Yes, you read that right! There are numerous national parks all around the world but the Keibul Lamjao National Park in the Indian state of Manipur stands out from the rest. It floats! Located in the Bishnupur district in Manipur, the Keibul Lamjao National Park is spread across an area of just 40 square kilometres. But it floats on the beautiful Loktak Lake.
The unique reserve consists of several floating islands made up of decomposed plant materials and are known as Phumdis in the local Mizo language. These islands are in a ring-like shape and several of them can be found floating all over the lake. These phumdis create a unique wetland ecosystem with tall grass growing all over them, some reaching 15 feet in height! Records show that there are about 230 + species of aquatic plants, 400 + species of animals and about a 100 species of birds found all around the Keibul Lamjao National Park.
Loktak Lake itself is a major tourist attraction in the region. It is the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India and travellers from across the country visit this beauty every year. But the floating national park isn’t the only attraction of the region. The Sangai Deer is an endangered deer species and is resides in these regions. A highly endangered species, the brow-antlered deer is found exclusively in a small area, which stretches across the extreme north-eastern corner of India; Myanmar and part of Thailand. In India, this beautiful creature is found at the Keibul Lamjao National Park.
The Sangai Deer was the reason this region was converted into a protected reserve. In 1953, as part of conservation efforts to protect the Sangai Deer, Loktak Lake was designated protected and given the tag of a sanctuary. In 1966, it was officially declared as a sanctuary and on 28th March 1977, the Keibul Lamjao National Park came into existence.
Things to do at Keibul Lamjao National Park
Explore the Phumdis via a boat ride
So what do you do when you reach the national park? Nothing beats the boat ride experience on the Loktak Lake and the floating national park! The best way to explore the national park is to take a ride through it. Once you reach the park, you will see many boats on the shore and you can either hire your own boat or go on a shared boat.
The rowboats don’t have engines so you can enjoy the park in absolute serenity and at a comfortable speed. Due to the presence of the phumdis, the water is quite shallow hence you can’t venture in deep into the national park. But you do get the opportunity to step on to a Phumdi and experience it for yourself!
Sangai Deer viewpoints
If you walk on the Phumdis or cover the national park through a boat ride, you might be able to spot the Sangai Deer. But most phumdis have tall grass growing across its landscape and spotting the deer can get challenging. So, you will need a good vantage point from where you can spot them. There are two viewpoints built in the Keibul Lamjao National Park and these are great spots to view the nearby landscapes and spot the deer.
The viewpoints are managed by volunteer rangers who can help you learn about the national park and the deer. And some of the rangers carry high powered binoculars that you might be able to borrow! We recommend that you carry your own pair of binoculars or a good zoom lens to spot the wildlife from these viewpoints.
Best time to visit the Keibul Lamjao National Park
The best time to visit the Keibul Lamjao National Park is between October and March as this is the winter season and the weather is very pleasant during these months. Chances are rainfall is scarce all though the occasional downpour can take place.
Our recommendation is to visit the Keibul Lamjao National Park in November or March as, during peak winters, the weather can get foggy with limited visibility. To get a chance to spot the Sangai Deer, it is advisable to visit the floating park at around 6 am. Tourist crowds are lesser at that time and you also get to witness a magnificent sunrise from the islands.
How to reach the Keibul Lamjao National Park
The Keibul Lamjao National Park is located just 50 kilometres from Imphal which is well connected to the major cities of India via flights. Most major airlines offer flights to Imphal city, however, you might not get a direct flight option.
Imphal Tulihal Airport is located about 8km from the heart of the City and you should be able to get a cab to take you to the city centre or directly to the floating national park. There is no rail link to Imphal and the closest railway station is at Dimapur, 200 kms away. From Dimapur, you can either hire a cab or take a local bus to reach Imphal.
Within Imphal, there are many private and shared cabs that ply within and outside the city. There are numerous taxi operators in the airport and the city from where you can make your taxi bookings. Alternatively, if you are a budget traveller, you can travel via the local buses but their frequency is not something you can really depend upon.
Permits for Manipur
The Manipur Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document issued by the state government to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen visiting the beautiful state of Manipur for a specific time period. All tourists who are Indian residents need to apply for a Temporary Permit that grants them access to Manipur for a period of up to 15 days at a time. If you want to extend your stay beyond 15 days, then the permit can be renewed for another 15 days.
Typically, the fee for the Manipur ILP is INR 100 for the first 15 days and INR 200 for the renewal. Do note that the renewal for the tourist permit can be done for a maximum of two terms and beyond that, it will be referred to the Home Department for approval.
There are two ways to apply for and get the Manipur ILP:
- You apply online and receive your permit at the entry point
- You arrive in Manipur and get the permit from an approved entity
Here are the approved authorities that can issue tourist permits:
All Deputy Commissioners in their respective districts, Deputy Residents Commissioners or OSD of Manipur Bhawans New Delhi, Kolkatta and Guwahati, sub-divisional Officers ( Jiribam, Songsong, Jessami, Singhat and Moreh), office in charge of Police Station at Mao, Jiribam, Jessami, Moreh, Beihang, Sinjowl, Imphal Airport and any other agency authorised by the State Government.
Do note that Foreign nationals are NOT required to apply for a permit for entry into Manipur.
Where to stay
If you want to best experience of enjoying the Keibul Lamjao National Park, then you should book your stay at Phubala. It is located inside the national park and has a forest rest-house there. If you don’t get that, then you can book your accommodation on Sendra Island which is in the middle of the Loktak Lake.
Imphal has a slew of options when it comes to accommodations and you can book most of them online. From Imphal, it takes about 1 hour to get to Keibul Lamjao National Park and the same amount of time for Loktak Lake.