Gujarat’s Saputara, a getaway among verdant hills (With Images)

August 1st, 2011 - 6:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Amitabh Bachchan Saputara (Gujarat), Aug 1 (IANS) A hill station in Gujarat? It is true. The western coastal state boasts of a pretty little hill station Saputara, or the abode of snakes, tucked away in its southernmost part where the green hills, rolling mist and mountainous vegetation virtually transport you to some of the better-known hill resorts of north India.

Located in the Sahyadri hills in Dang district, Saputara is Gujarat’s sole hill station. It is 873 metres above sea level and inhabited by the Bhils and other tribals.

A man-made lake, nestling near the main motorway, is a major attraction with tourists for its boat rides and walks along the promenade. With a thick haze of mist covering the hills, a fine spray of rain beating down and the cawing of ravens amid the sal and bamboo thickets, it is an ideal getaway for tourists in summer.

The Gujarat government is promoting Saputara in a big way and wants to give tough competition to the more popular hill stations dotting the Himalayas. It launched a month-long Monsoon Festival from the end of July to entice tourists with adventure sports like para gliding and trekking thrown in along with dances by the tribals and a glimpse of their crafts.

The state government is also roping in Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan to promote the spot, said Vipul Mittra, state principal secretary, tourism, at the inauguration of the Monsoon Festival July 30.

Located just around a kilometre away from the Maharashtra border, the Gujarat government is targeting tourists from places like Nasik, just 77 km away, and the major religious spot of Shirdi, some 140 km away. The state’s commercial capital of Surat is 164 km away and the journey by bus to Saputara takes around four hours.

“We are erecting two major gates on the border with Maharashtra to welcome visitors to Saputara,” said Mittra, adding that they are advertising the hill station in a big way in places like Shirdi to woo people to spend a day there after visiting Shirdi or maybe even think of staying overnight at Saputara and visit Shirdi the next day.

“Many times, it is very difficult to get hotel accommodation in Shirdi. We are advertising our hotels in a big way there so that people can choose to stay in Saputara hotels and visit Shirdi in the day time,” said Kamlesh Patel, chairperson of Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd.

The state government is also constructing ‘Visamohs’ or rest houses, at a cost of Rs.20 crore, on the way from Maharashtra to Saputara where tourists can stop, bathe and rest for a while. It will even have play facilities for children, Patel said.

To entice more tourists, the state government is planning to create a big lake, three times the size of the current one, with a promenade around its edge, as well as a butterfly park of international standards, all at a cost of around Rs.60 crore.

“We are organising a para-gliding festival from December in Saputara,” Patel said.

The state government is also erecting an amphitheatre, where tourists can watch local artistes perform, and hygienically-maintained toilet blocks at major tourist sites.

Saputara currently has 12 major hotels as well as some low-budget accommodation for tourists, totaling around 550 rooms.

Saputara also boasts of other tourist attractions like sunrise and sunset point, major waterfalls Gira and Girmal, a tribal museum, artistes’ village and a ropeway.

Despite its name of Saputara, there are no snakes to be found in the resort!

“There are snakes in the jungles, like in other places. However, the tribal people know how to treat snake bites with herbal remedies,” said S.K. Nanda, district incharge, who has spent many years developing the place.

State government officials say they will ensure that the pristine beauty of the place is maintained.

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@ians.in)

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