Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Trip to Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary

If you are puzzled to find out best suitable place to hang out for two days near by Ahmedabad, then what can be the best other then Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary. No need to go far away – out of Gujarat to have through natural, fantastic picturesque environment. Yes, this is one of the Gujarat’s feral beauties near Ahmedabad. If you are adventurous, want to hang out and wishing to overlook your day to day office burden after hectic week, want to spend some days in the lap of nature, want to awake by true voice of birds instead of your mobile alarms, want to see different colored birds flying in the sky, and want to see how stars look in the sky free from light pollution, this is the best ever place to visit. Here one can test their eye’s capability how much it can collect in one blink.

I have heard many a times from my colleagues that “Oh Yaar!! We are so bored, we don’t have single natural place to hang out in weekend near Ahmedabad. Fortunately as a natural lover, I searched out the place and been there for two days one night two times. First I visited it in monsoon and secondly I visited it in this summer – month of April. Natural beauty is stunning in both seasons.

Let me first brief you about the Sanctuary and its history. Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary is situated in the Banaskantha district, 25 kms. from Palanpur. It was declared as Wildlife Sanctuary in May 1978. This 180.66 forest tract of Jessore hill and adjoining area is endowed with several rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. The forests of the sanctuary play an important role in conservation of diminishing Aravali ecosystem. This area acts as a buffer and separates the desert ecosystem from the dry deciduous type of ecosystem. The tree clad terrain helps in arresting the process of desertification and advancement of Thar Desert. It is located in the folds of Aravali hills. Jessore hill is the second highest peak in Gujarat. The sanctuary is known more for the endangered Sloth Bear. The other important faunal species are leopards, Rhesus macaque, blue bull, Indian civet cat, porcupine, fox, striped, hyena, wild boar etc. The multistoried forest provides a suitable habitat for variety of birds ranging from land birds to water birds. The reptiles include snakes, tortoises and lizards of various types.

When I went in monsoon, nature was best in its beauty. A green carpet was put on by earth, and sweet voice of different birds can be heard thought the day. The lake in front of the tents and cottages was full of water. One can walk around the lake in the pleasant breeze. This is the best season to visit the sanctuary.

Places To see within sanctuary:

Apart from its natural beauty sprinkled every where, from the lake point, one can go to Kedarnath temple. This temple is of lord Shiva and situated above 200 meters in the mountain. There are row stairs to reach there passing through jungle. It is very enjoyable path way. You will find many water streams in between. Also be able to see some blue bulls, and different types of birds. You may not encounter with Sloth Bear as they stay away from this path and their caves and inhabitant is in deep forest. But be watchful, you will find lot many different kinds of species around. Also along the walk, some points have been constructed by forest department to take rest near by water streams. One can drink water of these streams as they are pure and natural. You may find local public going to Kedarnath as pilgrimage. People living parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan around Jessore worship Kedarnath as their main God. It has been said that Shree Kunta Mata of Pandavas during their VanVas, had came here and had established this Shivling. There are three natural cold water springs coming out from earth adjacent to temple. They call it Ganga, Jamuna, and Saraswati. To my surprise, in my recent visit of summer, I found it intact with full of water. It will take only 40 minutes from cottage to reach Kedarnath temple. My advice would be to start walk in morning around 6.00 AM.

After reaching Kedarnath Temple, if you are adventurous, and want to explore more natural beauty, you can start forward journey to Muni Ji ki Kutia, which is half an hour away from temple. Now onwards, you will have to walk in the jungle without stairs. It’s short of mountaineering. Here you will enjoy much more. Climbing and descending different hills and mountains, you can see much more untamed beauty untouched. If you are fortunate enough, you may see sloth bear or a leopard. I was fortunate to see fresh foot prints of Leopard and sloth bear. The rarest Indian Python is observed beyond Muni Ji ki Kutia. Although there is no need to worry, but keep in mind that here you are not in a jeep and passing through jungle hills, by you feet. You may not find too many people as on the way to Kedarnath. It’s really a thrilling experience to climb and descend these hills by foot. You will forget the fear against the natural beauty you see around you. By walking around 50 minutes, you will reach to the Kutia. On reaching to Kutia, you are 1 kilometer away in the Jungle from lake point.

Please note that you should not take any loading baggage with you. If you want a stick will be sufficient and advisable as well. You should not take or through garbage or plastic bags in the jungle.

Where to stay:

Forest department has selected this place for eco – tourism. Forest department has constructed some cottages and huts (permanent tents) in front of lake surrounded by mountains. These cottages are maintained by local public co – operative society (Gramin Mandli). They are neat and clean. Each hut has two beds a ceiling fan, attached toilet and bathroom. Food can be ordered to Mandli cook. Here you can order village – Gujarati food. In an all facilities provided are sufficient and well maintained. If you want one or two persons will come along with your walk to places mentioned above. So there is no need of worry at all. They are local and very co – operative.

There are different charges for cottages depending on number of people. Minimum is 250 per day for a couple with facilities mentioned above excluding food. There are dormitories for maximum 50 persons as well.

Staying at cottages is safe. One should stay here to see the sparkling stars in night without light pollution.

To reserve cottage, contact RFO (Range Forest Officer) or Dy. CFO of Banaskantha district.

Other near by places to visit are Ambaji (around 50 KMs), and Balaram (15 KMs). Balaram has heritage hotel which was erstwhile palace turned into hotel now. It is run and managed by the famous Gopi Group. Parts of many films and TV programs are being shoot at this palace. The first film shoot here was Suryavansham. When I visited the palace hotel recently, shooting of Kathputli serial was going on. This is also a good place to stay in weekends. It is on the bank of river and surrounded by jungle like environment.

Post-monsoon to winter is the best time to visit the Sanctuary. The nearest railway stations are Palanpur; 25 kms. and Iqbalgadh; 8 kms. The Nearest airport is Ahmedabad (178 kms).

By air: Nearest airport is Ahmedabad

Location: Banaskantha District – 25 km. from Palanpur.

Area: Approx. 180

Wildlife: Sloth bear, leopard, sambar, blue bull, wild boar, porcupine and variety of birds.

Nearest Airport: Ahmedabad – 190 km.

Railway Station: Palanpur – 25 km. and Iqbalgadh – 8 km.

Contact: Dy. Conservator of Forests, Banaskantha Division, Palanpur. Phone: 02742-57084

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