The Chambal Sanctuary
Chambal is a land that has retained its unique landscapes, rugged charm and
rare wildlife. A mere 70 kms southeast of Agra (home of the Taj Mahal), it is a world far removed from the chaotic madness of modern Indian cities. The valley’s secret is its unique and unpolluted habitat and the consequent rich diversity of life forms that it supports.

The Chambal is a perennial river known for its pristine unpolluted waters and is home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna. This was the reason that the River Chambal was chosen as one of the main habitats for the reintroduction, into the wild, of Gharials bred in captivity at Kukrail in Lucknow and Deori in Morena. Rampant poaching and indiscriminate fishing had led to the decimation of Gharial populations in India, and a captive breeding and reintroduction programme was started in the 1970’s to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.

Thus, in 1979 a 400 km stretch of the river Chambal and a 1 to 6 km wide swathe of the river ravines on either side, was designated the National Chambal Sanctuary (NCS), under the Wildlife Protection Act.

The Chambal Ravines (altitude 200-500m) are the product of centuries of soil erosion by flood and rain waters. The vegetation in the ravines is tropical dry scrub forest, with the dominant tree species being Cordia myxa, Gardenia turgida, Azadurachta indica, Streblus asper, Dalbergia sissoo, Acacia arabica and Prosopis juliflora.

The varied habitats that constitute the National Chambal Sanctuary provide refuge to a rich diversity of life forms. Today the NCS is home, not only to the Gharial is was set up to protect, but also to numerous other species of reptiles, mammals and birds. The increasing numbers of sightings of the rare and highly endangered Gangetic Dolphin provide honest testimony to the health of the NCS habitat. The Sanctuary boasts of a rapidly increasing and impressive bird list of over 290 species of resident and migratory birds and is gaining a reputation as one of the most reliable places to see the Indian Skimmer.

In addition the NCS is also home to threatened species such as Ghavials, Marsh Crocodiles, Gangetic Dolphins, Turtles, Striped Hyenas and Wolves.

Bateshwar Temples
: The ancient temple complex at Bateshwar on the river Yamuna, 8 km from the Chambal Safari Lodge, consists of more than a hundred temples dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. Said to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna’s mother, Bateshwar is associated with numerous myths and legends. High rising ravines surround the temples and river, and are home to a number of Naga sadhus (holy men) who have carved out little caves and temples within the mud walls. The river Yamuna and its ravines are also home to a number of resident and migratory birds such as Terns, Cormorants, Kingfishers and Pelicans amongst others. In early November, the open areas around the temple complex play host to an annual animal fair, the origins of which are believed to stretch into antiquity. The fair coincides with the most auspicious period for praying at Bateshwar and is an important fixture for saints, sadhus, tradesmen and villagers.

Camel Safari to Fort Ater: Fort Ater is an Archeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monument, located on the periphery of the National Chambal Sanctuary. Once a valued stronghold and at the forefront of numerous battles between the Rajput’s, the Mughals and the Marathas, the crumbling ruins bring alive the romantic glory of a bygone age. The ramparts of the fort afford some breathtaking views of the Chambal valley. The ASI is currently restoring the Fort.

Fort Ater is 2 km from the Chambal Safari base camp across the river. After crossing the river by boat, you may choose to visit this magnificent ruin riding a Camel or a local 4-wd vehicle. It is also possible to walk up to the Fort.

Sarus Crane Conservation Area starts around 30 kms from the Chambal Safari Lodge, extending to about 100 kms. The widespread wetland area is interspersed by cultivated fields, where large numbers of Sarus Cranes breed. Although not a protected area, since 1999 the Supreme Court of India, recognising its importance as a habitat has designated the area a reserve with restrictions on development.

Blackbuck Jeep Safari heads southwest from the Chambal Safari Lodge, about 30 km towards the Chambal Ravines for excellent sightings of Blackbuck deer and numerous dry land birds including the Indian Courser.

Bhareh Jeep (4wd vehicle) Safari to the confluence of the Chambal and Yamuna Rivers is 90 kms (2 hours) drive from the Chambal Safari Lodge. The spectacular drive through a wild, forbidding and undulating landscape cuts across the ravines of both rivers going deep into one of the remotest most untouched corners of the Indian heartland. The confluence is dominated by the ruins of the majestic fortress of Bhareh, blasted by cannon in 1857 by British forces for supporting the rebellion, and an imposing Shiva Temple that is currently undergoing restoration. The temple platform rises 200 feet, providing breathtaking views of the confluence and the surrounding countryside.