The Thar Desert, which is known as the 'ocean of sands', covers a large portion of western Rajasthan. It's a wrong notion of people that the deserts can't support a varied flora and fauna. The fragile ecosystem of the Thar supports a unique and varied wildlife species. In this vast ocean of sands lies the famous Desert National Park, which provides an excellent example of the ecosystem of the Thar Desert and its diverse wildlife.
The Desert National Park is located 45 km west of the Jaisalmer city in the west Indian state of Rajasthan close to the India- Pakistan border. Spread over an area in excess of 3150 sq km, this is probably the largest park of India. Rajasthan Desert National Sanctuary was set up in 1980. The desert sanctuary being a fragile ecosystem has its own flora and fauna. Sand-dunes, both fixed and shifting, low rock-faces, grasslands and scrublands, characterize this park where the greatest need is for water. The topography of the park comprises of craggy rocks, compact salt lake bottoms and vast sand dunes, which form about 20% of the Park. There are three main lakes in this sanctuary - Rajbaugh Lake, Milak Talao Lake and Padam Talao Lake. These lakes are the major watering holes for the inhabitants of the national park. As the desert only supports a few type of small grasses, shrubs and xerophytic trees, the leaf cover is limited and not suitable for large herbivorous, camel being an exception. Vast tracts are encrusted with sewan grass, and the aak shrub and khair, khejra and rohira trees are widespread, but sand dominates every scene. Even so, many creatures have adapted to this harsh, inhospitable terrain.
Attractions of the Desert National Sanctuary of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan
There are over 40 species of reptiles, including the burrowing Spiny-tailed Lizard, Russel's Viper, Saw-scaled Viper and the dragon-like Common Monitor. In a realm devoid of real fish, the Desert Skink is known as the sand-fish as it 'swims' or burrows through sand down to a depth of 30 cm. However, birds in their large numbers and variety are the most remarkable feature of this park. Nearly 1 20 species add colour to the dull shades of the desert.
The desert park is comparatively rich in avian population. Bird life in this sandy habitat is vivid and spectacular. The Indian Bustard and the wintering MacQueen's Bustard are highly endangered species that have benefited from the creation of the park. This large, heavy and graceful bird draws thousands of bird lovers from all corners of the world. Besides, the great Indian bustards the park supports a wide variety of exotic and rare birds. Flocks of sandgrouse arrive in winter from central Asia and can be seen at more or less fixed times in the morning at favoured waterholes. During this season, various waterfowl and flocks of migratory Demoiselle Crane are also seen near water. One also hears the morning call of the grey partridge. While in the park you can spot birds such as sand grouse, spotted eagles, gray partridges, shrikes, demoiselle crane, quails, peafowl bee-eaters, larks, eagles, harriers, falcons, orioles, warblers, babblers, buzzards, kestrel and vultures to name a few with. Larks, partridges, doves, bee-caters, shrikes, chats, parakeets, babblers remain throughout the year, preyed upon by the buzzards, eagles, falcons and kites that hover and swoop over the landscape.
Some of the other inhabitants of the Desert National Park include the blackbuck, chinkara, wolf, Indian fox, desert fox, hare and desert cat. The Wolf burrows into sand-dunes to shelter from the daytime heat. Other predatory animals such as the Desert Fox, the Common Fox, the adaptable jackal and the black-spotted Desert Cat are also shy and elusive but can be seen at waterholes. Desert Hare and the Long-cared Hedgehog are among the smaller denizens of the park. The strikingly beautiful Blackbuck, India's only true antelope, and the small but graceful Chinkara (Indian Gazelle) bound and leap amidst the sand-hills, sometimes surprisingly unafraid of humans. All forms of life gravitate towards water. The Sudasari waterhole, a forest post located in the park, is the best place for spotting the wildlife of the Desert National Park and provides ideal conditions for snapshots. It is a good sight for bird lovers to see five or six bustards near Sudashri water hole. Observation hides also offer close encounters with desert wildlife.
Even this seemingly listless realm is beset by human demands, especially for water. It is the world's most populated desert but, as wildlife experts point out, the national park is a unique genetic storehouse of Indian desert wildlife and needs only the bare minimum to flourish. The ecology of the region would be disrupted with the artificial introduction of water.
Location and Transport
The Desert National Sanctuary is located 45 Km from the Jaisalmer city which is situated in the very heart of Rajasthan and a popular tourist destination. Being part of the Desert Triangle and the venue of Desert Festival, the place is accessible by rail, road and air and has tourist accommodation ranging from high budget to low budget. The city is also covered by the "Palace on Wheels" a train-cum-road package, which needs no description. This place too witnesses large flow of tourist traffic in winters.
Distances of important cities from Jaisalmer: New Delhi (864 km), Jaipur (558 km), Mumbai (1177 km), Ahmedabad (626 km).
Though Jaisalmer is not directly connected to Airways as such, Jodhpur airport is 285 Km away. Jodhpur is connected to all the major metros of India by government owned as well as private airlines. From Jodhpur you can hire Cabs or take a train journey according to your wish and preference.
Jaisalmer is connected to major cities of India through broad gauge as well as meter gauge railway tracks. Direct trains from Jaisalmer are available to Jodhpur as well as Delhi. Jaisalmer is connected through both 'Broad gauge' as well as 'Meter gauge' tracks. You can also travel to Jaisalmer by Palace on Wheels.
Jaisalmer is well connected to the rest of state by well-maintained roads. Due to its proximity to Indo-Pak boarder, special emphasis is given on its maintenance. Deluxe & Ordinary buses of Rajasthan Roadways & Private companies operate form Jaisalmer to Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bikaner, Barmer, Mount Abu, Jalore, Ahemdabad etc, Roadways main bus stand opposite Railway station & Golden bus terminal near State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, Shiv road, Jaisalmer are the two major bus stands.
General transportation in Jaisalmer consists of auto rickshaw and bicycles because these are good means to get around. Auto rickshaw is a cheap mode of transportation but drivers might not be friendly all the times. It is recommended to take rickshaw when you take congested roads in order to avoid bottlenecks.
Facts of the desert National Sanctuary of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan
Location: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Highlights: Natural Desert sanctuary
Best Time to Visit: October to March
Entry Requirements: All visitors to Desert national sanctuary need to pay an entry fee of Rs 100 per person and for jeep, car fee is Rs.100 and for coach fee is Rs. 200
Things to Do:
Jeep Safari - This enables visitors to explore a wider area of the park in relatively short span of time. Also, it is highly interesting to see the wide range of flora and fauna from the jeep.
Camping - This is perhaps the best way to enjoy the wildlife of the park. However, visitors must take into consideration the fragile nature of the park and thus refrain from causing any sort of harm to it.