Odisha's Debrigarh sanctuary becomes first stargazing destination

Community members have been trained to identify stars and constellations visible from the sanctuary and the visible stars have also been photoframed with directions on photo for easy identification by visitors.
Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary authorities have introduced new stargazing cottages with glass roofs to facilitate nighttime star viewing.
Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary authorities have introduced new stargazing cottages with glass roofs to facilitate nighttime star viewing.Photo | Express

SAMBALPUR: In a unique initiative, Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary authorities have introduced ‘Stargazing’ along with six exclusive cottages dedicated for the purpose. This new attraction offers visitors a unique opportunity to observe constellations and enjoy the night sky amidst natural beauty of the sanctuary.

Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary has long been a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. Now, with telescopes and binoculars available for star viewing, along with a well-curated display of astrophotos and books for celestial object identification, it has become the first stargazing destination in Odisha.

Elaborate and systematic stargazing at Debrigarh is the first- of-its-kind in the state where six new stargazing cottages with glass roofs to facilitate nighttime star viewing has been developed.

The star photo frames displayed in the rooms and various locations within the eco-tourism zone feature real stars visible from the nature camp, captured by astrophotographers from Odisha.

Since identifying stars requires a large patch of dark sky away from city lights, the cottages are strategically situated in areas with minimal light pollution, providing an unobstructed view of the celestial display. Spread over 353 square kilometre, along with 700 square kilometre of Hirakud wetland without human habitation, Debrigarh offers more than 1,000 square kilometre of the dark sky. This makes visibility clear and identification of stars, constellations, and even planets like Jupiter easier.

With telescopes and binoculars available for star viewing, it has become the first stargazing destination in Odisha.
With telescopes and binoculars available for star viewing, it has become the first stargazing destination in Odisha. Photo | Express

Booking for Stargazing cottages began from May 1. Besides, stargazing sessions are also being held from 7 pm to 7.30 pm for visitors daily.

Community members have been trained to identify stars and constellations visible from the sanctuary and the visible stars have also been photo framed with directions on photo for easy identification by visitors. The booking in the first month was encouraging as the new cottages witnessed stay of 22 visitors. Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Wildlife, Anshu Pragyan Das said, stargazing is not just an eco-tourism trend but has deep-rooted scientific concerns in conservation. “All ungulates and carnivores have excellent night vision due to high concentration of rods in their eyes. From feeding to predation, everything goes on in the forest during night as they use starlight and moonlight for night vision,” she added.

The addition is not only a step in diversifying the sanctuary’s offerings and promoting sustainable tourism but also an effort to educate visitors about the celestial beauties and their role in the conservation of wildlife, Das further said.

A visitor from Rourkela, Archana Padhi said, “This was my first visit to Debrigarh nature camp. We were unaware of such a facility in Odisha. The experience of witnessing stars and the moon from the cottage was phenomenal. I would recommend people to choose Debrigarh over far-off ecotourism places as we have such a beautiful and unexplored gem near us.”

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