The winter was yet to set in; but the morning was bitterly cold and misty. There was no one when we arrived at the entrance gate of Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary that opens at 7 in the morning. For entry tickets to the jungle, I climbed up to the Forest Office building to see if someone was there; a little later an official came out from a nearby cottage meant for forest guards. Beside the entrance gate, there was a tin board with colourful pictures of wild animals painted on it; so out of curiosity I asked him if we could spot anything here. He said that villagers were talking about a white leopard!? In my earlier posts, I had mentioned, unlike Africa or anywhere else, spotting wildlife in Indian forests is quite difficult. We haven’t left any space for them; and we are continuing to encroach their territories.
We felt a remarkable change in air as we left the highway and entered into the sanctuary—it was quieter and greener. The road was a lined with towering pines. And it seemed as if the grasses that grew after the melting of snow were trying to eat away the coal-tar. It was a different world; filled with unimaginable shades of green. While driving up the hill I realized that in search of animals, particularly big cats, in jungle, we often forget to appreciate other beauties of the wild—enumerable plant varieties, wild flowers, and even tiny and rare insects. But Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is also different from other national parks and sanctuaries in India. It has several villages within its boundaries and you can easily see people with their herds of cattle roaming around. Here the Man and the Wild co-exists peacefully.
As we moved a few kilometers in the sanctuary, we spotted the body of a calf open by its neck. It was a fresh hunt. On the way to the forest core, a villager told me that they had seen a white leopard in the area, but he was not confident in his assertion. Usually white leopards are present only in higher reaches of the Himalaya and its presence at the altitude of around 2000 meters above mean sea level and that in a populated area was quite unusual.
After 4-5 kms drive within the sanctuary area, the forest was denser and deep green. The pines were replaced by Rhododendrons and Oaks. Thick undergrowth of ferns dominated the entire stretch. The air was moist and pure. In the later part of the journey, the drive was little difficult for three reasons – sharp climb, poor road, and my car wasn’t in good condition for this journey. Though after 30 minutes drive through dense forest we arrived at the KMVN Guest House where we parked our car and went on to the trek to Point Zero which offered mesmerizing view of Snow Capped Peaks of the Himalayas.
ABOUT BINSAR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Sprawling over an area of 47 sq. km, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is home to more than 200 species birds. The Sanctuary has been declared an “Important Bird Area by Bird life International.” February to April is the best time for Bird Watching when Rhododendrons are in full bloom. Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is perfect trekking, but make sure to hire a local guide. Venture out alone could be risky.
BEST PLACES TO STAY
Kumaun Mandal Vikash Nigam (KMVN) guest house is located in the heart of Binsar Wild Life Sanctuary. There is also a forest guest house near Point Zero. But it is very basic.
Marry Budden Estate is ideal but a little pricey. Not recommended for budget travelers. We stayed in Club Mahindra Binsar Villa.