See all Safaritalk Special Offers

Chakra

Garavi Gujarat: a tale of prophets,blackbucks, wild asses, white desert and India's forgotten mother

122 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Hello friends,

 

After spending nearly fifty years of her life in sinful existence, my wife decided to go on a pilgrimage to wash away her sins. The intended place was Palitana hills in Gujarat, India, which is the holiest of the holies for the Jains. I'm not a Jain, not really a very religious Hindu either. I have eaten many creatures in my life and not too worried about my sins. But when I was planning the trip for her I realised there were plenty of attractions nearby which could keep me busy for a week. And when my wife promised to sponsor the trip, I decided to somehow cope with the repentance for couple of days followed by continuation of my hedonistic life style.

The girls also wanted to tag along to see where their ancestors hailed from. So Gujarat : here we come.

 

For people who are not familiar with Gujarat, it is the Westernmost state of India bordering Pakistan, famous for being the birthplace of father of the Nation, Gandhi-ji, the last few Asiatic lions of Gir forest and having the huge salt pan of Rann of Kutch. Currently the Gujaratis are more proud of the fact that the all-conquering Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi is a son of Gujarat.

Most of Gujarat is not really popular with the average western tourist, who do not venture beyond the Golden Traingle. The more I did my research the more impressed I was with the hidden gems of Gujarat. I am planning to go and see the Altiplano salt desert of Bolivia, but the Great Rann of Kutch was no less impressive. The Little Rann of Kutch was a heaven for bird watching, with the last few remaining wild asses. The seven thousand year old neglected ruins of Indus valley civilisation at Dholavira would have been a star attraction in any other country. Throw in some amazing handicrafts, unique geological formations, mouth-watering vegetarian food, pronking Blackbucks, Ayurvedic Spa for the ladies, drinking camel milk straight from the udder and a great beach to relax : our itinerary looked great.

Communication won't be a problem as Gujarati is my wife's mother tongue and I have also managed to learn a bit to make sure I understand what my in-laws are talking about me.

I usually try to avoid the popular places wherever I travel. Checked Tripadvisor for popularity and Gir forest, Somnath and Dwarka temples were out.

I do not see too many reports on Gujarat here. I know some of the regular contributors are planning a trip to Gujarat soon and there is one member from Gujarat who was very helpful to me.

I feel it is my duty to raise the profile of this amazing place and show you the India beyond the Golden Triangle, Kerala and the nature reserves.

A few years back Mr Modi cunningly employed the services of the biggest celebrity in India, Mr Amitabh Bachhan to promote tourism in Gujarat. Mr Bacchan's brilliant tagline was : " Kutch nehi dekha ? To kuch nehi dekha. " meaning " Haven't seen Kutch ? Then you haven't seen anything. "
I entirely agree with that tagline and appoint myself as the worthy successor of Mr Big B.

It is not really a wildlife trip but more of an immersion in the rich cultural heritage of India but as we did see quite a bit of wildlife, so I guess the moderators will forgive my digression.

I knew February was not the best time to see the migratory birds, as they would have started their journey back to Europe again, but because of kids' school time we could not go earlier. The temperature was just right. Pretty cold in the desert in the morning needing a thick fleece at least and boiling hot by noon. Outside desert it was OK if we could avoid direct exposure to midday sun.

The itinerary :

  • 4th February : Birmingham-Dubai- Ahmadabad with Emirates.
  • 5th: Reaching Ahmadabad at 8 am, lunch with friends and then 4 hours drive to Bhavnagar,: Lord's Resort Bhavnagar for 2 nights. Nice hotel, superb food.
  • 6th : Whole day trip to Shatrunjay hills Palitana for pilgrimage, an hour's drive.
  • 7th: One hour drive to Blackbuck Lodge, Velavadar, Blackbuck NP for one night. Treated like royalty, eye wateringly expensive.
  • 8th : Five hours drive to the tiny village of Jogad at Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) to stay at Eco camp with Mr Devjibhai Dhamacha, for two nights. In touch with real India staying in Mud Huts.
  • 9th : Day trips to the interior of LRK to the Wild Ass sanctuary.
  • 10th,11th, 12th, 13th : Five hours of drive to the coastal town of Mandvi via a brief stop at Bhuj. Stay at Serena Beach Resort, Mandvi for four nights. Fantastic location, quite expensive for Indian standard but service needs improvemnt. Day trips to ruins of Lakhpat, rock formations of Nakhatrana and the raptor heaven of Banni grasslands.
  • 14th : 2.5 hours drive to Dhordo via many stops to see the remarkable artisans of Gujarat, to check the last frontier post of India, Black Hills of Kutch overlooking the Rann, and overnight at Gateway to Rann resort, Dhordo to watch sunset over the white desert. Resort is a succesful community project mananged by local villagers.
  • 15th : five hours drive circumnavigating the whole Rann to the little island in the middle of Kadir Bet, Dholavira to see the best preserved ruins of Indus Valley civilisation in India. Overnight at Dholviara Resort. Resort is an overstatement, practically in the middle of nowhere, but just what I always look for.
  • 16th : Long seven hours drive back to Ahmedabad, but not before seeing the ancient handicraft of Patola Saree ( one single saree can cost up to five thousand pounds) and the majestic Sun temple of Modhera. Stay with friends.
  • 17th February : spend time with friends at Ahmadabad, more shopping and start the return journey.

The route map :

 

post-48433-0-66766200-1492171891_thumb.jpg

 

Now time for some random pics from the proud ancient land of Garavi Gujarat. A resilient community and salute to the people of Kutch who had rebuilt their land after the devastating earthquake of 2001 killing thousands and thousands of people and flattening a whole city.

 

33548976942_e27bb1f8cf_b.jpg

 

 

Pronking Blackbuck

 

32886354273_cba592ded4_b.jpg

 

Abandoned flamingo colony

 

 

 

32862012584_a000af8406_b.jpg

 

Wild asses of India

 

 

33319740140_d5a63ebb76_b.jpg

 

Flamingos galore

 

33320582040_0d720d2d19_b.jpg

 

Swamphen

Edited by Chakra
19 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Now logistics.

We haven't driven in India for more than twenty years and every time we return, we get more shocks at the number of cars and government's futile attempts to enforce road safety. So I opted for a car and a driver, which was relatively cheap. All the bookings were expertly handled by our trusted friend Meera Rajaram from Narmada Holidays and she also found a Toyota Inova seven seater ( needed for our luggage, my wife does not believe in travelling light and we had one suitcase just packed with gifts) and our driver cum guide cum food connoisseur cum art critic Shri Gambhir Singh.
I won't say his driving was faultless but it was perfectly acceptable in India, where overtaking on a blind bend is the norm. Only one hair raising moment when I was rudely awakened from my slumber to realise the driver side mirror had broken into thousand pieces by a soft touch from the side mirror of a van coming from the other side.

We saw several accidents on the highways. One happened just a few minutes before we crossed the spot as the wheels of the truck were still spinning and people trying to break the windows of overturned cab to help the driver out. Thankfully he was fine.

Gambhir Singh ji turned out to be an excellent spotter as well, spotting birds perched on faraway roadside tree tops, while driving at full speed on highways. And he knew the right food joints as well. My anglicized tummy protests every time I travel to India. The last trip to Manas NP, Assam was a disaster as I spent most of the time in toilets, while local amoebas had a field day inside my gut. But this time my tummy was absolutely fine and I started venturing more and more outside the posh restaurants and towards the end, I thoroughly enjoyed freshly fried pakoras with jilebis and halwas from all roadside stalls, served on old news papers. Of course the water I couldn't risk.

 

The quality of food and services of Emirates are rapidly declining. The only good thing was that, I managed to finish watching the last three episodes of "Billions" which were long overdue. After surviving the vomit inducing Asian veg meals,we landed at Ahmedabad in time and I cleared the customs in ten minutes. Wow !! But where are our bags ? Ours was the only international flight and it took nearly forty minutes to get the bags. Never mind at least they reached us.

 

Went to have a quick meet up with a friend. Had a delicious thali lunch, showed my skills in cricket to my friend's son and then took plenty of snaps of the local langur family who were watching me bowling the unplayable leg spins. The langur family was just like a human family having a lazy afternoon, emotions aplenty.

Then it was time to drive for 4 hours to the small dusty town of Bhavnagar which would be our base for next two nights. On the way we stopped at a roadside shopping mall and I was very impressed with the cleanliness of the toilets.

I was having a nice snooze when Gambhir Singh started shouting , "Sir, pakshi, pakshi !!!( Birds, Birds)". He was clearly aware that I was more interested in nature than in temples. I spotted a large number of flamingos and many other waders on a wetland just outside Bhavnagar. Quite a few painted storks as well. Birding by roadside, a good omen !

Satisfied reached Bhavnagar. Top's 3 Lord's resort was a modern comfy hotel but what I absolutely loved was their staff. The young boy who brought my bags up didn't linger on looking for "bakhsheesh". In fact he looked genuinely embarrassed when I offered a small tip. The food was honestly too good and served with warmth. How I miss the authentic food of India. Eating in so called Indian restaurants in UK, who use same ingredients for all curries. Tired but with a full belly it was time to hit the bed as we needed to get up at 4 am to hit the road by 5 am, aiming to reach Palitana before sunrise. 3788 steps were waiting for me !! But I'd be free of all my sins at the end !

Would I ? Anyway, who cares !

 

 

Welcome to the Son-in-Law !

 

post-48433-0-62057200-1492183044_thumb.jpg

 

 

The story of the langurs...

 

 

"Listen, my dear husband. Would you please stop thinking about those papayas and show some interest in Junior's education ? He is now nearly one year old and can't even steal a banana from the hawkers or jump between two rooftops. i'm thinking of some private tuition from the resident Langur-in-Chief of the Hanuman temple "

 

post-48433-0-44482400-1492183231_thumb.jpg

 

 

"Don't worry Dad. Do not listen to mum. Look I can do double flip over mummy's head."

 

post-48433-0-84128100-1492189675_thumb.jpg

 

 

post-48433-0-57581300-1492183505_thumb.jpg

 

 

"You silly woman ! Did you see that? Monkeying comes to a monkey naturally. No need for tuition. Now let me enjoy the sunshine and digest those papayas in peace !!"

 

post-48433-0-06024000-1492183609_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

33313713130_caa5f1b87b_b.jpg

 

33697872625_d634c92654_h.jpg

 

33697875875_52b9b1519d_c.jpg

 

33568593811_c62db48ae9_c.jpg

 

 

33313766610_46a0f1af5b_c.jpg

 

 

33697895545_a43b8f4381_c.jpg

 

 

33697942445_8a9c913b5b_c.jpg

 

33570099051_ecdb98cae4_b.jpg

Edited by Chakra
17 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One question.

How the heck do those Langur manage to sit on that fence? I made my eyes water just looking at it.

 

Great tale. Keep it coming.

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

One question.

How the heck do those Langur manage to sit on that fence? I made my eyes water just looking at it.

 

Great tale. Keep it coming.

Yes, very pertinent query. Clearly shows that we do not need much space to rest our bottoms and complain needlessly about airlines seat. But those spikes can be specially dangerous for a langur with piles and they should control any urge to sneeze while balancing on those spikes.

Edited by Chakra
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finally! I was worried that I will completely miss this report. And already the opening text and photos were worth all the waiting. Much better fun than watching ....

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah I've been eagerly awaiting this report! I am heading to Gujarat next February; of course doing it quite differently than you did but am excited to see it through your eyes. Bird and temples, yes!

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah I've been eagerly awaiting this report! I am heading to Gujarat next February; of course doing it quite differently than you did but am excited to see it through your eyes. Bird and temples, yes!

It'll be a privilege and honour to share my experience with an accomplished photographer like you. I'll be back shortly with photos of one of the greatest temple complexes in India to purify your soul, in preparation for your upcoming trip to India. :D:D

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Apologies for the long post full of words , but I feel it is important to tell the whole experience first in words followed by some pics. Well, I did see some parakeets and bulbuls , so not entirely devoid of wildlife sighting ;)

 

My Melatonin induced sleep was broken with an alarm at 4-30 , freshened up quickly, the manager had kindly provided some fruits and sandwiches, added a few cereal bars and 3 litres of water per person and started our day of repentance in pitch black darkness at 5-15.

The sunrise was around 7-15. I wanted to start the ascent at that time and come back before the hottest part of the day : late afternoon. No shades available and even in February, by noon the sun was roasting me nicely. As usual because of my photography we got delayed on the way up, so had to endure pretty tough condition. At least I was not going up in the heat.

We reached the place beyond which cars were not allowed to proceed anymore and immediately were swamped by men and women jostling with each other for our custom. My daughters were not used to this and they were genuinely overwhelmed. All these commotion was to force us to hire a "Doli" a palanquin like contraption, sometimes just a sitting chair, which would carry us up. I had to keep my stern face on and just ignore them. This went on for at least ten minutes. Any western tourist will definitely be put off with this.

 

I understand that infirm and old would go for a Doli but I was genuinely surprised to see quite a few not so old men going up on doli. I hope the Gods deduct some penalty points from their account of "punya" for that.

I went into the office where a very nice man, Jayant bhai explained everything in perfect English to me, including some eating places on the way back.

 

I have also downloaded an app for Palitana prepared by a Jain lady : high tech pilgrimage in 21st century !! It was fine for religious details but not so much for more practical details.e.g : where were the toilets. Jayant bhai reassured me that there were toilets up there or I could always go behind the bushes.

 

Shatrunjay is a large hill with two summits in the town of Palitana. Shatrunjay is to Jains, what Jerusalem is to Christian and Jews and what Mecca is to Muslims. 3400 steps to reach the top of the world's largest temple complex with over 3,000 temples and 27,000 idols of the 24 Jain Tirthankars (prophets). The Jain sadhvis ( priestesses) are the first to set off at day break, barefoot and fasting till they return back to the ground. Some Jain worshippers consider it a duty to support the backs of these Jain sadhus ( priests) during the ascent. Bird feeders along the way to feed the birds who visit in thousands : a form of Jeev-daya, compassion to animals. Also free cold water kept at regular intervals.

 

I believe in God, but have little love for organised religion, but even I found the temple complex quite astounding. Especially when you think all these stones had to be carried up the hill on bare back and painstakingly joined. Early Muslim invaders attacked this complex a few times and according to the legend the idols were protected by a Muslim Sufi saint. The Jain community were eternally grateful to him and till this day there is a darga ( worship place) to this Muslim Sufi saint among this Jain temples. Nice tale of religious harmony.

The ascent was not too tough and the views were lovely with sun rising over the Shatrunjay river and the sleepy town below. Thankfully there were stretches of flat sections in between steps, so not continuous climbing. My wife followed the tradition of going diagonally criss-cross across the steps instead of climbing along a straight line, to increase the distance covered. I'm sure she would get some bonus points for that. And I was allowed to keep shoes on till the main complex, after that no leather goods were allowed. One can take as much photo as like , but not of the idols.

Once we reached the Ram Pole , the main gate, the path bifurcated. My research had suggested taking the path to the right, which was practically deserted and took me to a large number of small temples and then the highest point of the complex, from where I could get a bird's eye vista. The photos did not come out well because of blinding midday sun but even then it was quite impressive. We circumnavigated the whole complex and then went into the main temple of Adinath Swami- the First of the Twenty-four Prophets of the Jains and actually more revered than the better known Mahavir Swami. Adinath Swami looked at me sternly while my wife continued with her Puja. After a while I drifted away to take some more photos and found the toilets. Well, it was not the best of the toilets but will do if one is desperate.

 

The ascent was not that difficult and a fit person can do it in 2-3 hours easily with a few breaks.

We started our descent much later than originally planned, noon time, because of my digressions. I actually found the descent more demanding on my aging knees and calf muscles. Also the sun did not help.

The calf muscles really protested heavily the day after and I limped for next couple of days !

On the way down it was tradition to have Ganna ka ras ( pressed sugar cane juice) and Bhel. My wife heartily tucked in, while I could not indulge in the Juice because of my sensitive stomach, although I did try the Bhel. Not bad. Followed by 2 big coconuts and I was rejuvenated again.

 

On the way back Gambhir Singh tempted us with suggestion of some food shopping, which is always a hit with us. Bhavnagar is famous for its Gathia, a heavenly savory, which I devour in tons with my full English breakfast in UK. Of course we could not stop just with gathia only, ended up with some Penda ( sweet dish) as well. I was hoping to wash this down with a pint of cold beer, but when called the reception in the evening, learnt that the bar closed at 7 pm. What ? bar closing by 7 pm ? So had to settle for Buttermilk instead of beer. Had another superb traditional dinner with mouth watering dishes and then soaked myself in the royal bath tub for an hour.

Apart from the early morning ugly mêlée of Doli bearers the day was a very nice one and I strongly recommend this place, even for non-believers.

Edited by Chakra
8 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

The pics are here to add some flavour to my dry rambling. These pics won't win any prizes as harsh sun was not helpful, but just to give some ideas to the side of India usually not explored by western tourists. And unlike Hindu Temples, the Jain temples have no restriction of visiting for believers of other faiths and western tourists as long as one follows their request not to take photo inside.

 

What ? Bar closed before sunset ? My hopes were dashed !!

 

33653601420_1b99bc5826_b.jpg

 

The Ascent begins before sunrise

 

33315089570_6bde47ed61_b.jpg

 

The "Doli"

 

33315069580_951dbcc6eb_b.jpg

 

Sometimes the Doli is just a piece of woven cloth which looked pretty precarious to me

 

33658176056_9b9dac20db_b.jpg

 

One of the first temples near the base : telling the whole story of jainism inside in paintings and Murals. Very impressive

 

33569967691_1947e9397f_b.jpg

 

The sleepy town below, slowly warming up with sun

 

32856484434_a4026af0c4_b.jpg

 

32885607773_758a7c31ab_b.jpg

 

Jain "Sadhvis" going up barefoot

 

33658118826_33d450c539_b.jpg

 

 

Some devotees wish to support the priests on the way up

 

32856424434_eac1c3b535_b.jpg

 

Sun rise over the Shatrunjay River

 

33569870281_56fc5a92db_b.jpg

 

Rest points on the way

 

33542793632_189069fac2_b.jpg

 

Regular reminders of Step counts

 

33569794681_1eda0decfd_b.jpg

 

33699054155_325d3ba8d8_b.jpg

 

 

What is this ? A bag sitting on a Doli ? Is that a very special bag ? Later I realised the owner of the bag was stretching his legs and jumped back after a few minutes.

 

32885640673_ef35ab6c13_b.jpg

 

 

The steps are nicely spaced

 

33542702392_9ffea8e3e3_b.jpg

 

 

My wife doing her diagonal Criss-Cross style of climbing to increase her toils and gain some additional bonus Punya points in the process. I stuck to the straight line.

 

33698949015_9c68b9e152_b.jpg

 

32885518413_3ca07aebc6_b.jpg

 

The misty river beyond

 

33657830436_a11b27e294_b.jpg

 

 

Wildlife on the way

 

33698883335_f70d59effa_b.jpg

 

33314040020_5f5452e458_b.jpg

 

 

I was genuinely touched by these two ladies who supported each other through the entire trek. The slimmer and fitter one did not leave the other.

 

32856131794_ee87e0cda3_b.jpg

 

The traditional dress for worshiping

 

32885426593_c974fde4e7_b.jpg

 

Long way down

 

33569254611_3c0bd5a14e_b.jpg

 

First glimpses

 

32885339843_72152abc3a_b.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

32855988284_2d7bdcc477_b.jpg

 

32885876603_9de04ee2b6_b.jpg

 

32855856084_b776375738_b.jpg

 

32855719324_f4522d6c6a_b.jpg

 

33657387176_c7c9db685c_b.jpg

 

 

 

The Main Complex with teh main temple dedicated to Adinath Swamy

 

32855649074_6580e941f2_b.jpg

 

33657288586_4545e342b4_b.jpg

 

32884947093_193d7cfe50_b.jpg

 

Caves carved out of rocks and deities there for worshiping

 

33698244095_024b481ece_b.jpg

 

 

The old fashioned windows

 

33541986942_530c005245_b.jpg

 

 

The biggest bell I've ever seen

 

33314034880_91011d119a_b.jpg

 

Armed guards for pilgrims travelling from far off lands

 

33568885451_cb35a2a759_b.jpgr

 

Ground level temples and gates

 

33568846511_d255f32dd8_b.jpg

 

33568813251_88cf82f8ca_b.jpg

 

 

The quenching of thirst and hunger

 

33541726952_334d8fb2bc_b.jpg

 

 

33313869120_fbb87e3033_b.jpg

 

The ubiquitous Sugar cane machine

 

33313841610_4637e406c9_b.jpg

Edited by Chakra
14 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Absolutely amazing, both the trek (pilgrimage) and the photos. I have no doubts the calves have another story to tell :o .

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I could live with the demands of the trek and the toilets and the Doli operators (who after all are there to make a living) but a bar shutting before sunset???? Never! There would be a bottle of something in my room to let me worship the sunset in my own way!

A good report as culture forms a good proportion of any Shikari!

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I could live with the demands of the trek and the toilets and the Doli operators (who after all are there to make a living) but a bar shutting before sunset???? Never! There would be a bottle of something in my room to let me worship the sunset in my own way!

A good report as culture forms a good proportion of any Shikari!

I could not agree more with your views. It was annoying but that's life. Cultured Shikari ? Wait for my planned trip to remote Odisha next year. I hope to have tea with a famous crack-shot shikari of royal family of Dhenkanal, who has now opened his palace for tourists and entertains his guests with Shikar stories from his misguided past.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A relaxed breakfast and then we were off to the Blackbuck Lodge. I had high expectations of this lodge. This was one of the most expensive properties that I've ever stayed in India. 18,000 Indian rupees i.e, £ 218 at present exchange rate, per night for two with three meals. Safaris, tips and alcoholic drinks extra. It better live up to the price tag.

There is a nicely situated Government guest house Kalyar Bhavan situated within the park and I did try to book that. But the booking process was unbelievably cumbersome when I made inquiries six months in advance.

I had to send a banker's draft, only a month before my date, with a letter and then phone the main office to check the booking. The booking would be of no value if a VIP or a forest officer decided to visit on the day and in India everyone is a VIP, if you know the right person. This had happened to me in the past where the District Forest Officer had lunch inside while I waited to find out whether he would decide to stay overnight or not.

Also what really put me off was the exorbitant price tag for foreigners. Although I do hold an Overseas Indian passport which technically should give me parity with Indian nationals when it comes to financial dealings, but the authorities had never heard of that and they were charging me nearly ten times more than Indian nationals. This is becoming a norm in almost all the national parks and I think even rich western tourists are feeling the pinch, especially in relation to camera/safari fees. In some of the Indian national parks there is hardly any infrastructure to justify this fleecing of foreign tourists.
My calculation showed that as foreign nationals for 4 of us staying one night in 2 non-A/c rooms at Kalyar Bhavan government guest house, with very simple meals and two safaris with local guides/camera fees would cost me 34000 rupees, a shade cheaper than Blackbuck Lodge. So why bother ? I opted for Blackbuck lodge. At least no VIP was going to throw me out.

 

One should never show his back to an Emperor and shuffle back and bow, till one is out of sight of the emperor and then only he can make a turn. When your server at dinner table treats you in this fashion then you know you are in for a royal treatment.

You then find a silver boar on your table, which acts up as a tooth pick holder giving the impression of a skewed boar in a hunt, gifted to the lodge by the Maharajah of Jodhpur, then you can forget about the price tag.

The hospitality of Blackbuck lodge was truly faultless. The manager Rakesh was always very prompt to reply to my e-mails. The lodge was built by Mr Mickey Desai who had a business in USA but then decided to return to Gujarat and build a lodge in the African theme. Everywhere I looked it reminded me of Africa. Even the long masks , which my wife immediately recognised as she remembered haggling very hard with an old lady at the road side wood market of Okahandja in Namibia.

The view was exactly like that of African Savannah of tall grass set on fire by the setting sun. The huts were well spaced out with fantastic outdoor showers.

And there was beer available any time, Yippeee !!!

The food was nice, although I won't call it mind-blowing. But I never care for posh food when travelling. In the night they built a small Boma style camp fire. We are simple non-demanding travellers and at times I found the attention too much. I guess they sensed it and left me on my own. They have a small lake near reception and a bigger lake towards the back which attract a number of birds. Blackbucks and nilgais can be easily seen from the property.

The park itself at Velavadar is a fairly small one with two sections. The grasslands and the wetlands. One of the main reasons for me to visit this place was to see the roosting of Harriers at sunset. I was surprised to hear that the evening safari had to finish well ahead of sunset , so no chance of seeing the roosting.

I was hoping that we would see some predators like Hyenas and wolves but sadly in our two safaris we did not encounter any, although I could not fault the naturalist lady. She did try her best. There was an American tourist, who was doing some sort of research in wolves. He had been staying for three days and I was relieved to hear that even he had not seen any wolves. The wolves are not really residents here, they come and go. So the chances are slim. I believe the chances of seeing hyenas are better as they usually stick to their dens, but we were unlucky. I read some reports in TA about people spotting wolves.

We had two safaris. The wetland safari was really no good as the wetland itself was pretty far and the bird population was not that great. I was surprised as I had seen pics of many pelicans there. The grasslands safari was better, simply because the views were really fantastic. We went around the loop couple of times but sadly no predators although did see some eagles and harriers.

Blackbucks were everywhere, so no need to worry about them.

We stayed for one night and perhaps could have stayed for two nights. The naturalist we had with us was new. She was a very nice girl and she was willing to extend the safari time without additional charge, but looked like the other guide Haider was more familiar with the lay-out. But even Haider had failed to unearth any wolf.

The forest department put a mandatory guide in our jeep who did nothing and I did not tip him a single penny. There is a forest department guide called Ismail who clearly showed a lot more enthusiasm.

So, overall the experience was mixed. It was also partly due to the fact that I was there outside the peak time of December -January. The lodge was fantastic but I wished the park was bigger with more bio-diversity.

Pics to follow..

8 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Out of Africa into Gujarat : the only thing missing is a red Barchan dune

 

33291610553_156cfc60ef_h.jpg

 

Yippee !!!

 

34103101915_e7e324e24b_b.jpg

 

 

The Hunt ( with toothpicks)

 

33717402960_1d34d2d0a7_b.jpg

 

Delicious Phirni

 

34102386085_c3b73c51f4_c.jpg

 

Swings

 

33717125700_f504a6be5b_b.jpg

 

 

Playing with fire ( with camera)

 

33313099940_7dca3c754a_b.jpg

 

33697197345_98b266f011_b.jpg

 

 

The drives

 

33541226132_32a6ae9d3e_h.jpg

 

34102149935_66e1cb9285_h.jpgUntitled by Desi DNA, on Flickr

 

The sun and the moon

 

32854478114_0ffaa9e147_b.jpg

 

33567972991_1c5dee2820_h.jpgUntitled by Desi DNA, on Flickr

 

 

33656056156_1448bdb053_c.jpg

 

Entrance

 

32855003674_bf3be6db72_c.jpg

 

 

 

 

9 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Keep it coming. The Beer looked very tempting as did the Silver Toothpick holder. Shame about the wolves.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Sorry that you had such poor luck at Velavader. We'll be at Blackbuck Lodge for two nights, also in February...just a couple of weeks later than you were. I hope we have some luck with hyenas and dare I hope for wolves! Disappointing that you can't stay out late enough for the harrier roost, as that was one of the things I wanted to see as well. I could have sworn that someone else mentioned seeing it in a trip report, I'll need to search for it. We will be traveling with our own wildlife guide so perhaps that will help.

 

At least there's beer :)

 

Looking forward to some more pics...you must have seen some wildlife there!

Edited by janzin
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry that you had such poor luck at Velavader. We'll be at Blackbuck Lodge for two nights, also in February...just a couple of weeks later than you were. I hope we have some luck with hyenas and dare I hope for wolves! Disappointing that you can't stay out late enough for the harrier roost, as that was one of the things I wanted to see as well. I could have sworn that someone else mentioned seeing it in a trip report, I'll need to search for it. We will be traveling with our own wildlife guide so perhaps that will help.

 

At least there's beer :)

 

Looking forward to some more pics...you must have seen some wildlife there!

Of course @@janzin , I did manage to see some wildlife. My luck with big mammals, specially predators, is always poor. Once in Yellowstone almost everyone I met, had seen a bear, but they never materialised for me. -_- Yes, you are right. I've also read reports about people seeing harrier roosting. The park safari timings are from 7 am to 6 PM. The sunset is around 6-30 pm. How can I see the roosting which happens around sunset if I am booted out 30 minutes before that? Our guide did stay back for about 15-20 minutes beyond 6 pm but the official guide kept on complaining and apparently the officer-in-charge at the gate had become very strict. Disappointing.

More pics will follow shortly. thanks for your interest.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not sure if it will be of any consolation but if the Harriers are anything like our local Hen Harriers (Northern in US) they don't come to roost until almost too dark. Well after sunset. India is a strange country with strange rules. We once booked a dawn departure (for birds) only to be told on the day that the guide would not arrive until sunrise as that was his contracted time. I know!! I know!

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a trip report you don't see everyday - and I'm enjoying it! Lots of nice birding and scenic / architecture shots as well as story to go along with it.
Sorry about the wolves and hyaenas though! But incentive to come back! ;)

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not sure if it will be of any consolation but if the Harriers are anything like our local Hen Harriers (Northern in US) they don't come to roost until almost too dark. Well after sunset. India is a strange country with strange rules. We once booked a dawn departure (for birds) only to be told on the day that the guide would not arrive until sunrise as that was his contracted time. I know!! I know!

Yes, I suspected that. Now I'll have to see some proper starling murmurations in Dorset to help me get over the disappointment. I don't think anyone will object to my presence after the sunset.

 

This is a trip report you don't see everyday - and I'm enjoying it! Lots of nice birding and scenic / architecture shots as well as story to go along with it.

Sorry about the wolves and hyaenas though! But incentive to come back! ;)

Thanks @Big-Dog : I appreciate your interest. Hope to keep you interested through the rest of the journey. The glamour and glitz of Bollywood movies and Cricket will also appear at some point ! After all, one can't escape from Bollywood and Cricket in India, two of the three things which permeate every corner of India. The third is religion/spirituality and I think I've already covered it more than enough. Just one more temple complex to go to atone for those beers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Chakra

A fascinating report. I am really enjoying themixture of culture and wildlife. Great writing and photos!

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

OK , enough of dry discussions. Now just photos and photos. I've to admit I'm no birder. All the harriers and eagles and kites look same to me, specially when they are flying ! I'm more than happy just to take photos and leave the ID to dedicated twitchers.

 

 

Let's start with birds first and this little pearly beauty. Our driver spotted him on the way to the park entrance and I wondered how he had spotted this little one. Later I realised the owl had made this pillar with hole his home and the driver knew he might peep out. So future travellers look out.

 

32854237594_a938a961d0_b.jpgr

 

 

Crested serpent eagle ? ???

 

32854660374_a97b8b56e3_h.jpg

 

Common KF, I guess ?

 

 

 

33656477086_8c5eb5e6c0_c.jpg

 

 

 

Not my best shot. I challenge the learned friends. Marsh Harrier perhaps ?

 

33313250530_bbe5e18410_b.jpg

 

Someone who likes the reeds.

 

33697541735_d4f2347b13_b.jpg

 

 

Even I know this one !!

 

33697450775_5eb9811cda_b.jpg

 

33568429431_0bfe2c5b4d_b.jpg

 

 

Yellow vented

 

32884399883_0cd9b9ab39_b.jpg

 

33656561836_8c52cd2355_b.jpg

 

Sparrow lark, I believe ?

 

33313299960_2a1bb94591_b.jpg

 

Short toed ?

 

33656372146_ab03d01e7e_b.jpg

 

Wire tailed swallow ?

 

33541063392_371f07eb43_b.jpg

 

No Clue
:blink::blink::blink:

33697448825_62bd4f9324_b.jpg

 

Chatty chat ?

 

33313272790_6f4a51eec0_b.jpg

 

 

Dove I know. Common or not so common? I can see a collar. Eurasian ?

 

33313256370_38a0149679_b.jpg

 

 

Pie in the sky ?

 

33313252010_cbff642406_b.jpg

 

 

General Franco in Grey uniform ?

 

 

33705134205_f0bf7e15b1_c.jpg

 

 

Night heron in daytime ???

 

32854249824_b3273020ee_c.jpg

 

 

His cousin

 

33320680080_584bd303ff_c.jpg

 

 

Purple swamphen busy with breakfast

 

33697091995_6a0f646779_b.jpg

 

33704787985_056a0f7e5d_b.jpg

 

33320582040_0d720d2d19_b.jpg

 

 

Beaks look silvery to me

 

32891313113_f4749db707_b.jpg

 

 

Looks different here. I'm confused :( :(

 

33697324395_5447f37539_b.jpg

 

An angry looking Drongo

 

33541014282_a101f99eeb_c.jpg

 

Omnipresent lapwings

 

33541031942_ac9f9752f8_b.jpg

 

? sparrowhawk / kestrel. Very poor shots from a distance in in fading light

 

33697398945_da40ffece5_b.jpg

 

 

33656214306_085b33f9d0_b.jpg

 

 

? Kestrel

32884104713_73c61ca372_b.jpg

 

33541049442_a714000b33_b.jpg

 

Cranes in dive bombing formation

 

32862124004_8ccf4147f1_b.jpg

 

Ringed parakeets everywhere

 

32891215763_f86f39bb62_b.jpg

 

 

33548447842_aae4b9044d_z.jpg

 

 

 

Sunbird enjoying the sun

 

33656554116_86ca5303b0_z.jpg

 

32884326993_f66f43c470_z.jpg

 

These were the easiest to photograph :P:P:P

 

33947703172_3922823404_b.jpg

Edited by Chakra
13 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ha ha. Very funny! Nice Stonechat!

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Chakra , you should publish your own version of a bird guide book, I am assured it would be a success!

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Chakra , you should publish your own version of a bird guide book, I am assured it would be a success!

If you say so. I'll make you the guest editor and offer 10 % of the deal. ;);)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


© 2006 - 2017 www.safaritalk.net - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.