“Western Ghat? ” “Somewhere on the east coast of Odisha?” “Terai region of Indo-Nepal border? “
– No, none of us could actually tell the location when Umesh, the Forest Ranger from Tal Chhapar showed us the photographs on his mobile phone. The dense green rainforest-like landscape, hilly terrains and waterfalls in the photographs easily did the trick and none of us could realize and link this place with the domain of the Great Thar desert. Indeed, this hidden treasure of the land of Maharajas has all that makes it the perfect destination for travellers looking for adventure, photography, cherishing virgin nature, and wilderness far away from the crowd.
On a rainy day in the month of August, we hit the road; all braced for a long drive down the National highways towards our destination, Raoli Tadgarh.
From Delhi Via Jaipur- Ajmer – Bhim, arguably one of the best highway drives in the country, would make your journey a delightful experience. After a delicious breakfast with Onion-Kachauri, a two hours drive took us to a small town called Bhim. As per the accurate guidance of a samaritan, we finally left the highway and took a right turn towards the narrower but well-built road that took us to further interior. In no time we found ourselves driving through the hilly roads with green forests getting denser with every turn. The milestone zero of Tadgarh welcomed and also offered the much-needed comfort ( as the GPS have already surrendered a few miles back) – that we were right on track.
Once we finally discovered the hidden iron gate of the Forest rest House near the famous Dudhaaleshwar Mahadev temple, the tired souls energized instantly. Right from the book of Kenneth Anderson, a picturesque location surrounded by trees and nature welcomed us from all sides.
No sooner had we reached the door of our respective rooms than the hell broke loose – torrential rain along with terrifying lightning seemed to be waiting with phlegmatic calmness just for our arrival. We stopped to witness the fury of Mother Nature for a while. Surrounded by a dense green Aravalli from all sides listening to the thunder and relentless rain we lost in the mysticism. There are moments when all that human beings are fighting for in the material world, seemed so small and insignificant in comparison with the real world. We knew we were going to spend our next few days in one such universe far from the feigned world of madness.
Established in the year 1983 Todgarh-Raoli Wildlife Sanctuary is about 495 sq-km of tropical deciduous forests and grassland. Located in the middle of the Aravalli hill ranges, being based on the village of Todgarh, 25 km from Jassa Khera on NH-8 Delhi-Udaipur Highway, the entire landscape is much in contrast to most of Rajasthan as we know it. The area is also known to receive unusually high rainfall with a number of water bodies, lakes, and natural springs dotted the panorama. Near the Forest rest House, there is an ancient temple dedicated to Shiva, Called Dudhaleshwar Temple surrounded by tall trees of Karanj, Tamarind, and Banyan. It is a local attraction adding to the scenic beauty and character of this amazing location.
The Cook Ram Singh the kind-hearted local from the nearby village served us a simple but delicious dinner. As the evening skyline got darker in tune with the periodic loud calls of National birds from all around us slowing down with the rallentando effect, we knew it was time to call it a day.
Never knew when the rain stopped at the night but as the alarm call of a pair of Rufous Babbler right at the window, forced me to wake up, a magical feeling of contentment and refreshment reenergize the soul almost instantly. Golden sunbeams filtered through the scattered white clouds embracing the green forest fresh and drenched after the recent bath. Over a cup of tea sitting in the open, we could spot Oriental White Eyes busy catching insects from the banyan tree, a flock of Coppersmith Barbet in a playful mood literally flying everywhere around the FRH, while the colourful Stork Billed Kingfisher in sharp contrast to green background could be visible from far waiting for the right moment to pounce on the fish at the lake below. Noticing our enthusiasm for avian species, Ram Singh showed us pointing toward a Karaj tree, a pair of huge wings. A careful focus with telelens turned those wings into a pair of Indian Grey Hornbills. In the meantime, we found out the glutton Squirrel had run with our biscuits from the plate.
By the time it was 9: 30 am, we found ourselves enjoying the beautiful drive at 100 km hour enjoying the cool breeze even in the mid-august. Our destination was Kamli Ghat, a distance of about 40 Km. The plan was to catch a train from Kamlighat to Goram Ghat to enjoy one of the most scenic railways stretches in India. As we reached the small green and clean railway station, the typical monsoon weather set in and it started to pour again. We knew it would be an adventure to remember but never could imagine we actually recreate the famous “ Darjiling Heritage Toy-train” experience all over again in the middle of Rajasthan!
In Rajasthan’s Mewar region, a railway line was built in 1932 by British Raj officers. Marwar and Mewar are connected by this railroad line. It was indeed an engineering marvel to construct 172 little and large bridges, let alone two tunnels through the mountains. The entire journey between Kamlighat to Goram Ghat passes through some breathtaking landscapes and scenic beauties. The monsoon streams, waterfalls, high bridges and like icing on the cake drizzling throughout made our journey a memory to treasure forever. I wish though they could make the trains more comfortable and tourist friendly and that would undoubtedly attract more revenue, considering the scope of tourism in this part of the country.
No matter which part of the world you are in and which category of the forest, anyone who loves nature and wildlife would fall in love with the inescapable scent of the wilderness once you enter the forest area. A ride through the bumpy road of this unique forest land of Aravali has everything that you aspire for – dense woods, grasslands, narrow forest paths, and wetlands. Hundreds of amazing species of birds, jackals, Sloth Bears, Hyenas, Nilgais, sambars and even Leopards. This is never an easy task for the forest department to sustain and maintain the flora and fauna and create awareness among locals to respect and save nature in the days of rapid urbanisation and economic challenges. The credit goes to Rajasthan Forest Department to maintain this ecological balance and a heaven for nature lovers. We could also see a lot of development works, construction of new roads and water-pump management going on in the area.
An evening stroll in the nearby village helped us frame some delightful sunsets and landscapes. Children going to village schools, people lazing around by the lake, elders in the village playing cards under the huge Bunyan tree – familiar and yet so unfamiliar scenes like these make you feel aligned with nature and the simplicities of life.
The beauty of this hidden gem changes its colour and character with every season. A must-see destination for Monsoon promises a lot for winters too. We did vow to ourselves to come back here in winter.
Points to be noted for the first time visitors:
- This is a place for travellers, a no-no for tourists.
- If you are self-driving, it’s better to ask people about the better routes once you leave the highways. There are multiple routes and some of them are not in good condition. The GPS signal might mislead.
- If you are traveling in Monsoon, be prepared with your gears. Winters would take the mercury much down.
- Do not expect any internet or mobile connection.
- Expect delicious foods cooked by Ram Singh. He is also your volunteer to act as a guide. (Food is slightly over-priced)
- Inside the Rest House, for most of the facilities except rooms, you are on your own there. The present caretaker, Gopal seemed to be one of those who don’t feel very happy about guests coming there and is highly non-cooperative.
How to Reach
The Sanctuary is about 145 km away from Jodhpur Airport. By Railway: The Nearest Railway station is Marwar Junction in the Pali District of Rajasthan. The Sanctuary is approx. 62 km away from Marwar Junction in Pali, Rajasthan.
By Airway: The Nearest airport is Jodhpur Airport in the Jodhpur District of
By Roadway: To reach Todgarh by road you should take a turn on NH58 near Barar tehsil. It is located on Todgarh Road(Barakhan – Barar)