Gir: The Travellers Risk a Morning Safari


When we were in the Gir forest, Abu bhai (=our tour guide) spoke volumes about how nice a morning safari is. Its also said that a morning safari is a good time to catch the lion especially the cubs because they made their way into the forest and to the ponds inside to drink water. Generally the morning is a good time to see any animal or bird because the weather is extremely pleasant.

Although the morning safari did come with its own T&Cs, the cold temperatures and the prospect of waking up in the wee hours on a vacation. Abu Bhai sold us the idea of the Morning Safari though. He said seeing the safari looking hot and dusty in the afternoon was a common thing but the real grind was in seeing the day unfold right there in the midst of nature.

So the next thing we knew, we’d signed up for a morning safari.

Abu Bhai in a Jacket. It was quite a chilly morning

At 5AM we reached the Gir sanctuary and booked tickets for another safari. And my dad asked for Abu Bhai to be our guide again. When Abu Bhai came to us he was surprised that the authorities allowed that. Its not common for the authorities to assign the same guide to a tour. The process of assigning a guide is random so as to eliminate bias.

And might i say, this was far too much an adventurous step we’d taken. Usually we read up about a place, research, ask the locals and then go. This was the first time we’d actually decided on the spot that we’d go for the morning safari and actually got to doing it.

The whole world around us looked deep in slumber. It was dark all around save the Sanctuary Booking Office. Once we were allotted a vehicle, driver and a route, we set off.

The Lake looking smoky with energy balls called ‘orbs’. We believe these are angels or positive energy that we sometimes get lucky to capture in our photos

We got allotted Route 6 which is the opposite of the Route 2 we got the last time. So we had hopes of seeing some lions or cubs coming out to have a drink at the pond.

When we drove inside the Forest, the first thing that struck us is the silence. It is incredibly silent in the Forest. Our old and clattering jeep sounded so loud that we were worried for a moment that all the birds and animals would hear us and run away. Dawn’s rays were breaking into the Forest, painting the leaves a beautiful golden and ushering in a new day. It was a beautiful moment. The Forest was so cold, we had to wear a jacket and a woolen cap over our ears to stay warm. Our fingers were frozen though.

The Golden leaves

There was a point where we stopped. There was another jeep which was stuck because its motor wasn’t working. There was nothing we could do. While we waited for a patrol jeep, we stood hearing the cicadas and other insects welcoming dawn.

If you go into a forest just before dawn and wait until the sun’s first rays paint the world spectacular, you’d notice how Nature celebrates the arrival of another day. Animals wake and smile, insects buzz, birds chirp. There is celebration and gratitude for the new day. Its a subtle habit that we need to pick up too, celebrating every moment!!

There was a point where we waited for a while. The spot overlooked a pond and there was a pug mark just before we went. But Lady Luck didn’t favour us that day and we didn’t spot a lion/ lioness/ cubs. But what we did spot were a lot of birds. It was a bird lover’s paradise. We could see so many birds, few of which we were lucky to capture. Some birds were enjoying a morning meal while some storks played in the pond. It was beautiful to watch.

A Crested Serpent Eagle

Our guide Abu bhai could rattle off the names of ALL the birds we saw. It was amazing. I wondered how life would be for these guides. Spending their time with nature in the Forest every single day except the monsoons when the park was closed to visitors. People from the Cities are so ambitious and in so much of a hurry to climb ladders, while some people in the villages in pockets of India have already climbed their ladders and are at peace with what they do. It is nice looking at such people. Plus Abu Bhai knew the ways of the Forest and the flora and fauna there, which was no mean feat let me tell you.

There was a spot where we saw a Kingfisher Bird waiting to catch a small fish for breakfast. It was fascinating. We just had to stop and watch. The thing is, none of these birds flew when we stopped to see them. They say birds and animals flee and react only when they feel threatened. I guess the birds are used to jeeps coming and stopping, making no sound or an attempt to harm them.

An unidentified bird

Its actually quite disappointing to come to a Lion Safari and not see any. But the birds are a delight to watch too.

A Rare Brown Fish Owl. Was a task hunting for this geezer!!

There were of course deer which were sauntering around. The spotted deer always make good watching. The way they move around in groups for everything they do was nice to watch. The sun made their spotted hide look golden. It was beautiful. We hardly realised when time was up. Most of the journey was looking for any sign of animal activity which we weren’t blessed to see.

Even though we didn’t get a lion spotting, there were so many birds we saw and we saw fog lifting off a lake which looked like there was steam rising off the lake. Also the beautiful morning which we experienced in the quiet and cool Forest was far better than the one we’d be experiencing waking up late in our beds!!

Stay Tuned for More Gir Travails!!

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Vitthal and the Journey to Coorg-The traveller continues the journey


12th April 2010, Karnatak Hinterland, India
I continue with the journey
Most hotels in South India and also our hotel at Kolhapur give the guests a complimentary breakfast if they stay in the hotel. As we soon discovered that, we helped ourselves to the same yet tasty breakfast of dosas,idli vada and kesaribhat. We checked out after that and made our way to our next destination,
“CLUB MAHINDRA, Kodagu Valley,Coorg”
The road from Mangalore was not a smooth one because the Govt was in the process of expansion so it was a bumpy ride. But we saw a lot of bungalows on the way. Most of the bungalows are painted in bright almost horrifying colours like bright green and baby pink but these ones were painted in stately combinations like white and navy blue, white and gray etc.
We decided to go and see the temple at Vitthal so we took a detour from NH-48 and made our way to Vitthal. The landscape was changing, more like a tropical forest types, wet with very fresh air blowing at our faces. The Vitthal Math was being renovated and the bit of the new Math we saw looked very nice. At almost all the Maths in South India, they give you sandal paste which smells totally out of the world. There was also a temple dedicated to the Naags. As you would know, Naags depict our elders who we pray to so that we have their blessings for the present and future generations.
We met one of our acquaintances and we went to their house where we saw an enormous beehive. i’ve never seen a beehive so closely before and it was mesmerising…so many bees!!!

After Vitthal we made our way to Madikeri,Coorg. Coorg is actually the name of the district. Its very famous for spices so we’ve heard. While leaving Vitthal, we were stuck in a traffic jam and we could only make our way out of it because Vitthal unlike Mumbai, does not have any open drains!!!
Our first halt was at a place called Shuliya and we kept asking for that whenever we met people. The people in South India are generally quite knowledgeable they know routes to explore entire karnatak at the back of their minds!! quite an amazing feat!!

A special encounter:
At Shuliya, we encountered Karnatak’s biggest specialit, “Gobhi Manchurian” which could be found in every Nukkad and gully of Karnatak. The journey to Shuliya was uneventful, except that the road was winding and made veryscenic landscape because it was so lush and green!!
By the time we reached Shuliya, we could feel the heat beat down on us ..it was noon. So we stopped at Hotel Surabhi. Let me tell you, this place looks small but the food is totally awesome and very tasty. Here we tasted the famous ‘Gadbag’ and ‘Gobhi Manchurian’ both extremely delicious.

After lunch, we made our way to Club Mahindra. There were more and more plantations and lots of nurseries selling rubber spalings. A lot of areca nut trees and pepper creepers on them. It was pleasant to watch. Also i notcied right from Shuliya onwards, lot of stalls selling ‘Neera’, a drink from which toddy is derived, and that almost all street lights had solar panels on them, which was very nice to see that atleast our rural counterparts were making an effort to be environment friendly.

As we approached Coorg, the scenery was breathtaking. Lush green forests and the constant chirping of birds and c\insects. It was out of this world.!!
Also we passed a lot of estates with the home stay options available. Small cottages looked very inviting. we even stopped the car for some time to take in the environment. We passed a road which led to the ‘Indian Institute of Spices’ and then made our way to club mahindra. Here also in this small town of Madikeri,all street lights had solar panels and trust me at night, they glowed brighter than the other thermal electricity powered lights.

We made our way slowly, not before we passed a JM Financial (work follows my dad here as well!!!) and then drove into the resort. All Club Mahindra properties are huge and excellently done up. After resting in our room, we made our way to the Conference Room where they had a presentation for us to explain the facilities at the resort and also to explain the tourist sites around. It was followed up with some Coorgi coffee!!

We had a quiet dinner at the Buffet restaurant which was called Arabica (=name of a coffee) and retired for the night

Coming up next-Coorgi Tales

A beehiveMe!! at the hotel at Shuliya