Once the hunting preserves of Orissa’s Mayurbhanj Maharajas, Simlipal was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1957. Now, it has also come to be a national park and a biosphere reserve that is home to tigers, Asian elephants, leopards, and gaur (Indian bison). However, tiger sightings are rare in the area open to tourists. You are most likely to spot the fast-footed barking deer, spotted deer, and the large Sambar deer.
Located in the core area, the salt licks near Chahala is what draws most of these animals. This big clearing is enclosed by a trench on one side and a fence on the other, it is an ideal place to spot wildlife in action. Alternately, you can try the watch towers located near Chahala and the two sparkling waterfalls of Barehipani and Joranda. Besides spotting wildlife, you can also go fishing at Barehipani or else head to Gurguria in Simlipal to catch hundred different species of colourful orchids at the orchidarium.
You can hire a car from the nearby town of Jashipur for a day safari and explore the vast stretches of Simlipal’s sylvan forests made of semul (Simlipal derives its name from semul trees full of red flowers) and sal trees. The sanctuary is also home to around 230 different species of birds, including rare ones like the brown wood owl, blue bearded bee eater, greater flameback, orange headed thrush, forest wagtail, Alexandrine parakeet, and the crested serpent eagle among others.
The Simlipal sanctuary is also a great place for you to go trekking. One of the most popular treks you can take is the one between Brundaban and Chahala. The seven kilometre trek from Sitakund to Machhkandna, and the shorter one between Uski village and Uski waterfall are also popular among eco tourists here. For more trekking options and bird watching trips get in touch with the National Park office at Jashipur or with the office of the Ranger Officer at Pitabhata. With small tribal villages bordering the forest reserve, Simlipal also offers an interesting opportunity to take culture tours to the nearby tribal villages and hamlets.
You might also want to check out the Astral garden and the crocodile rearing centre at the Ramtirtha Nature Camp. Located in the higher altitudes of northern Odisha, the park has several mid-range peaks such as Khairiburu and Meghasani. It also has seven major rivers and their tributaries flowing through. The sanctuary is open from November till mid-June.
The sanctuary has three campsites – Gurguria, Jamuani and Kumari – situated within the confines of the national park, and another – Ramtirtha – situated close by. For camping you can make a pick of tents, bamboo cottages, dorms, tribal cottages or even luxury rooms. Get more details for booking your stay here. If nature camps don’t cut the deal for you then try Aranya Nivas (near the Lulung River) or Panthanivas (at Baripada) for your stay.