Monthly Archives: September 2016

Indian Adventure 5

Simon from WILDFOOT enjoyed a wildlife adventure holiday in India this summer and recorded his journey for you to peruse on this blog. In the latest part of the series, Simon enjoys a birding walk through the village and finds out some welcome information about a local wildlife reserve…

Part 5

This morning, in what I feel is unquestionably good news, I discover that a piece of land has been successfully pulled from the open clutches of a surface mining company, which had previously been ‘assisted’ by a corrupt government official, who is now resting behind bars contemplating a lengthy spell.

At lunch time, I visit the site and see that it is now a rural camp that has just been completed and opened for those in search of wildlife encounters. The rich landscape is home to leopards, but also hyenas, wolves and a whole host of birds, with several endemic species to be observed.

There are five twin and double bungalows built within a spacious location, a stone’s throw away from the recent epic sightings of my trip.

The couple behind this eco project are Shatrunjay and Katyayani Singh, who are also thankfully wildlife conservationists and two more worthy champions of the local wildlife. As well as setting their sights on leaving a legacy of wildlife protection, the couple are looking to encourage self-sufficiency with local goat farms and are investigating creating a local gastro cheese making initiative that can hopefully be introduced by local farmers offering support and know-how.

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Shatrunjay is an accomplished photographer for National Geographic and an expert in wildlife and bird guiding. He also knows the regions exceptionally well and has a great command of English, so he is an excellent source of useful information during this part of my Indian wildlife holiday.

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Not only does Shatrunjay offer twice a day safaris to view the local leopard, but he also takes small groups of guests on birding walks in the scrub, looking for endemic species as well as animal activity and movement on foot.

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The accommodation is the best quality around, offering a bungalow twin and double room come large lounge with two shower rooms. It is well appointed and tastefully done, which makes settling down after a busy day of sightseeing all the more enjoyable.

In his next blog post, Simon travels three hours to the city of Jodhpur. If you would like to find out more about what it takes to embark on your own adventure holiday, simply get in touch with the India travel experts at WILDFOOT.

Indian Adventure 4

Wildfoot’s Simon spent his summer in India as part of a wildlife adventure holiday, and recorded his journey for you to peruse on the Wildfoot blog. Below, Simon explores the village of Bera that is packed with wildlife and has been ‘frozen in time’.

Part 4

This morning, we head out on a safari at 5.30am to establish where the leopard family has moved to during the night. We initially drive to a new area hoping to see a large leopard male, and we are hooked. We can’t wait to see more leopard action, perhaps in a different part of the National Park.

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While we are here in the village of Bera, we are staying at a unique heritage home-stay style accommodation called Bera Castle. The Castle offers a distinct style of stay that is most unusual, with authentic surroundings in both the rooms and communal areas.

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The dining room walls of the Castle carry fascinating antique images of the owner’s family history and that of the rulers with whom they were closely connected. Bera Castle was built in the late 1800s and is still owned by two brothers of the same family, one of which is Mr. Baljeet Singh, a champion of wildlife conservation and wildlife and birding enthusiast.

While the guest house is not everyone’s cup of tea, it gives us a true opportunity to experience life within a typical Rajasthan country village, which appears to have been frozen in time. In-between the leopard safaris, one early in the morning and one late afternoon, a friendly guide from the guest house takes us on several walks in and around the village, which allows us to get closer to the locals and experience what it would be like to live here.

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A different accommodation option is the Bera Safari Lodge, which is equally comfortable, but more intimate. This lodge is in the countryside and consists of three independent cottages – leopards and wild dogs are often seen from the cottages themselves! It is a great alternative, especially for keen birders as well as those looking for leopards.

The village is rarely visited by outsiders because most visitors to Bera are in search of the rich but sometimes elusive wildlife, like the leopards, hyenas, birds and wolves, which are enough to encourage anybody to visit as part of a wildlife holiday in India.

The outskirts of the village welcome another kind of tourist during the nighttime. Leopards regularly make the most of the local cattle and even village dogs on an evening. Those who lose cattle this way are nominally compensated by the government for their loss, but it doesn’t make the event any easier. Monkeys, peacocks and other easy-picking wildlife are also at risk from the leopards, which makes spotting the beast during daylight hours all the more thrilling.

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During my time in Bera, I see that the villagers seem to co-exist with the wildlife. However, as ever-curious wildlife enthusiasts continue to find out about the rich offerings in Bera, and indeed take advantage of the Indian wildlife adventure opportunities offered through Wildfoot, I hope that it will assist in the creation of a new National Park.

The protection of this unique area is essential and as we hear plans for a new hotel building project on the outskirts of the village, I hope that the local and national conservation crusaders don’t leave it too much longer.

Those visiting Bera cannot miss the village life experience which, right now, is authentic and a ‘must see’ part of India for any adventurous spirit or wildlife enthusiast.

In his next blog post, Simon continues his journey through Bera and enjoys a birding walk through the village. If you are interested in finding out more about how you can retrace the steps of Simon’s adventure, simply get in touch with Wildfoot’s travel experts today.

Indian Adventure 3

Wildfoot travel expert Simon enjoyed an Indian adventure this summer and recorded his journey for you to enjoy on our blog. Below, Simon travels to Ahmadabad and spots a family of leopards.

Part 3

After a seven hour drive to Ahmadabad, an overnight stay and then another five hour trip to Bera in the south of the state of Rajasthan, we arrive.

There are quicker ways to get to south-west Rajasthan, such as through a direct flight to Bombay and then a three-hour road transfer, but this is a wildlife holiday in India, so I appreciate the journey as it allows me to spot wildlife and take in the beautiful scenery.

The first safari of the day proves extremely promising, with sightings of a leopard mother and two small cubs in the late afternoon. Although they were a great distance away, we can clearly observe them. First, we see the mother on a light brown granite stone, moving at a slow pace for over an hour. While camouflaged in some cases by the various shrubs, other times she is completely in the open, which allows me to capture some great photographs.

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Suddenly, out of the blue, we see two cubs next to her. It is clear that, where she has been carefully hiding and resting, she has been trying not to alert anyone to her precious offspring that are 400 metres away on the hillock. Watching the little cubs run and frolic is a special experience. As dusk comes and visibility is low, we head to our accommodation for the evening and reflect on an adventurous day.

In the next part of our Indian adventure series, Simon will explore the wildlife-laden village of Bera. If you would like to find out more about reliving Simon’s adventure yourself, please get in touch with Wildfoot, the luxury travel company, today.

 

 

Indian Adventure 2

Throughout the summer, WILDFOOT’s Simon enjoyed an Indian adventure and kept a diary of his travels for you to read. Today, Simon continues his trip to the Sasan Gir Forest National Park.

Part 2

After enjoying our morning safari, our guide takes us for a stroll outside Lion Safari Camp by the river. Amid overbearing midday heat, we enjoy a huge list of water birds and other species, spotting green bee-eater, pied kingfisher, black winged stilt and red wattled lapwing.

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The afternoon could not be a better follow on from this morning’s wild fest, as we observe white spotted fantail, Indian nightjar (the same one as this morning), Tickell’s flycatcher, blossom-headed parakeet, crested serpent eagle, cattle egret and another 20 or so other species.

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There are seven routes in the Sasan Gir Forest National Park, all of which are very different. The 30 or so jeeps that leave every safari are split into differing routes to keep congestion to a minimum. What we endeavour to do here at WILDFOOT is keep to the back of the group of jeeps, so that those travelling with us can enjoy the peace and tranquillity of not having other vehicles behind, which also allows for improved observations of the surrounding wildlife.

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As the sun lowers, we are treated to the best sighting yet of a mother Lioness and two eight-month-old juveniles at one of the many manmade watering holes in the park. After a short wet, they settle down in the last of the warm lingering sunshine while we take all of the snaps we need. This light seems to be ideal for the purpose and lends a certain character that you just don’t find at any other time.

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The Asiatic lion used to exist in south-west and north Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. By the 19th century, it had been eradicated from Turkey and even up to 1944, the last corpse of a lion was found on the bank of the River Karun in Iran.

In 1963, the last Persian pride were ruthlessly hunted and killed in Iran. At the time, the local press praised this event as a success, which seems absolutely shocking today knowing that the Asiatic lion is now endangered and survives in Sasan Gir Forest National Park.

You will be pleased to know that these remarkable creatures are now flourishing quite nicely along with the Indian leopard, due to the major understanding of the government with influences from a handful of conservationists who have fought exceptionally hard for this day, even with their near loss of life in some cases.

We leave this park and region with a huge respect for the hard working guides and rangers of the region. We have got to know the very experienced guides in the first couple of days of our Indian wildlife holiday, and their sincere love of the region and its wildlife, not to mention birding, is very evident.

Next time, Simon will travel to Bera village in south-west Rajasthan in search of Indian leopards. If you are interested in discovering more about the Indian experience offered by WILDFOOT, get in touch with the wildlife travel experts today.

Indian Adventure 1

This summer, Simon from WILDFOOT went on an Indian adventure and recorded the highlights from his trip for you to enjoy. Below, Simon travels to India and begins his journey.

Part 1

My flight to Delhi takes around eight hours from London. When I arrive, I check into an airport hotel to sleep for a few hours before my domestic flight to Ahmedabad the following morning.

The flight to Ahmedabad from Delhi took just over an hour, after which it was a seven-hour drive to the region and safari camp. There are easier ways of getting here, like arriving via Bombay and taking a short domestic flight, but this journey allows me time to relax and enjoy my surroundings.

As part of an experience much like WILDFOOT’s India Wildlife Special package, we are staying at the Lion Safari Camp, which is tented accommodation consisting of around 20 twin and double suites. Each of these tents comes with its own a toilet and shower, which is great for those who want to relax privately on an evening. The suites share a reception and restaurant area for engaging with fellow travellers.

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We set out at 5am for the nearby reception centre. Every safari starts here and unfortunately, your guide has to go through the same rigmarole every time you go out on safari, which seems overly red-taped! However, if you visit yourself, our Wildfoot travel guide will assist and do most of the legwork, so that your day can begin at 6.30am rather than 5am.

Our experienced guide Jitendra speaks good English and is a dedicated and knowledgeable birder, as well as a general wildlife naturalist. He comes with a professional driver and a Suzuki Gypsy and asks us to spot a rare tiny bird at 30 metres in camouflage undergrowth before the sun rises.

 

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Most of those who come to this region are in search of the Asiatic lion and the fantastic birding opportunities the Sasan Gir Forest National Park offers.

The park is only open from December to June and closes during the monsoon weather period, as accessibility would be impossible in a jeep. Within 30 minutes of entering the park, we see a young lioness, but she is walking away from us, so it’s not the best of sightings.

Monitoring her are allocated national park guides, and each lion or pride is carefully watched and guarded to ensure its welfare and safety. The state is very careful with these creatures. These lions only number 530, including 210 females, so their continual safety is paramount. The lion guide signalled us to approach and take a good view of her from around 50 yards.

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The morning is exceptionally good for us, as we manage another three lion sightings and spot an array of other wildlife including spotted deer, blackbuck, grey langur monkey, Indian palm squirrel and over 30 species of birds. The woodpecker, purple sunbirds, large green barbet, red-vented bulbul, rose-ringed parakeet, Indian nightjar, grey wagtail, golden backed woodpecker and collared scops owl are all sighted by us, making it an even more unforgettable morning.

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In his next blog, Simon will continue his journey through the Sasan Gir Forest National Park, and talk about the history behind one of the country’s most celebrated nature reserves. If you would like to retrace Simon’s adventures for yourself, please get in touch with the luxury travel agents at WILDFOOT today.