A species of Vanda orchid (Vanda brunnea) found in Burma and India.
Once the favoured hunting grounds of the Mayurbhanj Maharajas, Simplipal (or Simlipal) National Park is now a protected area, under the care of Project Tiger. Simplipal is situated in the Indian state of Orissa, just 200 kilometres from Kolkata (originally known as Calcutta), and is one of the biggest areas in India enjoying a protected status. It is characterised by its stretches of stunning Sal Forests, scattered across a landscape of hills. Its name comes from the many Red Silk Cotton Trees that bloom vibrant colours across its expanses every year, giving it a characteristic colour and an undeniable beauty.
When the maharajas of old hunted in this area, they took advantage of its abundance of wild animals, including Bengal Tigers and Asian Elephants. These animals were valuable for the status they implied upon the hunter, as well as for their pelts, teeth, bones and tusks (in the case of the elephant). Their extensive hunting took its toll on the population numbers of these and other valuable animals. In 1957, the area was declared a wildlife sanctuary in an effort to rehabilitate population numbers and protect these species from further exploitation. Today, the Simplipal National Park consists of a core of 845 square kilometres (as well as a wilderness tract), while the Tiger Reserve extends for a much larger area of some 2750 square kilometres. In turn, the even larger Biosphere Reserve covers 4374 square kilometres. While poaching is illegal, the surrounding communities of rural folk still believe that hunting these animals using bows and arrows is an integral part of their tribal customs. Simplipal National Park and Tiger Reserve is acclaimed for its extraordinary biodiversity. It has almost 100 different orchid species and just fewer than 1000 different flowering plant species. This creates an environment of breath-taking blooms, colours and scents. The many rivers and swamps provide water to the plants and animals, but also attract a plethora of birds. The fertile meadows that stretch between dense forests are ideal for grazing animals.
These different biological habitats ensure that different animal species are able to inhabit this area, each thriving under slightly different conditions. Some of the animals that nature enthusiasts can look forward to seeing are the Bengal Tiger, Indian Elephant, Gaur, Giant Squirrel, Striped Hyena, wolf, Dhole (or Wild Dog), Jungle Cat, Sloth Bear, Chital, Indian Pangolin, Marsh Crocodile, King Cobra, Rock Python, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk Eagle and various owls.
Visitors are advised to embark on safari trips, conducted in jeeps during the times when the largest variety of animals is likely to be active. These excursions allow guests to witness the animals hunting, grazing, exploring or refreshing themselves in the water. Apart from excellent photograph opportunities, these sightings guarantee lasting memories of the magical fauna and flora of India.
In terms of climatic conditions, the best time to visit Simplipal National Park in Orissa is between October and the first week of June. The closest town, Baripada, is 50 kilometres from the park, while the Jamshedpur Airport and Kolkata Airport are 150 and 240 kilometres away respectively.
For more information: http://www.similipal.org/