Deosai National Park, Baltistan, Pakistan - July 2009
This was my first but hopefully not last visit to the Deosai National Park. The Deosai National Park is a nature lover’s paradise with many different types of wildlife. We saw a number of different finches, wagtails, redstarts, birds of prey and the shrieking Marmot. Other wildlife in the park includes the Brown Bear, Snow Leopard, Wolf, Red Fox, Lynx, Ibex, Wild Sheep, Golden Eagle, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Raven and a host of other smaller wildlife.
The park consists of alpine meadows, alpine lakes, alpine scrub forest and rolling mountain peaks. We set off from Astor and the journey is about 2-3 hours through villages and conifer forest in a river valley which rises up gradually. We could not get past Sheoshar Lake because of the heavy snowfall over the winter which blocked the route. The area was completely serene and devoid of other visitors. Most people tended to visit in August because by then the snow would have melted from the meadows. The short spring and summer often see the meadows turn into a riot of colour.
Jeeps traverse the plateau but the best thing would be to trek across. However, at night the temperature really drops and without special clothing it would be extremely dangerous to stay overnight.
The Deosai National Park is located in the Skardu, Northern Areas of Pakistan that is known as the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA). The park is located on the Deosai Plains, that are among the highest plateaus in the world with an average height of 4,114 metres above the sea level, covering an area of about 3,000 square kilometers. For just over half the year - between November and May - Deosai is snow-bound. In the summer months when the snow clears up, Deosai is accessible from Skardu in the north and the Astore Valley in the west. Deosai is well known for its spring season when it is covered by a carpet of millions of flowers and a wide variety of butterflies.
Deosai plains can be accessed through Astore Valley,which is comparatively easy route.Gilgit to Astore onwards is a wide jeepable track which winds through Gudai and Chilum .The alternate and relatively narrow track is from Skardu .
There is a lake named Shausar Lake in the Deosai Plains meaning in local language"white lake"-Shau-white,Sar-lake. The lake is at a height of 4,142 m (13,589 feet). Its approximate length is reported to be 2.3 km (1.4 miles), width 1.8 km (1.2 miles) and average depth 40 m.
Deosai Plains make up one of the last frontiers of natural habitat for the Himalayan Brown Bear, a creature that once roamed the mountains freely. The Deosai National Park was established in 1993 to secure the survival of the bear and its habitat. Having long been a prize kill for poachers and hunters, the bear, Pakistan's largest omnivore, now has a hope for survival in Deosai where its number has increased from just 19 in 1993 to 40 in 2005.
The Deosai Plains are also home to the Himalayan Ibex, Red Fox, Golden Marmot, Wolf, the Ladakh Urial, the Snow Leopard, and over 124 resident and migratory birds. Birds in the park include the Golden Eagle, Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Laggar Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Indian Sparrowhawk and Snowcock.
Research by the French ethnologist Michel Peissel makes a claim that the story of 'Gold-digging ants' reported by the Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century BC, was founded on the golden-marmot of the Deosai plateau and the habit of local tribes such as the Minaro to collect the gold dust excavated from their burrows.