The seventh largest country in the world and the second most populous, India is filled with man-made wonders. Many people are aware of the Taj Mahal and the Black Pagoda, but the country has natural wonders that are unsurpassed in beauty and mystique.
Borra Caves, Andhra Pradesh
The largest caves in the country and quite possibly the deepest, the Borra Guhalu were carved out of limestone by the Gosthani River that has its source here. Water dissolves the limestone as it percolates down from the surface leaving stalactites as it drips from the roof of the cave and forming stalagmites where the lime-saturated water lands on the floor of the cave. As the deposits slowly grow they form curious structures that capture the imagination, allowing visitors to ascribe interpretations to the stone.
Although the caves are completely without light, archeologists have unearthed Palaeolithic tools that date back some 30,000 to 50,000 years indicating that these dark caverns were used by humans. To promote tourism, lamps have been installed in some portions of the caves as well as walkways and rails in places. The lighting allows visitors to see the colours of the mineralized bacteria, algae and fungi that inhabit the caves.
Marble Rocks, Madhya Pradesh
The Narmada River near Jabalpur has carved its way through soft marble, creating a gorge of flowing rock about 3 km long. Rising 30 metres on either side, the walls gleam white, displaying the marks of the flowing water along their sides. The marble is predominantly white magnesium and very soft, but there are traces of blue and brown marble in the rock as those are found in the area.
There are several ways to see the gorge including taking a guided boat from the Dhuandhara falls or rowing around the formations. A cable car crosses the gorge to give visitors a view from the top. Nearby shops sell crafts that have been carved from the marble taken from around the gorge.
Dudhsagar Falls, Goa
At 310 m this is one of India’s tallest falls and it forms the border between Goa and Karnataka. During the dry season the falls are unimpressive but when the rains fall during the monsoons, the rocks become coated in trails of white, foamy water that gives the falls their name – Sea of Milk. According to legend, the falls were formed when an Indian princess poured a jug of milk in front of herself to shield her body from prying eyes. The “milk” still flows as a tribute to the modesty of the lovely princess.
The falls are located within a wildlife sanctuary and the road to reach them travels through woodlands. Trails near the falls are open to hiking but due to a lot of human activity, the only animals that are commonly seen are monkeys.
Loktak Lake, Manipur
It’s the largest freshwater lake in the northeast part of the country and is known for the phumdis – masses of soil and organic matter – that float over it. Keibul Lamjao National Park is here and is the only floating national park in the world. Here is where you’ll find the endangered Manipur brown-antlered deer, a subspecies of Eid’s deer.
Visitors to the lake can start at the Sendra Tourist Home located on one of the larger floating islands to get a view of the lake from the middle. On Phubala, another island, there’s a resort with facilities for visitors. Many of the smaller islands are inhabited by the fishing families that make the lake their home.
Lonar Crater Lake, Maharashtra
Sometime during the Pleistocene Epoch a meteor crashed into the ground leaving a slightly oval crater that filled with salty, alkaline water. The lake is about 8 km around at the top of the crater and it’s surround by low hills covered in jungle. The area immediately surrounding the basin is barren from the high soda content of the water, but beyond the dead zone rings of different species of trees grow. Babul trees grow nearest to the crater followed by tamarind and an outer ring of palm-date.
When it rains the inner ring of whitish soil which is slimy and muddy is covered by water. During the dry season the lake can evaporate enough to make collection of slat and soda possible. Several ruined temples surround the lake with one still in excellent condition. The Daitya Sudan temple dates from around the 6th century and is covered in intricate carvings.
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