The Thar Desert (थार मरुधर or थार मरुस्थल or صحراےَ تھر or also known as the Great Indian Desert) is a large, arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent and forms a natural boundary running along the border between India and Pakistan. With an area of more than 200,000 sq km (77,000 sq mt), it is the World's 18th largest subtropical desert. Thar Desert extends from the Sutlej River, surrounded by the Aravalli Ranges on the east, on the south by the salt marsh known as the Great Rann of Kutch (parts of which are sometimes included in the Thar), and on the west by the Indus River. Its boundary to the large thorny steppe to the north is ill-defined. It lies mostly in Rajasthan, and extends into the southern portion of Haryana and Punjab states and into northern Gujarat state.
Desert safaris on camels have become increasingly popular around Jaisalmer. Domestic and international tourists frequent the desert seeking adventure on camels for anything from a day to several days. This ecotourism industry ranges from cheaper backpacker treks to plush Arabian night style campsites replete with banquets and cultural performances. During the treks tourists are able to view the fragile and beautiful ecosystem of the Thar desert. This form of tourism provides income to many operators and camel owners in Jaisalmer as well as employment for many camel trekers in the desert villages nearby.
Due to the diversified habitat and ecosystem, the vegetation, human culture and animal life in this arid region is very rich in contrast to the other deserts of the world. About 23 species of lizard and 25 species of snakes are found here and several of them are endemic to the region. Some wildlife species, which are fast vanishing in other parts of India, are found in the desert in large numbers such as the Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), the Indian Gazelle (Gazella bennettii) and the Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur) in the Rann of Kutch. They have evolved excellent survival strategies, their size is smaller than other similar animals living in different conditions, and they are mainly nocturnal.
The region is a haven for 141 species of migratory and resident birds of the desert. One can see eagles, harriers, falcons, buzzards, kestrel and vultures. Short-toed Eagles (Circaetus gallicus), Tawny Eagles (Aquila rapax), Spotted Eagles (Aquila clanga), Laggar Falcons (Falco jugger) and kestrels. There are also a number of reptiles. The Indian Peafowl is a resident breeder in the Indian subcontinent particularly Thar region. The peacock is designated as the national bird of India. It can be seen sitting on Khejri or Pipal trees in villages or Deblina.
The natural vegetation of this dry area is classed as Northern Desert Thorn Forest occurring in small clumps scattered more or less openly. Density and size of patches increase from west to east following the increase in rainfall. Natural vegetation of Thar Desert is composed of following tree, shrub and herb species.
Salt Water Lakes:
There are a number of salt water lakes in Thar desert. These are Sambhar, Pachpadra, Tal Chhapar, Falaudi and Lunkaransar where Sodium chloride salt is produced from salt water. The Didwana lake produces Sodium Sulphate salt. Ancient Archaeological evidences of habitations have been recovered from Sambhar and Didwana lakes which shows their antiquity and historical importance.
Desert For Recreation:
Thar Desert provides the recreational value in terms of desert festivals organized every year. Rajasthan desert festivals are celebrated with great zest and zeal. This festival is held once a year during winters. Dressed in brilliantly hued costumes, the people of the desert dance and sing haunting ballads of valor, romance and tragedy. The fair has snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats and folk performers. Camels, of course, play a stellar role in this festival, where the rich and colorful folk culture of Rajasthan can be seen.
Camels are an integral part of the desert life and the camel events during the Desert Festival confirm this fact. Special efforts go into dressing the animal for entering the spectacular competition of the best-dressed camel. Other interesting competitions on the fringes are the moustache and turban tying competitions, which not only demonstrate a glorious tradition but also inspire its preservation. Both the turban and the moustache have been centuries old symbols of honor in Rajasthan. Evenings are meant for the main shows of music and dance. Continuing till late into the night, the number of spectators swells up each night and the grand finale, on the full moon night, takes place by silvery sand dunes.