The park is situated on the fringe of Upper Lake, which is a Ramsar Site and the lifeline of the capital city of Madhya Pradesh. The lake adds immense beauty to the landscape of Van Vihar. It is situated at the foot of the Shyamla Hills, which is one of the several hills constituting the geography of Bhopal. Van Vihar categorises animals in two categories, captive and herbivores.
All carnivorous animals are kept inside enclosed areas and herbivores are allowed to roam freely. The animals such as tiger, panther, lion, bear, hyena, crocodiles, gharial, snakes, python etc., are kept in captivity in a system of kraal and enclosures in lines of modern concept of zoo management as per the norms of Central Zoo Authority.
All felids and hyenas are fed with buffalo meat, mutton and poultry. Bears are provided with milk, vegetables and fruits to make a balanced diet. Free ranging animals, such as cheetal, sambhar, blackbuck, blue bull etc. are unique features of Van Vihar. There are no enclosures for them except the outer boundaries of Van Vihar. Normally the grass and other plant species growing in Van Vihar are sufficient for these herbivores.
However, in summer when the grass is scarce, green fodder produced in the fodder farm and wheat husk procured from the market is provided as a supplement. Van Vihar also preserves animals belonging to endangered species. The main attractions in Van Vihar are Albino Sloth bear and the White tiger. Besides these, the fauna found in Van Vihar National Park are Lion, Sambhar, Cheetal, Blue Bull, Black buck, Chousingha, Common Langur, Rhesus macaque, Wild-boar, Porcupine, Hare, Blue Bull, Monkey, Mongoose, Wild dogs, Jackal, Fox, Wolf etc. The park also supports a variety of Ghariyal, Crocodiles, Mugger, Turtle, Star tortoise and Python. According to the lUCN's Red list, the gharial is the most threatened of all crocodilian species.
The wilderness of park offers an ideal habitat for a number of avian fauna. Till now about two hundred species of birds have been listed in different parts of Van Vihar. Large number of birds frequents this park, especially, during winter the migratory waterfowl alight in great numbers in the adjoining extensive wetland of big lake. Park is also abode of variety of butterflies and insects.
The forests here are tropical moist deciduous type. They are interspersed with swamps. The park consists of moist Sal bearing forests, dry Sal bearing forests, moist mixed deciduous forests without Sal, cane. The Bel, Amaltas, Babul, Reunjha, Doodhi, Lendia, Saja, Amla, Tendu etc are the common trees in and around the park. Besides Aak, Karonda, Besharam and a variety of other Shrubs and Herbs are also founds in Van Vihar.
The park is maintained by the Forest Department of Madhya Pradesh. The park administration is headed by a director of the rank of conservator of forests and assisted by one assistant director, 5 range officers, 3 deputy-rangers, 4 foresters and 24 game guards. In addition, persons are engaged on daily wage basis, to meet the day-to-day requirement of the animal care and management. Van Vihar administration is promoting cycling in the park.
Timings - The park is open every day, except Friday, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM (01April to 30 September) and from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM (01 October to 31 March).