Taking its name from the abundance of semul or red silk cotton trees that bloom vividly here, the Simlipal National Park is home to three of India’s biggest animal species –Tiger, Asian Elephant and Gaur. Spread over a sprawling area of 2750 sq. kms, the park is at an altitude of 559.31 meters.
Set on a wide expanse of Sal forest, this park is nestled in the very centre of Mayurbhanj, the northernmost district of Orissa. Notable variations in topography, conducive climate and required vegetation has supported large varieties of animals, birds and reptiles to flourish in one of the earliest and finest of India’s 15 Tiger reserves falling under Project Tiger.
A forested, hilly terrain 200 km south-west of Kolkata, the reserve is endowed with an exceptional biodiversity. Of the reserve’s almost 1,000 species of flowering plants, 94 are orchids, many of which are on show at the small display at Gurguria.
The reserve remains open from mid October to mid June. An entry permit needs to be taken from the office of Assistant Conservator of Forest, National Park, Jashipur or from the Range Officer, Pithabata at Pithabata. Check Gate to visit the reserve. The tourists can explore the reserve from 0600 to 1200 hours in the day. This time is extended by two hours for the reservation holders and is 0600 to 1400 hours.
With the nearest airports being at 250 and 300 kms at Calcutta and Bhubaneshwar respectively, the reserve is 76 kms away from Lulung and 115 kms from Jashipur.
The fauna at the Park including tiger, leopard, elephants, bison, sambar, porcupine, pangolin, flying-squirrel, hill myna, hornbill and pythons can be observed closely by exploring the reserve in private jeeps and cars. But before going on any such expedition, the tourists are advised to take an anti-malarial drug.
Simplipal National Park, a tract of total wilderness is spread over an 845 sq km core area. In the ancient days, this reserve was the hunting preserve of the Mayurbhanj maharajas. As a result of excessive hunting, the wildlife here was seriously damaged. And then it was in the year 1957 that a small area of it was declared a sanctuary.
Today, the tiger reserve extends over 2,750 sq. km, within a larger area of 4,374 sq km that constitutes the biosphere reserve. But unfortunately, the tribal communities here still indulge in an annual ritual hunt (akhand shikar) with bows and arrows. To add more to the woes of the animals, encroachment, livestock grazing, poaching and indifferent visitors are also there.