Friday, January 31, 2014

River rafting in Corbett Country! Jim Corbett, wild life missionary of Uttarakhand! Elsie Gabriel

Jim Corbett, wild life missionary of Uttarakhand! 

River rafting in Corbett Country!

Elsie Gabriel.

The off beat tracks of the sub Himalayan region of the Uttarakhand state of India is refreshingly beautiful and rustic. Not for the faint hearted and delicate darlings. Mountainous zones filled with rough rivers is exactly what I wanted and rightly what I discovered. Breath taking natural geographical and ecological characteristics of one of the smallest states of India ,Uttarakhand. Almost a dozens years ago Uttarakhand was carved out of the Himalayan zones. It borders the Tibet Autonomous region in the north, the Mahakali zone of the far western region, Nepal on the east, and the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh to the south and Himachal Pradesh to the northwest.

Known for the Jim Corbett National park this destination is sometimes overflowing with tourist who flock to get a glimpse of the Bengal Tiger. I must be honest, I spent two whole days but came away believing that  over crowded jeeps full of nature lovers and tourists might be damaging wildlife irreversibly, even if they restrict their activities to tiptoeing discreetly through the undergrowth . There has been a lot of debate on whether tiger tourism can help save the environment or do much damage to the environment.

I was pained by the rush of tourist jeeps and cacophony at dawn. Such a scurry to make it first to the forest areas… and no wonder the creature is so elusive. It was like he was being hunted down by hundreds of binoculars and cameras. I didn’t come away disappointed but sad. It is partly true that revenue from eco-tourism provides one of the best incentives for local communities to protect endangered animals instead of hunting them. Maybe some species are more affected by recreation than others. I simply couldn’t track the Tigers down, although I did see many tracks of footprints. I wish you luck if you ever plan a jeep safari to see the beautiful Tiger. Actually, the Bengal tigers, although plentiful, are not easily spotted due to the abundance of camouflage in the reserve, very deep jungle, the Ramganga river and a good number of  preys make this reserve an ideal habitat for tigers who are opportunistic feeders and prey upon a range of animals.
Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest National Park in India, established in 1936 as Hailey National Park to protect the endangered Bengal Tiger. It was named after Jim Corbett who played a key role in its establishment. The park was the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative.

It is said that Corbett,at the tender age of ten found himself addicted to hunting . Now the Corbett park contains 488 different species of plants and a diverse variety of fauna. It is said that wilderness here is at threat. In case of the tigers in any given natural habitat, the biggest culprits are deforestation and poaching, though. Tourism activity is only allowed in selected areas of Corbett Tiger Reserve so that people get an opportunity to see its splendid landscape .Over 586 species of resident and migratory birds have been categorized, including the blossom headed parrot, eagles and the jungle fowls.Through tiger tours, wildlife conservation can be enforced along with strict tourist briefing before the actual safaris. Knowledge and motivation to protect the endangered tigers  should come first. It is said that Colonel Jim Corbett was born at Nainital in 1875whose father  was the postmaster of Nainital.

Jim Corbett worked in the railways at Mokama Ghat in Bihar working as fuel inspector and assistant station master. Corbett also held the rank of a lieutenant colonel and later served as an elected member of the Nainital municipal Board.The Indian Government in 1956 renamed the park – Corbett National Park in honour of Jim Corbett the powerful missionary for wildlife preservation in India.
Besides Tigers, Leopards,barking deer,sambar deer, hog deer, chital, sloth bears,mongoose, otters, yellow throated martens,Monkeys and langurs also co-exist. I saw plenty of elephants and sloth bears around.Deer are in plentiful and so are red coloured wild fowls and Kingfishers almost everywhere near the water holes.

I was happy to come away for some first grade River rafting along the close by River Kosi at Corbett Country though.
The perennial river Kosi is a sight to behold, winding through polished boulders both big and small which make a magnificent bed for the river, because of which the Kosi keeps gushing all along. From Mohan through Dhikuli till Ramnagar, the Kosi forms the eastern boundary of Jim Corbett National Park. Even though the Kosi does not enter the Park boundary, wild animals from Corbett use it for drinking especially during the warm seasons. The river is notorious for its unpredictable and damaging torrents during monsoon. Like Ramganga, the Kosi too is inhabited by mahseer and attracts migratory birds. 

Rafting here is good as the water is not so wild at places. Its always frothing and foaming, inviting you to take the challenge to ride the waves and feel the thrill while falling into deep gradients.
 Sandy beaches line the river at intervals allowing you to pull up alongside. The slopes on either side are covered with pine and fir trees. I spotted deer, monkeys and water buffalo’s further down, making my river experience even more memorable.

Eventually, I got off the raft and wandered into the forest, with my guide close behind, ofcourse. Oh to be enveloped by the green cover, healing, replenishing, refreshing and refueling, re-inventing, refusing, returning, reusing, reminding, re-thinking and reducing!!


Friday, January 24, 2014

I’am in love with the Gentle Giant Wally! The Wrasse Fish at the Great Barrier Reef Cairns, Australia. Elsie Gabriel

I’am in love with the Gentle Giant Wally!

The Wrasse Fish at the Great Barrier Reef Cairns, Australia.

I have a confession to make. Hear me out. Am madly in love …. Ok the secrets out..its Maori Wrasse! He’s huge, handsome, attractive and colourful, humble and most of all, a gentle Giant. I fell in love at the Great Barrier Reef at Cairns recently and I can’t seem to get him out of my mind.

His gentle moves and serenading styles have me smitten! I have to tell you more about the place where I found him…The Great Barrier Reef, Australia. It was love at first sight. What a fabulous swimming companion he made. As I hugged him, he took me on an amazing underwater tour of the worlds best known eco system filled with the bio diversity like no other. Wally gave me the experience of my life…..nirvana under water.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world, spanning a length of 2,300 km along the east coast of Queensland. There are about 2,900 reefs, which represent about 10 per cent of all the coral reef areas in the world. Great Barrier Reef fish are some of the most colourful, striking, diverse and rare fish found on any coral reef system, anywhere on earth, estimated to be between 1,200 and 2,000 species.
 Wally resides among more than 2,900 individual coral reefs that comprise the mighty Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, occupying a total area of 348,000 km2.His underwater kingdom is magnificent.

Well, Wally’s real name is Maori Wrasse. This Humphead is possibly the biggest Great Barrier fish which can live up to thirty years. Like I told you, he is highly prized, not only for his looks always but sadly for his taste among some poachers thus leading to his extinction. Unfortunately, this has led to them being listed as endangered on the Union for Conservation of Nature list, since 2004. They have been a protected species in Queensland since 2003.

These Giant Maori Wrasse are seen on many Cairns dive trips and snorkel trips provided by numerous catamarans and cruises, including those provided by Reef Magic, at their Marine World platform. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981, is a multiple use marine park, supporting a wide range of uses, including commercial marine tourism, fishing, recreation, scientific research and indigenous traditional use.

Thirty species of whales, dolphins, tortoises and porpoises have been recorded in the Great Barrier Reef, including the dwarf minke whale, Indo Pacific Humback Dolphin, and the humpback whale. Large populations of Dugongs live there. The fish species that live on the reef, include the Clownfish, redbass red-throat emperor, and several species of snappers and coral trouts. Seventeen species of  sea snake also live on the Great Barrier Reef too.

I took the Reef Magic Cruise to meet my date-Wally. The Reef Magic has exclusive access to a stunning coral reef location selected for it’s superior water clarity, coral quality and overall diversity of marine life. Depart directly from the  Cairns pier on this fast, stable catamaran which provides a smoother ride and reduced travel time, leaving more of your day to experience the magic of the Great Barrier Reef.

I found the cruise relaxing and not filled to capacity. The ride was smooth all the way to the Marine World platform which caters for all activity levels. You can snorkel in the sheltered coral lagoon, go scuba diving or join the Marine Biologist on a Guided Snorkel safari.

For all those who fear getting wet, try the semi-submersible reef viewer, glass bottom boat or underwater observatory, try a Helmet Dive for a scuba-style experience or soar above it all on a spectacular Reef Scenic Helicopter Flight.  
 All pics copyright @ Elsie Gabriel

Six species of  Sea turtles come to the reef to breed – the Green sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle, hawk bill turtles,loggerheads turtles, flatback turtle and the Olive Ridley. Around 125 species of Shark and  Stingrays live on the reef. Close to 5,000 species of  Mollus have been recorded on the reef, including the Giant Clams and various snails. Over nine species of Seahorses have said to be also recorded. 

Over two hundred species of both sea and shorebirds visit the reef or nest or roost on the islands, including the White bellied sea eagle and Terns which circle the reef. It makes a perfect day for sighting for all those bird watchers.   

I spent five hours with Wally underwater at his home soaking up the tropical warmth, on my first date and I promised to return again.
And if you happen to visit him before I do, remember to give him a wet kiss! 

................Don’t grin, he lives underwater.