Jhalana : Leopard Sanctuary Inside Jaipur

If there’s one place where you are most likely to spot a leopard, it’s Jhalana Leopard Sanctuary. And it’s right inside the City of Jaipur. Jaipur is a beautiful city to travel to in its own right. With fabulous havelis, palaces, shopping opportunities, food, culture and plenty of heritage. In the middle of all of … Read more Jhalana : Leopard Sanctuary Inside Jaipur

Gir : The Land Of The Asiatic Lion

Our Gujarat Road trip peaked at Gir National Park, which is the world’s last remaining home of the critically endangered Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica). We were excited to see the jungles of Gir and made plans for stay and safari.

So, onward we drove from Velavadar Blackbuck National Park towards Sasan Gir. The journey was excellent in parts, passing through beautiful cotton farms. In Sasan Gir, we had booked ourselves at the Maneland Jungle Lodge. The last part passed through a dense forest trail and it was getting dark. We were worried of being stuck in the forest at night, without a proper pucca trail. Finally the trail connected to another tarred road leading to our hotel, which we discovered wasn’t as comfortable as we hoped. The hotel campus is spacious and nice, but the rooms aren’t (we went in March 2014) clean or comfortable. The property is made of cottages with a central kitchen , but there is no intercom, so if you wanted tea in your room, you would have to walk across the property to the kitchen. In the mornings they burnt forest wood to heat the water which made me feel sick, plus also filled our room with smoke. The food was good though.

Next morning, since we hadn’t pre-booked a safari online, we had to stand in the queue at the booking office, Sasan Gir. It wasn’t as painful as the touts kept telling us. One tout even on the sly offered to take us inside the forest in our own car, something which is prohibited. Of course we didn’t accept!

The moment we entered the jungle, we saw a lone, large male Lion sitting in the path. We were so emotionally un-prepared to see him first thing in the forest, that it took a while for the impact to settle in. After this, we didn’t have any other lion sightings, but the forest was so beautiful and full of so many beautiful birds, animals and trees, we forgot all about the lion. However, with only two safaris and not a great stay experience, we feel our Gir trip was incomplete. We are coming back for sure!

About The Safari: You can book it online (Best) or book it at the forest safari service in Sasan Gir. it’s easy and affordable and don’t fall for the touts.

About the stay: We didn’t have a good experience with our place of stay. So don’t really have any recommendations right now.

 

The forest trail that took us towards a road on which our hotel resided.
The forest trail that took us towards a road on which our hotel resided.

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Todgarh Raoli Wildlife Sanctuary

The drive to Todgarh Raoli Wildlife Sanctuary was like a Safari in itself, passing through amazing Aravalli Hills, dry scrub land, degraded hill slopes and many a hairpin bend. At the village Todgarh, we called Gopal Ji, the caretaker at the forest rest house, to check what was cooked for dinner. He didn’t have much, … Read more Todgarh Raoli Wildlife Sanctuary

Lopping : Slowly Destroying the Ecology

Lopping is the cutting away of the branches of a tree. It’s heavily practiced by the pastoral communities of India, to the point where it has become extremely detrimental to the ecology and is killing many a tree species.

The pastoralist, with climbs a tree and starst chopping off the branches indiscriminately.

“Brutal lopping, year after year, has actually ended up preventing trees from flowering and fruiting, which leads to their premature death”, says Dr Bivash Pandav, in Sanctuary Asia magazine. Without branches, flowers and fruits, many species of insects, birds and mammals will also lose their habitat.

I was first exposed to the concept of lopping by Dr Pandav around the Rajaji National Park area. I thought it was prevalent only amongst the Gujjars of that area. But the more I travel, the more widespread I find this unsustainable practice, which is destroying crucial habitats.

“…an area roughly the size of South America is used for crop production, while even more land—7.9 to 8.9 billion acres (3.2 to 3.6 billion hectares)—is being used to raise livestock.” (Source: National Geographic). In an over populated country like India, with billions to feed, how does crop production compete with livestock, while being environementally safe as well?

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Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary

Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary in Thane district, Maharashtra, is only some 85km or so from Mumbai.  It forms the catchment area around lake Tansa, which supplies much of Mumbai’s water. The sanctuary is almost three times the size of Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali, Mumbai, but much lesser known, and seems to have much less wildlife. “There are atleast 54 species of animals and 200 species of birds do exist in the sanctuary. Major wild animals are Panther, Barking deer, Mouse deer, Hyena, Wild boar etc.”

I didn’t go inside the sanctuary, but in the peripheral villages, spent a morning photographing wildflowers, butterflies, and the odd reptile. This was early October 2013, right after the rains.

There is practically no place here to eat. So carry your snacks and water. If you like, try and carry your tea/coffee as well.

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Indian Garden Lizard (Callotes versicolor)

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Jambughoda Palace and Wildlife Sanctuary : A Serene Experience

On our way back from Velavadar to Mumbai, we were looking for a stop-over. And we found the enchanting  Jambughoda Palace at the Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary. The drive from Velavadar to Jambughoda was mostly ok, with the exception of a detour we made to visit the Vadhvana Wetlands. By the time we left, it was late and we … Read more Jambughoda Palace and Wildlife Sanctuary : A Serene Experience

Pench National Park, Maharashtra: A Beautiful and Serene Experience

If you want to visit a serene forest, as forests should be, you must visit Pench National Park, Maharashtra.

Pench is a beautiful jungle, and the poet Kalidas wrote about the scenic beauty of these forests in his epics ‘Meghdootam’ and ‘Shakuntalam’.R.A. Strendale’s ‘Camp in the Satpura Hills’ draws a vivid pen picture of this idyllic paradise – as does Forsyth’s ‘Highlands of Central India’.

Pench National Park is divided between Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. We visited the Maharashtra side, and were delighted by the quaintness, and low commercialisation. There weren’t many resorts (thankfully, at least when we visited in 2010), and tourists were also few. The forest department ran only about 21 Jeep Safaris at a time. Although we didn’t have a tiger sighting, we did enjoy the forest drives, and we managed to see the Jackal, the Fox and the Wolf, apart from many birds, mammals and ungulates. From the Maharashtra side, the entry to Pench is through the Sillari Gate.

We had an extremely basic stay at the Forest Rest House. The canteen was a few meters away from the rooms, and there was no room service. At night, the walk from the rooms to the canteen was in pitch darkness. There was a Tiger Interpretation Centre which was a very commendable attempt at telling us about the secret life of a Tiger.

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A beautiful morning at Pench.

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