Sonbhadra nearly 131km away from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh is a nature’s bounty in Vindhya Mountains. Literary meaning of Sonbhadra is ‘Blessed with Gold’ that suits to it as passing River Son with yellowish sand glows like gold here; besides Sonbhadra abounds in natural resources. Historically rich, Sonbhadra marks it’s own niche in tourism with painted rock-shelters & iron melting spot from first half of second millennium B.C. Picturesque Sonbhadra allures with mystical stories related to different places around. The famous story of ‘Chandrakanta’ was written here by Babu Devkinandan Khatri while working as a contractor to nearby places.
Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary
The Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1982, is spread over an area of about 501 km2 of Mirzapur & Sonbhadra District. The Sanctuary has a wide variety of wildlife in its lush green dense forest cover with numerous waterfalls, treasure of pre-historic caves, rock paintings & heritage of rare fossils. It is an ideal spot for ecotourism activities. Animals found here are Black Buck, Chital, Sambhar, Chinkara, Blue Bull, Indian Monkey, Baboons (Langoor), Rabbits, Porcupine, Wild Dogs, Wild Cat, Snake, Tiger, Leopard, Wolf, Mongoose, Bear, Jackal,Peafowl, Ratal. Black Buck- also called Indian Antelope is a rare & protected species of deer. They can be seen wandering in their natural habitat here. According to their last official count (2001-2002) the total number of black buck in the sanctuary was 221.Birds- Grey Quail, Doves, Francolin, Black Partridge,Coloured Francolin,Red spur,Pigeon, Blue pigeon,Fowl, sand Ground.Migratory birds- Grey duck, Cotton Teal.
Lakhania Paintings (Rock Paintings)
Rock paintings found in the cave of this area are about 4000 years old and were discovered by Carlleyle in 1968. Most of the paintings are in terracotta colour & depict hunting, cattle grazing, war scenes, worshipping, bee-keeping, decorative floor designs, meeting, domestic chores etc.
It is natural valley where phenomenon of echo is distinctly observed. Any sound thrown in the direction of the valley reflects its echo.
Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary
Chandra Prabha Wild Life Sanctuary, once a habitat of Asiatic Lions, has all the natural ingredients to become a beautiful eco-tourist activity spot. It has been endowed with beautiful spots, dense forest, and scenic waterfalls like Raj Dari & Dev Dari & a dam nearby called Chandra Prabha Dam. The Sanctuary was established in 1957 and sprawls over an area of 9,600 hect. The core area of the Sanctuary covers over 2,686 hect., while the buffer area covers 66000 hect., which also includes Kashi Wildlife Division.
It was the habitat of Asiatic Lion from 1957-1970 but after that lions disappeared from here. In the past when naxal problem was not there people used to flock around here & enjoy the wildlife, forest & natural beauty in winter season, and also during rainy season when waterfalls add greater attraction to the lush green environment of the sanctuary. It serves as a natural & ideal habitat with its grasslands, many caves in Vindhyan area & waterfalls for a host of animals & plants (medicinal also) and has a great potential to develop ecotourism activity in the sanctuary where people can enjoy natural beauty & bio-diversity.
Animals like Leopard, Black Buck, Chital, Sambhar, Nilgai (blue bull), Wild Boar, Porcupine, Indian Gazelle, Rabbit, Monkey, Chinkara, Chausingha, Hyena, Wild Cat, Jackal, Wild Fox & others. Beside this, there is wide variety of colorful birds & creeping animals (poisonous & non poisonous) in the sanctuary. Chandra Prabha & Karmnasha Rivers, flowing through the sanctuary have a variety of fish. A remarkable growth in the population of some beasts like Leopards & Boars was seen in the past 3-4 years.
Raj Dari & Deo Dari
Surrounded by the forest area, this stepped waterfall is the main attraction point for the tourists. A picnic spot has been developed by the forest department near the fall from where people can enjoy the natural beauty of the fall. It is about 500 mts. down the stream below Raj Dari waterfall.
Chandra Prabha Dam
This tourist attraction spot is located up stream on Chandra Prabha River near the sanctuary and is the source of water for both the waterfalls. The dam named Chandra Prabha has been constructed by Irrigation Department. One Nature Interpretation Centre, showing the names of different species, a library & resource centre, a small Canteen and a Guest House of Forest Dept. (under DFO, Ramnagar) having seven suites available at Rs. 100-300, are located inside the sanctuary, near Raj Dari waterfall.
Salkhan Fossil Park
Salkhan Fossil Park is a geological heritage of Sonbhadra district. The age of these tree fossils as estimated by geologists is around 1400 million years and dates back to Proterozoic Period. The fossils which are basically petrified tree stumps appear as rings on the boulders scattered around the area. These fossils are of Algae Stromotolites type, which are the major attraction for tourists. The fossil park is spread over an area of about 25 hectare inside Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary and is larger than the Yellow Stone National Park of USA.
Another fossil park was discovered in Sonebhadra disrtrict recently. Over 150-crore-year-old fossils were found in Badagaon village under the Chopan Vikas Khand. The fossils are greater in number than those found in the park of Salkhan village. After identification and discovery of one more fossil park in Sonebhadra district, the district has found its place not only in Uttar Pradesh but also on the world map. The district has this honour as two fossil parks were found in a district and a Vikas Khand. Now the Sonebhadra district is being considered as a lucky place where the first evidence of life on earth was found. After the discovery of a large number of fossils there, the possibility of finding hydrocarbon. uranium and phosphorite has increased. The new fossil park of Badagaon was discovered when Dr. Mukund Sharma, a scientist of the Birbal Sahani Institute in Lucknow, and Vijay Shankar Chaturvedi, a journalist, were at the fossil park in Salkhan village.
District Mirzapur has the same features; lush green valley in rainy seasons, tribal villages, numerous waterfalls, & numbers of trekking tracks around the terrain. This part is rich in history as well; the Belan River Valley has evidences of Paleolithic age. The district has many tribal villages that can be developed as ecotourism activity places. Here community participation can raise their financial condition & at the same time environmental issues would be damaged to a least extent. Cultural integration of the tribes living in the area will harness the basic point of local population engagement to sustainable development of the region.