A visit to the erstwhile royal outpost of Jodhpur would not be complete without spending time at the amazing Rao Jodha Rock Park. A leading name associated with this unique initiative in the ’Blue City‘ was acclaimed author Pradip Krishen, who carved his reputation in stone with his considerable knowledge of trees and local ecology. If you are stirred by the world nature on many counts, you will love your time spent at in this natural setting, which was conceived as a protected space for the revival of the natural ecology of a vast stretch of rocky wasteland close to Jodhpur’s iconic Mehrangarh Fort.
Spread over 170 acres, Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park was established in the year 2006 by its restorer-creator Pradip Krishen. Entry to the park is a short distance from the main gate of the Fort. The park serves as an excellent window to the indigenous geological, botanical and faunal diversity of the Thar Desert. The rocky wasteland near the Fort has been transformed into a microcosm world of this desert land complete with rock formations sculpted by the elements, animal and plant species found in these parts.
From the Visitors Centre you can find your way around the park through the four walking trails which take you to different parts of the Eco park. Some places these explorations will lead you to are an antique aqueduct, the Devkund Lake near Jaswant Thada. Other water bodies in the park include Ranisar and Padamsar lakes.
Your explorations are even more rewarding if accompanied by a naturalist or guides at the park. Opportunities for birdwatching butterfly spotting are plentiful. Home to several varieties of reptile the park might provide sightings of the likes of the highly venomous common krait, a highly venomous snake which is bountifully present in semi- arid regions, desert area and rocky scrublands. Keep your eyes peeled for crab spiders that trap their victims by lurking behind leaves or flowers, rather than catching them in a web. Avifaunal sightings that give you a high are those of the elusive Eurasian Scops Owl, the solitary Short-eared owl. The park has recorded eight species of owls including the Indian Scops owl, Oriental Scops owl, Pallid Scops owl, Indian Eagle owl, Spotted owlet and Barn owl. The Visitors Centre also now features a dedicated Vultures Room. Also, check out the ‘Colours of the Desert' section set up in the old parking lot. Since they couldn’t establish some plant species they wanted from the desert, in the rocky terrain of the park they created 'raised beds’ which were filled with the soil of those plants are specifically adapted to growing in. With the first rains, magic was created as all those plants germinated and are now flourishing in this new home. Pop into the nursery where you can pick up native plants that are on sale to visitors.
The park is an excellent venue for nature-directed events, including workshops such as those on the botany, ecology, in the desert landscape, dedicated walks led by experts, botanical sketching and painting workshops, talks and presentations, etc.
Exploring Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park is stirring experience and, if given an opportunity, when you’re travelling to Jaipur do suss out another lovely back to nature initiative, Kishan Bagh at the base of Nahargarh Hills. Pradip Krishen has been involved in restoring the Kishan Bagh dunes into a natural desert landscape in collaboration with the Jaipur Development Authority.