Nandankanan Still Tops The List Of Amazing Picnic Destinations In Odisha!
While there is no dearth of natural havens in Odisha for tourists and picnickers to retreat for a short vacation or a day’s trip, the 400-hectare zoo and botanical garden of Nandankanan continues to be one of the favourite thronging sites for both animal lovers and picnic goers in Odisha.
Located in the environs of Chandaka forest near the capital city, Nandankanan, literally meaning ‘The Garden of Heavens’, has been attracting tourists from all over the state and outside ever since it was opened to the public in 1979. Besides being a place for recreation, its status as a zoological park of the state also makes it a breeding ground for wide variety of animal species in captivity. Over the course of time, it has undergone many developments and upgradation in facilities while also acquiring newer species.
On the occasion of New Year day, as Nandankanan Zoological Park recorded an all-time high footfall of 50,648 tourists, My City Links takes a look at how this park has evolved over the last 57 years and continues to be Odisha’s most popular picnic spot even though tourists believe that there still is scope for improvement.
Established on December 29, 1960, the Nandankanan Zoological Park spreads over a vast 3.62 square kilometres of undulating topography with natural moist deciduous forest, water bodies and enchanting landscape that provides the zoo inhabitants an appropriate ambience to live in harmony with the nature. One of the biggest zoos in Asia and the second in India, Nandankanan is home to more than 2669 animals representing 152 different species of amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals.
Being Odisha’s first zoological park, the natural forest areas of the park have a rich flora and fauna diversity that include 704 species of plants, 13 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles, 71 species of birds, 20 species of amphibians, 85 species of butterflies and 51 species of spiders. The zoological park together with the panoramic Kanjia lake and State Botanical Garden were declared as the ‘Nandankanan Wildlife Sanctuary’ over an area of 4.37 square kilometres on 3rd August 1979. The zoo also became the first in India to become a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
One of the major attractions of Nandankanan Zoological Park is its safaris. From white tigers and lions to bear, the visitors have a lot to look forward to. Nandankanan, in fact, is the first zoo in India to offer a white tiger safari since 1991. Spread over an area of 12 hectares, the white tiger safari exposes you to a natural environment where tigers roam around in the open jungle and visitors are confined in a vehicle.
While the lion safari, established in 1984, spreads over an area of 20 hectares, the herbivore safari, established in 2011, extends over 21 hectares and houses barking deer, spotted deer, sambars, four horned antelopes, wild boars, jungle fowls and peafowls. Bear safari, which covers five hectares and was established in 2012, gives visitors the opportunity to see sloth bears in their natural habitat.
Nocturnal Animal House:
Nocturnal animal house is an artificial place where twilight condition is created to house the nocturnal animals and visitors get to know what these creatures do secretively in the night.
A reptile park with a life size tyrannosaurus at its entrance, houses 24 reptiles including crocodiles, lizards, turtles and snakes. For the visitors, however, the king cobras and a huge reticulate python of 22 feet are the major attractions.
Established in 2008, the aquarium houses numerous types of marine and fresh water aquatic animals and provides proper habitat for them to grow. It is one of the most visited places in the zoo.
The walk through aviary for exotic birds is a unique exhibit of its kind in India. The aviary is home to arboreal, terrestrial and aquatic birds and it is a pleasant experience for visitors to see free flying birds over their heads.
State Botanical Garden
Another amazing attraction is the State Botanical Garden which was established in 1963. Covering an area of 75 hectares, the nature’s symphony and exquisite touch of wilderness of the garden would leave any visitor spellbound. The garden has a variety of flowers and other shrubs and trees and has a calm and peaceful environment that one can enjoy. Boating facility is also available for visitors in the waters of Kanjia lake, which is spread over 66 hectares. The lake is known for its rich flora and fauna diversity and is declared as a ‘Wetland of National Importance’ by Government of India.
According to the zoo authorities, many species of wild animals including four horned antelope, hog deer, swamp deer, gaur, giant squirrel, Manipuri deer, Himalayan black bear, tiger, black buck, jackal, marmoset, hippopotamus, peafowl, night heron, white ibis, pariah kite, gharial and flap shelled turtle have bred successfully at the zoo over the last few years. The park has also reared four striped hyena cubs which were received from Cuttack forest division in 2015.
Meanwhile, as the zoo recently celebrated its 57th Foundation Day, the authorities unveiled a slew of new facilities including online ticketing system to attract more footfalls. Now, you can book your ticket to Nandankanan by visiting the website www.nandankanan.org.
That apart, 40 CCTV cameras have been installed to keep track of visitors’ movement inside the zoo on a real time basis. There are also plans to install a toy train next year, for which Rs. 3 crore has been allotted. For the convenience of visitors, battery operated vehicles (BOVs), which are eco-friendly and non-polluting, are already functional on the zoo premises. While they are available for senior citizens, children and physically challenged people on a tender basis, for visitors, they are available for an hourly trip for Rs. 50 per head.
WHAT VISITORS WANT
Even as the zoo on New Year day registered a record footfall, visitors still feel that a few more facilities and a cleaner environment can add to the charm of Nandankanan.