Simlipal National Park, 320 km from Bhubaneshwar (Orissa), is a 2,750 sq km sanctuary and a Project Tiger Reserve. Situated in the Mayurbhanj district, the park’s hills, waterfalls, and dense foliage hide almost 95 tigers and a number of other species of ‘typically’ Indian wildlife: elephants, deer, leopards, gaur bison, sloth bears, reptiles, langurs, crocodiles and more than 200 species of birdlife.
The forests of Simlipal consist predominantly of deciduous sal trees and are crisscrossed by twelve rivers, which meander through the hills and plateaus of Simlipal, creating some of the area’s most impressive waterfalls.
The spectacular Barehipani waterfall, with a 400-meter drop, and the Jornada waterfall, with a shorter drop of 150 meters, are so beautiful that one is forced to reflect on nature’s majesty.
Besides the fact that there’s a lot of wildlife to be seen in Simlipal, there’s also a wide range of local flora; the park boasts of at least 82 species of orchids.
The National Park has a core area of about 850 sq km, where most of the tigers are concentrated. Visitors are not allowed into this section of the park, but if you’re lucky you just might see a tiger wandering further out. What you’re more likely to see are elephants, monkeys, deer, and birds. Joshipur, which is one of the two entrances to the park has an maggar center where you can catch a glimpse of the crocodiles at close quarters.
Entry permits for Simlipal have to be collected from the Field Director, Simlipal Tiger Project, Baripada before you’re allowed to step into the national park. One has to apply at least 10 days (preferably 30 days) in advance to visit the park. The application has to be accompanied by a copy of your passport if you are a foreigner. Indians have to provide proof of identity to support the information required.
Foreigners have to pay an entry fee of Rs 100; Indians, Rs 5. Cameras have an extra charge levied on them. All applications for entry to Simlipal must be reconfirmed at the Simlipal Park Office at Baripada.
Simlipal has two entry points, one at Lulung, and the other at Joshipur. The nearest railhead is at Baripada, about 50 from Simlipal. Baripada has direct rail connections to all of India’s major metropolises: Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, and Mumbai, in addition to regular trains from Hyderabad, Guwahati, and other cities in the region. Baripada also has extensive road links to other cities and towns within Orissa and other states. From Baripada, regular buses leave for Lulung (a distance of 30 km) and for Joshipur (65 km). Alternatively, taxis may be hired to get to Simlipal. Private cars or taxis can be used to drive around the park.
Best time to visit
The park is open from November to June. By June, the temperature goes up pretty high- as much as 40ºC- so it’s better not to visit Simlipal at this time. Winters, however, are pleasantly cool; the coldest it gets is about 14ºC.
Accommodation and other facilities
The accommodation and dining facilities in Simlipal are woefully inadequate. Within the park are bungalows- at Barehapani, Newana, Joranda, Joshipur, and Gudgudia- which are maintained by the forest department. Lulung and Joshipur have other tourist lodges and hotels; don’t expect any luxuries, though. It is, in fact, advisable, to get your own bedding and to bring along food as well, just to be on the safe side.
At Chahala (85 km from Baripada) is an old hunting lodge that has been converted into a tourist accommodation unit. It’s actually one of the best places to stay if what you’re mad about watching animals. Chahala is next to a salt lick which is much frequented by animals and therefore has great scope for wildlife-watching.
The best place to put up outside the park is the town of Baripada, which has a choice of hotels and lodges to offer to tourists.
State-run tourist lodges and forest resthouses charge between Rs 100- 150 for a room, while the lodge at Lulung comes for about Rs 500 for a double room and Rs 75 for a dorm bed. Hotels in Baripada to charge between Rs 150- 500 for a room, depending upon the level of luxury offered.