Monday, January 28, 2019

Planning A Tiger Safari at Ranthambhore

Wildlife Tour Planning Ranthambore!

Before you do get some facts right. The safaris are organised in Ranthambore with the sole aim of giving you a wildlife experience. Wildlife experience or interpretation is part of your holiday at the tiger reserve in Rajasthan in India. During most of the excursions tourists search for the tiger. This is the main focus of the holiday for most of the visitors except the birders who seek a more holistic experience. The birdlife is simply fantastic!

Little attention is paid by others towards the common animals in an ecosystem which has so much to offer. Hence when you visit the destination enjoy the sights and sounds of all the creatures and not only the big cats. During the game rounds you can see the leopard, sloth bear, Nilgai antelope, sambar and spotted deer, hyena, jackal, wild boar and the langur monkeys.  

The destination has number of ancient historical monuments some of which can be visited. The picturesque lakes create a magical splendour and offer thrilling sights of animals and the tigers that hunt there.    

The park organises two safaris one in the early morning and another around three in the afternoon. These have to be booked in advance. The park is divided into various tourism zones which have to be selected during the booking. Remember book the zones in the core area which offer the best sightings of the wild animals.

The permits are charged and photo identity is required to be mentioned whence booking. During the entry the photo identity has to be presented by each and everyone. The options you get is a visit on an open jeep or a canter. The former is more private but the latter is cheaper and the ride has to be shared with other tourists.  Anyway book in advance is my advise! The option for current booking is also available at the Gate if  entry is not fully booked. Do you wish to take a chance? 

For longer duration of stay a large number of high end, heritage, luxury and budget resorts are available. These are situated near Sawai Madhopur township out in the buffer area. You can book them online if you wish. Choose the one that offers modern amenities and good service. Read trip reports or reviews or seek reference from a friend who has already been there.

The entry is fixed as per the time set by the forest department. The exit is also fixed by the department. Jeeps are available for excursions in the park and some hotels provide naturalist services to enhance your experience. All this cost money so be prepared to spend. The rewards are worth the expense.

There is a limit for the entry vehicles in the core zones for excursion. There is a  full day safari at Ranthambhore option available online. In this format you enter early and exit late while you spend the whole day in the park. This is best suited for wildlife photography and filming. Book any tiger safari but do it in advance is my suggestion. In case of rush you will not be able to avail an entry in the core zone.    

Carry quality binoculars and some books on wildlife. Warm clothing in winters is essentials. And yes make purchase of all essentials at Jaipur before you depart for Sawai Madhopur. The park is closed during the monsoon from July to September.  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Pachmarhi A Pristine Holiday Retreat

Pachmarhi Resort 
As the taxi negotiates agonizing twists and turns of the rugged climb I look at the changing landscape - astounding verdant greenery. We are negotiating the Matkuli Hill Range and driving up towards the Pachmarhi Township. Nestled in the Satpura Range Pachmarhi is part of the Satpura Biosphere Reserve which encompasses Satpura National Park and Bori Wildlife Sanctuary.    
Hilly Landscape

The sharp turns and twists, and the deep glens we leave behind make me dizzy, and my innards shaky. You are conscious of a fatal slip but the driver is at ease and that is comforting. 

Pachmarhi Hillside

We stop at Denwa Darshna the mountain river which intersects the biosphere reserve.  From the dizzy precipice the river looks like a snake wriggling through steep walls of ancient mountains. The boulder strewn pathway gives way to fine sand filled beaches, and the waters sparkle bright in the sunlight. This is our first introduction of this pristine paradise. 

Unspoilt and in perfect state of preservation, Pachmarhi was saved from the axe by its notification as a wildlife sanctuary, and being a Cantt it was saved from rabid urbanization. Unlike other holiday resorts in India the destination is untouched, unspoilt and charming albeit tourist pressure and township reconstruction is have a telling effect in a small area, but nevertheless it still is one of the finest retreat in India. 

Daru Haldi Exotic Shrub a painkiller of note
The most stunning and captivating waterfall I find here is the Silver Falls. Not yet motorable, one has to trek through dense forests to reach the fall. The misty cascade created by the seven hundred drop to the enigmatic valley below gives rise to a silver curtain and hence the name. On the way we come across a paleolithic cave with paintings dating back to 20000 years. The next stop is at the Fairy Pool, crystal clear and absolutely still, the pool is fed by an enchanting spring that emerges from the forest clads mountains.  Other interesting places to follow are the Handi Cove, Bee Falls, Irene Pool and Reechgarh Caves. There are more....     


On one visit you realize that terrain was in a constant state of upheaval since ages with forest clad mountains dotting all over the surroundings. Incidentally the highest point in Madhya Pradesh is Dhoopgarh about nine kms from the township. The hill rises steeply to a height of 1350 MSL. At the lap of this mountain sits a quaint resthouse deserted but in a state preservation. This was the favorite haunt of the British Sahibs during the Raj, and they used to indulge in hunting and revelries best imagined in the summer capital. The destination in the contemporary era is still the summer capital of MP Government.  
Highest Point Dhoopgarh

Rest House At Dhoopgarh

As you climb up to Dhoopgarh the vegetation changes giving rise to a distinct ecosystem which supports myriads of life forms especially migratory birds. Another towering mountain is Chuaragarh with four thousand steps to negotiate if you dare to climb. Atop this mountains sits temple of Lord Shiva and is a point of pilgrimage for devout Hindus.
View From Dhoopgarh
Milestone at Dhoopgarh
Some of the valleys are deep beyond expectation and are often visited by botanists to explore the goldmines containing rare plants and shrubs. The place contains floral species of immense medicinal value besides being ornamental.     

Pandav Caves
In a small area surrounding the township i.e. the wildlife sanctuary and Satpura tiger Reserve there are a number of natural occurrences like waterfalls, pools, glens, mountains and natural caves. Overriding these iconic spots are cave formations containing Shiva idols, Bade and Chote Mahadev, Jata Shankar and the Pandava Gufa.

Though overcrowded the township has some of the finest old bungalows stamped with exquisite British Architecture, these are in a perfect state of preservation and inhabited. Some have been turned into hotels like the Golf View Hotel in the periphery. Signs of tourism fatigue are obvious but thankfully limited only to the township.   

Golf View Hotel
The periphery being part of the biosphere is rich in wildlife and leopard sloth bears, sambar and bison are often encountered by trekkers. An occasional tiger from the reserve finds its way here as well. Due to the varying altitude and immense floral wealth Pachmarhi is soon to become a birding hotspot. One small trek we came across contained more than twenty five species and a fresh pawprint of a tiger.  
Tiger Paw Print Pachmarhi

There are many resorts at Pachmarhi Township, and some luxurious properties owned by MPTDC in the outskirts for accommodation. Street food joints are in plenty along with small shopping centres.

The hills station lies near Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. It is five hours drive from Jabalpur Airport and is also accessible from Bhopal Airport. It lies at a drive of two hours from Satpura Tiger Reserve entrance at Madai.

By Rail: Stoppage at Piparia Station ( 3 hrs from Jabalpur) and one hour drive uphill to the township.