on city & its surroundings. This is almost a ritual with me and there are few adverts which catch my fancy, as I shirk ad breaks in between the program. But how to escape? After all it is a Commercial venture. Indeed money makes the world go round!

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Recently, one ad which caught my fancy and ears was about Dudhwa National Park, which also had mention of a place called Katerniaghat Wild Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh. So why did it caught my fancy? What was different about it? Firstly it was about my home state – Uttar Pradesh and secondly it was talking about a wild – life sanctuary which immensely interests me. The ad was of UP Tourism which was telling listeners about wild – life sanctuaries in UP. I visited Dudhwa National Park long ago sometime in 90s but I did not know about Katerniaghat then and even now, till I chanced upon this ad of UP Tourism. I think UP Tourism should advertise more frequently about its sights so that people in other states come to know what UP has to offer besides its law and order problems.

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This is how I got interested in Katerniaghat Wild Life Sanctuary in UP which is situated in the Upper Gangetic plain falling in the Terai of Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh, India. The Katerniaghat Forest provides strategic connectivity between tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and Nepal. The sanctuary has a mosaic of Sal and Teak forests, lush grasslands, numerous swamps and wetlands. It is home to a number of endangered species including gharial, tiger, rhino, Gangetic dolphin, Swamp deer, Hispid hare, the White-backed and Long-billed vultures.

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Katerniaghat Wild life Sanctuary is part of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve Lakhimpur kheri with total area of 400.09 sq.kms.  There is a buffer area of 150.03 sq.km. contiguous to the sanctuary mostly in Motipur and Kakrha ranges of the division. The forest area of the Sanctuary has its characteristic complex of Sal forests tall grasslands and ecosystem of Girwa and Kaudiyala streams of Ghaghra river. The Sanctuary having mosaic of diverse habitats is very rich in biodiversity and is having various endangered species of mammal, plants and fauna.

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Total area of Katerniaghat wild life division is in 551.02 sq.km and the best time to visit is between November 15 to June 15.
The whole of the area is subject to the climatic variations typical of the plains of northern India with their extremes of heat and cold. In winters the area very cold and foggy and heavy dew fall regularly with the result that the vegetation remains damp for most of the day. The days at this time of the year are cool and bright. Forests occur generally in January. The nights remain cool and dew falls until late in the spring, the hot weather commencing in April and lasting until the rains break towards the end of June.

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Katerniaghat Wild life Division Bahraich was declared Sanctuary in the year of 1976 and was also included in Project Tiger in year 2003. The forest of Katerniaghat, situated in Bahraich district in the foothill of Himalayas are exquisitely beautiful with majestic sal trees dominating the landscape. The Girwa river flowing through these forests is home to many water birds as well as Crocodiles, Gharials as well as Gangetic Dolphins. The Girijapuri bairaj on the Ghaghra river becomes home to migratory birds during winter months.
Besides beautiful forest of Sal and teak viewing of Tiger , Leopard, Gangetic dolphin , Maggar, Ghariyal and many other rare species of wildlife area main attraction of the area.

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How to get there?

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Road- From Lucknow via Bahraich to Bichhia Rail – Nearest Railhead Bichhia, located on Gonda-Bahraich Branch Railway line (Meter Gauge) of NER, whereas Gonda is situated on the main Railway line from Lucknow to Gorakhpur. By Air-Nearest Airport Amausi Lucknow – 210 kms. KWL is approx. 500 Kms from Delhi.
The tourist campuses at Motipur and Kakraha are jungle theme locations offering a treat of nature and thrill to adventurous tourists visiting the place. There are a total of four cottages available at each place for now, and all cottages promise a magnificent view of the sal forest making the traveler’s visit a memorable one. Here guests are expected to respect the jungle environment. The visitors are housed in newly built air conditioned ‘Tharu huts’ located at Motipur and Kakraha campuses in the sanctuary. The campuses are properly walled and provide complete safety to the visitors.

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Trained nature guide are available at both Motipur & Kakraha campuses for the purpose of guiding tourists and interpretation of the sanctuary while on visit inside. These guides have been registered with the UP Forest Department and are helpful in spotting wildlife during the trip. As per the regulations for the visitors, taking one such guide per vehicle is mandatory for all tourists.

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The tourists can also enjoy boating in Giriwa river and jungle safari facilities, during the visit. The safari takes you through the sanctuary in an open 4×4 gypsy, with some of the most knowledgeable guides at the wheel. Keep your eyes peeled for pugmarks, and mobile phones off. There’s plenty to see: Gharials, crocodiles, herds of spotted deer, peacocks in frenzy, paradise flycatchers, and crested serpent eagles. Pray hard enough and you may just earn an audience with the reigning big cats in this area.

Source: UP Eco tourism

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