Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Salim Ali

SALIM ALI – the ornathologists haven

Prime Attraction: The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

Salim Ali at a glance

For those with a avifauna fixation, Salim Ali – the person and the place – both need no introduction. Named after the renowned ornithologist, S├ílim Moizuddin Abdul Ali (1896-1987), the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary or the locally known Thattekad Sanctuary is a invaluable treasure of the Western Ghats, located in Ernakulam district of Kerala. Edging it is the glorious Periyar river, the same waterbody wherein the tigers of the Periyar Tiger Reserve come to quench their thirst.

Wildlife Adventure in Salim Ali

The ‘Birdman of India’, Salim Ali once described this place “the richest bird habitat in peninsular India”. The Thattekad Sanctuary, with an area of 25.16 sq km was established in 1983. Its mangrove swamps form an ideal hostage to a phenomenal avifauna population consisting of around 250 rare species which includes the Indian Swiftlet, Malabar Grey-Hornbill, Hawk-Eagle, Oriental Darter, Grey Heron, Bubo bubo Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Eurostopodus macrotis Great Eared-Nightjar, Celeus brachyurus Rufous Woodpecker, Snipe and so on.

The mammalian denizens include elephant, sambar, barking deer, bonnet macaques, giant squirrels, Travancore flying squirrel and the snakes foundhere are Indian rock python, the Russell’s viper and saw-scaled viper.

Reaching Salim Ali

The sanctuary is 13 km north-east of Kothamangalam along the Pooyamkutti road. The nearest railway station is Aluva at a distance of 48 km. Kochi, the nearest airport is 71 km away. Kothamangalam is well connected by privately operated buses to Ernakulam via Muvattupuzha or Perumbavoor. There are frequent buses from Kothamangalam to Thattekad.

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Accommodation optionsThere is a three storied watch tower inside the Sanctuary with two beds, a toilet and a kitchen. No electricity here but there is are a few solar powered lamps. A forest department inspection bungalow called Hornbill is located near the sanctuary entrance. There is a dormitory just inside the sanctuary which is ideal for large groups. Accommodation is also available at the PWD rest house near the Bhoothathankett Dam and in lodges in Kothamangalam.



Prime Attraction: Water Bird Sanctuary famous for the Siberian Cranes

Kumarakom at a glance

On the shores of the serene Vembanad lake, in the south Indian state of Kerala, lies the sleepy village of Kumarakom – an erstwhile rubber plantation turned bird sanctuary and a favorite vacationing joint for tourists across the nation and abroad. Backwater cruising and fishing expeditions on the Vembanad lake take you meandering into the rich camouflage of its avian denizens. The cluster of little islands with their mangrove forests, coconut canopies and billowing paddy fields streamed with enchanting waterways and canals, make Kumarakom an ideal holiday retreat for nature lovers and ornithologists alike.

Wildlife Adventure in Kumarakom

Spread in an area of 14 acre, the Kumarakom bird sanctuary is lies on the eastern banks of the Vembanad lake. Cruising along the Vembanad Lake one can get glimpses of the numerous domestic birds like cuckoo, wild duck, egrets, darters, herons, teal, and waterfowl as well as migratory birds like the Siberian cranes.

Kumarakom Sanctuary offers boating trips on the picturesque Vembanad lake by the traditional houseboats, Kettuvalloms. A boat trip is the best way to observe the rich bird life of this region. Also one can enjoy fishing facilities at the lake of the sanctuary. Motor boats are also available for bird watching cruises.
Reaching Kumarakom

Kottayam is 14 kms from Kumarakom and both State highway and National Highway connects it with the rest of the country. The nearest Airport is The Cochin International Airport which is 70 kms. away from the Muhamma boat jetty. The nearest Railway station is at Kottayam and regular local and Express trains connect the city with rest of India.

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Backwater Cruise: In Kumarakom the boat races, backwater cruise, canoeing and fishing are tourist favorites. A stay at the houseboat or Kettuvallom can be an exciting experience. Cruising through the unending miles of serpentine waterways flanked on either sides by the palm trees feels almost paradisiacal.
Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls: A small drive from Kottayam town will bring you to this gurgling stream that thunders down from the 100 ft high mountains. Don’t forget to get yourself photographed standing amidst the picturesque rubber plantations that surround this place.

Alleppey: Alappuzha or Alleppey, often labelled as 'The Venice of the East' is a romantic coastal town strewn with labyrinth of canals, bridges and silver beaches making it one of the most vacationed destinations in India. Try drop in during the Nehru Trophy Boat Racing season when 130ft long snake boats having 100 rowers, 4 helmsmen and 25 cheerleaders and thousands of onlookers rejuvenate the entire locality.

Accommodation options

The accommodation available ranges from luxury to budget category. Set amidst luring surroundings, the hotels of Kumarakom offer excellent facilities and services. The Kumarakom Tourist Complex, sprawling over 101 acres of enchanting wooded land and lake can be an ideal option. Other options can be the Kumarakom Lake Resort, Water Scapes, Whispering Palms, Garden Retreat.


Prime Attraction: The Biligirirangan Hills Wildlife Sanctuary with its Asiatic elephants, Indian Gaur, Chousingha (four-horned antelope)

BR Hills at a glance

The Biligiri Rangaswamy Hills, abbreviated commonly as the BR Hills, is situated at a height of 5,091 feet in Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka (India) edging the State of Tamil Nadu. The Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (BRT), named after the famous BR Temple in its vicinity, acts like a geographic corridor bridging the Eastern and the Western Ghats. The sanctuary derives its name ‘Biligiri’, either from the white rocks that constitute the major hill crowned with the Temple, or from the misty white clouds that cast a cascade over the hills all year round making it one of the most picturesque wildlife abode. These are the forests where the much fabled Tamil bandit Veerappan once ruled.

Wildlife Adventure in BR Hills

Lying in the Nilgiri biosphere, the 540 sq. kms spread of scrub, dry and moist deciduous, evergreen forests with high-altitude grasslands, make a paragon home to a wide range of wildlife, including endemic species of plants of medicinal importance. Biogeographically, its unique topography facilitates a exchange of gene pool of the vast diversity of wildlife between the Eastern and the Western Ghats, especially true in the case of the Asaitic elephants, that populate this area in large numbers. The 26 mammal species in BR Hills include sambhar, chital, barking deer, the rare four-horned antelope, tigers, leopards, wild dogs, lesser cats and sloth bears and among arboreal mammals two species of primates and three species of squirrels including the giant flying squirrel are recorded.

About 278 species of birds ranging from the massive Egyptian vulture to the tiny purple-rumped sunbird, 22 species of reptiles including the rock python and the minuscule pond terrapin, an amazing variety of 116 species of Butterfiles and 48 species of Ants are recorded in therse forests.

The park can be toured in a jeep or atop an elephant. Professional angling, amateur fishing, coracle boat rides, bird watching, river rafting, trekking, outdoor camping and a host of adventurous activities will abound your vacation in BR Hills. The BR Hills Wildlife sanctuary is open throughout the year. Best time to sight wildlife is June to October when the animals come out for water.

Reaching BR Hills
The area is 90 km from Mysore and 180 km from Bangalore. It is connected by road, one from Yelandur and the other via Chamarajanagar. The nearest airport and railhead is at Bangalore.

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Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple: The temple is situated on the 'white cliff' which gives the hill its name. The deity is a standing form of Ranganatha, and is probably the only place one can see Ranganatha in the standing form. You can join in the flock of pilgrims who come to the wonderful Ratha festival every April. Right behind the temple is a spine-chilling 1000-ft drop into the dense forests protected by iron raillings.

Boodipadaga: Nestled in the heart of the sanctuary is an erstwhile forest residence of the Mysore rulers. Now turned into a Forest Department Inspection Bunglow, this is the place where the forest brigand Veerappan was imprisoned for a brief period in 1986 and where the wildest of the wild can be seen prowling around.

Soliga Tribe: The entire forest regions of Yelandur, Chamrajanagar and Kollegal, including the hilly tracts and foothills of Biligiri Ranga and Male Mahadeshwara in the southern part of Karnataka, are inhabited by nearly twenty thousand Soliga tribal people. Meeting these nature worshippers and hearing from them the mysterious lores of the BR Hills can be an enticing experience.

Accommodation options

Furnished tents and ethnic huts, with attached modern toilet facilities, lit by hurricane lamps are available for tourists. The Maharaja's Bungalow can be an ideal lodge for the luxury lovers. There is a bar and multi-cuisine dining at the open-sided Gol Ghar restaurant.


DANDELI – mysterious Kali meanders

Prime Attraction: Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary with its black panthers and ‘friendly’ Crocs

Dandeli at a glance

An overnight journey by the road from Bangalore will bring you here to Dandeli – the home to the most mysterious of wild cats, the Black Panther. With a spread of about 450 sq km, Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is reputed to be India’oldest game reserve and the second largest in Karnataka state. The mighty Kali river with its tributeries meandering through the plush green moist deciduous forests, the undulating terrain, swaying bamboo thickets that shelters a legion of wildlife, the sylvan surroundings and trekking tracts make Dandeli an unparalled vacationing paradise.

Wildlife Adventure in Dandeli

The impenetrable wilderness of Dandeli offers very bleak chances of spotting wildlife. The forests can be best explored in jeeps, strolling around in groups, bird watching or crocodile sighting trips, fishing, boat cruises, river rafting and trekking expeditions. Leaving the months of monsoon, it is an ideal picnicking spot all round the year.

Cloistered in the thick forests are some of the best of wildlife attractions like the barking, spotted and mouse deer, sloth bear, panther, tiger, gaur, elephant, wild dog, civet cat, bison, jackal, langur and giant flying squirrel, besides a variety of colourful birds and reptiles. You will need a lot of luck to spot the elusive Black panther prowling in the jungles. But before you get time to regret, you will be swept over by the sight of hundreds of crocodiles surrounding your coracle as you cruise through the Kali. You can safely sideline the fear-factor and relish the adrenalin-rushing spectacle, as for the Dandelian crocodiles we humans aren’t the potential fodder, but the waste pulp of the West Coast Paper Mill that are released into the waters of Kali since the 1950s.
Avifauna can be seen in abundance near the water bodies and includes varieties like magpie robin, cormorants, kingfisher, egrets, hornbills, golden backed woodpecker, crested serpent eagle and a large variety of other birds.

Reaching Dandeli
Dandeli is 485 km from Bangalore, 125 km from Goa and 75 km from Hubli. Nearest airport at Belgaum is about 2 hrs away. Nearest railhead is 52 km away at Dharwad. Luxury buses run overnight from Bangalore and reach Dandeli in about 11 hrs.
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Syntheri rocks: 35 km from Dandeli National Park is Syntheri rocks, awesome monolithic granite structure amidst thick forest, with the perennial river Kaneri flowing by its side.

White Water Rafting: Kali Wilderness Camp for white water rafting and other adventure activities.
The Gowlis: A stroll into the nearby areas of Tavaragatti (24 km) and Kalbhavi (13 km)will bring you to the Gowlis, tribe of graziers. Their houses with no doors, cooking in baked mud pots and sharing their dwelling with their cattles can be in interesting tribal life study.
Anshi National Park: Also located on the banks of river Kali, which, together with the Dandeli National Park, form the Dandeli Wildlife Division of the Karnataka Forest Department. Go there if luck didn’t favor a glimpse of the elusive black panther at Dandeli.

Accommodation options
A stay at the Kali Wilderness camp, located on the banks of River Kali, can be an excellent option. Two wildlife sanctuaries can be accessed from here, namely, the Anshi National Park and Dandeli wildlife Sanctuary. A host of other high and low-budget camps and resorts are there to choose from.

PERIYAR –cruising in the paradise

Prime Attraction: Periyar National Park with its rare Tuskers, Tigers, Nilgiri Tahr and Nilgiri Langur.

Periyar at a glance

Periyar is a 350 sq km cruising paradise nestled in the Western Ghats, in Kerala (India). Famous for its National Park which is locally called Thekkady, Periyar or the Big River, is laced with a long lake that meanders around the contours of the moist deciduous hills, providing a perennial source of water for the local wildlife. An ancient lore goes that when a mighty tusker got killed at the hands of a Britisher, the erstwhile king of Travancore was so saddened that he immediately extended protection to the denizens of the forest. In 1982, the core area was declared a National Park and recently, in 2004, conservation efforts were further cemented with the formation of the Periyar Foundation – a joint crusade of the park administration and the locals.

Wildlife Adventure in Periyar

A boating cruise takes you right into the heart of the Periyar sanctuary with its inexhaustible treasure of flora and fauna. During the dry periods, generally in March and April, herds of playful wild elephants make Periyar Lake their favourite haunt for frolicking in the water. Sights of sambar, gaur and wild pigs alongside, make a truly refreshening vista. And if you suddenly find the air reverberate with alarming calls of the langur and the peafowl, indications are that a tiger is prowling close-by a quiet wait will be worthwhile. However, spotting the tigers and the Nilgiri tahrs (a kind of a wild goat) are a rarity that demands lot of luck and excellent timing. Periyar also harbors the leopard, wild dog, barking deer and mouse deer, Nilgiri langur (a primate), bonnet macaque, sambhar, porcupines, squirrels, gaur (Indian bison), wild boar, and sloth bear. On the rocky outcrops along the lake, monitor lizards can be seen basking in the sun. Visitors who trek into the Park often see a python and sometimes even a king cobra.

Some 260 species of birds are recorded in Periyar. These include darters, cormorants, ibises, grey herons, mynas, flycatchers, orioles, wood pigeons, kingfishers, kites, ospreys, thrushes, and an appreciable number of blue-winged parakeets. The endangered macaque monkey is also a special attraction here.

Besides, Periyar is one of its kind that offers you the liberty of sauntering around in small groups accompanied by a forest guide. Elephant and jeep safaris and even biking, can be enriching experiences. You can also join the jungle’s patrol team and know the conservation processes at work. Besides, lectures on wildlife preservation are organized regularly at the park and these can be of help in understanding the wild creatures and their environment.

The best time to visit Periyar is from October to June when most of the wild animals can be sighted near the lake shore.

Reaching Periyar

The nearest airports from Periyar are Kochi (Cochin) at 200-kms or Madurai in Tamil Nadu at 140-kms from Periyar. The nearest railhead is at Kottayam at a distance of 114-kms. The nearest town from Periyar is Kumily, well connected with Kottayam, Ernakulam and Madurai in Tamil Nadu by regular and frequent buses.

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Trekking: Apart from the boat cruises, the adventurous ones can go for trekking expeditions, camps and bamboo rafting in the Periyar forests. Treks to the Mangla Devi temple promises undulating fun.

Bullock Cart fun: How about exploring the nearby villages of the Mannans – one of the oldest group to inhabit the forests – in a bullock cart? Sounds exciting surely! Once there don’t miss out the Tribal Heritage Museum there.

Mangala Devi temple: to the temple of Mangla Devi – an ancient stone temple amidst the Thekkady forest promises undulating fun.

Kumily : Just 4-kms away from Periyar is a famous spice trade centre – Kumily.

Cardamom Hills : Kerala's picturesque and beautiful Cardamom hills can be easily accessed from Periyar and Kumily.

Lectures on wildlife preservation are organized regularly at the park and these can be of help in understanding the wild creatures and their environment. Late afternoon is just right for another walk down the lakeside. The evening walk along the lake is always tinged with forebodings of danger combined with exhilaration at being in such a beautiful place.
Accommodation options

Ever thought about spending a night in huts made of bamboo and grass, perched right innthe jungle? Periyar has an eco-friendly area where such cottages abound. Thekkady, otherwise has a wide range of hotels to choose from. Taj Garden Retreat can be a comfortable solace for luxury-lovers. In Kumily are plenty opportunities for accommodation in the hotels and resorts in the town

Gir Sanctuary

GIR – the King of the Jungle rules....

Prime Attraction: The Gir National Park with its Asiatic Lions, Leopards, marsh Crocodiles and Birds

Gir at a glance

The forests of Gir are perched in the low and excellently irrigated hills of the Junagadh district of Gujarat, India. This rugged terrain, spread over an area of about 1412.13 sq km, is the celebrated domicile of the king of the Jungle – the lion, the other being the forests of Africa. A bounty of about 300 Asiatic lions has made Gir, and with it, Gujarat, one of the raging wildlife destinations in India and worldwide. An expedition to Gir, however, has much more to it than the famous lions. A sneak peek at the lives of the Maldhari tribe, a community of graziers who live within the confines of the sanctuary and know almost all the animals, especially the lions, by heart – can be an curious study of living with the wild. Gir is edged with three wildlife reserves - the Nalsarovar Lake and Sanctuary, the Rann of Kutch and the Flamingo Islands, which gives you all the more reasons to plan a trip next vacation.

Wildlife Adventure in Gir

Gir is so synonymous for its lion community that one actually tends to forget the rest of its fascinating store-house of flora and fauna. The Park’s rugged terrain and deciduous forests make it an ideal refuge of one of the largest population of leopards – about 210 of them roam about scot-free and are even seen close to the jungle lodges at night. Other residents include Sambar, Chital, Nilgai, Chowsingha, Chinkara Gazelle, Wild Boar, Langur, Jackal, Panthers, Wild Cats and Hares and Hyena. Marsh crocodiles, another largest population, are often seen basking along the river banks.

Bird lovers need not feel left out. The good news is, the forests of Gir are a home to around 300 species of domestic and migratory birds. Paradise Flycatchers, Black headed Cuckoo Shrike, Gray Drongo, Pied Woodpeckers, Coppersmiths, Indian Rollers, Crested Swifts, Fish Owls, Black Vultures, Shaheen Falcons, Bonelli's Eagles, Flamingo, Crested Serpent Eagles, Painted Sandgrouse, Rock Bush Quail, Gray Partridge, Painted Storks and White Necked Storks are found here.
The best way to explore the wilderness and tread close to the King of the Jungle is in a jeep. You might have to stop here and there to make way for herds of Sambar, Nilgai or at times the King of the Jungle itself. And to see the majestic predator pass by languidly just a few steps away, is known to cause not just a wild adrenalin-rush but you will actually be amazed at how unaware it is of your presence, or of anybody else’s presence for that matter. A Jungle King par excellence! Go there between the months of November and June to experience for real what you just read.

Reaching Gir
The nearest airport from Gir is Keshod 90 km via Veraval. Visitors can easily catch daily flights from Mumbai to Keshod. The nearest rail connection is 395 km away at Ahemdabad. Gir is situated at a distance of 400 km from Ahmedabad via Rajkot, Junagadh and Mendarda. State Transport buses are easily available from Junagadh and Veraval to Gir, between November and June.

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Nearby sanctuaries: From Gir you can go to the Nalsarovar Lake and Sanctuary where large numbers of water-birds can be seen; the bare saline flats of the Rann of Kutch, the home of the Indian wild ass and the spectacular Flamingo Island where nesting colonies of flamingoes can be spotted.

The Crocodile Breeding Farm: There is an interesting breeding farm for crocodiles at Sasan, near Gir, which also provides the specimen that are relocated into the water reservoirs inside Gir.
More to the itinerary: Deva Danga, Riley's, Bawal Chowk, Kankai, Chodardi, Tulsishyam and Kamleshwar dam/lake are few of the sights near the Gir Sanctuary. A trip to other places of Gujarat can be a enriching experience after the feast of the wild. Visit the historical place of Junagarh (42 km) and Ahmedabad (400 km) and the pilgrimage sight of Somnath. You can also laze under the sun at the beaches Diu, Somnath or Veraval. And yes, don't forget to pick some interesting Gujrati embroidered clothing from the very homeland and feast your taste buds in the end with delicious Gujrati dishes.
Accommodation options
Gir has a host of Government forest bunglows and privately run hotels to fit any budget. The forest department run Sinh Sadan Forest Lodge and the Gir Lodge, can be excellent options.


SARISKA – tiger lore’s await....

Prime Attraction: Sariska Wildlife sanctuary and Tiger Reserve famous for its Tigers

Sariska at a glance

Situated in the state of Rajasthan, with the Aravali Hills in the backdrop, Sariska has increasingly become synonymous with the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary which was taken into the folds of the Project Tiger in 1979. Sariska’s mention in the tourist hitlist however does not end with its plenteous flora and fauna. It is a place of historical importance too and the spread of architechtural ruins, temples and monuments all over the confines of Sariska’s 800 sq-kms is a glaring testimony of its rich heritage and glorious past. However, the mushrooming human population and the illegal poaching activities, which is believed to have recieved impetus by the villagers wanting to protect their livestock, have caused a serious damage to the wildlife recluse. In 1997, the tiger populaiton was recorded a staggering 24. Conservation efforts have thus become part of the national agenda to save this royal predator from extinction.

Wildlife Adventure in Sariska

The landscape of Sariska comprising hills and narrow valleys of the Aravali hill range, supports scrub-thorn arid forests, dry deciduous forests, rocks and grasses. This plays a desirable host to the tiger species. Other predators of the forest include the panther, jungle cat, jackal, hyena and fox. They, and their herbivore counterparts like the sambhar, chital, wild boar, nilgai, civet, four-horned antelope, gaur (Indian bison) can be spotted on the shores of the Siliserh Lake. Hundreds of avian fauna animate the Kalighati waterhole. Grey partridge, golden-backed woodpecker, Great Indian horned owl and white-breasted kingfisher – all can be spotted. Crocodiles, however, are the major inhabitants of this lake and observing them basking on the shores of the lake can be an awesome experience.

The best time to visit Sariska is between November and March. During this time the weather is tolerable and chances of spotting the animals are most. But tigers are mostly seen during summers reclining near water holes.

The Sariska National Park offers a wide range of activities such as motor driving in and around the park in the mornings and evenings, observing the wildlife at the waterholes, or photographing wildlife from the many hideouts provided in the park. Reaching Sariska

Sariska is merely 35 km from Alwar, so one can take a bus or a cab from Alwar. One can also come to Sariska from Jaipur, which is very well connected to other cities by air, rail and roads. From Jaipur one can also go to the Wildlife Sanctuary by Jeep.

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Pandupol: South-east from RTDC’s Tiger’s Den, is Pandupol. It is believed that the Pandavas of the epic Mahabharata, spent part of their exile here. One can still see five boulders here, which represent the five Pandavas and Draupadi, their wife. Pandupol is also the name of the 35-ft waterfall arising from near a deep crest in the Aravalli Ridge, believed to have been created by the strongest of Pandavas - Bhima. His duel with Lord Hanuman also led to commemorating this place with a Hanuman Mandir visited by pilgrims across the nation.

Temples: Located inside the park are ruins of about 300 Hindu and Jain medieval temples. Naldeshwar, an old Mahadev temple, is located just off the Sariska-Alwar main road. Talvriksh, towards the north of the Park with its grove of old trees is another centre for pilgrimage. The Bharathari Temple, located at the edge of the forest, is famous for its fairs. The place is named after Raja Bharathari of Ujjain who took 'Samadhi' in this holy place. Devotees gather to this place from all over the state, on 8th of shukla-paksha, which is in the Bhadon month of Hindu calendar.

The Kankwadi fort: A jeep safari in the dense forests will bring It is Sariska’s link with Mughal history – the place where Dara Shikoh was held captive by his brother Emperor Aurnagzeb. Now overgrown with weeds and shrubs, it stands majestically on a hill overlooking the Kankwadi plateau and a small lake surrounded by a few Gujjar (a tribe) villages. Do not forget to capture this breath-taking picture with your camera.

Accommodation options
At Sariska one can stay at the RTDC hotels or the Sariska Palace. Since, Alwar is quite close, one an even stay at a hotel there. Just off the Alwar-Sariska road, is the Siliserh Lake and has a palace overlooking it, which has been converted into a tourist resort. This too can be a good option to feast your eyes on the wildlife from close quarters.

Bharatpur Sanctuary

BHARATPUR – the feathered cascade

Prime Attraction: Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary with its Migratory Birds (esp. the Siberian Crane)

Bharatpur at a glance

Famous in the tourist map of India for being the proud hostage of the endangered Siberian Cranes, Bharatpur, in Rajasthan is a veritable haven for the bird lovers worldwide. The Bharatpur Bird sanctuary, locally known as the Keoladeo Ghana National Park after Lord Shiva, with an area of about 28.7 sq km, is one of the smallest of wildlife parks in the nation. Yet, the climate, topography and flat terrain consisting of mixed wetland, woods, grass and shrub thickets all watered by the Bharatpur Lake, form a suitable refuge to more than 400 odd species of migratory and domestic birds – about as many as the entire UK - and a host of other wild animals. It was in fact designed by the Maharaja of Bharatpur for the sole purpose of hunting birds. But thankfully due to the efforts of the Government and the late ornithologist Salim Ali, the guns fell silent and by 1985 it achieved the status of a World Heritage site. Now, for those who aren’t much of avian connoisseurs, Bharatpur has a rich bounty of forts, towers and a museum that are reminiscent of its glorious past and lost heritage.

Wildlife Adventure in Bharatpur

Exotic migratory birds from Afghanistan, Central Asia, Tibet, Siberian cranes from the Arctic, greyleg geese from Siberia and barheaded geese from China, come here during the monsoon and breed till October/November. So if you are already planning a trip make sure you go there between November to January when the whole atmosphere is rent with their relentless chirpings and a multicolored plumage camouflages the entire forest. Sadly enough, due to hunting and consecutive years of drought in Bharatpur, the Siberian Cranes that travel up to 6,500 km, all the way from the Ob River basin region in the Aral Mountains in Siberia, have not been sighted since 2002. But who knows they might be just back this year and you might be the lucky one to spot those red-billed white cranes pecking one another noisily.

This avian kingdom also hosts mammalian species like nilgai, spotted deer, sambhar, chital, black bucks, jungle cat and the wild boar. The large rock python, which is spotted basking under the sun in winters at Python Point beyond Keoladeo temple, as well as its nemesis – the mongoose, are found in appreciable numbers. However, spotting a duel between the two is purely a matter of luck.

A stroll around the well-defined forest trails with more than 44,000 trees, has most chances of spotting colonies of cormorants, spoon bills, storks, egrets, herons, pelicans, ebis and grey herons all over the park. The raised paths camouflaged by Babul trees make their viewing easier.Even rickshaws, with trained pullers cum guides can be hired. Perhaps, no other National Park promises so much accessibility and fun of exploring on your own. A boat ride along the shallow freshwater lakes, that comprise a third of the Park’s total area, can be most rewarding of all touring experiences.

Reaching Bharatpur

A pleasant 3 hour drive from Delhi (175 kms) will take you to Bharatpur (Rajasthan) which is on the Agra - Jaipur road and a Keoladeo is both a Ramsar and World Heritage site. The nearest Airport is at Agra, a 55-km long journey by road from Bharatpur. It is also well connected by railway lines to Delhi and also to Sawai Madhopur.

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Lohagarh Fort – This 18th century massive iron structure fort was conceived and designed by Maharaja Suraj Mal, the founder of Bharatpur. The fort has three palaces within its precincts - Kishori Mahal, Mahal Khas and Kothi Khas.
Jawahar Burj and Fateh Burj - A few of the eight imposing towers still stand erect within the glorious ramparts of the fort. Especially two of them - Jawahar Burj and Fateh Burj are of special interest. These were built by Maharaja Suraj Mal to commemorate his victories over the Mughals and British respectively.
Bharatpur Palace with the Museum - This royal edifice is a fusion of the Mughal and Rajput architectural styles housing a rich repository of a large number of ancient exhibits that date back to the early 15th century.

Deeg Palace : Situated just 32-kms away from Bharatpur is the Deeg Palace. A strong and massive fortress, Deeg Palace was the summer resort of the rulers of Bharatpur and houses numerous beautiful palaces and gardens.
Nearby Tourist Destinations: Trips to Agra (for the Taj Mahal) and Fatehpur Sikri (for its architetural bounty) becomes natural extension of the trip to Bharatpur.
Accommodation options

A stay at the heritage hotels and former palaces of the erswhile Maharajas of Bharatpur - Laxmi Vilas Palace, Udai Palace and Kadamb Kunj can be an enriching experience. Else, you can opt for the jungle lodges and resorts to keep closer to the wilderness.

Pench National Park

Pench National Park
- 'tyger burning bright'

Go there for: Tigers, Chousingha(Four Horned Antelopes), Nilgai (Blue Bull), Cheetal

Pench National Park at a glance

Named after Pench River that dissects right through the heart of the 299 sq. Kms. spread - the Pench National Park or the Indira Priyadarshini Tiger Reserve is located on the southern boundary of Madhya Pradesh, India, and runs in continuation with Maharashtra’s Pench National Park. Due to indiscriminate poaching of the endangered tiger population sheltered in the deciduous forests, Pench was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary and in 1992 Project Tiger took over. Other than the master predators, varied species of flora and fauna abound this region, which over the years have attracted and inspired many naturalists and writers like Rudyard Kipling. It is only been two years since Pench has actually formally opened up for tourists. Wonderstruck by its virgin beauty, Kipling even honored it with a poem - Hunting Song of the Seeonee Pack, and much of the inspiration for his famous ‘Jungle Book’ is believed to have been derived from here.

Widlife Attractions of Pench National Park

The beautiful landscape of the Pench National Park is home to large numbers of both endangered and rare species. The almost impenetrable forest vegetation in the park includes Tropical Dry Deciduous Teak and Southern Tropical Mixed Deciduous Forest and many exotic herbs and grasses of medicinal importance. So for Botanists, Pench can be an ideal research destination. The Park’s main attraction, nevertheless, are the wild fauna - especially the tigers. But since they are rarely seen out in the open, visitors have to console themselves with other interesting sights like Gaur, Cheetal, Sambar and Nilgai grazing on the open sites on roadsides and banks of river & reservoir. Other wild animals are Herds of gaur, Chinkara or mountain Gazelle, Leopard, Blackbuck, Sloth Bear, striped Hyaena, Jackal, Jungle Cat, four-horned Antelope or Chowsingha, Wild Boar, Gazella, crocodile and others. . Packs up to 15 of wild dog can be seen near Chhedia, Jamtara, Bodanala and Pyorthadi areas of the Reserve. Langoors are seen just anywhere in Pench, whereas the Rhesus monkeys may be seen occasionally on the fringes.

Bird-watching too can be a promising activity. The avian fauna population of the Park is recorded to be around 210 species including the Barbets, Blue Kingfishers, Bulbuls, Minivets, Munias, Mynas, Orioles, Wagtails and Waterfowls. Crocodiles can be spotted lazily lying about the banks and lucky one’s can also expect to view one of the fresh water turtles. Though the Pench River dries up in April end, a number of water pools locally known as 'dohs' are found which serve as water holes for the wild animals. The Pench Reservoir at the center of the park is the only major water source during the pinch period.

Safari Adventure

Only a long and leisurely vacation will do justice to the sights and adventure that awaits you at Pench National Park. Make a early morning trip to the Park in the jeep and you have the best chances to see the best of what the forest has for you - flora / fauna. Listen attentively to the Guide for his voice may become just a whisper in case he senses something very interesting around. Elephant safaris too have their delights. The moment a tiger is spotted, the domestic elephants surround it and you can have the closest view possible of the magnificient national animal in its natural habitat.

What more to look out for in Nagarhole

Kohka Lake: Go there to enjoy the enrapturing spectacle of numerous colorful birds and the serene sunset of the Kohka lake - a small reservoir in the Park.
Nagpur: Situated just 93 km. away from Pench, Nagpur is famous for its oranges and many tourist spots like Sitabuldi Fort, Council Hall, Cathedral of All Saints, High Court, Raj Bhawan and Chhatris of the Bhonsle Dynasty at Nagpur.
Pachdhar Potters Village: Here, you can try your hands at making pots or simply stroll around watching the villagers give magical shapes to the clay. But don’t forget to buy something to carry back home and keep as a memento.

How to reach there
The nearest airport to the Pench National Park is the Sonegaon Airport at Nagpur, which is at a distance of 93 km. Nagpur is well connected to Mumbai through air. The nearest Railway Station is the Seoni Railway Station, which is 30 km away from the Park. The road network connects Seoni to almost all the major places in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Ideal time to visit: The Pench National Park is open to the visitors from October 01st to June 30th each year and closed during the rainy seasons (July- Sept.). And the best time to visit is from March to June.

Accommodation optionsThe Forest Rest Houses and plenty of other lodging facilities are available. However, prior booking is advised to reserve these rest houses. All accommodations are located nearby. Kipling’s Court hotel and Pench Jungle Camp can be good options.

Nagarhole National Park

Nagarhole National Park
- the serpentine river’s wildlife bounty!

Go there for: Elephants, tigers, Snakes, Four-Horned Antelope, Sloth Bear, Mouse-deer

Nagarhole National Park at a glance

Spread over Mysore and Kodagu districts of the south Indian State of Karnataka, Nagarhole National Park, is edged by the Kabini River to the south, the Wynaad sanctuary of Kerela to its south-west and the Bandipur sanctuary to its south-east. This erstwhile game reserve of the Maharajahs of Mysore is spread across an area of 644 sq km and veined with streams and rivers, the promiment ones being Lakhmana, Teenth and Nagarhole. The very name, which in Kannada means Snake (Naga) and River (hole) is reminiscent of the thrill and adventure that awaits the visitors here. Nagarhole’s deciduous vegetation makes it a veritable haven for a fascinating battalion of wildlife and its almost flat terrain increases our chances of spotting the wild in the wilderness. It was renamed after Rajiv Gandhi in 1992.

Wildlife Attractions at Nagarhole National Park

Though famous for its elephant population, the Nagarhole National Park is idyllic refuge for the Tiger, Muntjjac (the barking deer), Chousingha (four horned antelope), Sambar, Cheetal, Sloth bear, Mouse-deer and the wild pig. Other common residents are leopards, Indian wild dog, Indian bison, jungle cats, jackals, hyenas and wild dogs.

A part of the Nilgiri biosphere, the park is layered with grassy swamps and shallow valleys with the slopes, an ideal passage for the rain water to drain itself into the rivers. More than 250 birds species can be spotted in the deciduous forest spread, especially around the Kabini river. Commonly seen varieties are - hawk-eagle, Malabar trogon, crested serpent-eagle, the malabar pied hornbill, blue beaded bee eater, scarlet minivet and the herons. And if you are a good observer, the multitude of colourful butterflies flitting around will surely catch your eyes.

Safari Adventure

The Forest Department runs 45-min mini-bus safaris into the parks everyday. But nothing can beat jeep safaris that give you enough time to explore leisurely and take you to the innermost recesses of the Park. The Forest Department has facilitated tourists with the ‘view-lines’ - the 10-m long areas on both sides of the roads, where the shrubbery and trees are cleared for better visibility of wildlife. Dull clothing, very light or no perfumes and less noise is recommended, lest the animals are alarmed.

What more to look out for in Nagarhole

Bandipur National Park: A trip each to the bordering national parks - Bandipur National Park and Wynaad sanctuary (Kerela) will be rewarding.
Mysore: Mysore, famous for its Sandalwood products, is a wonderful tourist attraction that you can plan to visit from Nagarhole National Park.
Madikeri: The small hill station at Madikeri, 93 kms. away, can be a wonderful destination view the sea and the old historic fort buildings situated there. This little hill township is roosted on a series of ridges that commands breath taking view of the surroundings. The coffee estates are a pleasure to watch from a distance.

How to reach there
From Nagarhole, Mysore at 96 kms. has the nearest Railway station and Bangalore at 220 kms. has the nearest airport. Buses connect Nagarhole to Bangalore and to other smaller towns across Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala.

Ideal time to visit: September to May. Those interested in trekking should avoid visiting the park during monsoons.

Accommodation options
Being a popular tourist destination, accommodation options are numerous. It is ideal to arrive at the park before dusk, as the road leading to lodges closes at 6 pm. Forest Department rest houses and cottages and other private accommodations are available. The Kabini river Deluxe lodge is made of colonial style architecture and has 14 double rooms with modern amenities. The Water wood hotel is also furnished with gardens and looks like a ranch style house.

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