“Dinosaur fossils? Are you serious?” were my first questions on being told about Balasinor. Home to one of the largest dinosaur egg hatcheries in the world, this is a place many more travellers need to pin on their maps. Not only that, Balasinor is an erstwhile princely state and a trip is incomplete without a visit or stay at the residence of the royal family (which has now been converted into a heritage homestay).
Arguably the star of Balasinor, Rajasaurus Narmadensis is a carnivorous dinosaur species of the Cretaceous period which roamed the Narmada regions about 65 million years ago. Paleontologists from the Geological Survey of India stumbled across the bones of an undiscovered species at Balasinor in 1983 and it was only in 2001, that paleontologists from universities in United States arrived to study the fossils. They realised they had the partial skeleton of an undiscovered species, and named it, quite literally, the ‘regal dinosaur from the Narmada’. Today, a dinosaur fossil park exists at the spot with the fenced area spread over more than 70 acres. Unless you are a paleontologist yourself, do book a guided tour hosted by Princess Aaliya Sultana Babi. She has developed deep expertise in the area and works closely with the paleontologists who have been visiting the region. Be prepared to be awed as she helps you spot fossils of different body parts, dinosaur eggs and what not.
If staying in Balasinor, you must book a room at the Garden Palace heritage hotel. The royal family of Balasinor resides here and their warm hospitality is a highlight. Get ready to be be transported back in time as you sit on old French style chairs, sleep on antique four-poster beds and are mesmerised by the many generations of royals staring down from the walled frames in their distinctive splendor. And yes, get a taste of the celebrated Balasinor traditional cuisine cooked at the royal kitchen under the supervision of the queen herself – Begum Saab Farhat Sultana – who is a celebrity chef in her own right. If culinary skills are your passion, you can book a cooking session under her tutelage. There are so many delights coming out of this kitchen – Nargisi Kofta, Biryani-e-Balasinor, Shami Kebab-e-Balasinor amongst others.
How to get there: Balasinor is about 90 kilometers away from Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It should take not more than 90 minutes to reach Balasinor by road (unless like me, you get lost and take the longest possible route to get there).
For booking a room and/ or a guided tour to the dinosaur park, please drop a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.