Travel

Mowgli Land - Pench Wilderness

Posted by Uday on August 22, 2015

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Less known as tiger reserves since quiet late the park in India was made famous by the legendary Rudyard Kipling. It is said a British Officer (Lt.Moor) discovered Mowgli living among the wolves near the village of Sant Vavadi. The news got to Col.Sleeman and then to Kipling.

Using his imagination he carved playful but adventurous life of the child and his wild entourage of the Seoni Hills. The vivid spins of imagination and entailing story that emerged made the Jungle Book immortal. The escapades enthrall and enliven the minds of young and old. The Seoni Hills mostly under serve biotic stress harbor enchanting wildlife in small area untouched by the mauradaurs of the wild.


This is now known as Pench Tiger Reserve and National Park all over the world. Ensconced in Seoni and Chhindwara District of Madhya Pradesh in Central India the tiger-land is one of the choicest place to get to see the tiger in its natural home. A part of the  reserve is under Maharashtra Forests but most of the tourism is in the belt that lies in Madhya Pradesh.


The park is about eighty km from Nagpur Airport while the distance from Jabalpur Airport is about 200 km. The distance from Kanha National Park is about 150 km. The long drives to the reserve takes a turn at Khawasa Township on the border to the two states. From here it is a ten km drive to Turia Gate of the reserve.

Both the long drives to the tiger reserve cut across some of the finest reserve forests creating a picturesque spectacle. The road to Turia Gate offers a chance to see the Indian wolf for those lucky enough. The big cats are encountered everywhere in the dense canopy besides the other animals. The reserve is home to many other mammals and antelopes like the Nilgai, four horned  deer and Indian Gazelle.


Tourists on tiger safari preen their eyes and alert their sensory apparatus to get a sight of the sloth bear,leopard and the wild dog. The majestic gaur is striking in appearance due to its massive musculature and sheer grace. The coarse feeder thrives in the park thanks to excellent conservation efforts. Wild boar, spotted deer,sambar and langur are a common sight.       
Pench River intersects the reserve and is dammed at Totlah Doh. This has created a large reservoir now frequented by various species of water birds. Hence the reserve is a good place to see both the wetland and forest species in Central India. The river is a perpetual source of water and hence acts as the lifeline of the park.  

The ecosystem comprises of low lying mountains, dense mixed forests, grasslands, water bodies and rivers. These elements form an excellent habitat for the tigers and major mammals. Small nocturnal mammals can be seen on the night safari in the buffer zone of the park. Animals such as civets, mongoose, wolf, leopard, porcupine, pangolin, ratel and many more. The night safari is available throughout the year and can be booked on the MP Online Portal.

There are many resort hotels for accommodation in the buffer zone of the park near the Turia Village. The hotels at Pench National Park range from budget to star category offering accommodation at different tariff to suit the visitors.  

The main tourism zone of the park is open from  1st October to end of June while the night safari is available throughout the year.  Tourists visiting the park must carry warm clothed during the winter along with good set of binoculars and some bird books.

Since the gate entry is limited to set number of vehicles one should always book in advance before arrival.        

Bird Watching

Searching for Winged Wonders in Northern India

Posted by Uday on August 21, 2015

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Grill and Grime sets the pace for birding in Northern India. The race begins from the T3 Airport where avid birders from far away lands arrive. The trip begins as we move towards Agra on the way to Bharatpur and Chambal River Sanctuary. The mini bus rattles along past a quagmire of  human dwellings tortuously placed in a juxtaposition. Soon we we begin rolling past the green fields and small hamlets. But not for long, for at Mathura Township we turn in the direction of Bharatpur the avian paradise like non else where.  


A fifty km drive further on will lead us to Bharatpur. The road riddled with pot holes - as treacherous as they can be  - wades across a picturesque countryside. The yellow lined mustard fields are the hall mark of this drive. The quaint hamlets are as striking as they can be. The colorful courtyards, veranda all painted in Rajasthani motifs impress my foreign visitors.   


At Bharatpur we are greeted by Mr. Singh - the robust and cheerful owner of the Sunbird Lodge. The day begins with the search for avian in the fields near by the Sanctuary Gate. The search is for Indian Courser but we also come across lot of grassland birds.


The whole day is spent in the sanctuary on foot we we come across scores of avian species. We visit extensive wetlands, mounds and dikes. The small patches of forests also yield many delights. We also visit Bund Baretha which is about fifty km from the park. Here we score for some water birds, pipits and buntings. This is where we  come across Indian Skimmer whence they come to nest.   


From Bharatpur we head to Dhaulpur and visit the Chambal River Sanctuary. This is an exciting destination, and boating in one of the most unpolluted river is an experience. We come across many birds besides the marsh crocodile, gharial and river dolphin. The long stretch of river accords an exciting boat ride in between low lying sandy hills and shores. Jackals, foxes, hyenas and wolves are often encountered in the shores with luck.


Some of the birds we come across are prinias, buntings, gulls, storks, ducks, sand grouses, falcons, eagles, owls and warblers to name a few.  


We head back to Agra and then move towards Nainital. On the way we look for Sarus Cranes as well as species on the Ganges River Banks. Nainital is a hill resort but badly urbanized hence we chose Sat Taal And Pangot up hill each at a distance of about fourteen km from the township. Sat Tal at 1400 MSL is crowded but the natural beauty of remaining forests and lakes also offers magnificent bird watching opportunity. At Sat Taal we look for Forktails, thrushes, flycatchers, minla, leiothrix, golden robin, buntings, woodpeckers and more. A two day birding yields a checklist of more than fifty exciting species.      


We climb higher to 2100 MSL in the Himalayan Foothills two reach snow covered Pangot. Our target species here are the Kokals Pheasant, Chir Pheasant, Himalayan and Eurasian Vultures, Bearded Eagle, buntings, thrushes, tits and many more. A two day stay accords sightings of unique birds which are altitude migrants.    

     

The drive to Corbett Tiger Reserve is a pleasant eighty km via Kaladungi the home town of legendary Jim Corbett. The avi fauna begins to change as we descend towards the plains.  The fantastic tiger landscape has more than five hundred avian species to sight. We stay at the Dhikala Complex while in the park and look for tigers and other mammals besides avian species.


The foothills are frequented by species from the plains as well as the altitude migrants from the Himalayan Landscape. We search for the Siberian ruby throat, paradise flycatchers, Niltavas, flycatchers, wren warblers, laughing thrushes, bulbuls, nuthatches, woodpeckers and many more.


We than move to outskirts of Corbett to search for more species. The trip is full of excitement a midst tigers and elephants. We visit Mohaan, Lal Dang, river banks of Kosi, Kumeria and Sita Vani for some amazing discoveries.


The fortnight long trip ended as we headed back to New Delhi. Happy that the extensive birding tour package  organized by India Footprints was a great success. All around the tour we were assisted by local guides very familiar with the regions. We stayed at the finest lodges with great service, food and friendly staff.


Every year as winter sets in I look forward to exciting ornithological trips in India as tour leader and birder.      

Travel

Magical Wildlife of Bandhavgarh

Posted by Uday on August 19, 2015

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A four hour drive through picturesque Umaria Forests takes one to Bandhavgarh after landing at Jabalpur Airport. Albeit one comes across lot of denuded patches the remaining low lying hills with good forest cover create a pleasing picture. Once teeming with wilderness and forests the region has lost its sheen. Like every where else the reserve forests are slowly turning into green deserts. The wildlife is badly decimated thanks to indiscriminate poaching which still goes on sporadically. 


The long continues stretch takes an abrupt turn at Shahpura township. This place hosts the famous Ghagua Fossil National Park. The plant fossil date back to 60 million years whence the tectonic plates became active. Another fifty km of drive takes you to Umaria rail head. Close to Bandhavgarh National Park the forests appear some distance from here. A good thirty two kilometer drive takes you to the Tala Gate. This is a premium tourism zone in the land of the tiger. The tiger landscape stretches to about 1100 sq.km an area under the Project Tiger.    


Bandhavgarh is one of the most picturesque park in India. Small as compared to many it contains high density of tigers. It is also an excellent breeding ground for the big cats and other mammals. The stunning biodiversity encompasses all forms of wildlife from microbes to giant gaurs. The Indian bison as they are called had become locally extinct some years back due to disease prevalence.     


Translocation of gaurs from nearby Kanha National Park is a major success story. The park is home to other mammals like the sambar, leopard, barking deer, sloth bear, spotted deer, four horned deer, langur, rhesus macaque, wild boar, dhole and many small nocturnal ones.  


Excellent bird life prevails especially the forest species. Unfortunately bird watching is much neglected under the shadow of the majestic tiger. Reptiles, insects and many other forms of diverse life thrives in this magnificent ecosystem.


Bandhavgarh is home to some ancient relics of civilizations dating back to two thousand years. The fort complex is magnificent, a visit offers sight of Vishnu Idols in stone in zoomorphic forms. The large reservoirs, fort in ruins, Hindu temples and intervening forests and grasslands all create exotic ambiance. The low lying Bandhavgarh Mountain offers a view of the park. A panoramic grandeur which leaves the visitors spellbound. Midway up the ascent is Sesh Shaiyya esoteric and remote the pool is surrounded by ferns and grasses with springs. The dense canopy and the grove accord amazing serenity to the visitors. The reclining Vishnu is carved out of an igneous rock and is twenty feet long.   


Jungle roads enable the tourists to cover a large cross section of the forests. This is the tiger safari that lets you seen the beast in the wild. A drive yields much more deer, wild boar and langur the ubiquitous fauna of the reserve. Three species of antelope can be seen here namely Nilgai, Four horned Deer and the Indian Gazelle.


For the more attentive plethora of avian species mesmerizes with their startling colors. More than two hundred and fifty species inhabit this National Park many of which are migrant.


The park is open throughout now but during the monsoon only buffer zone safaris are available. Post monsoon all the three core zones are open for tourism. While photographers tolerate the intense heat of the summers, International visitors keep to the cooler months. Hence October to March are busy months here. Visitors should avoid festival days in order to gain a positive experience of the resort.            


During holiday periods the hotels in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve are nearly full. All type of accommodations are available near the Tala Gate. The park permits are also booked fully hence one should reserve much in advance for the busy period. Early Booking is possible on Internet at MP Online Portal.   


About three day safari offers holistic experience of the wildlife heaven. Winter clothes are required as it gets very cold. In summers khakis will do. Carry binoculars, good cameras and bird books for better understanding of this magnificent ecosystem. 

Bio-Diversity

A walk along a Buxa riverbed

Posted by Soumya Banerjee on August 17, 2015

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The dry bed of the Jayanti River, which cuts through the heart of Buxa Tiger Reserve in North Bengal, presents an extremely appealing sight to the naturalist.
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Steep hills, clothed in green, present an enchanting backdrop.
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The golden rays of the morning sun illuminate a landscape unmatched in beauty.
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Lucky is he who gets to live here.
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The streambeds tell us many a story of who has gone before us, and how long ago.
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May they continue to live in these bountiful hills for many a decade to come.
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And walk these endless paths forever.

DSCN3462To save which, from threats like these, should be every person’s duty.
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Anthropomorphism

Tiger Death Statistics

Posted by Soumya Banerjee on August 16, 2015

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Recently, several articles were brought out highlighting the loss of 41 tigers from India’s forests over the first 7 months of 2015. A variety of causes were responsible for these deaths, ranging from infighting, to poisoning and killing for skin and bones by professional poachers.
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/flora-fauna/india-loses-41-tigers-in-7-months/articleshow/48446348.cms
However, what does this say about the efficacy of India’s tiger conservation programme? Wildlife scientists have always held that tiger populations experience high turnovers-they are prolific breeders, but also die young. This may be borne out by the reasonably high number of annual tiger deaths recorded over the past few years-61(2014), 76(2013), 89(2012), 56(2011) and 53(2010). Intensive monitoring of tiger populations actually tells us that the recorded death figures are actually a fraction of the total number of deaths. If populations are adequately from adverse factors such as habitat loss, poaching and conflict, then the naturally high rate of reproduction will ensure that tiger populations continue to thrive.
Which is  what brings us to the next question- how indicative are these deaths of the effects  human-induced adversities on tiger populations ? The likely answer is- that they present a highly incomplete picture. For instance, only 3 seizures of tiger parts have been made from poachers this year; the figure was 12 in 2014. However, independent investigations indicate that only a small percentage of seizures come to light.

A tiger skin being seized from poachers.  Credit : Telegraph IndiaA tiger skin being seized from poachers.
Credit : Telegraph India

. Official investigations into such deaths are also marked by a lack of transparency. Officials are usually very keen to make it look like as if every instance of tiger death is a result of natural causes, which often causes many instances of tiger poisoning to be swept under the carpet. Many carcasses are recovered in an advanced state of decomposition; which, coupled with a shortage of adequately trained vets, means that the actual causes of death are determined in only a very small number of cases. Details of investigations into tiger deaths are still awaited in as many as 33 of the aforementioned 41 cases.

An investigation into a tiger death in progress in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.  Credit : The HinduAn investigation into a tiger death in progress in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.
Credit : The Hindu

Wild tigers continue to be threatened by innumerable factors ; but tiger death statistics alone cant quantify these threats.

Insects

Where benign insects control harmful pests.

Posted by Susan Sharma on August 11, 2015

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Where benign insects control harmful pests.

Much of the destruction that we see on the farm is the result of unwanted and exorbitantly expensive chemical inputs. Take the case of chemical pesticides. It was in late 1970s that David Pimental of the Cornell University had said in his landmark paper that 99.9 per cent chemical pesticides go into environment and only 0.01 per cent of the pesticides sprayed reach the target pest. Despite this warning, agricultural scientists continued to advocate the use of chemical pesticides. While the industry gained immensely, farmers as well as the gullible consumers suffered. This makes me wonder whether there is a way out. Can the Indian farmer ever emerge out of the chakravyuah?  

.....Last week, I visited Nidana and Lalit Khera, two tiny and nondescript villages in Jind ditrict of Haryana. Farmers and village women in these villages have gone a step ahead. Not only they don't spray chemical pesticides on cotton, they don't even use bio-pesticides. They have allowed the insect equilibrium to prevail to such an extent that the harmful insects are taken care of by the beneficial insects. 

Meena Malik is a 23 year-old graduate, who along with some 30 women of the nearby villages, partakes in a mahila keet pathshala (women insect school) every week. Once in a week, they spread across cotton fields in small groups early in the morning, each carrying a magnifying glass and with a notebook in hand. They identify the beneficial insects, which are mostly non-vegetarian, and count its population on a few plants. Similarly, they look for the harmful insects, mostly vegetarian feeding on the plant foliage and fruits, and based on their observations make a note of the insect diversity that exists in the crop fields.

Read More at
   

Anthropomorphism

Excelling the PAIN

Posted by Amina Bibi on August 01, 2015

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The monsoon rain started during November, 2014 – the initial rains were good. When the rain poured non-stop for a fortnight destroyed vegetable cultivation. So it happened to the kitchen garden of my neighbor too. The entire kitchen garden with Amaranthus, Okra, cluster beans, beans and gourds could not withstand the water stagnation. The papaya tree laden with fifty big papayas and fifty small papayas could no more stand straight. The tree fall with the fruit bearing tip broken. They were about to severe the entire tree, I happen to watch it over from my windows and stopped it. I immediately rushed to the plant and asked to find supportive poles and make the papaya plant straight as much as possible.

February 2015 gave me a surprise with three tine buds from the node little lower than the broken edge of the papaya tree. I was so excited and felt very much encouraged, as the tree spoke me to EXCEL THE PAIN. It became a non-voluntary action to see the plant every day in the morning. In the month of April, buds turned into branches but there were heavy infestations of Papaya Mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus). I asked them to remove the infected leaves often. They turned frustrated asking me is the bug coming to your house. Then I explained about the mealybug and could be controlled by manual removal of the leaves, luckily there were no infestation of the bug in any of the other plants nearby.


Now during July, I was amazed to see the papaya tree with three branches, all the three loaded with papayas big and small. What made me wonder is, “the plant which could not bear the load of a single plant is now capable of its triple bearing – from many nodes there are two, three or five papayas”. What a lesson the MIRACLE papaya tree taught me - ENDURE THE PAIN, WORK HARD and BE SINCERE, withstand all the odd situations and one day surprising results turn all the agony into glee.

Travel

Loghouse Stay at Chinnar

Posted by V S Sankar on June 07, 2015

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Log House Stay At Chinnar........



I have visited the Chinnar WLS few times over the years and never had the opportunity of spending a night in the wilderness of the beautiful place.The idea of visitng Chinnar and staying for a night came up again in this May(2010), and we packed our bags and headed towards Munnar on a fine morning.

Chinnar is one of the 12 WLS that Kerala is proud of and is adjoined by Eravikulam Natonal park,Anaimali WLS and Kodaikkanal WLS.The highest peak of Kerala,The Anaimudi is just 23kms away from Chinnar.

We reached Munnar around 8pm and stayed for the night there.The climate was pleasant and we felt really good and at least for  a few days escaping the gruelling heat down the plains.



The next day, our idea was to visit Eravikulam National Park and then proceed to  Chinnar.But the tourist inflow was very high and we saw quite a number of them lining up to get to Eravikulam NP.We decided to skip the Nilgiri Tahrs for this vist and headed immediately towards Chinnar.

We have planned to stay at one of the Loghouses that Chinnar offers.We havn't planned which particular loghouse.Any one of them would do for us.All are inside the Chinar sanctuary.

We meandered our way towards Maraiyur(which is around 40kms from Munnar).Both sides were filled with tea plantations and we stopped at a few places to take some pictures.We reached Maraiyur and without stopping headed towards Chinnar which is a further 18 kms away.

We stopped on way to view the Thoomanam waterfalls which was cascading with all its splendour.I clicked a few photos with my Canon 400D and 55-250 IS lens.




From the tourist info center we came to know about the loghouse near the falls.But we have already made up our mind to be at Chinnar proper.

We finally reached Chinnar checkpost around 2pm.A quick vegetarian lunch at the hotel run by tribals satisfied our hunger.We booked the loghouse and waited for the Tribal forest guard to come and lead us to the loghouse.

The Loghouse at Chinnar.....Spectacular surroundings

Mr.Kannan ariived at around 3pm and we immediately started our trek rowards the Loghouse.We kept only a few pieces of cloth and rest of the baggage remained in the car which we parked near the Checkpost.

Chinnar boasts of certain wild animals which can be seen only here.Star Tortoise is one among them.The white Guar is another and this an extremely rare sighting.Only a few  handful of people have seen it
and very less number of photographs exists of the animal.The largest population of Mugger  Crocodiles are living in Chinnar sanctuary.

We started our 3km trek to the loghouse in right earnest.The heat here is unbearable.Chinnar is the "Rain shadow" region of the Western Ghats.Rain shadow region is where the rainfall is minimal.The temparature can raise upto 38degree celcius at times!

I was expecting to sight elephants on  the way to the loghouse and Kannann also gave me assuarance.We passed the watch tower(Didnt bother to climb as it was early afternoon) and continued to walk towards our destination.Yellow throated bulbul is one of the 245 or so species of birds that can be seen here.

A Rock Agama has blended in with the surroundings

In around 45 minutes we reached our loghouse which was built near the Pambar river bank.Chinnar is the other river and it becomes the Amaravathy river as it reaches Tamil Nadu.

The log house is built with logs(of course) and thatched with asbestos sheets.The time was around 4:30pm and the heat was still on the higher side.Kannan informed us that the temperature will be cooler during night.



After sitting in the loghouse for some time I headed to the river.I could see plenty of rock Agamas playing around.I photographed the agamas to my satisfaction and in between dipped myself in the Pambar river.

Thommanam Waterfalls....Magnificient


A few babblers were rustling at a distance and the sound of birds reinvigorated our souls.Since my lens can reach only up to 250 mm I decided against attempting to photograph them.

I asked Kannan about the prospect of sighting a Star Tortoise.Kannan as usual was very optimistic.Darkness was approaching and we sat on the steps in front of the door and listened to the sound made by nature.Before reaching the loghouse we saw a few sambars standing and looking at us from a hill top opposite the trek path.(Of course well out of range for my lens!)

A Hawk Eagle on the way


At around 7:30 pm another guard arrived with our dinner.It was simple Parothas and vegetable curry.We can't complain about the food when you are in deep forst!

The log house is comfortabel for 2 people.The guards said they would be comfortable sleeping on a rock face very close to the river.I saw some people moving in the opposite bank of the river.Kannan informed us that they are Tribals from Tamil Nadu laying nets for catching fish.

We had a good nights sleep in the middle of the Chinnar foest.That is what I have been dreaming for over a number of years.Now it has been fulfilled.Just before we retired to the bed I heared Kannn calling me from outside.On opening the door I saw a Star Tortoise baby crawling towards the door.Immediately I took some pictres using flash.


We got up early the next morning and went and sat near the river.It was a beautiful feeling to sit there just listening to the flow of water and chirping of birds.Far away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Amazing......A rock Agama changing colors.This happened in 10seconds!



We started our trek back to the check post around 8am.I was very optimistic about the sighting of an elephant herd on our way back.




We coudn't see any elephants but foot marks were aplenty.Kannan pointed out a particular set of foot prints which was of a tusker.

We reached the check post around 9am.We thanked Kannan for the way he has taken care of us and asuured him that we would be back agian for a stay.After having breakfast at the tribal hotel we started our journey back.


The famous Star Tortoise of Chinnar.....Head withdrawn



Another view of the Loghouse.....Away from Hustle and Bustle





The Watch Tower....


Chinnar........Get lost in this place!!!!


Travel

Kinnaur

Posted by Vikas Sharma on June 02, 2015

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Kinnaur, surrounded by the Tibet to the east, is in the northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh, about 235 km (146 mi) from the state capital, Shimla. It has three high mountains ranges, namely, Zanskar, Himalayas and Dhauldhar that enclose valleys of Sutlej, Spiti, Baspa and their tributaries. The slopes are covered with thick wood, orchards, fields and picturesque hamlets. The much religious Shivling lies at the peak of Kinnaur Kailash mountainThe old Hindustan-Tibet Road passes through the Kinnaur valley along the bank of river Sutlej and finally enters Tibet at Shipki La pass. Most of Kinnaur enjoys a temperate climate due to its high elevation, with long winters from October to May, and short summers from June to September Kinnaur is a beautiful district to visit. Great natural scenes, rivers, valleys, high mountains, lakes and green pastures creates a mesmerizing scenes for tourists. Best time to visit the district is from April to October. Kinnaur is famous for its Handloom and Handicraft items like shawls, caps, mufflers, article of wood carving, metal work and silver & gold ornaments . Kinnaur is also famous for apples, almonds, chilgoza, ogla, apricots and grapes. There are many wholesale shops at Kalpa, Reckong Peo, Karchham, Tapri etc. Besides this the co-operative societies, small production-cum-training centres and Khadi gram udyog centres are looking after the local products like gudmas, shawls,wool, neoza, zira, etc. Also there are many retail price shops in every village. Local fairs, mela and festivals are the main source of shopping The district has the following wildlife sancutaries:
1. Lipa-Asrang Sanctuary
2. Rakchham-Chhitkul Sanctuary
3 .Rupi-Bhaba Sanctuary

Travel

Apple Orchards

Posted by Vikas Sharma on May 28, 2015

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The beautiful appleorchards in Himachal Pradesh are a popular travel attraction of the state.While in HP a visit to these beautiful apple gardens is a must as here you canget to know more about the cultivation process along with enjoying thepanoramic view of the Himalayan ranges at the backdrop.  Shimla isimportant for apple cultivation. This picture is of the hill slopes of Theogwhere apple cultivation is the most important activity. Also you can buy lotson apples from these orchards on your way back. Apple is one of the mostimportant commercial crops    of    the   Himalayan region  and  Himachal  Pradesh  (HP) with 1.05 lakh ha area under apple cultivationwhich  fetches livelihood  for  more  than two lakh farmers. The wintertemperature and precipitation  in the form of snow are rtant  and sensitive  climatic  factors for   induction  of  dormancy, bud   break and  also  to  ensure proper  flowering  in apples.

 





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