Barely 290 km away from the bustling city of Kolkata is the breathtaking Ramtirtha Nature Camp of the Simlipal Forest. Simlipal is one of the lesser explored forests in India in Mayurbhanj district. It is also the largest National Park of Odisha.
Simlipal is a special forest. A forest teeming with wildlife, it is home thousands of kinds of trees and birds. Simlipal has been given the status of a National Park, a Tiger Reserve, one of UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves and also is a part of the Elephant Reserve. The best way to enjoy this forest is to stay in the State Government-run nature camps.
There are four nature camps spread across the Simlipal Forest – Gurguria Nature Camp, Jamuani Nature Camp, Kumari Nature Camp and Ramatirtha Nature Camp. Each of these camps is set in various points of the forest in a different landscape. Whichever nature camp you choose to stay, you will surely be taken aback by the sounds and calls of animals all day. It is like living inside the forest itself. All these nature camps are run by Odisha Forest Development Corporation.
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Simlipal gets its name after the beautiful Shimul trees that are abundant in the forest. However Simlipal is special for another reason. It is home to the only Melanistic tiger in the whole world. Melanistic tigers are also called the Black tigers is a phenomenon that is similar to the White Tigers. It becomes blackish as its stripes become very thick and cover almost all the area of their body. The Black Tiger is extremely rare and Simlipal is the only place known where you may spot them.
Simlipal Nature Camp Tariffs and Booking
Simlipal Nature Camps have to be booked through the Orissa Forest Department Corporation beforehand. It can be done through their offices or through their website www.ecotourodisha.com. All tariffs include Complementary breakfast, lunch and dinner (except Ramtirtha dormitories). Tariffs and rules are subject to change and needs to be rechecked during booking. An extra charge of Rs. 100 per head per person will be charged as entry fee in the Simlipal Forest.
Jamuani Nature camp in Simlipal has 4 staying options – Tent, Santhal Cottage, Tribal Hut and Bamboo hut. Tariffs are per room per night. Tent Double bedded Non A/C costs Rs. 4,543, Santhal Hut Double bedded Non A/C is 5,192, Tribal hut 3 bedded Non A/C costs 2,476 and 4 bedded Non A/C Bamboo Hut for one night is Rs. 5,192. Tariff includes tax.
Ramtirtha Nature Camp is situated at the meeting point of two rivers that emerge from the Simlipal Forest – Khairi and Bhandan. In Ramtirtha Nature Camp, you will find suites, dormitories, Tribal Hut and Debasthali Hut. Debasthali is a beautiful village in Orissa and the nature camp has made huts for the tourists in Debasthali and modern fusion style for a unique experience. The Debasthali Hut and Tribal Hut are both double bedded and A/C and it costs Rs. 3,894 per night. Ramtirtha Nature Camp has a 10 bedded dormitory suite that costs Rs. 9,086 for A/C and Rs. 6,490 for Non A/C. These two dormitories do not include any complimentary meal, so food is extra.
The Ramtirtha Camp also includes a beautiful Astral Garden that is preferred by tourists as a picnic spot. You can also visit the Gharial Research Centre and see these reptiles closely. This centre has done a lot of work in restoring the population of gharials in India. You can also see gharials of different sizes which are bred there and released in the wild later. The place Ramtirtha also has religious importance for pilgrims.
Gurguria Nature Camp is situated in a stunning location. It sits on a hilly landscape with dense jungles around it and the River Khairi flowing beside it. This camp has an orchidarium – a one of a kind orchid garden with rare indigenous orchids that people come to see from far and wide. These orchids can be seen best in the summer season. Gurguria has Pine Villa and Cottage for lodging. Each is double bedded and Non A/C. All rooms cost Rs. 4,543 including three meals and tax.
Pine Villa has attached bathrooms. For Cottages, there is a common bathroom. Gurguria Nature Camp also provides elephant safari in the dense Simlipal woods and at the last count, they had five elephants in the camp. They also arrange for trekking. Gurguria is 2 km away from the Kumari Nature Camp.
Kumari Nature Camp is situated in a tiny green village inside the Simlipal Forest. Surrounded by the hills Kumari is like an oasis with its bright green paddy fields. It has three lodging options – Bamboo Cottage, Kumarimanchan and Santhal Cottages. All are double bedded and Non A/C. The tariff for Bamboo Cottage is Rs. 3,894; Rs. 4,543 for Kumarimanchan and Rs. 5,192 for Santhal Cottages. All tariffs include three meals and tax. Please note that tariffs and rules are subject to change and need to be rechecked during booking.
Places to visit in Simlipal
Simlipal has too many goodies for the traveller. Simlipal National Park is also the second largest National Park in India. At the last count, there were 99 Royal Bengal Tigers who live in the Simlipal Forest along with 4,302 wild elephants. Leopards, jungle cat and many types of deer have a healthy population in Simplipal and can be commonly spotted during the safaris.
30 species of reptiles live in this forest including gharials, crocodiles, snakes and turtles. More than 200 species of birds can be found in these woods of Simlipal along with multiple types of primates like the langur.
Barehpani Waterfall is one of the most attractive spots in Simlipal. The Budhabalanga River makes it course through the Meghasuni mountain and suddenly falls 1,309 ft deep creating this stunning waterfall.
It is a two tier waterfall falling 850 ft in a single drop. A beautiful view point has been created for tourists who come to visit one of the tallest waterfalls of India. Even from the view point one can hear the loud sound of the Barehpani waterfall reverberating through the landscape.
Barehpani also has a watchtower to spot the wildlife.
Close to the Barehpani is the Joranda Waterfall. Joranda falls from a cliff at great height of 500 feet. It falls in a single drop and hits the bottom perpendicularly. The area around the Joranda Waterfall is dense and impenetrable. The view of the waterfall is accessed only through a trail which is led by a guide.
Debakund or also called Deokund or Devkund is an interesting spot sitting deep inside the Simlipal Forest. In 1940, Rajkumar Prafulla Chandra Bhanja Deo was roaming in this forest. Although being a king he was also a researcher who spent a lot of time touring the jungle. He found an ancient temple beside the River East Deo. It was considered a Shaktipeeth and was called the Ambika Mandir.
The location of this temple is such that the river gush just touches the plinth of the temple before falling into a gorge. This gorge makes up a beautiful natural pond called the Debakund. The travelers and worshippers bathe in the crystal clear waters of Debakund and revitalize themselves. It is also a preferred picnic spot. There are also a few smaller waterfalls around the area.
Deokund closes at 3 pm so make sure that you reach there on time. If you start climbing the hill up from Deokund you will reach the Ambika mandir.
Sitting on top of a hill is the valley of Navana. Except for a few tribal locals with their crop lands, everything is full of nature here. Panoramic landscapes make a great photography spot. Spend some time with the tribals to see how simple and natural their lifestyle is. There is also a Forest Rest House for the travellers.
Sitakund is another beautiful waterfall in Simlipal and a popular picnic spot. You can take a dip in its cool waters.
As the River Baitarini flows through the hilly landscape, at one point it forms the Bhimakund waterfall and gorge. This place gets its name after Bhima, the second Pandava from the Mahabharata. It is believed that he had come here to take a bath. A statue of Bhima has been built here. This place is holy for the local people and they come to take their bath on every Makar Sankranti in January.
The water is very clear and the gorge is an awesome photography spot. It is also a popular picnic spot.
On the outskirts of Simlipal you can also pay a visit to the Kichakeshwari Temple in Khiching. It is an ancient Chamunda Temple made of black stone. This temple is more than 1000 years old. It was constructed by the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj.
In terms of architecture and sculpture, this temple is held highly in India. It also has a museum in its premises. You can also buy granite carvings as a memorabilia of your trip.
Related: Visit the tiger land of Kanha
Located in the eastern side of Simlipal Forest, it is situated near the entry gate. Lulung has so much to offer that tourists plan a trip to this place. It is quite near to Baripada.
Lulung sits at a height of 300 metres surrounded by beautiful hills. The weather is especially remarkable. The Palpala River flows beside it. Forest bungalows are available by Orissa Forest Department Corporation.
Uski is a waterfall in the forest and a good place to have a dip and a picnic.
What to remember while visiting Simlipal
Simlipal is a dense jungle and well protected. There are some things to keep in mind here for your safe and enjoyable journey:
If you want to watch wildlife, use the watchtowers at Chahala, Berehipani and Joranda. These give a good view and you will also be safe. Salt licks have been created to attract the wild animals and those can be easily spotted there. Carry binoculars if you have.
Do not forget that it is home to about a hundred Royal Bengals and thousands of other wild animals. Some of these wild animals can look harmless like the barking deer or chausingha but can turn aggressive while defending itself. The smell of a human from the city is alien and strange to these animals. Animals like wild boar are also extremely dangerous.
Do not walk into the forest without a guide or permission. It is for your safety. Leopards can also attack people if they get a chance and they might come close to the camps.
These camps have solar lighting. Sometimes there may malfunctions or a chance that in the evenings you might be using a candle. Although these situations are rare and the staff are very cooperative in these situations and they will provide you with candles and lamps. However it is wise to carry a torch or two with you.
The nature camps are well protected by boundaries. However some animals like jungle cats, snakes and even leopards may find their way in during the night. Follow the instructions of the staff here. Always keep your doors secure after evening. Do not loiter after it gets dark.
At night, the staff may go home and there may not be many people around. Do not panic when you hear the roars of a tiger or any wild calls. This is quite common. Sometimes these calls can travel kilometers through the jungle at night.
While at safari, do not throw any plastic or garbage in the forest. You will get fined. Never get down from your safari vehicle unless asked to. Do not shout in the forest and keep your mobile phones silent.
Related: What not to do in a safari
Carry IDs and photocopies of as required. Confirm it during booking.
The nature camps at Simlipal serve delicious Indian food but may not provide you with too many choices as these are not restaurants. Usually these nature camps do not provide room service. The dining area is separate from the lodging.
Do not try to feed any bird or animal in the forest.
One of the best things about Simlipal National Park is that it can be visited all throughout the year because of its remarkable weather. Although winters attract more tourists it tends to get quite cold inside the forest, especially at night. It can get 5 degree Celsius or less. Carry enough warm clothes with you. Summers are very pleasant and best if you plan to take a dip in the waterfalls. Orchids here bloom in the summer heat and it is a one of a kind experience. The Park remains closed during the monsoon season.
If you do plan to take a dip in the waterfalls and streams, be careful. While the ‘kunds’ or ponds are quite safe, the waterfalls can get very tricky in some areas. The best is to ask your guide.
Always carry some water and dry food with you, just in case. No food except from the camps is available anywhere.
Once a week the tribal people and the villagers come for a ‘haat’. Visit this and you can buy beautiful handmade stuff to carry back home. You can also try their local snacks.
If you want to explore the jungle more closely, ask the forest officials for a hike. This is the best way to experience raw nature.
Take a guide always, which is compulsory. Guide charges are Rs. 200 a day (subject to change).
Always plan your journey early in the morning so that you get a lot of time. Forests get dark sooner than the cities in the evening.
If you want to see wild elephants and animals at the salt pit you can ask them to take you to Chahala which is near to the core area.
If you want to have a bonfire, it can also be arranged by the staff at the Nature Camp.
Most of the Nature Camps do not have a mobile tower reach.
How to Reach Simlipal National Park
Simlipal National Park remains open to visitors from 1 November till 15June. To reach any one of the nature camps in Simlipal, you would have to enter through the forest gates. The entry gates are at Baripada, Pithabata and Jashipur. You can also take your own car or bike there in the forest, however ask the forest authorities before you plan the trip. It is preferred that you take a sturdy car like an SUV with good ground clearance as the roads inside the jungle may not be compatible for all cars. At entrance gate, a vehicle permit will be issued to you at a charge.
Approximate distance by road from Kolkata is 290 km. Bhubaneshwar is about 250 km away and Baripada approximately 116 km away.
Reach Baripada which is well connected from Bhubaneshwar or Kolkata by train. You can also reach Balasore and rent a car or get a bus.
Bhubaneshwar and Kolkata are the nearest airports. You would have to take a train, bus or car till Baripada. From there take transport to Simlipal.
Here are a video of a close encounter with an elephant at the Simlipal Forest by tourists. However these incidents are extremely rare.
Here is video where tourists spot tiger in their safari.