THIS EXTRAORDINARILY beautiful park is located amidst the pristine forests and hills of northeast Orissa. Stretching over an area of 2,750 sq km (1,062 sq miles), Simlipal comprises dense sal (Shorea robusta) and rosewood forests, broken by lush grasslands. Numerous rivers and cascading rapids traverse the forest, creating spectacular waterfalls, such as those at Yolanda (150 m/492 ft) and Barehipani (400 m/1,312 ft). Originally the maharaja of Mayurbhanj private hunting ground, Simlipal declared a wildlife Sanctuary in 1957. One of the earliest Ilger reserves in India, it is home to about 100 tigers, as well as an impressive range of other fauna Inducting elephants, leopards, deer, gaur (Indian bison) and pangolins (or scaly anteaters). These curious-looking animals, covered with large overlapping scales, feed exclusively on termites and ants, tearing open anthills with their powerful claws and scooping up the insects with their long tongues. When threatened, the pangolin rolls up into an impenetrable armoured ball. Over species of birds can also he seen at Simlipal.

The rare muggers (marsh crocodiles) can be spotted in rivers or basking on the banks where they dig tunnels to keep cool. At yashipur, the western entry point to the park, there is a Crocodile Sanctuary where the reptiles can be observed at close quarters . One of the park’s best for viewing wildlife is locate in the grasslands at Bacchuri Chara, which are a favourite haunt of elephant herds. Another good area for sightings is at Manghasani Peak (1,158 m/3,799 ft), one of the highest in the park. Basic food and accommodation are available in forest rest houses at Lulung, Barehipani, Chahala, Yolanda and Nawana.

ENVIRONS: The capital of the Bhanja kings in the 10th and 11th centuries, Khichin ‘ g has some of the finest examples of temple sculpture to be seen in Orissa. It is 20 km (12 miles) west of yashipur , the western entry point to Simlipal National Park, and 114 km (71 miles) west of Baripada. The main sight here is the towering Khichakesh-wan temple, reconstructed in the early 20th century entirely from the ruins of the original temple that stood here The temple is adorned with superb images of several deities, including a vibrant dancing Ganesha. A number of other temples, together with the ruins of two forts built by the Bhanja kings, dot this hamlet. The small Archaeological Museum is well worth visiting. Among its highlights are outstanding life-size statues of Shiva and his consort Parvati, and exquisite sculptural panels from now-fallen temples.

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