GREAT HIMALAYAN NATIONAL PARK
This Park was constituted in 1984 and was declared a National Park in 1999. It is one of the largest protected areas in the Himalayas. Situated in the Kulu District of Himachal Pradesh, this Park is a new addition to the number of parks in India. The area that the Park covers is 1736 sq. kms. that extends up to the Kulu Valley. A buffer zone of 5 kms. was also added to the park, to facilitate conservation. There area is devoid of human population to a great extent and is an ideal population for the animal and bird species. The Park is located on a number of hills and valleys and the altitude of the hills average between 1500 to 6000 metres above sea level.
The Park consists of the watersheds of Jiwa, Sainj and Thirthan rivers in the Banjar area of Kulu district. The water is derived from the glaciers. There are villages in the immediate vicinity of the park.
The Kullu Valley was ruled by rajahs or rulers. The earlier name of Kullu Valley was ‘Kulanthapitha’ which means ‘end of the habitable world’. The meaning literally takes in to account the view atop Rohtang Pass.
In the 19th century, the British exploited the timber rich valley and the area began to be inhabited by people. In the 20th Century the laws of the land were regulated. The dominant set of people is known as the Kanets.
The foothills of the park are covered with dense deodar forests, Bhojpatra trees and the way uphill consists of low alpine shrubs and juniper, broad leafed forests of elm, hazel nut, maple, willow, kharsu trees, silver birch, Himalayan fir and poplar. There are medicinal plants like kadva tosh for stomach upsets and jurinea sprout. There are dense and closed canopy forests in the valleys. The floral diversity has been well preserved as there has been no human intervention. The flora in the region has close affinity with Mediterranean and Tibetan regions in that the plants show great resemblance to that of those regions.
The Park is naturally protected by steep ridges and permanent snow and the cacophony of birds can be heard. There are koklass peasants, lammergiers, monals, western tragopan, Himalayan Griffon vultures and more than 181 species of birds, 31 mammals including wild mountain goats like the bharal, serow, ghorals, tahrs, bears, musk deer, porcupines, langurs, leopards, blue sheep, 3 reptiles, 9 amphibians, 11 annelids, 17 molluscs and 127 species of insects.
The park is favoured for eco tourism. The Park offers trails for both casual hikers and serious hikers. There are easy day walks in the Ecozone created by the authorities. The Ecozone has in-built villages which were there even before the Park was created. There have been restrictions as far as the villagers are concerned as they have been prohibited from extending their area of grazing within the forest and raising land for cultivation and cutting down trees. The ecozone also offers great places for bird watching and also for wild life viewing. Since many areas within the park are virgin land, there are opportunities for exploration in the various altitudes and a chance to observe the endangered species in their natural habitat. It is a feeling when the clouds lose themselves within the high alpine forests and the sight of the glacier glistening in the daytime. The lush and verdant forest provides the thrill of the wild and the air is sweetened with the aroma of the plants and trees. There are facilities for rafting, boating, climbing, fishing, attending village festivals and viewing the life of the villagers and also that of worshipping in the sacred groves or even viewing them.
There are tours arranged by the authorities that may extend from a simple tour of the local places to trekking over a larger area. There are Park treks for which permits have to be obtained and necessarily attended by recognised guides. There are treks which test the physical ability of the trekker to the limits and only healthy trekkers are allowed to go through these trails.
The best time to go to the Park is between April and June and from September till October. The rare snow leopards come down from the higher altitudes in winter. The climate of the region is that of western Himalayan region and there are four distinct seasons. Spring comes in the months of April to June followed by rain and summer from July to September. Autumn lasts for two months, October and November, followed by winter from December to March. Snowfalls are heavy in the upper region. The temperature is the highest at 400C in June and it is coldest in the month of January with the temperature hovering at -100C.
The nearest town is Kulu which is 60 kms. away from the Park. The nearest airport is at Bhuntar, which is 50 kms. away. The park is 500 kms. from Delhi and 270 kms from Chandigarh. The nearest airport is in Chandigarh which is 270 kms. away. The Park is on the Delhi- Manali Highway.
GETTING IN TO THE PARK
Permits to the Park are obtained from the Thirthan Wildlife Range Office at Sai Ropa. Permits are also available at Jiwa Nal Wildlife Range Office at Larji. The fee is Rs.50/- per day for Indian nationals and for foreigners it is Rs.200/- per day for the first five days. It is Rs.300/- per day after that. The foreigners are to be covered by insurance.
There are rest houses in the area. Permission is required to enter the Park. Accommodation has to be booked in advance through the District Forest Officer, Wild Life Division, Kulu.
- There is a Forest Rest House at Sairopara with 3 rooms and a Dormitory which has 40 beds. There are home stays in the vicinity of the Park. Permission can be availed from the Director, GHNP, Shamsi, Kullu
- There is a forest Rest House at Aut for which permission has to be obtained from the DFO, Mandi
- The PWD Rest House, Larji – permission to be obtained from Executive Engineer, PWD Division II, Kullu
- Forest Rest House, Sainj and Bandal – permission from the DFO, Seraj, Banjar, Kullu Dt.
- One Room accommodation at Lapah Village, Sainj Valley- Permission from Director, GHNP,Shamsi , Kullu Dt.
The park is open throughout the year. Further details can be had from The Director, GHNP, Shamsi, Kulu.
There are rules to be observed while trekking. They are:
- The entry to the Park is limited because of the fragile eco system
- All entry to the Park can only be after obtaining permits after paying the necessary fee.
- The multi day trekkers should be accompanied by a guide and porters.
- The trekkers have to check in at the Interpretation centre.
- There are fees for cameras and videos.
- Animals should never be disturbed
- Plants should not be picked or disturbed
- Move silently and talk only softly while in the Park
- Report death or injury of animals
- Report incidence of fire in the Park
- Littering is prohibited within the Park.
- There should be no open fires or cooking. It has to be regulated by the camp leader.
- All pits for personal hygiene should be 100 metres away from water sources and paper should be buried in the pit.
- No green wood to be used and all fire to be extinguished before leaving the camp
- The camp site is to be cleaned before leaving
- Respect the privacy of the villagers
- Respect the religious grounds, shrines and temples and footwear should be removed if requested
- Dress modestly and with colours that blend with nature.
- No firearms or weapons are allowed
- No pets are allowed
- Do not feed , molest or chase animals
- Electronic sound systems are prohibited
- Parties, picnics, fishing and hunting are prohibited
- Damages to trees and disfiguring are also prohibited
Trekkers are advised to carry the following:
- Insulated vest / jacket
- Rain proof parka
- Socks and sock liners
- Sun hat
- Tee shirt
- Slippers or sandals to be worn inside the tent
- Thermal underwear
- Sleeping bags.
- Adjustable walking stick
- Water bottle
- High grade water filter
- Multi blade knife.