Monday, March 24, 2014

The worlds travel community is going green, don’t get left behind! Elsie Gabriel

The worlds travel community is going green, don’t get left behind!

Elsie Gabriel

In the spirit of  the Young Environmentalists deep concern of environmental stewardship, we are working hard to do our part in protecting our environment for today and future generations. Investing in green practices means an investment in a more sustainable future that preserves our natural resources. We invest time and energy towards equipping green leaders of tomorrow, today.

Today’s blog is about being a green eco friendly traveler yourself. Here are some tips. Try and do some homework before you choose to travel. Do look around you will find many tour operators  offering ‘sustainable’,  ‘green’, ‘eco friendly’ and ‘ethical tourism’, you may choose them over a luxurious and shopping loaded holiday. Take direct flights rather than change flights as this causes more emissions during landing and take off. Choose flights which make a contribution towards a green or any charity. The choice is yours to make.

Get yourself a holiday that is fulfilling while protecting the environment.
Spend your holiday money well. Try and ensure that some of your expenditure goes towards conservation As a more aware and ‘greener’ traveler, you will not only make a contribution to other people's lives by promoting local art and culture for instance, you might just change your own. 

You already know that factors of importance for emissions are the distances travelled, length of stay, hotel stay, activities carried out, meaning that your decisions will have a considerable impact on the ecological impact, so try and choose an ecotel or green certified hotel or maybe even one which is owned by local traditional people of the land. Many hotels are zero garbage hotels and others are community managed hotels which promote coastal reefs or forests or landscapes, choose these over hi end ones not contributing towards the sustainability of the environment. It is totally your choice.

Think of how you can collect your travel garbage and dispose it respectfully rather than litter in a destination which is not of your nationality. Do not invest in any products that exploit wildlife or aid the destruction of species or habitats while traveling abroad. Do not promote illegal trade of endangered animals or bi-products made from them. You can take your kids to museums and conservation life sciences cultural spots generates income and employment for travel destinations while protecting local ecosystems and preserving local culture. Get involved in a conservation or  garden or protection programme while visiting. Choose local fruits and food over your favourites. Donate correctly towards a green cause. Participate in your hotels green events and local green dates with the indigenous people. As your prepare to leave your destination you might like to reflect on your holiday and consider the types of activities you have enjoyed as well as their consequences for the environment and people.

The problems surrounding climate change and its impact on our world are complex and it is easy to believe there is little the individual can do.  But this is not true.  Energy-saving steps can be as simple as unplugging appliances and equipment when not in use.  Items can be re-purposed for reuse or donated to those who can use them. 

 I have been traveling the world, sharing its amazing stories with each new generation but also carrying out expeditions and scientific fieldwork, documentations, research, encouraging geography education for students, promoting natural and cultural conservation.Staying with the locals,villagers and indigenous inhabitants of a locale,eating the local food and studying the local ancient hideouts make my eco tours all worth the rough road.Sometimes during traveling all one needs is place to sleep and shower, ofcourse eat,therefore I try to find ways to budget and 'when in Rome do as the Romans do' adjust and adapt.Indulging in a fussy hi end travel itinerary doesn't necessarily increase your travel value. Ofcourse to each his own,this is from my experiences.I value your options too.  

Next time you travel, enjoy and have yourself a blast, relax and rejuvenate but choose green travel options.
Choose to leave a comment if you agree and of course share the tips with many others, simply share this piece of blog link -the  Green traveler tips.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Lotus Temple which has seen over 50 million footfalls! Elsie Gabriel

 The Lotus Temple which has seen over 50 million footfalls! Do not miss the visit when in the capital of India, New Delhi.

Elsie Gabriel

Crowds pacing towards a gigantic flower. All in silence. In Unity. In peace! I was glad I was one with them trying to find what every one is looking for?

A Giant flower structure in India, which since its inauguration to public worship in December 1986, has drawn to its doors more than 50 million visitors, making it the most visited edifice in the world? You guessed it right! The Bahai House of Worship  right here in India.

Popularly known as the  Lotus Temple, located in New delhi, is Bahais house of worship. Bahá'ís believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the nature and purpose of life and of the future of society.

 The Bahá'í laws emphasize that the spirit of the House of Worship be that it is a gathering place where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions. The Bahá'í laws also stipulate that only the holy scriptures of the Bahai Faith and other religions can be read or chanted inside in any language; while readings and prayers can be set to music by choirs, no musical instruments can be played inside.

There are no sermons or ritualistic ceremonies practiced inside ,just sheer peaceful silence. This is an award winning structure. It is simply a must see on your tour list when you visit India’s capital or Agra.

I was in awe of the crowds thronging in tandem with each other, step after step all climbing the steps leading up to the Lotus temple.

Inspired by the Lotus flower, the design for the House of Worship is composed of 27 free-standing marble clad "petals" arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. The nine doors of the Lotus Temple open onto a central hall slightly more than 40 meters tall that is capable of holding up to 2,500 people. It is said that the surface of the House of Worship is made of white marble from Penteli Mountains in Greece,
the very same from which many ancient monuments and other Bahá'í Houses of Worship are built.

Amazing structure, awesome vibes and you will find what you are looking for. I don wanna preach. I will leave you to decipher your visit when you enter the labyrinth of those flower petals………


Bahá’í House of Worship, Bahapur, Kalkaji, New Delhi – 110019,India
Lotus Temple Visiting Hours-Winter: 9:00 am to 5.30 pm/Summer: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Insect Hawkers! Entomophagy! Try it! Elsie Gabriel

Insect Hawkers!

The anthropologist in me kicks in each time I visit Thailand. This time let me introduce you to the Insect Hawkers!

Elsie Gabriel

Entomophagy! Ever heard of it, well if you haven’t you will be glad you heard about it here first! And if you have, well at the end of my blog just remember to share your views in my comment box and I’l chew them for all they are worth.
Well, Entomophagy is the consumption of insects as food. The eggs, larvae, pupae and adults of certain insect species have been eaten by Humans since prehistoric times and continue to be an item of the human diet in modern times. Insects are eaten by many animals, but this term is generally used to refer to human consumption of insects; animals that eat insects are known as insectivores. There are also some species of carnivorous plants that derive nutrients from insects.
Now that you know let me tell you, all over Thailand you have street markets, beach markets and roadside stalls which have numerous vendors selling insects. They are considered a delicacy and nutritious. 

Now….Don’t go aaghhhh….I tried some of the grasshoppers in Krabi Islands, they were crispy and crunchy, I washed them down with some coconut punch and vola……I’am now a entomophores! Oh whatever that means…
Scientifically lets look at this food item which is such a delicacy. I simply couldn’t resist. Of course the Thais are not the first to sell insects as street food,  it is said that Mexicans eat deep fried grasshoppers, Japanese love wasp cookies. Leaf cutter ants are considered a delicacy in Colombia, as are some caterpillars in South Africa. Closer to home you have the Bodo tribe in Assam who exist on the insect diet. Australian natives, Aborigines, have eaten many different insects throughout history. Hundreds of Aborigines would come together at the Bogong mountains to feast on Bogong moths. Dragonfly and damselfly adults are hunted for food in Bali.

And in Thailand people cook everything from water beetles to bamboo worms. Even though eating insects has often been dismissed as a cultural eccentricity, I feel you have to cultivate a taste for it. Why be a snob, just have a good look at the stalls even if you don’t bite into them and you will see that if man can eat snails and prawns you can eat insects. 

Of course the vendors only sell edible insects and they tell you that they are filled with omega 3, traditionally found in fish, but have no mercury.
See, its simple, the intense heat from the cooking process kills any bacteria or parasites. Insects have always provided a dietary supplement for Thai people living in rural areas. Today the poorer sections in many rural areas around the world still eat insects.
Don’t wait to join the Fear factor contest, just try a cockroach and tick it off your bucket lists of things to do .

 Crickets, cockroaches, beetles, bamboo worms, silk worms and ant eggs. Once prepared, all of the insect is edible but some hawkers may remove wings which can stick in the mouth or legs which can stick in the teeth. Simply sprinkle on some lemongrass, chilli or garlic sauce and you have yourself a dish.
 The insect hawkers can be found all over Thailand. 

Next time you get your self a brand new Tequila bottle ,look what’s at the bottom of it…a fat juicy larvae worm….yeahhhhhhh that’s what you’ve been having all this while, you sneaky insect eater…..or rather having all its juices…

Well, how would you like your cricket lollipop, charcoal roasted or simply stir fired?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The sea gypsy fishing families of the Sundarbans.The largest delta in the world - Sundarbans.Elsie Gabriel

The sea gypsy fishing families of the Sundarbans.

The largest delta in the world-Sundarbans.

Elsie Gabriel

You arrive at the banks of a slushy looking River junction which is the confluence of Bhramaputra and Ganga, which is about 3 hours away from main city of Kolkatta in India. You can travel from Kolkata to Gosaba which takes around three hours, and then take a boat from Godkhali Port to Sajnekhali which gain takes about two hours.It is a very rough village tour so be prepared for a rough jungle tour.

 The Malta divides Sundarban Reserved Forest into Sundarban Tiger Reserve on the east and Reserved Forest of South 24 Parganas Forest Division on the west. A rustic loud motor engine ferry boat takes you down the muddy river passing luscious green thickets of mangrove plantations which expand on both sides of the river. The region is covered solely by sediments carried and deposited by the rivers Ganges , Matla and Bidyadhari.

The boat cruise can cost you anything between 1500/- to 2000/- Rs and it is very important to hire a guide to show you the real good spots of tourism. The boatmen are very informative and you should always chat them up for some more information about the inside stories about the mangrove sites.Where ever you look you see Mangrove foliage and I guess the name may have been derived from the Sundari trees which is the actual the mangrove species Heritiera fomes. Twenty-six of the fifty broad mangrove types found in the world grow well in the Sundarbans. The commonly identifiable vegetation that grow in the dense mangrove forests at the Sundarbans are salt water mixed forest, mangrove scrub, brackish water mixed forest, littoral forest, wet forest and wet alluvial grass forests. So, what you do ,do not get into the dangerous waters or banks. Stay on your boat for the entire cruise unless you are required to visit the watch tower and museum.

The Sundarbans are the largest mangrove belt in the world, stretching about 50 miles into the Bangladeshi and Indian hinterland from the coast. The Sundarbans has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site now and the forests aren't just mangrove swamps though, they include some of the last remaining stands of the mighty jungles which once covered the Gangetic plain.

I was lucky to spend more time among the gypsy fishing villagers rather than the jungle zones. Singing songs with the schools kids and clapping to their music was the most simplest sort of bliss one could ever experience away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. Visiting a small classroom hutment area and creeks where the fishing boats rest are much better insightful spots you can choose after your river cruise is over. Life in a village doesn’t get simpler than this.No amount of money can buy this sort of enlightenment,believe me....

Sundarban is the only mangrove forest in the world which is the home of Tiger. Sundarban Tiger Reserve has the highest tiger population in the world. But don’t be hopeful of seeing any tigers though. They’re very shy and usually remain well hidden in the reserve. Sundarban's highly productive ecosystem acts as a natural fish nursery. Sundarban Mangroves save the Bengal state from a lot of flood lashes and actually protect the inter-land.

  • Hiron Point a beautiful spot, great for spotting tigers and other wildlife
  • Tin Kona Island another popular spot for wildlife spotting.
  • Katka a base for safaris, and good spot to see tigers and for bird-watching.
  • Dublar Char Island it's possible to fish here.
  • Sudhanyakhali Watch Tower - Most of the tigers are sighted from this tower. Some other wildlife like axis deers and crocodiles may also be seen from this watch tower.
  • Sajnekhali Watch Tower - Another watch tower that also houses a museum, a Bonobibi Temple and a crocodile park within its premises.
  • Sajnekhali Pakiralaya
  • Dobanki Watch Tower
  • Bhagbatpur crocodile project
  • Buridabri
  • Netidhopani - It has a temple that’s 400 years old
  • Kanak - Ideal for viewing the Olive Ridley Turtles

Royal Bengal Tigers are the main draw, but you can also spot Saltwater Crocodiles, various primates, leopards, King Cobras and Indian Cobras.
Sundarbans is home to many different species of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and fishes. The Gangetic River Dolphin is common in the rivers.

I was thrilled to see chital deer and rhesus monkey, hermit crabs at the river banks. There is an incredible variety of reptiles also found in Sundarbans, which includes king cobra, rock python and water monitor. Sunderbans is also a breeding ground of innumerable varieties of birds like egret, cormorant, fishing eagle, seagull, kingfisher, golden plover, pintail and whistling teal The Sundarbans - on which is the Sundarban National Park has also been nominated for the 'New 7 Wonders of Nature' - chosen by people through a global poll. It is a protected area for its biodiversity conservation owing to its rich ecology and a two day trip should let you soak in the sheer ecology.It is extremely hot in the months of March, April and May ,so be warned,choose any day between October to February and you shall have yourself a good ecologically filled mangrove delta trip of a lifetime!