National Parks

Kishanpur Wild Life Sanctuary

Posted by Vikrant Nath on February 22, 2008

 
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VISIT TO THE KISHANPUR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

“Well the beautiful dream is over!” that is exactly what I felt, when I returned from back from the Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary. The two days at Kishanpur were like a dream, a dream come true.

My friends and I started from Lucknow on a Saturday morning at around 8 A.M.  Kishanpur Wild Life Sanctuary, a 4 hour drive from Lucknow, lies 13 km from Bhira town in Lakhimpur Kheri District. Spread in a compact area of 200 sq Km, it is a part of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.  We reached Kishanpur Forest Rest House at around 1 P.M. The Rest House lay 6 km deep inside the Sal and Teak forest. It is an austere British style mansion with two suites, a kitchen, dining room, fireplaces, flush toilets and solar light arrangement. It was a real paradise; a place where I oft dream to live.
We had our packed lunch and were ready by 2 P.M. to visit Jhadi Tal. Jhadi is a large clear water wetland formed by the flood waters of the Sharda.  But we were told that we could only visit after 4 P.M. So, we stationed ourselves on the resting chairs under the shade of a huge Ailanthus tree. Here we spotted the grey tits, treepies, woodpeckers and black headed orioles.

By now, a Forest personnel was ready to take us to Jhadi Tal. It was a great pleasure driving on the forest dirt track canopied by the tall Sal tress. In fact, this was a real ‘long drive,’ a city dweller ‘longs’ for. With no other vehicle on the track, the smooth forest road was a treat.   We soon reached Jhadi Tal. A number of migratory birds graced the Tal.  On the far end, we could see the grasslands locally referred to as the phantas. We spotted a large herd of barasingha or swamp deer. It was, in fact, a harem dominated by a solitary handsome stud in the company of some 24 females. They were all squatting on a circular island like mound.  We made our way to the second machan. Here we saw an even bigger herd of swamp deer. I counted 47 of them. Most of the members of the herd were males. Their mighty antlers glistened brightly. Most of members were seated near the grassland. The herd was waiting for the dusk so as to proceed concealed into the jungles to munch the soft grass. This was the largest herd of any deer species ever seen by us. Infact Dudhwa Tiger reserve, particularly Jhadi Tal is the last refuge of Northern Swamp Deer.

We drove further ahead to the Sharda River. A narrow stretch of silted land separated the river from the Jhadi Tal. The river has been rapidly changing its course. It has shifted almost 4 km towards the Jhadi Tal over a short period of time. We could see a number of uprooted trees on the banks. We also spotted a lonesome croc on the far bank. We made our way back to the second machan, eager to glimpse the evening retreat of the Swamp Deer into the Sal Jungles. But, unfortunately, the forest guide insisted that he had orders to return.  It was soon nightfall. The waxing moon was shining bright. We could not see many stars in the sky. We spent some time with the Forest Staff. Around the fire, we discussed about the mystical ways of nature. The jungle was now wide awake. We heard the scary sounds of the jungle. The owls announced their presence. At close quarters, a cheetal hurled a call of alarm. The very feeling of the jungle king, the tiger, lurking around and observing you, was very exciting.

We went back to the Rest House tand had barely switched off the light, when I was awakened by some scratching noise. I fidgeted for a while wondering what it was. But the noise continued and continued, for ages it seemed. I reckoned that some people were trying to barge inside the Rest House. Fearful, I awakened my friends. We braced ourselves for an impending crisis. After a little awhile, we discovered the cause; a stout rat perched on the tube-light. He made a mess  the entire night with nibbling antics. We couldn’t catch a wink of sleep.

Next morning, armed with binoculars, bird-books and breakfast, we were ready to visit Jhadi Tal again. As we moved on the jungle track, we saw the pug marks of a tiger. He was brazing our trail. I am certain, he saw us, liked us and blest us as well.  We reached the second machan. The moment we stepped out of our vehicle, the birds started to literally run away on the waters of the Jhadi Tal. We stationed ourselves on the machan and enjoyed the bread, butter, jam and grapes and watched birds at ease and peace. It was for the first time that we saw the Red Crested Pochard. The distinct reddish pink beak was glittering. The tufted orangish hair on the head of the drake was very interesting; while his white body was a total contrast. The duck had a brown head. We also saw the dabchicks, grebes, common pochards, pintails, mallards, shovellers, river terns, the distinct white eyed pochard, spoonbills, egrets, snakebirds, herons, black necked storks, Indian Water hen, purple moor hens and the cormorants.

A herd of swamp deer, numbering around 29, was also to be seen. Some active members locked their antlers for a rather brief mock fight. Oh! And how can I ever forget the naughty, chubby otter family. We saw five of them. At one moment they were perched on the barringtonia tree just underneath the machan. And soon afterwards, they were swimming merrily and effortlessly in water. They would dive in and pop out their head with a glistening fish in their teeth. They gobbled up their catch in great gusto, gup-gup-gup. They were indeed quite an amusing sight; but they also shooed the birds away. Wherever they went the birds drifted elsewhere. After sometime the otters were back on the same tree, looking very cute in their shinning coat.

We drove towards Jhadi baba (a mighty banyan with pillared ariel roots). Soon the Sal forest gave way to a dried and burnt grassland at the other end of Jhadi Tal, Hence, we entered the dense green riparian forest, which extended till the river. I prayed to Jhadi Baba to save the precious Tal and to call us time and again to this great paradise. In this jungle of jamun, gular, khair, rohini, peepal, bargad we spotted a few chetals, hog deer and peacocks.

We returned back to the rest house at around 12:30 P.M. After lunch, we spent a leisurely afternoon napping in the winter sun on comfortable armchairs.  Around 4:30 in the evening, we drove to the Tar Kothi area with the chowkidar. The track passed through dense Sal and Teak forests. Tar Kothi was an uninteresting forest post near a bio-fenced farm; with a canal flowing nearby.  We returned back through an interesting untouched forest track and spotted a Sambar mother and child duo on the way. In the Terai jungles, the sambar deer is even rarer than the tiger. We also drove to Kishanpur Village around 2 km from guest house. This village of 500 voters is a big threat to the wildlife of the Sanctuary. The villagers have been provided with full fledged track for the movement of their vehicles. From early morning till late night, the rattling tractors and bikes ply on the road, disturbing the tiger habitat. There was not a single sighting or even a trace of wildlife in the dense forest around the track.

On our return to the Rest House, the chowkidar set the fireplace ablaze. It was a real romantic setting for us. We sat near the fireplace for long time chatting, gossiping and philosophizing. The hot food was a treat as well. The troubling rat too was absent and we could finally get some sleep. I was woken by the chital’s alarm call which was followed by the roar from the king himself. The king had come himself to greet us, but we were asleep! Well! We shouldn’t be complaining. It was our fault. We didn’t dare venture outside the Rest House. Early next morning we packed our bags and drove back to Lucknow with indelible memories of the jungles of Kishanpur.

National Parks

Big Bend National Park ( U.S.A)

Posted by Susan Sharma on November 17, 2007

 
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Big Bend National Park (Texas)

 

"Off we were looking to get away, relax, enjoy nature, and forget about the daily distractions of life. I called a Texas Park Ranger to be our family trip planner hoping she could point out the best Texas RV Park. She suggested.....

 

Read the full report at

http://blog.tripwiser.com/roadtrip/2007/11/texas-road-trip.html

 

National Parks

Cycle Through Bandipur

Posted by Shivakumar on August 30, 2007

 
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Out of adventure for a long time, I decided to cycle from Mysore to Waynad, through Bandipur. Took my cycle from BLR to MYS by bus and began cycling. The road was plain and flat did not cause much trouble(except for head wind). I knew Bandipur linked Banerghata and cauvery range. The locals assured me that the elephants were less dangerous when compared to their presence in Banerghata(many factors for this).

Well as I entered Bandipur (No gaurds at their post, luckily) a huge hoarding welcomed me, it read "WELCOME TO BANDIPUR, PART OF PROJECT TIGER". A huge lump in my throat, but pressed on faster never taking a break even to leak. As I cycled, I became part of nature & enjoyed it thoroughly. Also realised the animals are as scared of humans like we are about them. It took me just a day to cycle about 125 km (Fear, Exitement all combined).

 

National Parks

Kalesar National Park (Haryana)

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 08, 2007

 
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Kalesar National Park ( Declared in 2003), 150 km from Chandigarh, was in news recently for large scale illegal mining of sand by the builder/contractor lobby.  NDTV has done a series on this in July 2007.   The following trip report is taken from the website of Wildlife Trust of India, written in 2002.

http://www.wii.gov.in/publications/newsletter/annual2002/article3.htm

Kalesar – The Pride of Haryana
- Bivash Pandav

Pandav, what are you going to do this Saturday and Sunday? That’s what Dr. Johnsingh asked me over phone. I immediately knew that it must be for some week-end trip to some wildlife rich forest nearby. So quick came the reply from me, Sir I am free. Next moment Dr. Johnsingh asked me how about going to Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary in Haryana.  The picture of Haryana in my mind was that of crop fields and Poplar (Populus deltoids) plantations. But what I saw after reaching Kalesar was an eye opening experience.

We left Dehradun early in the morning and took the Kadwapani forest road north of Shivaliks but parallel to the hill range. Both sides of the road to Kadwapani have luxuriant growth of Sal. During my earlier visits to this forest (largely on foot) I have had occasional encounters with sambar, barking deer, wild pig and Himalayan yellow-throated marten. As the northern slopes of Shivaliks are not ideal habitats for ungulates (because of absence of grass and dominance of unpalatable shrubs such as Ardisia solanacea, Clerodendron viscosum, Colebrookia oppositifolia, and Glycosmis pentaphylla in the understory), encounter rates of all these animals in this forest is extremely low. Moreover, the few herbivores inhabiting this patch of forest are also subjected to heavy poaching from nearby villagers. However, this Sal patch on the northern slope of Shivalik hills is very rich in bird life. Flocks of White crested laughing thrush and four to five individuals of Indian pied hornbill in a flock are not an uncommon sight in this forest. After a drive of about 15km along this road  we reached Chakrata-Saharanpur road. Then we drove towards Saharanpur along the meandering road across the Shivaliks of Timli Forest Range. Gujjar dheras were present here and there and from a distance the hills looked like an excellent goral habitat. Elephant dung in a few places in the rau indicated the occasional visit of the pachyderms.

After reaching Badsahibag we left the Chakrata-Saharanpur road and took a right turn towards the Yamuna canal. The serene look of river Yamuna was quite exciting. Anyone who has seen Yamuna flowing near Delhi will hardly believe that the water of Yamuna can be so clean and the sight of the river can be so refreshing here. But the serene look of river Yamuna and its refreshing environment was short lived for us and soon we came across large number of trucks and tractors on the river bed. All of them were busy in removing sand and boulders from the river bed. All these boulders were being carried to a stone crushing unit located on the right bank of Yamuna.

All along the 10 km drive along the road which goes between the canal and Yamuna river, till Ponta Sahib, we saw good number of wintering ruddy shelducks. From Ponta Sahib, Kalesar is half an hour drive on the Dehradun-Yamunanagar road. As we had informed Mr. Jakarty, Chief Wildlife Warden, Haryana, the wildlife staffs were waiting for us ready to take us into the forest to show us the tiger pug marks which they had located. The northern slope of Kalesar has Sal mixed forest. There are well marked fire lines in the forest. In one of these fire lines we got down from the vehicle and started walking along Sukh rau. Azad Singh, the wildlife guard of Kalesar accompanying us showed us a several days old pug mark of a tiger in Sukh rau. While inspecting the pug mark, Sultan Singh, another wildlife guard came and informed us about fresh tiger pugmark on the other end of Kalesar. We immediately decided to go and inspect this fresh pugmark which was in the Langdiwala nullah of Amwali khole (khole is the local name for river in Kalesar part of Haryana). The pugmark looked like that of an adult male. The nullah got narrower further upstream. The pugmark was quite fresh and we tracked it for 500 m along the nullah. On our way back we had a beautiful sighting of two gorals, a mother with a young. After seeing us both ran in different directions. It was amazing to see the mother goral negotiating the >70o slope effortlessly. Soon both joined and went out of our sight.

On our return from the forest, in the evening we went to the village Mamduwas, located on the right bank of Yamuna where nearly a month ago the pug mark of one tiger crossing the river from Uttar Pradesh (Shivalik Forest Division) side was seen. Most probably the tiger had made use of the aqueduct below the Yamuna canal and had walked upstream of Yamuna before crossing over to Haryana border. The riverbed being used by the tiger was heavily disturbed by people who were busy loading stones in trucks and tractors which were moving in and out of the river bed. Standing on the bank of Yamuna it was very difficult for me to believe that a shy animal like a tiger still makes use of this heavily disturbed river bed. But the truth was a tiger was using this area and there were pugmarks to prove this.

Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses an area of roughly around 100 km2 and does not have any human habitation inside. On the north western side the forest of Kalesar is contiguous with the Simbalwara Wildlife Sanctuary of Himachal Pardesh. On the eastern side the Shivalik range extends till Panchkula. The remaining sides are surrounded by crop fields and dense human habitation. I learnt from Dr. Johnsingh that every winter one or two tigers from Shivalik Forest Division still cross Yamuna and use the forests of Kalesar and Simbalwara WLS.

In fact the very next day while walking along the Kaludev Khala (Khala is the local name of river in Simbalwara part of Himachal Pradesh), we came across fresh pug marks of a tiger/ess. With adequate protection both these wildlife sanctuaries can definitely support a good prey population for tiger. And then a contiguous patch of about 150 km2 forests can definitely support one or two tigers year round. Kalesar and its adjoining forests definitely have the potential of becoming a home for a small population of tiger provided the contiguity of forests between Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are maintained and the disturbances in the Yamuna river are totally eradicated in the area where the tiger/s cross. A co-ordinated effort from the UP and Haryana forest departments can definitely make Kalesar the pride of Haryana.

National Parks

A visit to Kruger Park in South Africa

Posted by Jacob Koshi on June 27, 2007

 
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A visit to Kruger Park in South Africa

-Jacob Koshi M

Flights to South Africa from India are operated by Qatar Airways, Emirates, South African Airways etc. One can book tickets through the travel agent or directly through the internet.

In case of planning to club with visits to another country, request for Multiple Entry visas from the South African Embassy in Mumbai. Booking can be made through the net for stay in the tourist lodges or hotels near the Kruger Park. I stayed in a resort called Kruger Park Lodge which is close to Kruger Park. Bookings can be made through the internet to this place. Or if one is a member of Mahindra Resorts or RCI, they have affiliations to this place.

For those who intend to visit the Kruger Park, the following description & tips will help in planning the trip. 

Johannesburg to Nelspruit 350 kms Nelspruit to Whiteriver 23 kms Whiteriver to Hazyview 45 kms Hazyview to Paul Kruger Gate 41kms. Total = 459kms

 City bug (the 14 seater minibuses) operates from Joberg airport to Hazyview for Rand 200/- You can book your tickets online on www.citibug.com & pay using your credit card sitting in India.  The driver will have a computerised list of passengers. Show them your identity & he will take you in. There are other minibus operators also through whom you can book your tickets. Book your tickets both ways mentioning your date of journey & date of departure. For travel from Hazyview to Kruger Park Lodge (which is outside the Kuger Park), one can email & request for the Lodge’s vehicle for pickup for this small distance. This way, one can save lot of money for transport.

The lodge will arrange pick up from Joberg airport, but the rates will be prohibitively expensive. Once inside the resort, book your trips with tour operators who liaise with the lodge. Give them your preference of next day’s trips (they will explain over the phone the type of trip, rate etc) & your credit card number as security, they will collect you from your chalet at the preset time & drop you back after the trip.

In my case, I have booked a jeep safari trip starting at 5.45am & ending at 12.30pm.  Carry some cloths for the cold weather. The Kruger Park Lodge is an upmarket resort with spotless cleanliness & equipped with all the necessary things required for stay.  If you want to avoid using the restaurant for all the meals, (The restaurant & office building is some distance away from your chalet) buy breakfast items, eggs etc from the supermarket which is close to the lodge, but outside the lodge & store in the fridge. The restaurant food is purely continental & provide for lunch or dinner.  Besides, beer is very cheap & is available at restaurants.  International credit cards issued from India are acceptable for payment in South Africa.

Cell phones have full range even in the remotest area since connectivity is through the satellite. So, it is advisable to carry your cell phones from India for calling anywhere in the world. (You should take a SIM card with international roaming facility to call or receive, the rates of which have come down considerably after my visit) Carry your camera, binoculars & a powerful torch for viewing animals at night like deer, hippos etc at night from your chalet.

 

Kruger Park visit can be clubbed with a visit to diamond & gold mines on your return to Johannesburg.   All purchase made in SA will be charged VAT which can be claimed back at airports of departure in the prescribed counters.

Jacob Koshi M ( Click on the photo)

National Parks

Trip to Dachigam National Park, Srinagar August 2006

Posted by Susan Sharma on February 08, 2007

 
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Trip to Dachigam National Park, Srinagar August 2006

- Susan Sharma

Just like Maharashtra has a national park right next to its capital Mumbai, Jammu and Kashmir has a national park within Srinagar, just a couple of km from the heart of Srinagar. Dachigam is famous for protecting the last few numbers of Hangul deer in the wild. Seeing a wild hangul was on top of my list when I visited Srinagar in August 2006.

August 15, Independence Day, was just a day away. The Indian Army was out patrolling, with an armed gunman at almost every 100 meters or so. Going to Dachigam meant organizing passes and special permissions, which the owner of the houseboat we stayed in gracefully organized. So we set off to see hangul and black bear both of which are famous residents of the Park. Just as we entered the park we saw a group of grey langurs, again endemic to this forest jumping about in the trees. On closer look these langurs did look different from the langurs we see in Delhi; much bigger and indeed, grey. I was happy that no one including the forest guard and the army person who accompanied us objected to my using the video camera.

Next stop was an enclosure where the forest officials had rescued a baby black bear whose mother had been killed (probably by angry villagers whose crops the bear raid often). This small fellow was trying eat rotis and drink milk provided in a pan. I could have taken a photo but did not. Somehow the idea of photographing a deprived baby black bear in a cage right inside a national park did not appeal to me. (My camera bag refused to open for the leopards caged inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai too).

Suddenly we were told to keep away all cameras as we were entering a high security zone- permission to enter this area was difficult to obtain-Mr. Chapri our host informed us. Our group consisted of my husband, son and a French couple. ALL OF US WERE CURIOUS-MAY BE WE ARE GOING TO SEE THE PROTECTED HANGUL FINALLY!

Our ‘Qualis’ entered a huge gate to reveal a beautifully maintained villa and park-the winter residence of the erstwhile Prime Ministers of India. We were told this was the private house to which Indira Gandhi retreated when she wanted privacy. The outside of the building was paneled with oak tree logs. The garden had huge trees. A very peaceful place –right inside the Dachigam National Park!

What about the hanguls we asked. The forest guard replied that one has to climb up to much higher altitudes to see them and all those areas are now out of bounds thanks to militancy. He assured us that in higher altitudes there were black bears and Himalayan Monals in plenty- but the area is infested with militants and none is allowed to go trekking.

I had seen a documentary on the demilitarized zone of South and North Korea. The film showed how the DMZ protected highly endangered deer and antelope population of those areas thanks to heavy patrolling and some awareness among the army personnel who helped feeding these animals in periods of extreme weather conditions. May be a similar miracle is happening in Dachigam too- or is that being too optimistic?

Our forest guard companion was very happy to talk about his experiences. He was a dedicated man –dedicated to saving the black bear in particular. He passionately believed that the Dachigam forest will survive only if the bear population is healthy and thriving. The forest belonged to them and then only to man he told us. We did see glimpses of gurgling streams inside. The air and water inside is pure and one will never get ill if you stay inside the forest, another Kashmiri who was working with the rainbow trout project explained.

Our next stop was the rainbow trout center. Here the trout are bred scientifically and the produce sold outside at reasonable prices-one person is allowed to buy only 2 kilos in a day. The scheme is so popular, that all the produce is sold out in a couple of hours. The trout center was well maintained. I had never seen such large trouts before. Gulmarg has a trout centre where tourists can buy coupons for fishing - again in a rationed manner- one coupon entitles you to four catches. But the rainbow trouts there were not so big.

Suddenly we were told our time inside the Park was up. We had seen all that was allowed to be seen by tourists.

I asked for some pamphlets on the Park. Our forest guard friend gave a moth eaten book produced by Sanctuary magazine for the Department of Wildlife Protection, J&K Government. It had obviously been written at a time when the Park had seen better days. I thanked him and as was happening all too often during our trip to Kashmir, my eyes filled up, this time for the beautiful animals in a beautiful park.

I could not but admire the pride and faith of the forest guard who reaffirmed my own faith that you can never subdue nature. In that sense our visit to Dachigam had a silver lining.Indian Wild Life Club

( Hangul stag by Joanna van Gruisen taken from the Sanctuary publication)

 

More photographs of nature/wildlife in Kashmir Indian Wild Life Club Female musk deer in a deer sanctuary on the way to Aaaroo Indian Wild Life Club Ghorals in the sanctuaryIndian Wild Life Club Gulmarg slopesIndian Wild Life Club Lidder River which runs through Kashmir

Note: Our trip was organized by Discovery Journeys, Gurgaon.  For customised and personalised trips/tours contact them at 


http://www.indianwildlifeclub.com/EcoTourism/Discovery-Journeys.aspx





National Parks

Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai

Posted by Susan Sharma on January 14, 2007

 
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Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai-A report

By Sushant Sharma, Member, IndianWildlifeClub.com
sushant01@hotmail.com

After reading about the plight of Borivili (East) hills, Mumbai, I decided to visit the West side of Borivili Hills whch is also known as Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The park is described as the Green Lung of Mumbai and treks and trails criss cross the park.

At the gate we were told that there is no arrangement for any kind of transport to Kanheri caves. We can walk if we wish. And walk we did. The trails along the monorail track were littered with waste and human excreta. We had to watch each step. But soon the overpowering stench was so unbearable that all we wanted to do was return to the clean air of Mumbai.

Here are some pictures of the Park which I took. They tell a story which do not need any words.

Map of SGNP taken from their official site



Houses within the national park



More houses

Next to a heap of trees cut down (by who?), the board with bird pics proclaim

"We also have a right to live and enjoy. We are few in numbers.  Please allow us to survive.  Don't destroy our habitat."

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