The Lost World
05 June 2014
Nestled in the tiny town of Balasinor in Gujarat, is what is known as India’s Jurassic Park. A village called Raiyoli is home to the one of the largest dinosaur fossils sites in the world! Paleontologists believe that at least 7 species of dinosaur lived here. This site is unique because researchers have uncovered fossils of about 1,000 dinosaur eggs, making Raiyoli the third largest hatchery in the world. They have also discovered a new species, which belonged to the Tyrannosaurus Rex family. It was given the name ‘Rajasaurus Narmandensis’; meaning reptile from the Narmada.
The site was discovered accidentally in 1981 when geologists were conducting a mineral survey of the area. Since then, the finds have attracted many scientists and tourists around the world, triggering off what the Gujarat state calls ‘Dinosaur Tourism’.
Balasinor is about one and a half hours drive from Ahmedabad. While visiting, tourists can stay in the Garden Palace hotel. The Garden Palace hotel is a heritage property run by the rulers of Balasinor, the Babi family. You can stay with the royal family in their home and experience the warm and personalized hospitality of the Nawab. The palace has 8 elegant rooms, each room done up in different colour scheme, furniture and decor. If you feel like roughing it out, you can even stay in the luxury tents on campsite - for a rustic, yet regal experience.
The palace is 20 minutes away from the Raiyoli site. Aaliya Sultana Babi, the princess of Balasinor, is the enthusiastic promoter and protector of the dinosaur legacy. Known as ‘the Dinosaur Princess’, she conducts tours to the site, as she is the only English-speaking guide around, and has expert knowledge about all the fossils and history. 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.
Unfortunately, the state of Gujarat has not shown much interest in developing the site as a mega tourist attraction. It has taken 5 years to build a museum next to the site, and it has not been completed yet. 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 that has such a huge wealth of fossilized dinosaur remains. Most Indians do not even know of the existence of the site. The fossils were discovered two decades ago, and have not received their due importance from the state officials.
Raiyoli is a gold mine for those interested in experiencing a slice of history. It is the only site in the world where tourists can actually touch the dinosaur remains, and hold a 65 million year old fossil in their hands. From Rajahs to the Rajasaurus, Balasinor is where heritage meets history.