Balasinor: Dino tourism in India’s Jurassic park

Balasinor: Dino tourism in India’s Jurassic park

CNNGo reader Tascha Eipe visits Balasinor, Gujarat, one of the few sites in the world where you can touch dinosaur remains and hold a 65-million-year-old egg in your hands
dinosaur egg fossil
A dinosaur egg fossil. Breakfast anyone?

A tiny town called Balasinor in Gujarat is home to the one of the largest dinosaur fossils sites in the world. 

There's a fossilized dinosaur nesting ground and a prehistoric burial ground, but you don't know about it because no one is bothering to set it up as a UNESCO Geo Park.

According to the Geological Survey of India's Director of Palaeontology, D N Mohabey, the Gujarat Tourism Department and Gujarat Ecology Commission showed no interest in providing details on the site for a recommendation to UNESCO to set up a park around it.

“I met members of the Gujarat Ecology Commission, Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) and the Tourism Department for giving me the necessary data on the various areas including Ravioli in Balasinor taluka, where unique dinosaur fossil beds exist. But they made me run from pillar to post,” Mohabey told the Indian Express newspaper.

Paleontologists believe that at least seven species of dinosaur lived here and researchers have uncovered fossils of about 10,000 dinosaur eggs, making Raiyoli the third largest hatchery in the world.

In 2003 they also discovered a new species here, which belonged to the Tyrannosaurus Rex family. It was given the name Rajasaurus narmandensis, meaning princely reptile from the Narmada.

local signboardLocal signboard, please ignore the spelling.The site was discovered accidentally in 1981 when geologists were conducting a mineral survey of the area. Since then, the finds have attracted scientists and tourists from around the world, triggering off what the Gujarat state calls "dinosaur tourism." 

The Dinosaur Princess

dinosaur limb fossilDinosaur limb fossil.Aaliya Sultana Babi, the former princess of Balasinor, is an enthusiastic promoter and protector of the dinosaur legacy. Known as the Dinosaur Princess, she conducts tours to the site (contact details below).

Sultana Babi is the only English-speaking guide around and has an expert's knowledge of all the fossils.

At the site you can see part of a limb embedded in a rock, supposed fossilized remains of skin and other bones, fossilized egg rings and even a real dinosaur egg fossil.

It is the only site in the world where tourists can actually touch the dinosaur remains, and hold a 65 million year old egg fossil in their hands. 

The ignored wealth

dinosaur egg ring fossilDinosaur egg ring fossil.Unfortunately, the state of Gujarat has not shown much interest in developing the site as a mega tourist attraction.

It has taken five years to build a museum next to the site, which has still not been completed.

The site feels abandoned, with only one watchman protecting the site from villagers and grazing cattle.

It is a pity to see such neglect, as Gujarat is one of the few states in India with such a wealth of fossilized dinosaur remains.

The fossils were discovered two decades ago, yet they have not received due importance from state officials and most Indians do not even know of the existence of the site.

dinosaur skin fossilDinosaur skin fossil.

Where to stay

Balasinor is about one and a half hours drive from Ahmedabad.

While visiting, tourists can stay in the Garden Palace, a heritage hotel property run by the former rulers of Balasinor, the Babi family. In fact this was their royal family home.

The palace has eight rooms, each one done up in a different color scheme, furniture and decor.

If you feel like roughing it out, you can even stay in Camp Dinosaur tents on site.

Garden Palace, Palace Road, Balasinor, district Kheda, Gujarat; +91 (0) 26 9020 0111/ 9026 7786; Garden Palace website or email palacebalasinor@gmail.com; Rs 6,000-8,000 per room, per night

Camp Dinosaur tents, Palace road, Garden Palace compound, Balasinor, district Kheda, Gujarat; +91 (0) 26 9020 0111/ 9026 7786; Rs 7,000-8,000 per night; Camp Dinosaur website or email web@campsofindia.com

About the author: Tascha Eipe is a filmmaker based in Mumbai. She directs TV shows for a travel and lifestyle channel called TravelXP, a job that takes her to many remote and exotic locations. She is also a scuba diver and adventure sports junkie. Visit her blog for more details.

Tascha submitted this piece as part of CNNGo’s iReport section. To find out what other stories we are looking for, go to our iReport page