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Cozily nestled at the center of Mayurbhani in the northern most district of Odisha, or Orissa, about 320 km from Bhubaneswar, Similipal Wildlife Sanctuary takes its name from 'semul' or red silk cotton trees that are found in abundance here.
Spread over a sprawling 2750 sq kms area, Similipal is home to three of the biggest animals that may be found in India namely, tiger, Asian elephant and gaur.
What began primarily as a hunting ground for royalty, Similipal was established in the year 1956 as a tiger reserve, and attained the status of a National Park in 1979. Currently there are about 95 tigers in the sanctuary. The reserve is open from mid October to mid June. The Assistant Conservator of Forest, National Park at Jashipur issues the entry permit. The reserve is open for tourists from 0600 to 1200 hours.
Fauna and flora at Similipal
It is one of the finest of India's tiger reserves falling under Project tiger, extending 2750 sq kms within a larger area of 4374 sq km that constitutes the biosphere reserve.
Other species of animals include leopards, elephants, bison, ratel, sambar, porcupine, pangolin, flying squirrel, hill myna, hornbill, four horned antelopes, panthers, cheetah and pythons. Tourists going on an expedition to Similipal can explore the reserve in private jeeps and cars to observe the animals. There are about 230 species of birds, including Red Jungle Fowl, Alexandrine Parakeet, Crested Serpent Eagle, Grey Hornbill and Indian Trogon Hill Mynah, Peafowl among others. Rare Mugger crocodiles also live in this sanctuary.
In all, forty two species of major mammals and thirty species of reptiles are recorded to be found in this reserve. The sanctuary contains 7% reptiles, 20% birds and about 11% mammals. Similipal has about 1076 species of plants. Flowering plants and about ninety four orchids bloom here. The forest has a large number of medicinal and aromatic herbs and these acts as a source of income for the tribal inhabiting Similipal.
Similipal consists of lush greenland and Sal forests which are predominantly tropical moist deciduous forest. About 501 species of plants belonging to about 102 families are treasured at Similipal.
Bio diversity at Similipal
The sanctuary is endowed with excellent bio diversity. The ecosystem in Similipal falls under Mahanadi bio-geographic region. The sanctuary is home to about twelve rivers and plenty of waterfalls. The rivers include Budhabalanga, Khairi, Salandi, Palpala and others that originate from the hills and meander through the forests running like veins in the body. Similipal is flanked by two handsome peaks - Khairiburu and Meghasani that are covered with rich Sal forests.
Spot deer, hear the cries of Cheetahs, barking of Muntjacs and watch Sauthali women picking twigs for firewood - a strange combination all in one place at Similipal. Barehipani waterfall that tumbles down from 400 meters height and the cascading Joranda waterfall that falls from 150 meters are picturesque. A panoramic view of the park can be enjoyed from Barehipani region.
Other attractions near Similipal
Excursions from Similipal include the temple town of Bhubaneswar and Calcutta. Mangesheri mountain range, Barehipani waterfalls are other attractions. A crocodile rearing center at Ramtirtha near Jashipur is another attraction.
This tiger reserve can be reached from three airports - Jamshedpur, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata which are about 140 kms, 320 kms and 240 kms respectively. Taxi and bus services are available locally.
The nearest railway station is at Baripada which is about 50 km from Similipal and it has direct rail connections to all major cities in India. By road, there are extensive links leading to Baripada and thereafter to Similipal. Private cars can also be used to drive around the park.
Stay at Similipal
While forest reserve bungalows are available at the Similipal hills, one has to get necessary permission from authorities to stay there. There is a solar powered stone lodge at Baripada and some options at Lulungi, about 35 kms from Similipal.
Similipal is characterized by its green deciduous forests, never ending grasslands, resonating waterfalls with meandering rivers and roaring tigers, trumpeting elephants and fleeing herbivorous animals. A trip to this wilderness is bound to be rejuvenating and etched in every tourist's memory for life.
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