Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kabini: A Magical Forest

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Day 1

After Bandipur, my next destination was Kabini (Nagarhole National Park). All the online trip reports that I read gave the impression of Kabini being a magical forest, with lots to offer to tourists, in terms of wildlife sightings. The most popular online photographs from Kabini were of leopards resting on treetops.

Needless to say, the expectations were sky-high and the excitement was palpable!

After the morning safari in Bandipur, we returned to JLR (Jungle Lodges & resorts). I had my breakfast, finished packing, completed the check-out formalities and set off for Kabini by 11 a.m. Kabini was approximately 100 kms away from Bandipur and the expected travel time was around 2 hours by road.

 Bandipur to Kabini by road (Source: Google Maps) 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bandipur - Land of Elephants

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Day 0

It was October 2013 and the monsoons had come to an end. That meant that most of the wildlife parks would have opened. I had not undertaken any wildlife trips for the past few months and therefore was craving for an enjoyable and extended wildlife experience. The added motivation was that I had purchased a longer telezoom lens the past month, Sigma 50-500mm OS. I was most eager to try to out the lens in the field.

Since tiger safaris were on top of my priority list, I had shortlisted Bandhavgarh (Madhya Pradesh) and Bandipur (Karnataka) Tiger reserves. Along with Ranthambore these reserves were some of the more professionally managed Tiger reserves in India. Also, these reserves offered some of the better tiger sighting opportunities in India.

After much deliberation I decided on Bandipur. Bandipur shared the same forests with Wayanad in Kerala and Mudumalai / Masinagudi in Tamil Nadu. The close proximity of these wildlife parks gave me an opportunity to visit more than one wildlife park during my trip. I had 8 full days at my disposal and wanted to make the most of it.

Finalizing the itinerary was not an easy task at all. I was inclined towards covering as many reserves as possible in the 8 day trip. Initially I thought of visiting Wayanad followed by Mudumalai / Masinagudi and finally Bandipur. But I finally settled on Bandipur, then Kabini (Nagarhole) and finally K Gudi (BR Hills). 

 The Wildlife Triangle - Bandipur, Kabini and K Gudi 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bhigwan - Water Birds Aplenty!

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Water Birds Aplenty!

For birding enthusiasts in Maharashtra and the adjoining states, Bhigwan ranks high on the list of birding destinations. Bhigwan is highly spoken of in birding circles because it is the destination of migratory water birds including the beautiful flamingoes in the winter months. If you want to sight a wide variety of water birds and that too in their plenty, Bhigwan is the place to go!!!

I made plans to visit Bhigwan in March 2014. I had confirmed online that the birds had arrived in Bhigwan and that it was indeed a good time to visit Bhigwan. During my online research I got to know about other birding spots, viz. Patas, Varwand Dam, Narayanbhet etc. around Bhigwan or enroute from Mumbai to Bhigwan. I decided to make optimum use of my time by visiting as many birding spots as possible.

The next step was to finalize the accommodation and transport arrangements. Since I planned to make it a 3 days visit, I decided to book a hotel in the nearest town or city. I finally decided to stay in Baramati, about 25 kms from Bhigwan. Baramati is home to a lot of industries and has decent hotels to cater to the business clients. I did not have a problem in finalizing a hotel for my stay.

Bhigwan is about 250 kilometers away from Mumbai by road. Since I planned to visit several birding spots during the 3 days, I decided to hire a vehicle for the trip. That would give me the flexibility to go wherever I needed to, whenever I wanted to.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mayani Bird Sanctuary - Image Slideshow

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Trip Summary

Travel Destination – Mayani Bird Sanctuary, Maharashtra

Travel Date – 01st Oct 2013

Animal sightings – None

Bird sightings – Red-vented Bulbul, Indian Robin, Great Tit, Purple Sunbird, Long-tailed Shrike, Ashy Prinia, Laughing Dove, Brahminy Starling, Baya Weaver, Plum-headed Parakeet, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Green Bee-eater, Rock Pigeon

Photography Equipment

Camera – Nikon D90

Lenses – Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR

Mayani Bird Sanctuary - A Dry Spell

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Another One Bites the Dust
Mayani Bird Sanctuary

If you live in Maharashtra state, one of the frequently talked about go-to destination is Maharashtra’s Valley of Flowers. Maharashtra’s Valley of Flowers is located in Kaas Plateau of Satara district, approximately 280 kms (5 hours by road) from Mumbai. In the months of August-September hundreds of wild flowers and shrubs bloom for a total period of only four to five weeks. Kaas Valley of Flowers had become a hot-spot for nature lovers and botanists.

In September 2013, towards the end of the monsoon season, I visited Satara and finally got to see and experience the Kaas Valley of Flowers. Without doubt, it was a very beautiful and scenic place even if a bit over-hyped in my humble opinion. I also visited the beautiful Thoseghar waterfalls which was about 26 kms from Satara.

 Kaas Valley of Flowers 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary - Image Slideshow

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Trip Summary

Travel Destination – Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu

Travel Date – 14th Jul 2013

Animal sightings –Indian squirrel.

Bird sightings –Common Myna, Rufous Treepie, Common Hoopoe, Asian Koel, Rock Pigeon

Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary, TN - When Water Runs Dry

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When Water Runs Dry
Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary

It was July 2013 and I was in Thiruvanathapuram on a short vacation. I was itching to visit a wildlife/bird sanctuary in the monsoon season and spend a day or two improving my photography skills. After some brainstorming my cousin suggested Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

I searched online and found Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary, in Thirunelveli district, to be a good choice. The Sanctuary was around 140 kms away from Thiruvanathapuram. Google Maps indicated a drive of approximately 2.5 hours. The online images of the birds taken at the Sanctuary were very encouraging. The sanctuary attracted a lot of migrant birds incl. Flamingos, Storks, Pelicans, Ducks etc. In peak season, the birds numbered in the lakhs!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ranthambhore - A Trip To Remember.. Forever. - Image Slideshow

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Trip Summary

Travel Destination – Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan

Travel Dates – 27th Oct 2011 to 29th Oct 2011

Animals sightings9 species: Tiger, Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer, Nilgai (Bluebull), Chinkara (Antelope), Langur, Ruddy Mongoose, Wild Boar, Indian squirrel, Crocodile.

Bird sightings – 17 species: Peacock, Red-wattled lapwing, Slender-billed Vulture, Red-headed Vulture, Little Cormorant, Black Stork,  Rufous treepie, Black Drongo,  White-throated Kingfisher, Intermediate Egret, Common Kingfisher, Common Babbler, Wooly-necked Stork, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Pond Heron, Changeable Hawk Eagle

Ranthambhore - A Trip to Remember.. Forever. Day 3

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Day 3 – 29 Oct 2011

I was up and ready on the last day of my trip. The events from the previous day had led me to believe that I was gifted with a lot of luck, when it came to tiger sightings. But that belief did not last long as I waited for the canter. The park gates open at 7 am, but there was no sign of the canter even by 8 am!

The canters are released by the forest department only after all the seats are filled. Therefore, if all the 21 seats in a canter were not sold, the remaining passengers had to wait patiently at their hotels. Further, the canters pick up passengers from their respective hotels. This can further delay one’s safari, especially if you have fellow passengers who do not know the meaning of punctuality.

Morning Safari

By the time the canter entered the park gates, it was close to 8.30 am. We had lost about 1.5 hours of safari time. My last safari was not looking good.

In the next half an hour, we spotted Langur monkeys, Sambar deer, Spotted deer and a Ruddy mongoose. 

Ground Inspection - Grey Langur

Ranthambhore - A Trip To Remember.. Forever. Day 2

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Day 2 – 28 Oct 2011

I woke up early on Day 2. My eagerness and enthusiasm had not been dampened after Day one. And to my absolute delight, my morning safari was booked on a jeep/gypsy. This miracle was due to the fact, that, a couple of guests had to back out due to health reasons. With due respect to those guests, it was a good omen for me. 

Safaris on Gypsies offer better wildlife sightings than Canters due to multiple reasons   
1. Gypsies/Jeeps enter the park on time as there are only 6 seats to fill. On the other hand Canters have 21 seats and filling up these seats can take time
2. Gypsies/Jeeps make far lesser noise than canters and therefore do not scare away the wildlife
3. Gypsies/Jeeps can access narrower paths and are more manoeuverable.

Morning Safari

We entered the park gates at 7 am sharp. We had been allotted Zone 1 for the safari. As soon as we entered the zone, the naturalist was on red alert. He could sense that there was an element of tension in the air. And then the alarm call of a Langur monkey shattered the silence. We were now more or less sure that a predator, either a Tiger or Leopard, was in the area. We strained our eyes to spot any movement.

The next 15 minutes of the safari will be etched in my memory for the rest of my life!!!

A Tiger came out of the foliage and crossed the path in front of the gypsy. “Tiger! Tiger!” whispered the naturalist. The blood rushed to my head, I was breathless and my mind went numb.. Excitement was at it’s peak!

The Tiger was absolutely beautiful and majestic. The Tiger sat on one corner of the path. We twisted and stretched to get the best view. The cameras started clicking fast and furious. By now, we had been joined by a couple of more gypsies. The Tiger observed the tourists on each gypsy carefully. My heart was pounding but my Index finger did not stop pressing the camera shutter.

Momentous Occasion - My first tiger sighting in the wild - Tiger T-39