Binsar is a formation of sleepy hamlets amidst orchards, silver streams and green meadows. The blanket of green hangs all around – rocks covered with unusual moss and ferns, flowers and shrubs – foliage sprouting out of every conceivable nook and corner of the hillside. The entire area is now a sanctuary.
Beyond Kasar Devi, picturesque Binsar, 26km from Almora, was once the hilltop summer capital of the Chand rajas. Now it’s a sanctuary protecting 45 sq km. You may spot a leopard or some barking deer, but many people come here for the 200-plus species of birds. On clear days, the Himalayan panorama is breathtaking – from the tower at ‘Zero Point,’ Binsar’s summit (2420m), you can see Kedarnath, Nanda Devi, Panchachuli and more. Hiking trails wend throughout the lush forest; their main nexus is the KMVN Rest House. There is one good map of Binsar put out by the Forest Department, with trails and topo lines, but this is very hard to find; it’s not offered at the entry gate.
Once you enter the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary it’s as if you’ve entered another era – almost like a ‘freeze frame’ button got pressed on some cosmic remote control. Slivers of sunlight barely penetrate the thick pine forest cover as you drive up and the chances of spotting wild animals and birds is higher than chances of seeing a human being.
Days here are spent taking long, unplanned walks along the ridge and its meandering trails, hunting for snow views and picnicking at Zero Point – where stalwarts like Nandadevi, Trishul and Panchakuli stand at attention as part of a majestic 300km range. The forest is a mystical, magical being that can be best interpreted through a guide/naturalist. They will point out wild herbs and flowers that can break kidney stones and cure diabetes and help you identify tracks of the kakkar (barking deer) or goral (mountain goat) or even catch a glimpse of the mighty leopard himself.
Whether you visit the Sanctuary in high style or low fuss, you will realize that no other hill retreat will ever come close to this enchanted experience and no matter how many years down the line you return, the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary will continue living in the past long after you’ve raced into the future.
There are those who plan a visit here as a day trip and then there are those who stay inside this cocoon of solitude. For the more outdoorsy type, Binsar Retreat offers eco-friendly luxury tents that leave no barrier between you and the wild but if you don’t want to be quite so brave, there is the Grand Oak Manor, which has the best location in the sanctuary and oodles of history but is plagued by maintenance issues. But the jackpot, the big treat in this region is the Mary Budden Estate – an old estate of two beautiful cottages featuring silk upholstery, vintage fireplaces and three course dinners. To get closest to nature stay at the KMVN Binsar. Located near Zero Point at Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, reaching here itself is enjoying 10 Kms of wildlife safari through Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. Being inside the forest area means there is no power supply, Generator powered electricity is provided for 2-3 hrs in the evening during dinner and candles are provided from the reception. A bucket of hot water is provided on demand without extra charges.
A big deck on the terrace of the KVMN Binsar provides beautiful views of Kumaun hills and Himalayas , Sunrise views from here are quite famous. for sunset, views could be enjoyed from forest rest house which is 2 kms from KMVN Binsar.
Travelling Tips :
- Binsar is a great back-to-nature experience for children without the ordeal and inconvenience that comes with the outdoors.
- Good books or back-lit reading device is a good idea if you’re staying at the tents.
- Wake up early not to miss the sunrise
- Shooting of birds and wildlife is legally allowed as long as you do it with a camera. A DSLR with telephoto lens or binoculars can come handy at spotting them.
- Do not travel without a sturdy pair of walking shoes, the area is best explored on foot.
- Do not walk around the forest after dusk or leave children unattended – leopards are not a legend here.
- Preserve the environment. Do not litter non-degradable waste.
- Enjoy the starry nights, catch a shooting star or lie eyes wide open under the milky way