Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Masinagudi, poorer cousin of Mudumalai

   When we visited Mudumalai some years back, we were quite impressed with the animal sightings. So we decided to visit Mudumalai once more, but then the drastic thing happened.Because of a forest fire a good portion of Mudumalai was burnt and the forest was closed for visitors indefinitely for some time.

So we thought and thought and finally decided going to Masinagudi because of its close proximity to Mudumalai. We booked a single night package at a resort called Secret Ivory. The resort was nothing great but was sort of reasonable as far as the price was concerned. The resort location is good and one can have a nice view of the Nilgiri range from the resort itself. Food  is also sort of okay and the price needs to be paid extra.


Langoor
We booked two jeep safaris, one in the evening and the other the next day early morning.We requested the resort to arrange the safaris for us.The jeep safaris are quite cheap, you can book the full jeep for 2 hours at Rs 1500. If you book the jeep all by yourself and not through any resort or hotel then you can go for some haggling. There are plenty of jeeps just outside the Masinagudi forest area which anyone can book.


So called jungle track of core area

The jeep driver told us that the jeep safari will take us to the core of the jungle. We were impressed but very soon we realized he was bluffing. There were tar roads leading to a functional temple in the core forest. How is that possible ?? We have been to some of the best national parks in the country and nowhere the jungle tracks had tar roads. We roamed till it was dark and did not spot anything except a few spotted deer. Feeling our frustration the driver suddenly told us "You guys are so lucky...see there is a big nilgiri gaur standing under the tree". Since it was all dark we could not see anything, the only thing we saw was a big structure standing still.


Hoopoe

Peacock

The next morning we were ready for our safari at 6 but to our dismay there was no jeep or driver.We wasted almost 45 minutes when finally a jeep was arranged. The track was the same as that of the previous day. Morning safari was better that the last one. We saw some deer, a herd of elephant,peacock and a chamelion. Next the driver took us to the same spot where the previous day driver spotted the stationary nilgiri gaur. We were so much embarred to find that the nilgiri gaur was in fact an ant hill.
 Not able to spot anything is fine, we all understand that animal spotting in the wild is luck but telling lies is so awfully disgusting...


Herd of Elephants

Colorful garden lizard

Mother and Child Monkey


 In my opinion Mudumalai, Bandipur, Nagarhole are far better places to see wild life. The part of Masinagudi where Secret Ivory is located is not a national park at all. The resorts and local jeep drivers try to create a hype in order to get tourists......else how come the so called core area of the forest have motorable tracks, a functional temple where people get down from their jeeps to visit, no forest check post,no limit on the number of jeep safaris and also no government forest safari?

 Anyway I am not going there next time, I have better places to visit. 


Langoor, taken at the resort at night

The Nilgirs in the backdrop

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Gujarat, winding up our Gujarat trip

Since I have written so many blog posts on the different places we visited during our 9 day Gujarat tour, I thought why not consolidate all my Gujarat posts in one place.
Both of us at work
 We visited Gujarat during winter when the weather is pleasant and also the chances of spotting birds is very high.

 Our tour itinerary was something like this:

 We reached Bhopal from Bangalore and spent a day there. In Bhopal, we visited Sanchi and Bhimbetka. Sanchi is famous for its Buddhist stupa and Bhimbetka for its pre-historic rock paintings. Both the sites are UNESCO World Heritage sites.


Sanchi Stupa
Cave painting at Bhimbetka


 Sanchi Blog :  http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2014/02/sanchi-in-search-of-stupas.html
 Bhimbetka Blog :  http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2014/02/bhimbetka-prehistoric-rock-shelters.html

 We stayed at :
 Hotel Kamal Regency (opposite platform no 1,Main Railway Station,Bhopal)
 Ph : 0755-4042400/1/2/3              
 Phone booking is available              
 The hotel has location advantage but does not provide absolute value for money              
 The veg biriyani, that their restaurant provides, is fabulous.


 Our Driver: Yogesh Ph : 09893133429 Very good driver


 From Bhopal we took a bus to Ahmedabad. From here our Gujarat tour started.

 In Ahmedabad we did the local sight seeing and then headed for Velavadar visiting Nal Sarovar and Lothal on the way. Nal Sarovar is an ideal place for spotting flamingoes and Lothal is one of the few sites of the ancient Harappan civilization in India.

 We stayed at:
 Hotel Silver Plaza
 2nd Floor ,Devnandan Mall
 Opposite Sanyas Ashram
 Near M.J Library, Ellis Bridge
 Ahmedabad- 380006

 Ph - 26584030

 Good hotel and good location


Jama Masjid at Ahmedabad

Lothal

Flamingos at Nal Sarovar

 Ahmedabad Blog : http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2014/03/ahmedabad-city-full-of-warm-hearted.html
                    
 Nal Sarovar Blog :  http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2014/03/nal-sarovar-birding-paradise-close-to.html
 Lothal  Blog:  http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2014/03/lothal-site-of-indus-valley.html

 In Velavadar we had two safaris and were lucky to see numerous black bucks, nilgais, harrier, flamingoes, two hyenas and an alpha male wolf.

 We stayed at:
 Velavadar National Park (Blackbuck National Park)
 Accommodation: Forest Rest House
 Contact: 0278 2880342 / 0278 2920222 / 0278 2426425

 Nice location,located inside the National Park.
 Reasonably priced, basic facilities provided
 Must order your lunch by 11 PM over phone if you are reaching late.


Wolf, alpha male, at Velavadar

Hyena, Velavadar
 Velavadar Blog : http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2014/04/velavadar-blackbuck-hyena-wolf.html

 Our next stop from Velavadar was the world famous Gir National Park in Sasan Gir. It is the last home of the Asiatic lion. We were extremely lucky to witness two young lion brothers hunt and tear down a nilgai.

 We stayed at :
 I cant recall the name of the hotel.
 Sinh Sadan is the best place to stay in Gir


One of the two young brothers at Gir

 Gir Blog : http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2014/05/gir-king-and-we.html

 From Gir we headed for Little Rann of Kutch(LRK). LRK with its unique landscape was truely enchanting. After spending a full day at LRK to headed back to Ahmedabad and took our flight back to Bangalore.


Flamingos during Sun rise

Bhavna Resort

Bhavna Resort



LRK Blog: http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2014/05/kutch-kutch-nahi-dekha-to-kuuch-nahi.html

 We stayed at :
 Bhavna Resort & Farm
 Dasada Road, Patdi, Surendranagar 382 765
 Gujarat, India

 Phone: +91 94272 16059, +91 94272 16069
 http://bhavnafarm.com/contact.html
 Email: bhavnafarm@gmail.com


 Gujarat is simply aweeesome....and as I have already said in my earlier blogs, people are absolutely great in Gujarat. So what are you waiting for??.....now that I have given you all the details, get set goooooo!!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Kutch, "Kutch nahi dekha to kuuch nahi dekha"

As avid travelers we were aware of the unique landscape that Kutch has to offer, so we kept Kutch in our itinerary. Kutch was the last destination that we intended to visit in this Gujarat trip.


Sunrise shot of a flock of Flamingo
  From Gir we went back to Ahmedabad. We had already booked our stay with Bhavana Resorts and Farms(http://bhavnafarm.com/index.html) in Little Runn of Kutch which is about 90 km from Ahmedabad.

  There are two Ranns of Kutch, the Greater Rann of Kutch(GRK) and the lesser Rann of Kutch(LRK). The advertisement in which you see Mr Bachchan walking on the silvery white land under a full moon is shot in GRK(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PHfcd9AZ6s). GRK is famous for the stunning white ground that looks out of the world on full moon nights. A lot of birders also flock to GRK since a variety of birds and small land predators are found there. The Rann Utsav is held every year in GRK.


  The LRK on the other hand, is closer to Ahmedabad and is famous for its Indian wild asses and water birds. Since we were more eager for wild Indian asses we decided for LRK.

  Our package at Bhavana included two safaris, the evening safari(on the same day) and the morning safari (the next day). The resort is very beautiful. There are nice cottages each with its open front balcony and a swing. The outer walls of the cottages are plastered with mud and decorated with mirrors and painting to give them a bucolic look.

  Our dedicated driver for both the safaris was Ali Bhai. He is someone extremely patient and knowledgeable about the birds and their habitats. He can be reached at 9427456592.

  In the evening safari Ali bhai first took us to a salt factory. We saw heaps of unprocessed salt outside the factories. They look like big grey crystals. We were taken inside a factory where we saw salt processing and packaging.


Salt Factory

Salt Crystals

Huge heaps of salt
  From there we were taken to the Rann. We saw a few water bodies mostly dried up because of the dry months, but were full with birds and ducks. There were flocks of flamingos and cranes. We took some photos but did not wait much, anyway the next day safari was for bird sighting. Today we must not miss the wild asses.


Wild Ass


  On reaching the Rann we were taken to a barren place where you can see miles in the distance and there is not much vegetation nearby. The earth is parch and barren with beautiful crack patterns on them.There we saw about twenty wild asses. The beautiful creatures were simply standing and doing nothing. We moved a little closer to them but they still remained stationary.
We stayed and clicked them for almost an hour. Then Ali told us that he will take us to some place to see the sunset.


Taking eye level shot of the Wild Asses
  He took us to a place called sunset point. There was already over a hundred people who had come to see the sunset. Since Ali understood that we are very much interested in taking perfect sunset clicks so he stopped the car a little further from the crowd where there was no people. We fixed our cameras on tripods and waited for the sun to get down.

  The sunset was really beautiful. The sun looked like a huge red egg yolk and slowly it sank below the horizon. The texture of the earth, the colour of the sky and the huge red sun gave us some outstanding shots.


Sunset

Sunset

  After witnessing the sunset we got into our car and headed back to our resort. The temperature dropped drastically and it was so cold. Luckily for us, Ali told us to carry jackets and mufflers at the time we stepped out for the safari. In LRK the day is hot and the nights very cold.


During Sunset

Star Trail at LRK
  The next day we headed for the birds. At our resort gate we saw two colourful indian rollers. Then we saw some francolins running on the fields on either sides of the road. Ali bhai took us to a large water body and told us to wait. The sun still has not come out and we were waiting in our car. Within five minutes we saw a huge flock of flamingos descend before us. There were at-least two hundred of them.


Indian Roller
  Both me and Ankur were moving very systematically towards them, we were taking a few shots and them moving a few feet towards them so that even if the birds fly away we will still get some progressive close up shots. We came very near to the periphery of the water and at a very short distance from the birds. The birds also took us for granted and did not move away when all of a sudden three naughty dogs came from nowhere. They just came with the sole intention of scaring away the birds and deriving pleasure from there. They just did that and went away. I feel they do this quite regularly and it is one of their favorite plays. Sadly for us the birds were gone.


Flock of Rosy Pelicans

Greater Flamingo
  Ali bhai took us to another place. There were birds; but they were very far away. So again he took us to a different water body. Here we got some different birds. We saw a big imperial eagle at a distance, sarus cranes, northern pintails, stilts, ibis and ducks. We also saw a beatiful brown shoulder kite.

  But we were still not happy. We still need pelicans and flamingos. Though we have already photographed flamingos at Nal sarovar but what about the rosy and dalmatian pelicans? Sensing this, Ali bhai took it as challenge. He told us that he will take us to another spot a little far where people mostly don't go and try to see if anything is there.

  On reaching there we understood why people mostly do not go there. There are two connected water bodies guarded by thorny bushes! We cautiously made our way through the bushes and then what we saw was a pelican and flamingo paradise. There was a thin channel of water that was connecting both the water bodies and we decided that we will cross it over to get as much close to the pelicans.


Rosy Pelican

Flock of Rosy Pelican

Flock of Rosy Pelican

Crane

Saras Crane


 Both of us held our hands tight, each supporting the other. Soon I realized that the depth of the water is not very less, its at half foot lesser to my waist. Moreover the clay was sticky and slippery. I almost toppled but luckily managed to save myself and the camera.

  The effort payed off well. Since the birds do not find much disturbance here they were not intimated by us and we got some satisfactory shots. We again crossed the water channel and the bushes. Both of us were half covered in mud clay. Our sneakers were oozing mud water in every step that we took, but luckily Ali was carrying a big can of water. We did some initial cleaning and got on our open jeep.

  Every child in the village will wave at you if they understand you are a tourist. Such incredible warmth and such an incredible place. We are sure we will come back to Gujarat again and again.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Gir, The King and We

  Gir will always always always be special for us..........well when the King meets you, its always special!


The King

  We left Velavadar at 10 AM and started our journey for Gir. Gir, which is now the last home for the Asiatic Lion is around 210 km from Velavadar. We reached Gir at around 5 PM, a little late because of the numerous halts in between.

  There are numerous hotels all lined on the road, mostly opposite the main entrance of Gir National Park. We checked in one such hotel. I do not remember the name but the hotel was new and the staff  friendly. We had an early dinner and went to bed as we did not have much to do on that day. Our safari was on the next day.

  Three safaris are held everyday. The slots are like 6AM-9AM, 9AM-12PM and 3PM-6PM. The early morning and the evening safaris are the best as the chances of seeing the magnificent beast is good. However, I booked the 9AM-12PM safari slot.

  I had already brought the e-permit from http://girlion.in/. Without the e-permit, no safari ticket is issued. In case you do not buy the e-permit online, it is advisable that you check with your hotel or travel agent from before hand as the permits are limited and get exhausted very fast.

 In case you have brought the permits online, then at the time of purchasing safari tickets you must have your permit document, id proof and off course money.

  The cost of e-permit is Rs 200 per person, jeep cost is Rs 1200, guide charges is Rs 200 and any camera above 7 MP is charged Rs 100.

  We got on a jeep. There was a driver and a guide and luckily both were very good and outstandingly superb spotters. There are total 7 tracks in Gir and every jeep is randomly assigned a track. We were assigned to track 2.

  For the first 30 minutes we saw nothing, not even a single crow. I started whining to myself that why the hell I booked this 9AM-12PM slot. All the animals must have gone inside the jungle away from the dusty tracks. Just then our jeep screeched and halted. It drove half meter back.......our guide pointed to some pug marks.....yes there were fresh pug marks on the dust. Our guide told us that the pug marks are that of a lioness.


Pug Mark

  The heat was increasing and so was our anticipation, but still no lions anywhere. Next we saw some playful monkeys. Our guide got down from the jeep and picked up a plastic garbage. Some utterly insensible tourist must have thrown the plastic container during his or her safari after munching on potato chips so that some animals can later fall victim. I have a sincere request to all my readers here... I know you guys are responsible tourists, but in case, if you find anyone littering any place(specially national parks) please stop them immediately. I myself have done this many times and have reminded the litter makers to kindly use the great invention called "dust bins".

  Next were some peacocks and peahens. There was at least 15 to 20 in the group. Our jeep came close to a water hole. Though there was no lion but there were several deer and two brightly colored king-fishers. We also saw a huge flock of plum headed parakeets nibbling on some fruit on a branch above us.


Laughing Dove

Peocock

White throated Kingfisher

Plum headed parakeet
  Our guide pointed his finger to a bush. The bush was golden yellow as the leaves have dried because of the scorching sun. At first I could not see anything. Our guide told us that there are two golden jackals resting. Everything was so well camouflaged, I wonder how he could spot. Anyway finally with a lot of help from Ankur and our guide I also spotted the two jackals.


Record shot: Jackal
  We also saw a pair of painted francolin. They were moving very fast but somehow I managed a click just for records.


Francolin
  Almost an hour and half had passed but still no lion. I was praying hard, that even if we do not get to see a lion at least a lioness will do.But still nothing came our way. We were instantly cheered up when our guide directed our attention towards two very cute half sleep spotted owlets peeping from a hole from the trunk of a dead tree. We took some lovely photos of the super cute 
owlets.


Spotted Owlet

Spotted Owlet
Then something happened.....and that is history.
Another driver who was coming from the opposite direction to us told our driver that some 5 km ahead there can be a chance of seeing a lion. Our driver hurried. When we reached the spot there was another vehicle standing. They had already spotted a lion!! Our jeep stood there and then wonders unfurled before us. There were two male lions and they hunted a nilgai right before our eyes. For us TIME STOPPED.

  All while I was praying to see a lion or even a lioness and now there are TWO lions in front of us tearing down a whole live nilgai. Our guide told us that the two males are biological brothers otherwise two lions generally do not stay together. He instructed us not to move, make any noise or take any photos till the hunt was over. The reason is if the lions do not hunt down the nilgai, the lions will go hungry and the nilgai will also die from injuries. Safeguarding the welfare of these endangered species who have made Gir their last resort is the foremost concern of our dutiful guide.

  But I am sure that even if he had not told us, not to click photos we wouldn't have. We were so much jaw dropped with surprise that we forgot our cameras and were totally transfixed with what happening in front of us. After a few minutes when our guide told me "Madam now you may take photos" we came back to this mortal world and took some great snaps.


Lion tearing down the nilgai

Lion tearing down the nilgai

 We still had half an hour of safari left when our driver wanted to know whether we want to roam or come out of the national park. We told him that we are good to come out of Gir NP. We thanked our wonderful guide and driver, the magnificent Gir NP and Gujarat and also our luck that day. We really captured some great moments in our minds and in our cameras. Slot  9AM-12PM was not bad :)


The King. The Lion

The Lion

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