Showing posts with label forest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label forest. Show all posts

Friday, January 03, 2020

A morning at Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary

Hoollongapar Gibbon
Our trip to Hollong was one of the most challenging and memorable ones. Still, after so many months, it remains clear like yesterday. We slept early knowing we have to leave early. So when the alarm went off at 4 AM the whole place was quiet and dark. We hauled all our luggage from the room to the rented car. It was a bit of a task given that we were staying backside of the property. Any way by 4:30 we started and headed east to Hollongapar GIBBON.

The traffic was thin as there was not much movement in the early morning. Soon the sun came out, but the road condition started to deteriorate with ongoing road widening and other work. We passed many tea gardens on both sides of the national highway. But suddenly we saw one accident and lots of people. As we approach slowly we saw the accident involved a truck carrying fresh fish and another vehicle. As the fishes would spoil every villager was carrying two-three big fishes in their hand or any makeshift begs that they could find. It was quite a scene. I am sure those villagers even might remember that day when they had a Fete 😊 

Primates of Gibbon  
Soon we crossed Jorhat and saw the sign for Mazuli (our later destination). We were following Google Maps and soon we were in the middle of a tea garden as we left the highway behind. We were a little puzzled as there was no mention of crossing a tea garden when we discussed the road condition previous night with Wild Grass Manager. As we had no choice we continued driving and soon we reached a spot where there was a small signboard which said Hollong. 


But by now the road condition is just dirt track and with previous night rain, it was only suitable for a 4x4. Our rental car was the cheapest one a small Ford Figo. There was no place to take u-turn as the road was narrow and we were moving forward at a snail pace using the tire marks from other cars. We saw only 3 people on this road who were on bicycles collecting fallen woods from the forest. With my broken Assamese, I just managed to ask where is Hollong/Gibbon and they just showed with their hand go forward. Aarush was sleeping in the back seat and we were scared as there was no mobile signal and we realized we are middle of the jungle. After driving for quite a few KMs we reached a spot where we saw forest personal. 

They gave us a strange look as we were not the locals and had no local guides with us and how we reached there from the wrong road. Talking to them it became clear (thanks to Google Maps) we drove through the jungle which is not at all sensible as there are wild elephants who are active in the early morning. 

Forest Guard waling with his gun
The forest personnel asked us to pay a minimal fee and told one guard will come with us and it is a walking tour. This was our first walking tour inside a forest where there are wild animals like elephants and leopard. Luckily we got some company of another tourist who came with Diganta Gogoi. Mr. Gogoi runs a homestay and the best guide for Hollong and surrounding areas. Now there are two guards allocated for 6 of us, and they were carrying very old guns on their shoulders. The purpose of those guns maybe just to scare away any animals. I thought we will just go inside for a few hundred meters and come back. And after the scary drive was bit disoriented so when Aarush asked which shoes to put I said just put crocs. But he somehow decided to put proper shoes. 

As soon as I entered I saw a bright bird and clicked it. And to my surprise, it was Red Trogon and soon the trogon flew away without giving any chance of a second shot. There are only three types of trogon in India, two are found in North East Red-Headed and Ward Trogon. And Malabar Trogon in the Western Ghats. 

Soon we started to spot the primates we saw Gibbon, Pig-tailed Macaque, Stump-tailed Macaque. Other primates found in the same forest are Capped Langur, Assamese Macaque, Rhesus Macaque and the only nocturnal primate in the north-east, the Bengal Slow Loris. 

A group of Stump-Tailed Macaque crossed just in front of us, but my bad luck I ran out of battery. And in the morning with all excitement from the crazy driving, I completely forgot to put the spare battery in my pocket. Asrush got 4 leech bites but he was brave enough not to make any noise. 

After a few hours of jungle safari on our foot, we turned back to the car. We had a quick chat with Mr. Gogoi and he invited us to stay next time in his homestay which we are looking forward, 

And this time with proper direction from the forest guide took the road to Jorhat our next destination. 



Gibbon Wildlife -- Things to know before vising.

Hollongapar GIBBON WILDLIFE SANCTUARY 


Baby stump-tailed macaque
Hollong - the state tree of Aaasm. The story goes back like this when the British came and saw these long trees, they asked How Long? And it became Hollong Tree. Just like "there is a brown crow" was a way to say "Darwaza bandh Karo" (close the door in Hindi -- from Satyajit Ray's Feludaa).

It is only 20 sq KM of Sanctuary. Actually, it is the oldest miscellaneous plantation having Dipterocarpus and Mesua as dominant species It was declared a Reserve by the British way back in 1881,(53 years after the advent of British rule) The original forests used to extend to the foothills of the Patkai mountain range. Since then, the forest has been cleared mainly for tea growing by the British. In the 1960s people from Majuli were settled here, so small villages have come up also. Now it is a small tropical wet forest 20 sq km in size.

The place is easily accessible and has 7 species of primates. Only walks are allowed and Hollock Gibbon easily sighted. The area has Northeastern India's only nocturnal primate – the slow loris But you have to be overnight in Gibbon itself to see the slow loris. The accommodation is basic inside Gibbon. (night visit is now banned) There is a presence of pigtailed and stump-tailed macaque which can be sighted with moderate luck. In winter (starting late October) it is good for forest birds several species of forest butterflies and giant squirrel also can be seen. The dense forest makes it difficult to see too many birds. Guides claim that in the main road cutting through this small sanctuary more than 100 species of butterflies can be identified in the months of Oct and November as also in March-April. 

Though a plantation it looks like a natural forest with all stories of canopy extant. It’s a natural-looking rain forest and surely worth a visit. The sanctuary is now insular and has no connectivity with a larger forest belt. But earlier it had contiguity with Disoi Valley Reserved Forests(RF) Disoi RF, Tiru RF and Geleki RF bordering Nagaland and was the natural abode of all these primates. Due to large scale human-induced degradation especially from Nagaland the Gibbon Sanctuary is what is left. A pocket herd of the elephant is largely resident in this sanctuary and leopards are also found. Sighting of the groups of primates requires prior arrangement with forest authorities. in this unique forest, It is the best place for orienting a naturalist to the representative rain forest habitat condition coupled with interesting primate sighting especially the Hollock Gibbon which is the only ape available in India. Photographers usually try their luck.

It does not take long to explore Gibbon usually people do it ex Kaziranga they take a hired vehicle to go to Gibbon WLS and leave very early 4 am so they reach the place 128 km (2 and half hours) and then Gibbon activity is over they come back to visit Eastern Range in Kaziranga on same day. The place is 30 odd minutes from Jorhat airport and so on the last day of the tour, it is fruitful to visit this very small sanctuary for those flying out via Jorhat airport. Jorhat airport is 90 km away.

Second Day in Kaziranga (April 2018)

Our hotel Wild Grass was next to Central Zone. For the second day in Kaziranga, we supposed to have elephants Safari in the morning. Now there are 2 places where you can have elephant safari. The central zone is very popular, is difficult to get, The counter opens at 7 PM in the evening prior and people line up for long, there is a priority to foreign tourist. Our hotel arranged for the Western Zone. 

Elephant Ride @ Kaziranga
 As last evening we already had done our safari there, we drove in our car till the Western Gate. Reaching there we called the person who was supposed to make our booking and take us to Safari. There were hundreds of people in the early morning. We could not get the first batch of Safari as there are a limited number of elephants. There were vendors selling hot tea and other hot beverages. We spotted many birds just outside the Park gate.

These elephant rides take place at the very edge of the Park. There are only 4 people (max) allowed on each elephant. Depending on the group of tourists and their overall weight distribution the seating is arranged. Getting up on the back elephant is always fun, it is shaky and you need to adjust yourself and your legs properly. The best part of the elephant ride is it takes you very close to the rhino. The track is partly swap so you swing a lot from the back of the elephant. Photography is difficult as there are not many stable moments. The whole ride was for about 45 minutes.

Post the ride we came back to the hotel, had a big breakfast that involved freshly cooked many dishes. We walked around the property and did some photoshoots. And decided to visit the nearby Orchid & Biodiversity Park.

In the afternoon we had our second jeep safari in the central zone. We again saw many birds, elephants, rhino. It was really great. If you plan to visit Kaziranga must recommend Wild Grass for their rustic bungalow with warm hospitality.

Kaziranga - information you need to know before visiting


Kaziranga is one of the bigger National Park of India. It has three prominent zones - Central, Western and Eastern.

Central Range -- This drive covers the central region of the park. It is an ideal introduction to the park and its ecology as the route passes through the entire spectrum of habitat types prevalent in the Kaziranga area. (though Brahmaputra view is not available, a stretch of the route goes by the tributary river Difloo) There is a possibility of sighting elephants as well as the other big animals especially the swamp buffalo and of course the rhino. In the extensive short grass yards next to the wetlands the rare Swamp Deer. Swamp Deer is more endangered than the Asian one-horned rhino as far as the world population is concerned. Birding is possible in a wide range of habitats.

Western Range -- From Wild Grass, it takes 20 minutes by jeep to reach the entrance of this Range. The route traverses the southwest portion of the park. This range has maximum short grass areas and is the optimum habitat for Rhino and Water buffaloes The Dunga Tower presents a panorama of short grass edged wetland, patches of tall grassland and woodland in with such visual setting animals can be sighted in a landscape representing their appropriate habitat. Part of the drive is also through Low Alluvial Savannah Woodland. Colonization of grassland by Lagerstroemia trees can be seen.

Eastern (Agaratuli) Range --Situated towards the eastern part of the park, less frequented (we did not go there ourselves). The area is excellent for birding. Many water birds can be observed at Sohola Beel. Various woodland birds can be seen along the drive through very scenic Dillenia Swamp Forest. Elephants may be encountered, as well as Water Buffalo and Swamp Deer. Takes 30 minutes to reach from Wild Grass. Part of the route gives an idea of the Brahmaputra river (only tourist route that goes partly by the river). One can do a boat ride in the northeastern point of the Park.


The Kaziranga National Orchid & Biodiversity Park, located in Durgapur village off the National Highway(37) itself. It offers a very benign recreational activity. It is about 3 km of walkable distance from Wild Grass. Besides the outdoor orchids, the greenhouse is manned by personnel adept at orienting and interpreting the rare orchids of NE region The Park has a large array of medicinal plants as also varied species of bamboo groves. A day-long cultural program makes the place lively and a selection of folk dances of different communities and tribes of the hills and valley of Assam is continually performed. The Bamboo dance is very special. Ethnic thali having as much as 18 to 26 food items is available for lunch and early dinner. There are other exhibit areas apart from the orchid display areas in this property. Apart from the photo gallery of orchids, the exhibit areas are all evolving into a storehouse of the tangible folk cultural properties of the various communities of Assam. Diverse implements produced out of the necessities of the everyday daily life of the peasants and farmers of different regions of the Brahmaputra Valley help any visitor to understand the material folk cultural forms of the Assam area.

Burrapahar Wildlife Range, Ghorakati.  This area is part of the addition to Kaziranga National Park. Scrubland some forty years ago it was under afforestation management practice for fast-growing tree plantation but the low lying areas (now grassland ) were found uneconomical for tree planting. Part of this Range has areas having ideal wet grassland habitat attributes for transient animals from Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga management was In a search of more areas for the ecological integrity of Kaziranga NP and with this in view the Ghorakati area, as well as the hilly Kukrakata Reserve Forest, has been annexed to Kaziranga. And only a little over a decade ago has been opened to visitors. Again we have not visited this part ourselves.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Visit to hungry tide- Sunderban

For the first time in my life I spent more than 2 nights in a row at Calcutta. The initial plan was to attend Papai’s wedding reception and travel to some where around like Digha and back to Bangalore. We got our Bangalore – Calcutta ticket booked. Going was by train to save money and return was on flight so that we save time & energy before getting back to our daily routine.
Now people suggested against Digha and we settled for Sunderban. According to guide the place has not changed a lot - land where past lives in present and is not yet well connected well to Kolkata. We went through travel guide book and settled with Kali Travels. This travel company is run by two Australians out of Calcutta – David and Martyn.
We chose for 2 night 3 days package with them. So on the day Martyn showed up on time with a Innova. On our way out of Calcutta he briefed the plan for next 2 days.
As soon as we took the road out from Science City junction of EM bypass the landscape changed drastically. I felt as if I was on time machine. The small villages and rural bazaar on way reminded me of remote North Eastern part of India from my childhood which sounds surreal but true. Looks like in last 40 years of left-front government there is hardly any progress on their so called strongholds. The car dropped us at Sonakhali (approx 60 KM from Calcutta).
We had to wait there as was no immediate boat for Gosoba our destination. It was 26th Jan(Republic day) and there was not much happening at the river front. This allowed us to explore the adjacent village market. Found cobbler who are still selling stripes for rubber Hawaii sandals, reminded that uncommon in urban India where people probably changes their sandals if the strips is broken.

The boat was almost empty it was us and few passengers and the journey took almost an hour. As motor boat begins to sail towards its destination the scenery gradually changed from rural village evoking feelings of excitement, adventure and anticipation of unknown. We reached Gosoba - peak of afternoon had lunch and walked through the market. We got into the man pulled cycle-van rickshaw with flat bed to sit and put our luggage too. As it was our first time 6 KM long journey seemed never ending. Gosoba is one of the big island in Sunderban. There is no real electricity here, every machine that needs electricity runs on generator. There is no car or auto(Tuktuk) only few motorcycles which run on bio-fuel. Life seems less complicated in one sense but I was getting full EDGE signal on my Blackberry.
We stayed at Apanjan Hotel at Pakhiralya which is just opposite to Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve. One can see the tiger reserve entrance from this side of bank. At dusk went for village walk. Here most of houses are made of mattir ghor- house of mud which keeps it cool and walking through those winded narrow lanes we realized that we have become center of attraction. The attraction was two fold for the locals as we brown skin who shares a common mother tongue of the local along with tall blond fair skin Australian as their guide. But looked like Martyn is quite well known as “Uncle” to the local people. And they will converse in broken Bengali-English and lots of sign languages and catch up on their whereabouts.
Aarush was very busy chasing the stray dogs which were hanging around the hotel. And he went to sleep as soon as he finished his dinner. We had a simple Bengali dinner and chatted with Martyn on lots of subjects.As night begins to slip in the lullaby of mother nature, the music of blowing wind, distant call of restless wild life and rustling of branches gently put you to sleep as even generators are switched off by 10.00PM. Life in noisy city will drift away becoming a distant memory.
Next day woke up around 7ish and after breakfast got into boat and went to Sajnekhali Forest depertment to register ourselves. They assigned us one (compulsory) guide to show us around and enjoy a day cruise by boat through the creeks and canals of the dense forest. This hunting land is ruled by forest goddess Bonobibi to whom prayers are offered in order to maintain communal harmony between man & animal. So we too offered our prayers before starting our journey.
We saw lots of birds to start with displaying riots of colors and sounds and must admit few times we could not locate the camouflaged birds unless our guide with eagle eye pointed it. Egret, kingfisher, red vented bulbul, eagle, brahmini kite,brown winged kingfisher, indian roller, pond heron etc were spotted. There was baby crocodile who was basking in the winter sun as our boat approached he swam along the boat for a while before sinking altogether. While cruising we sighted water monitor lizard other than wild boars.
On spotting wild boar we realized suddenly our camera failed and was not responding to any button we pressed. Here the majestic king royal bengal tiger are endowed with good swimming power as told by our guide and are man eaters. We traced tiger paws while cruising along the mangrove covered banks.Well there are only few hundreds left in Sunderban and new census was going on while we were there. We heard fire-shots from Forest Officials who were in one of unmanned island collecting tiger poo(shit) to identify unique tigers. Earlier they used to get the claw molded in Plaster of Paris – as each tiger has unique claw just like our finger prints.
Our boat journey ended around 13:00 hrs. All along it was low tide which means you have better chance of spotting any wild life as more surface areas gets exposed.Actually both high and low tide has their own pros-cons. During high tide boat enters various creeks weaving in and out allowing to explore most forbidden areas of sunderbans. We stopped at watch towers where one can disembark and experience nature at its purest.While leaving from that point we saw some spotted deer and tried to capture it with Blackberry’s camera – what a luck!!!
After a day of adventure, had lunch thereafter Pamela & Aarush took siesta. I sat back and relaxed while discussing with Martyn his experience in China as a visiting Professor of English. Well his side of story is quite shocking as I never heard first hand experience on that matter.
In the evening we went for walk but it was dark. Lucky us as of full moon moon-light was enough to show us the way and we did not needed the torch most of the time. While walking we heard soundtracks from Hindi movies of 86/87’s played in distance causing havoc to the beautiful silence. It was surprising how much distance a noise can travel in a silent land.
The devastation from Aila (cyclone of 2009) can be still seeen; ground water is salty; when you wash your face for the first time you get real shock. The locals are yet trying to get back to their lives. But looks like there is hardly any or no-help help from government on that front. Lots of those broken dams needs quick fix before another floods hits this area.Potrait of words done by Amitabh Gosh on his famous novel " hungry tide" looks so real, people are really with big heart. The poorest one lives in the mud house next to dam where relatively well off stay inland. But as whole they are still backward in many terms.
As Aarush had a nap he refused to go to sleep early. There were only one couple from (Sweden) other then us in the hotel with a young noisy Nepali Guide. The guide arranged for a bonfire for them once the generator was put off at 10 PM. The tourist retired early while we enjoyed both the bonfire and moon-light from our balcony.
Somehow I felt bad as we started to pack our bags as I knew we were heading back to crowded madness of the city life soon. The boat was packed already when we reached Gosoba and it left immediately after we boarded. Me and Aarush took a privilege seat on the top of toilet but under shade. Aarush was not much happy with this arrangement – he was hungry as he refused to have his breakfast at hotel. So had some cheese and orange with me. But after 30 minutes or so I had to reunite with Pamela who was seating on the boat roof exposed to Sun. It was quite hot if you have to seat for long in Sun. So reached Sonakhali after almost 48 hours. Now had to wait for a while as we reached before expected time for our car to arrive.
The car came within 20 minutes or so and Aarush fall asleep after he finished a quick lunch.
Well if you like to travel and open to the ideas of exploring must suggest you to try Sunderban. On the economic front I am sure you can save a lot if you go by yourself. But we enjoyed going with Kali Travels and suggest you do the same if you have extra cash to spare. Binocular, sun-cap, umbrella, mosquito repellent and torch are must to be taken in this trip.