Baripada (Odisha), Nov 1 (PTI) The Similipal National Park was thrown open to visitors on Sunday after remaining closed for more than seven months in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.
Amid strict adherence to the guidelines, 258 tourists entered the picturesque national park in 40 vehicles from two entry points on the first day, said AK Biswal, the assistant conservator of forest of the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).
While 175 tourists went inside the reserve in 25 vehicles through Pithabata, 83 visitors entered in 15 vehicles through the Kaliani entry point, said Biswal, who along with STR staff greeted the visitors with roses at the entry gates.
'The visitors were enthusiastic. The vehicles, passengers and their belongings were scanned at the entry and exit points. The footfall is likely to increase,' he said.
Long queues of visitors were seen both at Pithabata near Baripada and Kaliani near Jashipur since morning for obtaining permission to enter the reserve.
The permit to enter the park through these two points were issued from 6-9 am. Each vehicle was required to have a tour guide.
All the visitors were asked to wear face masks, use sanitisers and strictly adhere to COVID-19 protocols, including social distance during their visit, Biswal added.
The Similipal National Park, a top tiger reserve in the country, attracts thousands of tourists each year.
The authorities have made additional arrangements for the night stay of the visitors with prior booking at Barehipani, Kumari, Gudugudia, Ramatirtha, and Jamuani inside the sanctuary area.
The visiting day tourists are directed to come out of the Barehipani and Joranda waterfall sights by 3 pm and Chahala by 4 pm. All day tourists are required to leave the sanctuary area by 5 pm, the official said.
The visitors who intend to stay overnight can make their reservations at www.ecotourodisha.com. PTI CORR SKN SOM SOM