GUGAMAL NATIONAL PARK
The Gugamal National Park is situated in Amravathi District of Maharashtra. Established in the year 1974, the park covers an area of 1673.93 sq. kms and is a part of the Melghat Tiger Reserve. This Park forms the core area of the Tiger Reserve. The Park lies in two Tehsils of the district, Chikaldhara and Dharni. The concept of this park was to ensure protection of tigers. The Park area lies within the Satpura hill ranges also known as the Gavilgarh Hills. This is the only park in Maharashtra where tigers are still in existence and is one of the well known ones in the state. The forest is rugged and hilly and quite suitable for the Park’s most important inhabitant. The main ridges rise over 1000 metres.
The Rivers that flow within the Park are the Gadga River and Dolar River. It is in these rivers that crocodiles were introduced. The Tapi River flows on the northern borders of the Park.
The forest area is typically southern, dry deciduous and consists mainly of Ain, Tiwas, Aola, Lendia, Dhawada and Kusum and Teak. Bamboo clumps is evident and widespread. There are orchids and strobilanthis in the upper area. The Park area is rich in medicinal plants also. In sum total there are more than 750 species of plants in the forest which includes 90 species of trees, 316 species of herbs, 56 species of climbers, 66 species of shrubs, 23 sedge species and 99 grass species .There are a number of medicinal plants.
There are more than 260 species of birds that consist of Serpent eagles and Paradise Flycatcher. The Mammals consist of Tigers, leopards, Sloth Bears, Wild Dog, Jackal, Hyena, Chausingha, Sambar, Gaur, Barking Deer, Panthers, Wild Boar, Rhesus Monkeys, langur, macaque, ratel, Pangolin, and some rarely seen animals such as Cheetal and mouse deer. There are 25 types of fishes and a number of butterflies. Crocodiles were brought in a phased manner in 1990 and then again in 1991. A lot of migratory birds visit this park on their flight. The forest is quite dense and hence a protection to all animals where it breeds.
The Korku tribals live within the Park and are found in the Melghat region. These friendly people interact with others and during their festival dances like Chattkore and Bhavali are performed. These people use the Korku dialect.
PLACES TO VISIT
- Makhla: This is a village about 12 kms. from Semadoh where the Korku tribal homes are.
- Bhootkhora: On the way to Makhla, there is a point overlooking the Satpura Hills where the British were said to hang prisoners and then throw their bodies in to the ‘khora’ –meaning valley.
- Chikaldhara: This is a pleasant little village at an altitude of 1178 metres above sea level atop Vairat. This is the highest point in the region. The place was found by Captain Robinsdon of the Hyderabad Regiment in 1823
- Gavilgarh Fort: There is a large gateway called the Bara Darwaza. The Fort is in ruins. This was a well fortified fort of the Maratha Empire. The fort was assaulted by the Anglo Indian troops led by Lord Wellesly in 1803 in the Second Anglo – Maratha War
- Bhim Kund: It is believed that Lord Bhima killed Kichaka and threw his body in to the valley and then had his bath in the nearby lake. The Valley is called Kichakadara and the lake is called Bhim Kund. There is a waterfall that is beautiful during the monsoons.
- Panchbol Point: This place is about 5 kms. from Chikaldhara where a valley is formed by five mountains. It is the echo from this point that is rewarding.
- Narnala Fort: also known as the ‘Shanur Fort’ was named after the Rajput king Namal Singh. The fort was first established in 10 AD by Gond kings. It was rebuilt by the Mughals in the 15th Century. It was said that there was a pond in the centre of the fort with healing properties and contained the ‘philosopher’s stone’. No stone was found in the pond as the pond dried up in the famine of 1899-1900. The fort is also the birthplace of Mughal emperor Aurangazeb’s great grandson.
The Park has facilities for bird watching, trekking and meditation. There are facilities for studying the culture of the Korku tribes. There are Park vehicles that can be hired to view the wild animals in their natural surroundings.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit the Park is from October to June. Summers are too hot but animal activities do happen in summer when they go in search of water. Winters are comfortable but there will be practically no animal sightings. Winter is ideal for bird watching.
The nearest airport is in Nagpur, which is 225 kms. away. The nearest railway station is in Badnera / Amaravati which is 110 kms. away. The Park is approachable by the state highway from Paratwada to Dharni. The Interpretation centre is in Semadoh. The park is about 760 kms. north east of Mumbai . The buses going via Paratwada to Dharni and Burhanpur, stops at the Tourist Centre in Semadoh. The MTDC also organizes tours to the Park. The road journey can be exhausting.
There are 4 dormitories consisting of 64 beds in Semadoh. Tariff is around Rs.8/- per dorm bed. There are 10 huts with twin beds also in Semadoh and the rates are around Rs.35/- per room. These rooms are not properly maintained and it is advisable to carry towels and sheets and mosquito repellents. In addition there are Forest Rest Houses in Dhakna, Dhargad, Chaurakund, Ranguveli, Chunkhadi, Kolkaz, Jarida, Makhalara, Hatru , Koktoo, Tarubanda and Raipur. These rooms have only basic amenities but are in scenic locations. The caretaker prepares food if ordered. The charges are Rs.200/- per night. Meals are extra. The rooms at Hatru, Chaurakund and Makhta do not have electricity. Reservation for all these accommodation can be made with the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Paratwada, Amaravati. There are platforms in Makhla, Tarobanda and Gullarghat where tents can be pitched. Food in most of the rest houses are basic and many of them only server vegetarian food. The other rest house is:
- Kolka Rest House: This is situated in the Park and offers very good view. The rooms are spacious and bathrooms are clean. Permission to stay is required from the Forest Office at Amravathi.