The elliptically shaped Sambhar enjoys the distinction of being India's largest inland water lake sprawling an area of 190 sq km at full capacity. The Sanctuary is also well known for its sizeable population of flamingos. Though the lake is on an average just 0.6 cm deep and never exceeding 3 m even after the monsoon, it nurtures plenty of avian life. Sambar is found 60 kilometres west of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, close to the Salt Lake City in the south east.
Sambhar is fed by few seasonal freshwater streams major ones being the Mendha and Rup rivers. The lake is 22.5 km in length and between 3 and 11 km in width and is roughly divided into two sections by a 5 kms long stone dam. The eastern section contains the reservoirs for salt extraction while the western part shelters all the birds living at the park. A British era indigenously developed rail trolley system is still in operation that can take one across the dam and to far corners of the saltpan.
The lake has an interesting mythological history said to be gifted by the Goddess Shakambari to the local people some 2500 years ago. There is a small white temple in her honour standing closet to the water edge. Sambhar is not a protected area but it was designated a Ramsar Site in 1990.
Main Attractions: Flamingos are the star attraction of Sambhar Wildlife Sanctuary.
These tall graceful birds flock the lake feasting on a large numbers of algae that swarm the lake. In fact, Sambar holds the record for being the second most important habitat for flamingos after Rann of Kutch. The flamingoes breed in the month of October building their circular, one-foot high nests in areas near Ratan Talao. Pelican is another species of bird commonly found here.
After the monsoons, the western reservoir attracts thousands of local migrant birds like the greater and lesser flamingoes, spot-billed pelicans and painted storks. By October when the water recedes, waders such as pied avocets, kentish plovers and black-winged stilts come here.
When To Go: Like the rest of North India, Sambar too has tropical climate where temperatures soar to 45°C in summer and dip below 10°C during winter. October to March is the ideal time to visit Sambar Lake.
How To Get There: Sambar is well connected by road from Jaipur. It is just a day's trip from here along the National Highway 8. The capital city is also the nearest railhead.
Where To Stay: Most of the visitors make their base at Salt Lake City and hire jeeps to get to the sanctuary.