Polo Forest is an enchanting woodland spanning 400 square kilometers, situated near Abhapur village in the Vijay Nagar taluka of Gujarat. Renowned as a popular weekend getaway close to Ahmedabad, it is conveniently located just 150 kilometers away from the bustling metropolis. You can also consider it for a one-day picnic from Ahmedabad, immersing yourself in the verdant beauty of Polo Forest.
Polo Forest is a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts, offering a captivating blend of flora and fauna against the backdrop of the Aravalli hills. The forest is primarily dominated by teak trees, creating a dense canopy that provides shade and shelter to a diverse range of wildlife. As one ventures deeper into the forest, the rhythmic chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves create a symphony that resonates with the serenity of the surroundings.
Several trails wind through the forest, inviting trekkers and nature lovers to explore its hidden corners. The Dev Dam, a picturesque reservoir within the forest, adds to the charm, reflecting the lush greenery that surrounds it. The dam not only serves as a water source but also enhances the overall aesthetic appeal of the area.
Floral enthusiasts will be delighted by the variety of indigenous plant species that call Polo Forest home. From medicinal herbs to vibrant wildflowers, the forest floor is a carpet of colors that change with the seasons, creating a kaleidoscope that enchants visitors throughout the year.
Beyond its natural allure, Polo Forest is a treasure trove of archaeological wonders, offering a glimpse into the region’s rich history. The forest is dotted with ancient temples, step wells, and other architectural marvels that bear testament to the cultural and religious diversity that has thrived in this region over the centuries.
The Vijayanagar Empire, which once ruled over this part of Gujarat, has left its imprint on Polo Forest. The ruins of temples dating back to the 10th century stand as silent witnesses to the bygone era, with intricate carvings and architectural nuances that reflect the artistic prowess of the time.
One of the prominent landmarks in Polo Forest is the Polo Jain Tirth, a complex of temples dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras. These temples, adorned with ornate carvings and sculptures, offer a spiritual retreat amidst the sylvan surroundings. The architecture is a blend of Solanki and Jain styles, showcasing the assimilation of different cultural influences during that period.
The Sarneshwar Mahadev Temple, another historical gem in Polo Forest, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple, with its ancient shikhara and intricate sculptures, attracts devotees and history enthusiasts alike. The step wells, locally known as ‘vavs,’ are architectural marvels that served as vital water sources for the communities in ancient times.
Flora and Fauna
The expanse of dry mixed deciduous forest covering 400 square kilometers is at its lushest between September and December, following the monsoon rains that fill the rivers. However, throughout the year, it offers a rewarding wildlife experience. The region boasts over 450 species of medicinal plants, approximately 275 bird species, 30 mammal species, and 32 reptile species. Among the diverse inhabitants are bears, panthers, leopards, hyenas, waterfowl, raptors, passerines, and flying squirrels (often heard but seldom seen), all coexisting beneath a canopy of varied plants and trees. In winter, various migratory bird species occupy the forest, while the rainy season brings wetland birds.
Places to Visit
There are several captivating places to visit in Polo Forest, offering a blend of natural beauty and historical significance. Some notable attractions include:
- Ruins of Vijayanagar: Explore the ancient ruins of Vijayanagar, an archaeological site that provides a glimpse into the region’s historical past.
- Polo Temple: Visit the Polo Temple, a serene and ancient shrine surrounded by lush greenery. The temple adds a spiritual touch to the natural charm of the forest.
- Harnav River: Enjoy the picturesque beauty of Harnav River, which flows through the forest, providing a tranquil setting for visitors to relax and unwind.
- Surya Mandir (Sun Temple): Marvel at the Surya Mandir, a sun temple that showcases intricate architecture and cultural heritage.
- Polo Monument and Vijayanagar Wall: Discover the Polo Monument and remnants of the Vijayanagar Wall, offering insights into the historical and architectural aspects of the region.
- Stepwell (Vav): Visit the ancient stepwell, exemplifying traditional water conservation methods and showcasing architectural brilliance.
- Wildlife Sanctuary: Explore the diverse flora and fauna in the Polo Forest Wildlife Sanctuary, providing opportunities for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers.
Things To Do at Polo Forest
Polo Forest offers a range of activities for visitors seeking diverse experiences in this picturesque setting. Here are some things to do at Polo Forest:
- Nature Walks: Take leisurely strolls or more adventurous hikes through the forest trails, immersing yourself in the natural beauty and diverse flora.
- Bird Watching: Explore the rich avian life in the region, especially during migratory seasons. Bring binoculars to spot and identify the various bird species.
- Photography: Capture the scenic landscapes, historical ruins, and vibrant wildlife with your camera. Polo Forest provides ample opportunities for photography enthusiasts.
- Camping: Experience the tranquility of the forest by camping overnight. Many designated camping sites offer a chance to connect with nature under the starlit sky.
- Historical Exploration: Delve into the historical ruins of Vijayanagar and other ancient structures. Learn about the cultural and architectural heritage of the region.
- Temple Visits: Visit the Polo Temple and Surya Mandir to explore the religious and architectural aspects of these ancient structures.
- Picnics: Plan a day picnic with family and friends. Enjoy the lush greenery and serene surroundings while having a relaxing outdoor meal.
- River Activities: If permissible, engage in activities near the Harnav River, such as fishing or simply enjoying the riverside ambiance.
- Wildlife Safari: Explore the Polo Forest Wildlife Sanctuary through guided or self-driven safaris. Spot wildlife, including various bird species and mammals.
- Yoga and Meditation: Take advantage of the peaceful environment for yoga and meditation. Several serene spots in the forest provide an ideal setting for mindfulness activities.
- Village Interaction: Connect with the local communities around Polo Forest to understand their way of life, traditions, and culture.
- Adventure Sports: If available, participate in adventure activities like rappelling, rock climbing, or zip-lining, adding an adrenaline rush to your visit.