Bhubaneswar: “Thick and green forests, extensive grassy lands and meadows, cloud-kissing peaks, precipitous and sparkling waterfalls, meandering rivers, roaring tigers and trumpeting tuskers, fleeing deer and flying squirrels, talking myna and dancing peacocks et al make Similipal a dreamland of nature in the wilderness and an irresistible destination.”
This is how Odisha Tourism describes Similipal, which has the unique distinction of being a Tiger Reserve, a National Park, a Wildlife Sanctuary, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve.
With the Park in picturesque Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, being thrown open to tourists from today, let’s dig a little deeper as to why it is a perfect location for forest camping.
Similipal takes its name from Semul or red silk cotton trees that abound in 2750-sq km park area enriched with dense forests, striking meadows, spectacular waterfalls and 12 rivers meandering through hills and plateaus before cascading into rapids and foaming falls. Simlipal Reserve is a treasure trove of 1076 plant species. Eucalyptus and Sal trees seem to stand guard in the wide terrain. The Park also boasts of at least 82 species of orchids.
The grasslands and the savannas are grazing grounds for herbivores and ideal hiding place for the carnivores. The innumerable medicinal and aromatic plants are a source of income for forest dwellers and food gathering living within the biosphere.
On the prowl
The Park is home to three of India’s biggest animal species – tiger, Asian elephant and gaur (Indian bison). It has a core area of about 850 sq km, where most of the tigers are concentrated. Though visitors are not allowed into the area, you might get lucky if a tiger wanders further out. The park is also home to leopard, langur, deer, sloth bear, mongoose, flying squirrel, porcupine, turtle, monitor lizard, python, sambar, pangolin, crocodile, and antelope. Around 230 species of birds including grey hornbill, Indian trogon, red jungle fowl, hill mynah, peafowl, Alexandrine parakeet, and crested serpent eagle can be spotted while exploring the reserve in private jeeps and cars. Jashipur, one of the two entrances to the park, has a ‘muggar’ rearing centre where you can catch a glimpse of crocodiles.
This National Park boasts of some impressive waterfalls. The spectacular Barehipani waterfall, with a 400-metre drop, and Joranda waterfall, with a shorter drop of 150 metres, makes one watch in awe of nature’s majesty. The view is enhanced by the picturesque valleys and mesmerizing landscape.
The peaks of Khairiburu and Meghasani dwarf the life around.
Besides, 18 temples Near Bakua, Athardeuli, stand testimony to the ancient grandeur of Bathudi Tribals. Today, most part of it is covered by the wild.
Tourists visiting the Park can enjoy trekking, excursions, safaris, tribal village tour, nature walk and bird watching. Before going on any such expedition, you are, however, advised to take an anti-malarial drug.
Best time to visit
The Park is open for visitors from November 1 till the onset of the monsoon.
Road: There is regular bus service from Baripada, which is 170 km from Bhubaneswar, 240 from Kolkata and 60 km from Balasore, to Pithabata (22 km), which is an entry point. The other entry point Jashipur is 94 km from Baripada on NH-6. Taxis and jeeps are available.
Rail: Nearest railhead is Baripada (17 km). Balasore is 76 km from Lulung and Jamshedpur 115 km from Jashipur.
Air: Nearest airports are Bhubaneswar (270 km) and Kolkata (240 km).
Aranyanivas at Lulung (3 km from Pithabata) of the OTDC
Panthasala at Bangiriposi (35 km from Baripada on way to Jashipur).
Visitors can also stay in private hotels at Baripada or Jashipur.