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Overa-Aru Sanctuary

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The Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary, near to Pahalgam district in Jammu and Kashmir, is spread across an area of little more than 500 sq. km., with mountains peaking up to 5,400 m. The sanctuary encompasses a biosphere reserve of the same name and is home to rare and endangered species endemic to the high Himalaya such as the hangul, musk deer, brown bear and snow leopard to name a few.

  • Plan your trip
  • Wild life
  • Habitat
  • Places to See
  • Useful Tips
  • History

Best season

The climate is temperate and the monsoons are not very severe either. There is however, heavy snowfall in winter, making the park inaccessible in these months. May to August offers ideal viewing of fauna, especially in the higher reaches. In the lower areas, bird watching is best from March to May and animal sightings most rewarding between September and March. 

Accommodation

There is a tourist resort at Pahalgam with a rest house in the sanctuary and also other private accommodation. The two-bedroom inspection hut offers spartan rooms. Several camping sites are available. 

Transport

By Air: Srinagar airport, 87 km. away is the ideal choice. There is a helicopter service to Pahalgam from Srinagar, run by J&KTDC. The frequency depends on demand, so it might be a good choice for large groups. The park is 11 km. from Pahalgam, which maybe covered by road.

By Rail: Jammu (280 km.) is the most convenient railhead. 

By Road: Pahalgam (11 km.) is the nearest town. Srinagar (76 km.) and Anantnag (40 km.) are also connected to Overa-Aru by road.

Overa harbours a variety of threatened animals: the hangul, musk deer, serow, Rhesus macaque, grey langur, the Himalayan mouse hare, leopard and the leopard cat. The rare and endangered hangul deer is one of the prime animals of this reserve though their numbers have dwindled enormously.

Amidst their illustrious counterparts who have earned fame for the altogether notorious reason of being close to extinction, the unassuming red fox and Himalayan black bear may be seen wandering about in the reserve. The brown bear also shares this divine terrain and may make an unexpected appearance. The leopard is a prominent carnivore in Overa. The Himalayan musk deer may be seen very occasionally. You may also chance upon the marmot sometimes in your trek.

Diverse species of birds are seen in Overa, with residents and the migratory variety. The Himalayan Monal Pheasant and the Koklas Pheasant are prominent among these. The chukar is also found here, adding to the pheasant diversity.

The rare, endangered Western Tragopan exists in these forests. And you should keep a look out for other common species in the reserve like the Jungle Crow, the Blue Rock Pigeon, Snow Cock, the European Hoopoe and the Griffon vulture. The Golden Oriole is another spectacular inhabitant. Other birds include the Kashmir Roller, Himalayan Whistling Thrush, the Red-billed Chough, Rufus-backed Shrike, the Bearded Vulture and the Indian Myna.

The Lidder River flows through the sanctuary amidst mountains that range between 2,250 m. to about 5,425 m. above sea-level. The Kolahoi peak is one of the highest in the area. The rocks that characterise this terrain are mainly shale and slate. Panjal Trap is seen at higher altitudes and the valleys are lined with karst limestone structures. The sanctuary is located in the Lidder Forest Division and is surrounded by adjoining forest blocks. To the north lies the Sindh Forest Division, on the east is Pahalgam and Dachigam National Park stands at its western edge

The vegetation is rich and diverse with its composition also varying with altitude. The conifers dominate covering over 90 per cent of the terrain. Some of the shrubs that are found in Overa include Indigofera heterantha, Desmodium tiliaefolium, Isdon spp., Viburnum spp. and Sorbaria tomentosa. Beneath the canopy, the ground vegetation comprises of mainly dicot herbs like Taraxacum officinale, Artemisia vulgaris, Rumex patientia as well as those belonging to the Primula and Anemone spp.

a) Deciduous forests (below 2,600 m.)Aesculus indica, Juglans regia, Fraxinus spp., Padus cornuta, Rhus succedanea and Pyrus lanata are some of the riverine species of trees found at these low altitudes.

b) Coniferous forests (2,600 m. to 3,000 m.)Some of the conifers seen here are Cedrus deodara and Morus alba. Silver fir Abies pindrow is the predominant species in moist areas and blue pine Pinus griffithii thrives in the dry regions.

c) Birch forests (3,000 m. to 3,500 m.)Betula utilis is one of the prominent species in these birch forests.

d) Alpine scrubs (3,500 m. to 3,800 m.)Juniperus spp. are found in these high altitude alpine forests. 

Most of Overa-Aru must be explored on foot. As you're trekking, keep an eye out for the wondrous flora, the animals and birds that give themselves away through their calls before they grace you with an appearance… The animals are normally seen in the lower reaches during winter and they move to higher altitudes with the arrival of summer.

The trek from Pahalgam to Aru is along a 36 km. long winding pony track that passes through forested lands and meadows. You can proceed to the Kolahol glacier from Aru with a halt at Lidderwatt. (Aru to Lidderwatt: 11 km. 3,048 m. and Lidderwatt to Kolahol: 13 km. 3,200 m.)

The scenic Tarsar Lake, 35 km. via Aru and Lidderwatt is another gorgeous trek. The route goes past a beautiful meadow of flowers. If you're adventurous enough to cross a 243 m. high ridge, from Tarsar, you can proceed to the Marsar Lake too. 

Pahalgam is a popular trekking base. Besides visiting Overa-Aru, the religious Sri Amarnath to the Amarnath cave continues to attract pilgrims every year in the months of July and August. There is a Shiva lingam in a natural stalactite formation in this cave that is visited on full-moon day.

The Wildlife Warden, Srinagar may be contacted for permits and passes to enter the sanctuary.

Wear good trekking shoes since much of the area has to be explored on foot.

During summer and spring, you can wear light summer clothing but make sure you carry a raincoat. Heavy woollens and a windcheater are an absolute must in winter though.

Useful contacts

The Chief Wildlife Warden, Jammu & Kashmir, Tourist Reception Centre, Srinagar – 190001.

The Director of Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir Government, Srinagar. Tel.: 0375-72449/ 73648/ 77224. After Office Hours: 77303/ 77305. 

Jammu and Kashmir tourist offices at any of the other major cities may also be contacted for information.
New Delhi Tel.: 011-345373.
Mumbai Tel.: 022-216249. 
Calcutta Tel.: 033-205790. 
Chennai Tel.: 044-562355.
Ahmedabad Tel.: 079-20473.
Hyderabad Tel.: 040-63276.
Jammu Tawi Tel.: 0191-48172/ 49527.

Overa was originally a game reserve of the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir. The Gujjars occupied as much as 2,500 ha. of the forest in the 1950s and they would graze their livestock in these lands until it was banned in 1979. Overa-Aru was established as a sanctuary in 1981. Permanent settlements are not allowed within the sanctuary.

 
 
 

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