Weekend Birdwatching Trip to Akshi Beach

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December 2017 (TR#21)

This is the first long distance drive with our new SUV – Jeep Compass  !  Really enjoyed the ride in spite of pathetic road condition !

A number of migratory birds come from colder region in northern hemisphere to Akshi beach in winter.  The Akshi beach is located near Alibaug, about 150 km north of Pune. It took us close to 5 hours to reach the beach.

The beach is slightly black and without much slope. This makes it a perfect habitat for birds.

You have to be really patient to watch and photograph these as they are very shy.  We saw the following birds:

  • Lesser Sand Plover
  • Greater Sand Plover
  • Greater Flemingo
  • Egret
  • Whiskered Tern
  • Steppe Gulls
  • Kentish Plover
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Great Knot
  • Gray Plover
  • Dunlin
  • western reef egret
  • Eurasian Oystercatcher
  • Eurasian Curlew
  • Terek Sandpiper
  • Little Stint
  • Sanderling

We stayed at ShintreWadi. I will highly recommend this place. The resort,  rooms and cafeteria is very clean. They serve freshly prepared food. The owner, Mr. Shintre, makes a point to talk to everyone.

 

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Rediscovering Goa

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November 2017 (TR#20)

We explored different parts of Goa this time – Verca Beach in the South Goa and Natures’ Nest Birding/Nature resort in Surla. We stayed for 3 nights but it wasn’t enough to see the beautiful beaches of South Goa and birds in the Bondla & Surla forest.

From Pune, we reached Goa via Belgaum, Khanapur, Mahedi Wildlife Sanctuary and Anmod. The road till Belgaum is excellent afterwards it is patchy till Anmod.

Our resort at Verca – Club Mahindra – was fantastic. It has a very large area and a sea front. There are tons of things to do in and around resort. South Goa is comparatively quieter than the northern part but beaches are better in terms of crowd and cleanliness.  It also has a number of very good restaurants like Martin Corner and Fisherman’s Wharf. 

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Our stay at Nature Nest was excellent. The place is very quiet and it is right inside the Surla forest. The food was excellent and we could see a lot of birds within the resort itself.  Our birding  guide, Ramesh Zarmekar, took us to the various places in Surala to see some rare birds such as Sri Lankan frogmouth and blue eared Kingfisher.  We also saw  a very old template – “The Tambdi Surla Shiva Temple” , which was built in 12th Century.

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On the next day, we went to Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. We saw some beautiful birds there as well. Our bird guide had a great knowledge of birds and habitats.

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Here is a beautiful picture of flying snake !!

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Jawai Leopard Hills of Rajasthan

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October 2017 ( TR#19)

This was one of the lifetime experiences to see  the 7 leopards in just 2 days !

The Jawai area of Rajasthan is near to the Udaipur city but also accessible by road from Ahmedabad and Jodhpur. The area have Jawai Dam, grasslands , riverbed and grazing ground.   The Hills of Jawai were shaped by lava millions of years ago resulting into natural caves and rock shelters for leopards.  With caves and abundance of food, it is the perfect area for Leopards.  As per the locals, around 60+ leopards are staying in the Area.   With no major issue/conflict with humans reported,  it seems that the Jawai leopards are living harmoniously in the midst of people.

We had planned for a 2 night/3 day trip, which includes 4 Safaris. We started our trip from Ahmadabad and it took about 6 hours to reach our Hotel – Varaval Leopard Camp.  The Hotel has 5 tents and a dining area. The rooms are very clean and they serve home cooked food. Pushpendra Singh Ranawat & his family give a very personal touch to the whole experience of staying at the camp. The menu is decided based on guest’s preferences. They served us “Dal Bati Churma”, “Sangri Vegetable” and “Pitod ki Sabzi”, which are all authentic Rajasthani preparations.

We had  a total 4 safaris, out of which 3 were successful in terms of Leopard sighting.  Our guides, Yashwant Singh Ranawat & Jasawant Singh Ranawat were knowing the area well and they put in a lot of efforts for the leopard sighting. They also have a good network to get a good intelligence on the leopard sighting in the area. We were very lucky to see a total of 7 Leopards in 3 safaris  – One on the hills of Sena, one on the way to Perwa and 5 on the hills of Perwa. In our Safari to Bera area, we waited for 2+ hours but could not get any sighting of the leopard named “Hira” . The leopard, which we saw on the hills of Sena was a female and she had given birth to 2-3 cubs a week before. We could have seen the cubs if we had planned our trip after 2-3 weeks. During our mission to spot leopards, we also saw jackals, nilgai, pecocks znd a pair of owlet.

Jawai is not a protected wildlife sanctuary.  The access to the area is uncontrolled and one can try to spot the leopards at any time during day or night. As this destination becomes popular, the tourism needs to be regulated. It is likely that the leopards will get disturbed and can move to another area.

Book Review : India Unbound: The Social and Economic Revolution from Independence to the Global Information Age. Author : Gurcharan Das

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This book was a birthday gift from my daughter !!

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This is great book which gives a history of the economic progress of India from pre-Independence day till modern day’s India. What was an eye opener was : In early 18th century, India was a leading manufacturing country in the world and it had 22.6 percent share of the world’s GDP. Because of the population and availability of the cheap labor, India lagged behind in technology and innovations. The productivity was also poor due to these reasons and also because of the division of the population on the basis of the religion and caste. There are no second thoughts that British Raj looted India but it did set up the institutions which helped India in post Independence. The book explains very nicely how the License Raj started because of socialist thinking & strategy and how it affected the economic growth in post Independence. It also explains the economic liberalization which started in 1991 and how it has improved the economic conditions of many Indian, which is resulting into one of the biggest middle class population in any country.

Here is a link to the book : http://www.worldcat.org/title/india-unbound/oclc/863622721?loc=10272

Bhandardara (Maharashtra, India)

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September 2017 ( TR#18)

The Bhadardara dam areas have some of the beautiful waterfalls in Maharashtra and many Bollywood movies are shot here.

It is about 220 Kms from Pune via Sangmner on Pune Nashik highway. We started early morning from Pune and reached Bhandardara at 2 PM. On the way, we stopped at Narayangaon for the famous “Misal”

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The road  condition till Sangamner is fine but from Sangamner to Bhandardara is pathetic. Be prepared for bumps and diversions. We stayed at MTDC Resort. The location of resort is very good but that’s all can be said about the resort.  The cafeteria and rooms are very ordinary for the money they charge. The cafeteria was not looking very hygienic and the choice of food is also very limited.  We couldn’t find a good restaurant in Bhadardara.

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We saw a couple of very beautiful waterfalls around area.

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We also took a 55 kms round trip around the dam area. The round trip is very scenic but the roads are too bad.  We saw “Kokan Kada”, which is the highest point from the hills overlooking Kokan area down. We also Amruteshwar temple which was built thousands of year ago.

We stayed for two nights and that is enough considering the amount of activities you can do there.

Switzerland

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July 2017 (TR#17)

For a change, the highlight of the trip was not about the beauty of the Switzerland but a family reunion ! Four of us traveled from all 4 different cities from 2 continents to meet at a central place, which is happened to be Switzerland !

We had planned a 5D/4N trip with 3 nights in Interlaken and 1 night in Zurich. Instead of renting a car, we decided to use the Swiss Pass which can be used on any mode of the public transport, which is considered to be one of the best in the world.  The trains were amazing – clean & on time.  The google map was so helpful in identifying the trains and its connections to reach to the destination.IMG_1433

We stayed in the Hotel Rössli in Interlaken. We had booked it based on the excellent reviews and it turned out to be better than expected! Really enjoyed the  breakfast.

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On the first day, we took a cruise from Interlaken to see the Alps and experience the cruising in clean & blue water. We got down at Spiez and came back to Interlaken by train.  For the dinner, we tried the signature dish of the Switzerland – “Cheese fondue”.

We spend the second day visiting jungfraujoch !  It is at the elevation of 3,466 metres (11,371 ft) above sea level. The Jungfraujoch railway station, at an elevation of 3,454 metres (11,332 ft) is the highest in Europe. The view from  Jungfraujoch was amazing!  After photos, coffee and adventure sport ( rope slide), started for return journey via Kleine Scheidegg. We had a great lunch at the restaurant in Kleine Scheidegg. While coming back, we choose to return via Lauterbrunnen. It is a very small cosy city with breath taking views of the Alps. We strolled in the city and then returned back to Interlaken after having a nice coffee.

The third day was spent in visiting  Schilthorn.  At 2970 metres, the Schilthorn attracts visitors with a magnificent 360-degree panoramic view of the “Swiss skyline”. We have to go Schilthorn via Cable Car from Lauterbrunnen. On the way, we stopped at intermediate stop to have a “Thrill walk”.  The Thrill Walk is 200-meter-long steel and glass bridge that clings to the side of the rock at Schilthorn before swinging under the observation deck. It is absolutely thrilling, true to its name !! While coming back, we had a “Swiss Lunch” at the homely restaurant in “Murren”.

We spent the last day of our trip visiting Zurich. We took a nice walk on the most expensive shopping street in the world. We also saw the “Eth University”, the top university in the Europe.  After having dinner at the cafeteria at airport headed back to our Hotel, Holiday Inn Express, near the airport.

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The next day, all of us took early morning flight from Zurich to two different continents and thus comes to an end our short, sweet and memorable trip !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trail and Hikes from New Jersy, USA

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July 2017 (TR#15)

New Jersey have a number of state parks, trails and hikes. No wonder it is called the Garden State !  Thanks to this website – Alltrails – which gives fantastic information on all trails across the world !!

Green Trail of Cheesequake State Park  (30th June 2017):  This is my first trail in the US !  This is a 4.8 Kms loop trail near Matawan, New Jersey.  The park ranger office at the start of the trail was very helpful. They have three trials  – Red dot, Blue dot and Green dot with increasing levels of difficulty. I was pleasantly surprised by the way they have maintained it. The trails are well marked and chances of you getting lost is very slim. If you get lost, they have emergency number to call. I completed this trail in close to 1 hour.

Sourland Mountain Ride Loop :  This Sourland Mountain Ridge Inner Loop Trail is a 3.8 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Hillsborough Township, New Jersey that features a river and is rated as moderate. More information regarding the Sourland Mountain Preserve can be found out here.  There are 3 trails – Circle, Triangle and Square with the increasing order of difficulty.

I really enjoyed this hike.  It was quite steep with rocky road. You can hear a lot of birds. I saw a deer and a woodpecker on the way. It took about 1.5 hours.  I came across a number of hikers on the way.

Washington Valley Park Trail : Washington Valley Park Trail is a 5.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Martinsville, New Jersey that features a lake and is rated as moderate. This has a very nice lake view and you can see a number of water birds. We did the “Red Dot” trail of about 8 Kms in about 2 hours.

TR 15: Baneshwar

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10th June 2017 :  We had a small get together at Orchard Resort near Baneshwar. It is very good resort right on the highway but still calm inside. The food was good. There is a small hill right behind the resort. All of us had a nice morning walk on the hill and after the breakfast, we saw Baneshwar temple and garden. Baneshwar temple architecture is from the medieval period. The temple was constructed in 1749 by Peshwa Nanasaheb, son of Peshwa Bajirao. Baneshwar is a conserve forest area and wildlife sanctuary where a variety of birds, flowers, plants can be seen. Baneshwar is worth visiting for jungle lovers and trekkers as well as for pilgrims.

TR 14- Bird watching trip to Sattal & Pangot (Uttarakhand – India)

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When my son and his friends asked me to join on a  birding trip to Sattal & Pangot in Uttarakhand, I was very excited and looking forward for this visit !  The whole trip was very well planned by them, I just did all the bookings which were decided by them.

Sattal ( Elevation: 1370 mts) and Pangot ( Elevation : 2000 mtrs)  have become very famous for the birding activity in a last few years. Thanks to Hari Lama, Lokesh and other birding guides in that area. Depending on the season, you can see more than 200 species of Himalayan birds. It is located at about 250 kms/6 Hrs hours distance from New Delhi by train or road.

We had planned for a 6 nights/7 days trip – with 4 days in Sattal and 2 days in Pangot.

We took Pune-Delhi flight and then Delhi Metro to reach our hotel, Ginger Yatri Nivas,  which is next to the New Delhi Railway station. The New Delhi Metro is much better than London or Paris Metro in terms of cleanliness. The location of “Ginger Yatri Nivas” is also very convenient if you are catching a train from New Delhi Train station.

On the next day, we started at 6 AM from the New Delhi Railway station and reached Kathgodam at 11:30 AM. It takes about an hour to reach Sattal from Kathgodam by car. The train journey by  the Shtabdi Exparess was excellent – Very good food, air conditioned and charging points all over the places.

All the arrangements of the trip from Kathgodam were made by our bird guide, Lokesh Kumar. We stayed  at “Birdder’s Den” at Sattal. They have created a place for birds to come for food & water and also place for the bird watcher/photographers to take the pictures of the birds coming there. The hotel is really very good – Very good food, excellent view of the valley, beautiful flowers and a lot of birding.

We spent our afternoon at Birders’s den. There were so many birds coming to the den and all of us were very excited watching and clicking the pictures. In the afternoon, we went to a birder’s spot in Sattal. This spot is near the lake and local bird guides have created this birding spot in the stream near the lake. There was a lot of excitement to see the new birds from Himalaya region at this spot.

There are other birding spots near Sattal – Chaffi River, Kaichi and Shamkhet,  which we visited to see the different kind of birds.

After staying in Sattal for 4 days, we went to Pangot, which is at slightly higher elevation than Sattal and nearer to Nainital. You can see different birds at Pangot than what to get see at  Sattal.  We saw some rare birds such as Cheera and Koklass at Pangot.

We stayed in “Kafal House” at Pangot. It has a very beautiful valley view. The whether was nice and cool.  The food was excellent – simple but freshly made. One day, all the boys wanted to eat “Momos” so went to Nainital and had a great monos at the famous “Sonam” hotel in  the Tibet Market.

Overall in the trip, we saw more than 130 species of the bird ( will share the bird list soon). Many of them are very colorful and beautiful.  The credit for a great birding also goes to Lokesh Kumar, our birding guide and to my son & his friends. Lokeshkumar is simply great in locating and identifying birds. He took a lot of effort to show us some of the rare birds.

Nobody from our group knows how these 7 days went. We were not tired and did not want to go back to earth from the paradise!!