Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park on the outskirts of Jodhpur was created in 2006 to try and restore the natural ecology of a large, rocky wasteland next to Mehrangarh Fort.
Previous to 2006, the wide expanse of land had been neglected and overrun by baavlia (Prosopis juliflora), which is an invasive, thorny shrub introduced from central America almost a century ago.
The initial goal was to eradicate the baavlia and create a suitable home for native rock-loving plants that exist further out in the deserts of Rajasthan.
By 2008 the clearance of baavlia was complete, and the team had over 80 species growing in their nursery ready for planting. Nine years on and the ecological restoration is going from strength to strength, with the park now also attracting back wildlife. At the last count the park had nearly 150 species of bird, including over 30 winter visitors.
Clearly the best time to visit the park for flora and fauna is during and after the monsoon, and whilst I enjoy photographing nature my real interest in the park was the fantastic opportunities it presents for photographing Mehrangarh Fort and Jaswant Thada.
The park is split into two distinct areas…
South and West of Mehrangarh Fort
This is the main part of the park, entrance is via the visitors centre by Singhoria Pol on Fort Road and here you can walk three separate well signed trails (yellow, green and red). You can do these by yourself or with a guide, arranged at the visitors centre.
For photographing Mehrangarh Fort, the best time to visit is late afternoon as the sun enters the golden hour. With a little bit of elevation you can get some nice shots of the fort with Ranisar Lake in the foreground.
It is possible to walk through to Jodhpur old city from here via Brahmpuri Gate or Ranisar Gate, and in the late afternoon it’s well worth exploring Ranisar and Padmasar Lakes. These are adjacent lakes constructed in 1459.
Ranisar Lake was built on the orders of Queen Jasmade Hadi, Rao Jodha’s wife while Padmasar Lake was ordered by Queen Padmini of Rao Ganga, daughter of Rana Sanga of Mewar.
South and West of Jaswant Thada
This area around Devkund Lake is slightly away from the main desert park. You still get your tickets from the main visitors centre but for this part of the park you have to be accompanied by a guide. It’s from here you can get that classic Jodhpur shot in the early morning with Jaswant Thada in front of Mehrangarh Fort.
If you want to try and get this shot, there are a few recommendations from having done it myself.
- Get your tickets in advance a couple of days before you intend to go. I tried contacting the park via email with no replies at all, so you really have to visit in person to make the arrangements.
- If you are going to walk through the main park to Jaswant Thada from the old city , which is only a 20 minute walk, don’t rely on Ranisar Gate being open. I was assured the gate would be open at 5.30am, but it wasn’t. Brahmpuri Gate was open (not sure if it’s ever locked), and you would be able to climb over this anyway. However, not far from the visitors centre there’s another gate when you walk through the city wall, and that too was locked. I was stranded there for 30 minutes and nearly missed sunrise. The guides assured me all the gates would be open at the time I would be walking through the park, but reality was not quite like that – not helped by navigating through the dark with packs of wild dogs interested in what I was up to. I strongly recommend you get to wherever you have arranged to meet your guide via a more conventional route, even if it means a super early start and a longer walk. Getting a tuk tuk at 5am might be a struggle of course, so plan well in advance !
- Make sure you have a torch, sturdy footwear, and extra clothing as the early mornings in Jodhpur can be surprisingly chilly !
Despite all the difficulties I had, and I confess quite a lot of frustrations I was harbouring inside me, it was well worth all the effort. It wasn’t the ideal “perfect shot” weather (no clouds!), but the guides are used to people doing this and they can take you up to the exact spots where that classic shot can be taken, which is right up beside and on the city wall.
On the way down there’s also a couple of decent spots right by Devkund Lake.
For all the effort to get there, the actual time shooting is next to nothing. Within 20 minutes I was done, it was just past 7am, and I had the rest of the day ahead of me.
Opening times for Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park are :
April to September – 7am to 6:30pm
October to March – 8am to 5:30pm
For more information, visit their website.
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