The forests are the natural patterns of the biodiversity. They can be found in every part of the world, even in the desert. But one should not be thankful for the nature for all the beautiful forest. In fact, man has created some of the finest forest, and the best and soberest example amongst them is Sagareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra.
Artificial in its real sense, the making of this spectacular man-made forest has been possible only due to the efforts of the famous freedom fighter and environment activist, D.M. Mohite, who worked day and night to raise it in all its glory. In the year 1975, the park was formed and year after year, there has been an increase in the number of plants that has only added additional tourist value.
Instantly he saw a vision of the dry mountain slopes in his village being nursed back into the green of health. But it took him 15 tenacious years to convince the villagers and the powers that be to actually do it. This forest is called Sagareshwar Sanctuary, and it’s the only man made sanctuary in India where all the animals have been re-introduced.
Located in Devrashtre village, the sanctuary is the home ground of sambhar, blackbucks, wild boar, barking deer, chital, fox, hyena and porcupine. Also in this 10.87 sq. km area, one can find many plants that have been plowed by the forest department like Tamarind, Neem, Nilgiri, Acacia, Agave and Khair. The wildlife sanctuary is a treat for Entomologist too as here a good population of insects, birds and reptiles are present.
The first thing Mohite did after he came back to his village was to get the villagers to agree to stop the grazing of cattle. Then with the help of villagers he planted thousands of indigenous saplings across the length and breadth of this degraded forest. For years, they carried water from the nearby villages and tended to them with love and care. Once these saplings grew up to be young trees, wild animals were brought in with the help of the forest department: sambar deer, spotted deer, blackbuck, fox, wild boar, snakes, mongoose and porcupine. Birds and butterflies though just breezed in!
This forest is also a rare example of continuous upgradation by the forest department over the last three decades. First, it was declared a deer park, then a forest reserve, and then a wildlife sanctuary. It is fenced all around, except for the animal migration corridors. And all this happened when Mohite was still around.
A walk in the forest here is enough to convince you that this is an ideal place for eco-tourism. Probably that’s why Mohan Karnat, the Chief Conservator of Forests, Kolhapur, and his dedicated team consisting of S. Zhure and S. Naykal are busy setting up a cluster of beautifully designed cottages, a nature interpretation centre, and an amphitheater to screen wildlife films so that visitors are sensitized to the forest and all that dwells in it.
Situated at a height of 2700 feet, the scenic Sagareshwar is probably the only wildlife sanctuary that has ‘Points’ like in a hill-station. So you have the Ranshool Point, the Kirloskar Point and the Mahangund Point. As you trek up the mountain, you realized the pressures of tourism on this tiny sanctuary.
Inside the forest is the Lingeshwar temple that’s the twin-brother of the Sagareshwar temple outside. So any devotee who visits Sagareshwar feels that he hasn’t collected enough blessings, and makes it a point to visit Lingeshwar to collect some more.
If tourists want to extend their holiday in Sagareshwar sanctuary than they should visit the Sangli, where a whiff of turmeric welcomes everyone; even the exceptional chess masters as many chess events have been organized here. India’s finest wine is produced in Sangli, so touring the vineyards is another good reason to drop by.
A group of 51 ancient temples belonging to Shilahara or Yadava period, around 1.5 kilometers from the sanctuary, are a must visit on a trip to Sagareshwara. The region got its name from this Shiva temple. Also here, one finds many stone sculptures of sages, women and elephants.
Take a peek at some of the renowned attractions nearby Sagareshwar like Gokak Water Falls, Dandoba Hill Station, Chandoli Forests and Audumbar. Hike to the topmost hill of the sanctuary to see view of Krishna river; zigzagging and making its way through fields of sugarcane and grapevines.
How to Reach
By Roadways: Tourists can easily reach Sagareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary by state transport buses. If traveling by private transport, all that tourists need to do is take National Highway No. 4 (Mumbai-Bengaluru Highway) and then turn in at Sangli.
By Railways: Sangli Railway Station, 2 km from Sagareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, is the closest railway station. Local passenger trains and a few express trains do stop at Kirloskarvadi and Takari; thereupon tourists can take a rickshaw or can walk.
By Airways: Kolhapur Airport, approximately 36 km from Sagareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, is the nearest airport. Since Kolhapur airport doesn’t have daily flight connectivity from all the major metropolitan cities, tourists can take a flight from Pune, which is 232 km from Sangli.
Where to stay: The Forest Rest House.