Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary: All You Need To Know About This Lush Heaven In Pune

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A pristine paradise of nature with lush hills, sparkling waterfalls, and dense forests, Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is the home of the Giant Flying Squirrel and is a favourite weekend getaway for people from Mumbai and Pune. Located a mere 138 km from Pune, Bhimashankar reserve is an all-in-one package of fun, adventure, nature, and spirituality.Challenging treks for adventure seekers, temples for pilgrims, diverse flora and fauna for nature lovers and wildlife photographers, various unique birds for bird watchers, picnic spots for families with kids, and beautiful natural locations for couples – Bhimashankar Wildlife Reserve has something for every type of traveler!

To make your getaway to Bhimashankar a fun affair, we’ve put down all necessary information about the park right here! Find all you need to know about Bhimashankar like best time to visit, activities, budget, accommodation, transportation, and more in this Bhimashankar Sanctuary guide.

Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary Basic Information

Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary was created in the Ambegaon and Khed talukas of Pune District, in the Western Indian state of Maharashtra in order mainly to protect the habitat of the Indian Giant Squirrel. Its area is 131 km2 (51 sq mi) and is a part of the Western Ghats (Sahyadri Ranges). This sanctuary was created in 1984 and includes 9 tribal villages. The area’s biodiversity has been retained as it will be preserved as a cluster of sacred groves for generations. These sacred groves act as gene pools of this area, from where seeds were dispersed. In Ahupe – a tribal (Mahadev Koli) village’s sacred grove in the sanctuary, in 1984, a climber Khombhal – Xantolis tomentosa was found to be 800–1000 years old.

Area: 131 km sq (51 sq mi)
Elevation: 2,100 feet to 3,800 feet above sea level
Location: Ambegaon and Khed Talukas, Sahyadri Ranges of Western Ghats, Pune District, Maharashtra
Latitude: 19.1739137°N | Longitude: 73.5824217°E

Map of Bhimashankar Wildlife Reserve

What is Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary famous for?

The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is the home of the Giant Indian Squirrel and a huge number of other animals and birds. The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra is spread across an extensive area of 120 square kilometers on the Western Ghats or the Sahyadri Ranges.
The densely forested area of the Maharashtra, Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary in India receives heavy monsoon rainfall. The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary in is a very popular weekend gateway from the cities of Pune and Mumbai.

1. Bhimashankar Sanctuary is home to a subspecies of the Indian Giant Squirrel (or Malabar Giant Squirrel), the state animal of Maharashtra (Scientific name: Ratufa Indica Elphinstone). It is one of the three threatened Indo-Malayan squirrel species and the sanctuary authorities take major steps time and again to ensure its conservation and survival.

2. The sanctuary houses the famed Bhimashankar temple to which it owes its name. This Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga temple is apparently one of the twelve Jyotirlingas (self emerged Shiva temples) in India, explaining why it is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Hindus from all over the country.

3. Bhimashankar Sanctuary has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Bird Life International. The reserve is home to globally threatened species, many restricted range species, two critical species, various vulnerable species, and near threatened species of aviaries. The Sanctuary constantly works towards protecting the valuable habitats of these bird species.

Best time to visit Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary

November to February are the best months to visit Bhimashankar. Though the temple can be visited anytime of the year, trekkers can visit during winters if they are first time climbers as the climb can be tough during the monsoons because of slippery slopes. However, experienced trekkers will find trekking in monsoon quite pleasing because of its challenging nature.

Summer (March – May) Summers in Bhimashankar are hot. The season starts setting in from March and lasts until May. The temperature ranges between 23 to 37 degrees Celcius. It is better to avoid visiting Bhimshankar during this time because of the heat.

Monsoon (June – September) Bhimashankar witnesses monsoon season during the months of June to September. Heavy rainfall is observed during this time. Usually, tourists prefer not to visit the place during monsoons but if you love trekking, Bhimashankar can be the perfect place for you in this season.

Winter (October – February) From October, winters start taking over the monsoon season. The mercury dips and the temperature range between 13 to 30 degrees Celcius. This is considered to be the best time to explore Bhimashankar. Temples and wildlife sanctuaries can be visited. Also, it is a great trekking place for amateurs during winters.

How to reach Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary

By Air

The nearest airport is Pune Airport, at a distance of 102 km. This airport is connected to Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, Indore, Kolkata, Mumbai and Kochi.
Airlines like Air India Express, Indigo, Kingfisher, Air India and Jet Airways serve the passengers here.

By Rail

Pune Railway Station is the nearest railway station from Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, at the distance of 107 km.
This is a broad-gauged railway station and is connected to New Delhi, Mysore, Chennai, Puri, Mysore, and Jaipur.

By Road

Bhimashankar is connected to Salgaon, Peth, Rajur, Util, Junnar and other areas.
There are frequent bus services outside the park that goes to different locations near and far away.

Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary Timings

The forest reserve is open at all times of the day for both tourists and locals alike. However, one must not enter the Bhimashankar forest after dark, say 7 PM, unless accompanied by a certified guide in a covered vehicle.

Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary Entry Fee

There is no entry fee for Bhimashankar Reserve other than the one you need to pay for your vehicle that you’re taking inside the sanctuary for your safari tour. Following are the admission prices of different kinds of vehicles one can take inside the forest reserve:

Two wheelers: INR 10/- per person
Four wheelers: INR 50/- per person
Heavy vehicles: INR 100/- per person

Ideal duration of a trip to Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary

A duration of 1 night 2 days is ideal for a trip to Bhimashankar Forest Reserve. Though a duration of 2 to 3 hours is sufficient to explore the sanctuary and indulge in all the major activities like safari, temple visit, lake visit, and more, thrill seekers who come here for trekking and hiking spend much longer time to experience all that this place has to offer and satiate their adventure-hungry souls.

Flora and Fauna of Bhimashankar Wildlife Reserve

The sanctuary is located in the northern part of the Western Ghats. It is spread over three districts Pune, Thane and Raigad. There is a shrine in the forest with the Jyotirlinga, temple of Lord Shiva. Two major tributaries of river Krishna namely Bhima and Ghod originate from this area. The valley is a splendid combination of shrubs, magical herbs, plant and animal life. The wide variety of animal species which are found in the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra consists of barking deer, leopard, wild boar, sambar, hyena and langur. The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary has a big number of birds like the Quaker Babbler, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Green Pigeon, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Eagles, Grey Jungle fowl and many more species of birds.

» Flora – The main forest of this sanctuary is the southern tropical semi evergreen forest. Tourists can find wide range of plant life, magical herbs, and shrubs. Dominant species are Mango, Jamun, Hirda, Behda, Bamboo, Shrub, Herbs, Climber, Grass, and Fern.

» Fauna – The area is rich in fauna since there is variety of forest types in the sanctuary. The wild life found here includes Leopards, Barking Deer, Sambar, Wild Boar, Langur, and Hyena. One might get to see the Malabar Giant Squirrel ( Shekru ), one of the largest of tree squirrels found over here, well over three feet long.

» Avi-fauna – The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary has a big number of birds like Quaker Babbler, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Green Pigeon, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Eagles, Grey Jungle fowl and many more. Its rich bird life makes it one of the popular birdwatching spots in India.

» Other attractions – Temple of Lord Shiva, Bombay point, Nagphani point, Hanuman tank, Vanaspati point, Gupt Bhimashankar are important tourist attraction within the sanctuary. Devotees of Lord Shiva visit the temple in thousands on the day of Mahashivratri and in the Shravan month (Hindu calendar, corresponding roughly to July-August) on every Monday.

Things to do at the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary

From going on a safari, trekking amid the lush forests, getting familiarised with the tribal population, to visiting the temples and sacred groves, there are plenty of activities in Bhimashankar forest for travelers to indulge in. Most of these have been listed below so that one can plan their trip to Bhimashankar Reserve at ease.

1. Visit the Chas Kaman Dam

The Chas Kaman Dam is one of the important dams of Maharashtra and is built on the Bhima River at Rajgurunagar in Pune district. The dam is a major tourist destination for tourists traveling to Pune because of the picturesque surroundings and backwaters. The place is an ideal monsoon retreat as the rains enhance the abundant green patches significantly. The main purpose of this Planning Commission approved project was to improve irrigation and supply of electricity to the nearby villages.

2. Explore the wilderness on an adventurous safari

With plethora animals and bird species greeting visitors in the park, the place is a gold mine for wildlife photographers, birdwatchers, and nature lovers. While the Giant Indian Squirrels are the main attraction inside the park, one can also spot various other common as well as rare animals and bird species living at peace in their natural habitat.

3. Seek blessings at the Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga Temple

India is a land of Gods and Lord Shiva is the most revered Gods by Hindus all across the world. Worshipped in the form of Shivlinga, Lord Shiva is believed to bless all his true devotees with salvation. The twelve Jyotirlingas also called the ‘Dwadash Jyotirlingas’ are considered to be the holiest of all shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and according to the beliefs of Hindu mythology, whosoever does the divine darshans of these 12 holy Jyotirlingas, will be released from the cycle of life and death. The Jyotirlinga is same in appearance as a Shivlinga but is manifested with a divine light or ‘Jyoti’ that can only be seen by a person when he reaches a higher level of spiritual attainment. Listed below are the 12 Jyotirlinga Temples of Lord Shiva along with their mythologies.

4. Go on a trekking tour

The mountainous terrain and steep hills of Bhimashankar forest make it an ideal destination for trekkers and hikers and attract a great influx of trekking enthusiasts from across the country. With medium to the difficult level of trekking spots amid diverse trails for trekking like dense forests, steep hills, lofty peaks, rocky terrains, narrow pathways, deep rivers, and more, these treks present challenges at every turn and won’t let you get bored! The two major trekking sites in Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary are located in Khandas in the village of Bhavagiri over the Sahyadri Ranges and can be easily accessed via a bus or car ride. Travelers can either pick the Sidhi Ghat route or the Ganesh Ghat route for their trekking expedition to Bhimashankar from Khandas.

5. Catch fireflies in Bhorgiri

Every year in June, just before the onset of monsoons, the village of Bhorgiri comes to life with a rare phenomenon. Being the breeding ground of fireflies, the hamlet witnesses the number of these pretty little bugs multiply from thousands to millions! This is the time of the Fireflies Festival of Bhorgiri when many people flock to these forests at night to witness mesmerising sights of a sea of fireflies on the ground and up above in the trees. It’s truly a sight to behold! The phenomenon usually lasts just a single day, so make sure you keep a tab on when it’s going to happen the coming year so that you don’t miss it out!

6. Learn about the Sacred Groves

There are about 14 sacred groves, or ‘Devrais’, in Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary. These are near queer, virgin forest patches traditionally earmarked by the local forest people because of spiritual sentiments. Namely Bhimashankar Rai, Bhaka Rai, Ahupe Rai, Vandev, Yelavali Van, Dhakoha, Koteshwar, Umbaryn Bhairavnath, Vaghoba, Talhavadidevi, and Kalbhairavnath, these 14 groves are said to be a 1000 years old and hold great ecological significance. Experts suggest these may contain traces of the original species composition and can even provide gene pools for different rare and endemic species of plants. They provide as a rich subject for ecological research and study of cultural heritage.

7. Go picnicking near Hanuman Lake

An ideal picnic spot for families and couples, Hanuman Lake in Bhimashankar provides visitors with gorgeous scenic views and a chance to spot lots of squirrels and birds in the area. Though it’s a little tricky to reach, the expansive area around the lake, the pleasant weather here, and the stunning views will definitely make up for your efforts!

8. Explore the mysterious Junnar Caves

Located near Malshej Ghat, the hills of Junnar are home to over 200 Buddhist caves, which is the largest reported collection of caves at a single place in the entire country. Built somewhere between the 3rd century BC and the 3rd century AD, these caves belong to the Hinayana (Theravada) phase of Buddhism. Some of the popular among these 200 caves are Tulja Caves, Shivneri Caves (near the Shivneri Fort), Amba Ambika Caves, Bhimashankar Caves, Bhutha Linga Caves, and Lenyadri Caves. These caves and hills are an absolute fascination for history lovers, hikers and adventure lovers who visit these them for their uniqueness and pristine beauty. The surrounding hills are also frequented by bird watchers and photographers since they serve as a favorite stopover point for migrating flamingos during monsoons.

9. Take a dip at the Ahupe Waterfalls

Located inside the isolated and scenic village of Ahupe in the Pune District, the Ahupe Waterfall is an undiscovered paradise surrounded by verdant greenery of hills and jungles. Other than nature enthusiasts and couples, the waterfall is among the favorite spots for trekkers and hikers owing to the scenic nature trails that lead to it. In order to reach this waterfall in Bhimashankar Wildlife Reserve, travelers needs to take the road leading to Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga Temple and get to Dimbhe Dam, where they are required to climb over to the back of the dam and walk all the way to falls via a nature trail running parallel to the beautiful Dimbhe Dam backwaters.

10. Pay your respects at Gupt Bhimashankar

As the name suggests, this place stays hidden from the eyes of many who visit Bhimashankar reserve. It is essentially the place of origin of river Bhima, where the water of the river swirls with a ferocious force over a Shivalinga placed on a stone ledge a long time ago. This Shivalinga is, in fact, said to have been discovered here itself, a fact that draws pilgrims to this site in large numbers.

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