Shimla, as everybody knows the explicit destination for scintillating hill station, The Mall, wonderful eateries and popular buildings & museums; surprisingly takes you to the roundabouts. So plainly, this capital of mountains and valleys of Himachal Pradesh grabs wonderful attentions witnessing a floating population of tourists throughout the year.
And then, one more surprise is hidden amidst the lush foliage of the ‘Queen of the Hills’, the most wonderful gift of nature and the perfect illustration of water conservation with a fabulous walk in the wild, the Shimla Water Catchment Sanctuary. Barely 8 kms away from the city on the Hindustan-Tibet Road (NH-22) this verdant paradise is spread across 1020.32 hectares featuring pines, deodars, oaks and firs with twittering birds and ruffling ghorals. This old water catchment area of Shimla turned into a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1999 that perches on the altitudes of approx 1915 meter to 2750 meter and is marvelously the hidden gem of Shimla.
The most interesting fact of this sanctuary is that it has the highest reported density of koklass pheasants in India under natural conditions which is bifurcated by a host of seasonal streams that form the catchment of the Ashwani Khad.
Flora Treasury of the Catchment Sanctuary
The dense forest of Shimla Water Cantonment Sanctuary although beholds the most dominant species of Deodar in the area but is also the host of other trees like the ban-oak, moru-oak, kharsu-oak, kail, spruce, silver fur, poplar, rhododendron, taxus, chir, kainth, khanur, acacia, mollissima. Besides, the top canopy is being covered by a variety of grass species, ferns and vascular herbs. Shrubs like Desmodium, indigofera, salix, berberis, rosa, rebus and dephnae are the essential parts of it.
Faunas in the Sanctuary
The sanctuary serves as an important protection ground for the species like ghorals, barking deer, sambars, langoors and uncertain witnesses of leopard cat. In winters, bears can also be spotted in the sanctuary.
Avi-faunas- the real charm of the sanctuary
The area is infested with typical Himalayan birds including koklass pheasants, specked wood-pigeon, Himalayan woodpecker, yellow-billed magpie, black crested tit, kalij, partridge etc. Most interesting fact is that in census 1979, estimation of 17-25 pairs/per 2 kms has been observed by the officials, which was the highest reported density under the natural conditions of the bird. The forest department tried to reintroduce the species in 1968 but unfortunately none of them survived.
Other attractions of Sanctuary
The presence of one and only forest lodge Seog Rest House around two forest department quarters brings the wholesome remunerated feelings. The quarters are for the caretakers and for the Forest Rangers. The other residing option is the Viceregal Lodge carefully designed for the visitors.
The area also consists of a 16 feet water reservoir built by the Britishers in 1901 that collects water from the falls and swash all around the forest and supply it to the Viceregal Lodge located few kilometers away from the reservoir. The reservoir is surrounded by thick forest bringing the capacity of holding 240, 00,000 gallons of water with wonderful acquisition of human ability. Profitably, this water is being supplied to the residents of the nearby Dhalli area.
This is the most explicit land where you can experience the company of multi-hued butterflies while finding way through the rugged ways amidst the affluent shrubs and interesting herbs & trees and even the birds’ coo that simply takes you very close to nature. Besides, you can also soak your moods in the splendor of many waterfalls around the sanctuary, which are about 19 of them.
This sanctuary has real potential for conservation education to the local people and the visitors. A visit to this amazing reservoir sanctuary really lets you realize that there are many surprises in nooks.
By Air: The nearest airstrip is Jubbar Hatti Airport, 35 kms from Shimla
By Rail: Nearest railway station is Kalka, 38 kms away from Shimla
By Road: From Delhi, the highway is connected to Chandigarh via Haridwar to reach Shimla from where it is 8 kms away on NH22
To visit: A prior permission is needed to take from the DFO, Shimla Wildlife Division which is granted on payment of fee. The visiting hours are fixed at this sanctuary.