A small (snake-filled) sanctuary in Goa, wealthy wetlands in Odisha and Himachal, and hornbills in an absurdly inexperienced rainforest of Tamil Nadu—4 specialists record their favorite haunts in India.
Wildlife excursions in India supply never-ending potentialities, whether or not you dive within the Andamans (high left) to watch fish and coral reefs, or spot lion-tailed macaques (proper) and great-pied hornbill (backside left) within the evergreen areas of Pollachi. Photographs by: Sumer Verma (Diver), Keerthana Balaji and Rohit Kalingarayar (lion-tailed macaque), Keerthana Balaji (hornbills)
Obsessed with Snakes
Herpetologist and Wildlife Information, Goa
Visiting Goa solely for its seashores is like placing down a ebook after studying the blurb. The state could be tiny, however its coast and ghats thrum with herps and birds which can be as dramatic as they’re various. Ask Rahul Alvares, who grew up on a farm in Hivrem, Goa, and now leads birding and herpetology teams throughout the state.
“I used to be fascinated by snakes even earlier than I learnt to crawl,” smiles Rahul. On a year-long break after passing out of college, he travelled to Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu and picked up the artwork of snake wrangling from the members of the indigenous Irula tribe by way of signal language as a result of they didn’t share the identical tongue. He suggests three biodiversity hotspots in Goa and how you can tread them responsibly:
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
A pleasing day journey away from Goa’s Palolem seaside, lies Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s situated to date south that solely the really curious find yourself looking for it. The 86-square-kilometre woodland is peppered with climbing trails, bushes that tower as much as 100 ft and crisp air that echoes with calls of vibrant critters. Whereas the sanctuary is residence to mouse deer, four-horned antelope, Malabar trogon and draco lizard, it additionally a magnet for herping fans who come to see on the hump-nosed pit viper, Giri’s bronzeback, flying snake and king cobra.
Professional Tip: You don’t want a information in these components—let some primary data of herpetology and a eager eye paved the way. The one recommendation Rahul presents is to pack sufficient digital camera batteries
Finest Time to Go to: June to August is peak herping season.
Socorro Plateau In North
Goa’s Socorro plateau, housing colonies finish and forests as dense as secrets and techniques start—simply the locations to identify the golden-mantled leafbird, plum-headed parakeet, munias, and orioles. Alongside the Paithona stream and Pilerne Lake, hold an eye fixed out for pied kingfisher, woolly-necked stork, bronze-winged jacana, and purple heron. Gorgeous panorama meets the attention whereas on a ship experience alongside the Zuari river, beneath the not too long ago opened 4,000-foot-long Zuari Bridge; sunsets listed here are the proper backdrop to identify the white-collared kingfisher. On the roughly eight-square-kilometre Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary in northeast Goa, you’re more likely to see the shy Malabar gray hornbill, ruby throated bulbul, white rumped shama and fairy blue fowl.
Professional Tip: Rahul dissuades individuals from imitating fowl calls.
Finest Time to Go to: November to Might is the perfect time to go to the plateau, whereas November-February is beneficial should you’re in search of migratory birds. Forest birds are finest noticed between April and Might, throughout their breeding season.
The favored weekend getaway doesn’t fall within the sunshine state—it’s the final hill station in Maharashtra earlier than the coastal plains of Goa start. Nevertheless it holds a particular place in Rahul’s coronary heart as a result of that is the place he first went herping in 2010.
Ringed by the Sahyadri hills, Amboli appears to have sprung up solely to shock the attention. The Malabar pit viper and bamboo pit viper slither and twist throughout its foliage, camouflaging themselves on rocks and bushes close to streams. The king cobra and the rear-fanged Forsten’s cat snake (named so due to its feline eyes) additionally roam Amboli.
Professional Tip: Don’t deal with the snakes as a result of it’s more likely to trigger a shift within the animal’s behaviour. Rahul additionally urges guests to be watchful of their steps and ditch the car to keep away from operating over creatures unknowingly. (rahulalvares.com)
As advised to Pooja Naik
Marine Biologist and Diving Teacher, Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The Andaman Islands are each bit the paradise they peddle on postcards. Powdery white sand, examine. Aquamarine lagoons, examine. Jurassic-like jungles, examine. Situated about 1,400 kilometres east of the Indian mainland, and nearer to Indonesia (200 kilometres to its east), the archipelago within the Bay of Bengal is a diver’s haven. There isn’t any dearth of any life kind right here, each on land and underwater, at all times compelling guests to remain again longer than they intend to. The story holds true for Nayantara Jain, a philosophy-undergrad-turned-marine biologist.
Nayantara started as a scuba diving teacher within the Andamans and Lakshadweep. It wasn’t till the key bleaching occasion in 2010, which severely affected the corals in reefs, that she dedicated herself to a trigger near her coronary heart—defending the ocean. With a Masters in marine biology from the California-based Scripps Establishment of Oceanography, she returned to the Andaman Islands in 2012 to spearhead ReefWatch Marine Conservation—a non-profit concerned in analysis and schooling about marine life conservation and coral reefs. Right this moment, she shuttles between island life and her residence in Bengaluru, and works to encourage travellers to do their bit whereas on a vacation, by signing up for conservation tasks. Listed here are her high diving suggestions:
Of the 572 islands within the Andamans, solely 36 are inhabited and escaping Havelock is troublesome. Diving right here is rewarding—suppose swimming previous psychedelic parrotfish, surgeonfish and gorgonian sea followers—however should you’re a licensed diver, Nayantara recommends deepening the expertise by signing up for the Andaman Coral Ecologist (ACE) diver programme developed by Reefwatch. It trains divers to note symbiosis, feeding patterns and predation avoidance strategies amongst various fish and invertebrates. Divers can swim by way of strategic websites reminiscent of Fish Level and Parrots Rock that signify the reef of the area, and organic indicator of marine species have been recognized to assist scale environmental parameters and reef well being. And that’s not all. Divers may forge a extra significant relationship with the ocean by serving to accumulate and add information associated to coral populations and fish.
Professional Tip: Nayantara advises in opposition to feeding the fish to draw them throughout a dive, as it’s more likely to trigger a shift of their way of life.
Finest Time to Go to: Monsoons are off season for diving. The very best time to take a dip within the ocean is between October and Might.
Give done-to-death Port Blair a miss and head to the close by Chidiya Tapu within the southernmost tip of the Andamans. In case you put in your wetsuit and dive into the waters right here, you’ll uncover a world of strikingly stunning aquatic creatures and a moss-coated shipwreck. A Japanese warship that sank throughout World Struggle II rests on its starboard facet at a depth of about 80 ft. Its propeller, an engine room and cargo holders are nonetheless intact. In case you swim near the home windows, you’ll be greeted by snappers, ray-finned barracuda and batfish which have made residence in its nooks. Fish Level, a subject base for coral reef restoration, is 5 minutes away.
“It’s fulfilling to see new life taking root right here.” Nayantara speaks of getting created a reef in a area the place stingrays, crocodiles and catfish are frequent guests. On the similar time, she cautions one to not hit the reef whereas diving or transfer corals from its place. (www.reefwatchindia.org)
As advised to Pooja Naik
Co-Founder, Papyrus Itineraries, Tamil Nadu
Cradled between the Anamalai hills and Coimbatore’s, Pollachi is the place the land flaunts absurd shades of inexperienced. In Tamil, the phrase pozhil vaichi means the land of pure wealth and prosperity. Drive round Pollachi and also you’ll know why: Rainforests, rivers, mountains and swathes of fields are packed into one giant canvas.
Nonetheless, a lot of Pollachi stays unexplored and missed by vacationers. Pravin Shanmughanandam, who noticed potential within the area’s tourism, stop his consumer servicing gig in Chennai to arrange base in Pollachi in 2014. He co-founded Papyrus Itineraries, a journey firm which connects company with the roots of the area by providing immersive experiences.
“I noticed the good Indian hornbill whereas driving round Valparai one weekend,” Pravin recollects of his maiden encounter with the species. “It made me need to get up early each morning to go birdwatching. Cities typically rob one among such alternatives.” On one such day, he got here throughout a gaggle of photographers swarming underneath a hornbill’s nest on personal land. The sight irked him, nevertheless it additionally planted a seed in his head. If tourism is managed the appropriate means in wildlife and eco-sensitive zones, he concluded, the outcomes might be deeply rewarding. Listed here are Pravin’s most beloved experiences in Pollachi:
A nature stroll in part of the rainforest of Valparai is a good way to not solely uncover a area less-trodden, but in addition to grasp the coexistence of man and wildlife throughout the belt. The world is rife with the lion-tailed macaque, nice Indian hornbill, Nilgiri tahr, Nilgiri langur and Asian elephant.
Finest Time to Go to: The months between June to January are beneficial to go to Valparai, and the remainder of Pollachi.
The moist and dry deciduous forest of Topslip is residence to greater than 200 species of birds out of which at the very least 16 are endemic. One can probability upon orioles, Malabar trogon, white-bellied treepie in addition to the leopard, Asian elephant, Indian gaur and dhole whereas trekking the Ulandy vary.
Professional Tip: Keep away from sporting vibrant garments in wildlife-rich zones; it helps to mix in. Speaking loudly is one other huge no-no.
This area falls within the Nelliampathy-Anamalai panorama. It’s best explored on a trek, to see how the topography shifts from an evergreen, moist to a dry deciduous forest. The panorama is peppered with endangered medicinal crops and orchids. Possible sightings within the space embrace rufous-bellied eagle, Sri Lanka frogmouth, and yellow-footed inexperienced pigeon.
This espresso plantation is owned by a gaggle of conservationists and set amidst tropical rainforests within the Anamalais. Solely travellers keen to let go of creature comforts like cell community and electrical energy are capable of discover the 175-acre property on foot. The zone is managed by Kadar tribesmen, a neighborhood native to southern a part of the Western Ghats. Eco-tourism is on the coronary heart of actions right here—birdwatching, climbing, trekking, evening walks for herping, organising of camera-traps, and planting endemic tree saplings within the rainforest. One can spot hornbill, trogon, endemic bulbuls, thrushes, flycatchers, nuthatches and mammals such because the elephant, leopard, sloth bear, Nilgiri marten, Nilgiri langur and the occasional tiger.
Finest Time to Go to: The months between June and December are splendid to go to Altaghat. (www.thepapyrusitineraries.in)
As advised to Pooja Naik
Member, Wetlands Worldwide South Asia
Swathes of marshes and swamps may not be the primary alternative of a trip spot. However wetlands are catnip for migratory birds, unusual crops, bugs, and even mammals. Assume sluicing by way of glassy lakes, chopping throughout dense mangroves, or observing how hamlets and islands are related by way of a strip of a wetland—all of the whereas surrounded by the creatures that thrive on this ecosystem. In India, 27 wetlands have been recognized as Ramsar Websites, deemed to be of particular significance underneath the worldwide Ramsar Conference, for the sheer number of crops, birds, and animals
Asad Rahmani isn’t any stranger to the fantastic thing about wetlands. The previous director of Bombay Pure Historical past Society (BNHS) and now a board member of Wetlands Worldwide South Asia, Rahmani has tirelessly labored to focus on lesser-known species and habitats. “I used to be taken with wildlife whilst a toddler, and had many pets rising up: canines, cats, pigeons, fish, frogs and toads, hedgehog, peafowl, hen, praying mantis, lizards, rabbits, gray goral, chukar partridge, parakeet… Later, after I was sufficiently old to learn, I’d lose myself within the columns of M. Krishnan—a superb naturalist, author and photographer—that appeared fortnightly in The Statesman. I needed to be like him,” says Rahmani. Listed here are his most beloved Ramsar wetlands to go to:
Kolleru Lake, Andhra Pradesh
In case you’re in Vijayawada, an hour’s drive to this shallow, freshwater lake flowing between the West Godavari and Krishna districts will take you to the stomping floor of hundreds of geese and waders in winter. Kolleru can also be well-known for big flocks of garganey and Asian openbill.
Finest Time to Go to: Winter is the most effective time should you’re looking for migratory birds in any of the wetlands. Summer time in Kolleru has its rewards—you’d be surrounded by egrets, herons, storks, and pelicans.
Chilika Lake, Odisha
Not many individuals know that pear-shaped Chilika is a Ramsar website, or that the Nalabana Fowl Sanctuary is a big a part of it. Greater than 1,000,000 migratory waterfowl go to its shores yearly. Nalabana is an actual deal with as a result of threatened species reminiscent of Asian dowitcher, Pallas’s fish-eagle, lesser adjutant, Indian skimmer and lesser white-fronted goose flock right here. The superlatives don’t finish there: Maybe the most important congregation of black-tailed godwit—about 20,000 of them—is hosted by Mangalajodi, which lies to the northeast of Chilika.
Level Calimere, Tamil Nadu
Scrub forest, mudflats, saltpans—the coastal plains that cradle this wildlife sanctuary supply landscapes as various as they will get. No marvel Level Calimere attracts hundreds of waders, reminiscent of Temmick’s stint from Scandinavia and Russia, the long-legged curlew sandpiper which comes from the Arctic, and the globally endangered frequent greenshank.
Pong Dam, Himachal Pradesh
The star winter attraction of this Ramsar website in Kangra district is the bar-headed geese. Fringed by the Dhauladhar mountains, the location was declared a fowl sanctuary in 1983, after giant populations of birds started arriving to its shores. Birders are available giant numbers to identify northern pintails, frequent teals, and cormorants.
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