Category Archives: Travel

Elusive Leopard at Kabini

Kabini road directions

The season of wildlife is kicking in with wonderful cat sightings in Kabini for 2013 since January. The drive to Kabini “Jungle Lodges and Resorts” property is quite nice with good roads except for the last 12km. The last stretch of road is being built when I went there 4 days back. Below you will find Kabini road directions from Bangalore.

  1. Take the Bangalore-Mysore Highway and drive for around 150 km after which you will enter the town of Srirangapatna.
  2. Cross the Tipu Sultan town, now heritage city, Srirangapatna and keep an eye on your right side to find Columbia Asia hospital on a major traffic signal junction.
  3. Take right from this traffic signal and go till the dead end of this road. It should be around 15km upwards.
  4. At the dead-end, take right and continue till “HD Kote Hand post” landmark. It should be around 30 km.
  5. The ”HD Kote Hand post” landmark is a round-about of the HD Kote region and very popular.
  6. Keep continuing straight from this junction and “Jungle Lodges and Resorts” is around 30km from this place
  7. When you are following this road, you will reach a barricade at around 20km which is guarded by Forest guards. Only Forest vehicles are allowed beyond this point.
  8. You will have to take a left turn from there. Apart from JLR, other resorts are also on this route. This 12 km stretch is under construction with patchy tarred roads.

The above directions will safely take you to Kabini Jungle Lodges and Resorts OR any other resort in the place. The signage at JLR entrance says Bangalore is 224 km.

Elusive Leopard at Kabini

Elusive Leopard at Kabini

Enjoy the Safari’s and Big Cat sightings there. Kabini is a nice place for Leopard sightings and Tigers are a bonus. I had my share of sightings for both the big cats apart from other predators and wonderful bird views.

Trip to Aum Farms - Mogly

Trip to Aum Farms – Mogly’s

Trip to Aum Farms - Mogly

Trip to Aum Farms – Mogly

We had a great time over the weekend, taking Sam to a “non-mall” outing. Something that I always had on my mind, but did not come across a worthwhile activity. This Saturday was exactly that – a plan to go see farm animals. My husband and I had our reservations about it, thinking that it will be a recap of all the animals we see wandering out on the roads, but still thought it would be a welcome change for Sam. So we went to Aum Farms in Bijwasan (about 30 minutes drive from home) for an activity organised by Moglys.

The weather was just perfect for the start, nice bright sunny…a chirpy morning…gave a sense of the gloomy winters fading away soon. Upon walking into the farms, we witnessed a huge expanse of greenery and were instructed to wait for the other kids to come, for the ‘activity’. In the meantime we could feed the rabbits some healthy farm picked spinach leaves. Sam was apprehensive to begin with, but eventually caught up on seeing mumma feeding them, and the rabbits eating with so much fervour. With the quorum complete, we were guided to a route and on the way passed by some ducks splashing in a small water body. All parents and kids collected in what looked like a playground, complete with tables, chairs, garden umbrellas, sanitizers, cycles, a few activity tables and a Segway model for kids to ride on.

We started with the tour of the facility to explore the farm animals. Starting with the ducks – we saw a group of different type of ducks, geese and one duck carefully brooding over her eggs. We also saw the gorgeous dove aptly named Masakkali, looked every bit from the song, just as pretty. Then it was time to move onto the cattle – the cows and the buffaloes with the calf. Very friendly – we could pat on them. So were the sheep and the goats – at least now Sam knows where the wool on his sweater comes from…the fat woolly sheep.

Trip to Aum Farms - Mogly

Trip to Aum Farms – Mogly

He wanted to touch all the animals but was daunted, upon encouragement and seeing us touch the animals he wanted to pat them repeatedly. Then we saw the chicken and its nice trail of little chicks. There was turkey too, running all over. Sam was charmed by the fowl, and even got his daddy to run around and catch it for him, but it was way too swift.

Trip to Aum Farms - Mogly

Trip to Aum Farms – Mogly

Moving on to the farm, we saw the farm grown cauliflower, broccoli, green onion bulbs, coriander, parsley, radish, carrots and lots of other vegetables. An absolute treat to see so much greenery around. Post the round, it was time to collect at the assembly area…and on the way Sam besotted by the Segway, took a little break and let me take a few pictures of him on the new tool! Back at the assembly area, it was time for the kids to make a collage of the animals they saw with pictures of the farm animals, chart papers and glue each one of them got on the activity tables. Sam enjoyed distracting me while I tried putting together the collage for him. Then it was time for some fresh radish and carrots to be served – salad in advance of the yummy food awaiting us. Alongside of the salad, the kids could play around with a few puppies from the farm, and feed the rabbits in a cage, or be charmed by a cage of pretty white mice. Lots of landscaping, accompanied by availability of swings and trampoline made the day complete for the kids. Sam thoroughly enjoyed being out in the sun and running around all over. Menu for the day included Makki ki roti and sarson ka saag with fresh white butter and sugarcane juice! For kids there were paranthas, home made fresh curd, khichdi and juices. Great food, cooked with a lot of love. After a lot of time we had great sugarcane juice!

An afternoon well spent and a day completely relished by us – Sam had fun feeding the animals and experience nature giving him the opportunity to develop a sense of wonder and joy for the natural world.

Wobbly Boat

My love for water has taken me places—from islands to rivers to waterfalls. However, at times happiness, joy and excitement come in disguise. How else do I explain it? This was one office trip I reluctantly had to be a part of. I wanted to relax and sleep over the weekend but destiny had other plans for me. So here I was dressed in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt standing at my pick up point at 6:00 am on a Saturday morning.

We reached our destination where as a part of a team building activity, a lot of games had been organised. However I might favour team building, I just hate those kiddish games! But I was in for a pleasant surprise, we had real adventurous sports and the icing on the cake was a real treat! We were given some bamboo logs, some coir, a kind of a ballistic tank and a huge free flowing lake! Now it is anybody’s guess as to what we were made to do! We were asked to make a boat out of the raw material and cross the lake.

Wobbly boat

Wobbly boat

Every team had four players and we have to first tie the Bamboo logs with the coir and attach the ballistic tank to ensure that the logs stayed afloat throughout our journey on the lake. It was a truly out of this world experience. Here we were actually going to sail through the lake in a wobbly boat made all by ourselves! It got hilarious as we could not keep the bamboo logs intact, as soon as we would place it in the water, something or the other would come falling apart.

What I would describe as my “alive is awesome” experience would be when we actually released our boat into the water and all four of us sat on it! You need to see the images to understand what I am trying to say, though afloat, we were literally submerged in the water! But somehow, we were floating. The biggest challenge was balancing the different weights of our team mates and ensuring that the wobbly boat did not capsize. I am just not ashamed in saying that what we made turned out to be this super wobbly piece of craft. We did manage to sail through without dropping any of our team members into the waters and come back to our starting point. My suggestion would be to team enemies together in such a situation and see them turn into friends! Experience this alive and feel the awesomeness…

However, the adventurous soul in me is not satisfied with this. You would think I have gone bonkers but I wish I can someday be stuck in a situation with all these raw materials near a river or say a sea? Well, well, words do come true at times!

Taming the mighty waters

When I told my parents that I would be visiting Rishikesh in a group of ten, I am sure they did not imagine in their wildest dreams that it would be anything but a religious affair.

Thanks to the foreigners who some three decades back introduced us to our own mighty waters of the Ganges, white water rafting has become a trend of sorts now and camping in the backyard of the river is sought after.

So, to live this experience, we all packed our bags and headed to our destination which is some 270 kilometres from the national capital of India, Delhi in the scorching heat of May. It was late in the night by the time we reached and had to take another 300 steps of downhill trek to reach the campsite. Ironically, it was very cold so much so that we wished we were wearing some warm clothes.

After having a quick dinner, we retired into our cosy tents. We were so tired that we fell asleep without exploring much around. We had decided to get up a bit late; after all it was our holiday.

I woke up all of a sudden, oops, somebody had left the tap open! I came out of the tent and it was an amazing scene! The river was flowing right behind our tent—in the darkness of the night we did not realise where we were camping! And there were a couple of monkeys many vibrant birds among us, the urban chimps!

Mighty waters

Mighty waters

In a matter of an hour, we were to hit the calm waters of the Ganges for our first ever rafting experience. And in another hour we were to understand that the river is anything but calm! Our rafting instructor taught us various sign languages and techniques to sail through the 14 km distance to be covered in two hours. We were asked not to shout and yell so that we could clearly hear all his instructions.

Despite his instructions, we continued to be our excited self and carried on singing songs and shouting! And then the force of the water started to accelerate. It was then that he asked us to jump out of the raft, no kidding! He did ask us to do that and most of us started sweating—some, just from the terrible heat. I told him that I did not know how to swim! He said that it was the best reason why I should jump myself and befriend the water! I asked him to go back and he said that option had long expired. Reluctantly, all of us slipped into the waters. Ooh! The water was freezing! He asked us to sail with the raft holding onto the lifeline. I decided at that very time and point that if I come out alive, I am going to learn how to swim!

He then asked us to help each other to come back onto the raft. He took us through the 14 kms and introduced us to the various rapids like body surfing, roller coaster, three blind mice and others. Many a times it was almost as if the raft will hit the rock and we will all drown but thankfully, we did not! We successfully covered 14 kms and it was then adrenaline rush had just begun. We decided to do another 14 kms and enter a bit more adventurous zone. The rapids here were really quick and fast! I do not remember the name of the rapid now but we saw it and our guide instructed us to duck and sit inside the raft! Which all of us did not pay heed to and guess what, the next thing we knew was, water water everywhere! I was sure that I was holding onto the lifeline with both hands and I was doubly sure that the raft was upside down. But what I was not sure was if I could sail like this forever! Those five minutes were like the longest five minutes ever. It was one alive is awesome feeling and to be back on the raft was a super awesome feeling.

Mighty waters

Mighty waters

Just when we thought that the excitement was all over and we were just famished, we were told that we should not miss the cliff jumping. In the right spirit, we decided to take one last plunge to come our splashing out of the cold river waters! And yes, we did come out alive and yes I am learning how to swim!

By the way, before we started off on our sojourn, we were made to sign some papers which in our excitement, we did not read. All that the papers said were, “I and only I am responsible if anything happens”!

All the best and be careful!

Lakshadweep scuba diving experience

Lakshadweep scuba diving island

Lakshadweep scuba diving island – Kavaratti

It was a small hesitant step from the boat into the water. As I put my other foot into the water, I was struck with some hard-hitting facts – that I had not learnt swimming till date, that I will now have to forget that I have a nose and breathe through my mouth into the respiratory instrument I was carrying and that the waters that I have stepped into encompass the islands of Lakshadweep (about 350 kms from the Indian mainland) to eventually merge with the vast Indian ocean.

But that one small step introduced me to an unknown world. There was some sort of calmness there, probably because humans cannot talk or blow horns inside water? But I was already in love with the peace out there.  The colourful electric orange coloured fish were swimming like they were in no rush to reach wherever they were going. I wanted to stop and ask them, where are you going? Even this big wise turtle that was wading through the waters did not stop to look at me, the intruder. There were corals all around and this particular one looked like a human brain. Then I saw this sea cucumber almost at my arm’s distance, I wanted to touch one and feel it but realised it was not as near as it appeared to be.

Lakshadweep scuba diving

Lakshadweep scuba diving – It’s me!

This is how it is when you are inside, it is a different landscape, a different terrain and a different world altogether. The underwater world has its own hillocks, pathways and probably the channels of communication are different.

The feeling of being underwater and being a witness to all this cannot be compared to anything else.  A  experience of Lakshadweep scuba diving is one top most “alive is awesome” feeling. You just need to be careful about a few things like controlling your breathing underwater, getting used to the sensation, understanding when your body says NO, remembering to not touch anything and communicating using symbols.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckSw_5abS-I]

City rain dance

You do not always need an exotic place like Musandam or Zanzibar to enjoy life.  This I realised not until I danced in the rain, or did I?

This particular Friday was so hectic at office that I wanted the weekend to start with immediate effect. I do not recall when I went to sleep that night but woke up to pitter-patter drops of water hitting my balcony. All of a sudden the intensity of the rain increased and I let out a cry, oh no clothes! Damn, my maid had left clothes to dry outside, but then what use, so forget it. Oh my plants in the balcony! I forced open the balcony door that was being held by this strong breeze worried that my plants would be crying for some shelter by now.

City Rain Dance

City Rain Dance

But no, my little bonsai was so happy, it was glowing with happiness. I wish I had captured that moment; it was abnormally green as if welcoming the pleasant weather. My eyes strayed on to the road, there were these street kids who were playing in the rain—those smiles were like the best smiles on this earth.

I felt so small myself, to hell with the clothes. I decided to join the celebrations—on behalf of the entire office going clan. I picked up my two-wheeler and equipped with a bottle of water (ironical isn’t it? Water water everywhere….). Anyhow, the feeling of rain drops piercing through the body is more exotic than any of these body massages. The entire body comes alive. Drenched in the rain, I decided to hit a few more kilometres (a word of caution though, do not drive too fast, the entire excitement would be gone in a few seconds forever!). The thought of stopping by for sometime did come to me, but then I decided to drive slowly enjoying the rain.

There was nothing between me and the heavenly drops, or so I thought. No, the helmet was there. I stopped at a place, took out my helmet and embraced the thunderstorms with my full heart. I wanted to shout aloud “alive is awesome“.

City rain dance

City rain

Dripping with water, I spotted a road side makeshift restaurant (dhaba). A piping hot tea is all you need with some smoking pakoras. The smell of the wet soil (for the uninitiated, it is called petrichor) coupled with the aroma of the tea and pakoras kick started my weekend. After chit-chatting with strangers at the dhaba, I decided to head back home. But not before surprising my new rain friends with the fact that I had ventured out to bathe in the rain!

Try it out someday, all you need is to step out of the mundane chores of life.

Musandam, Oman snorkeling

Oman. Here I am...

Oman. Here I am…

Human wants are never met! Last week, if you recall, I had written about my tryst with the ocean waters in Zanzibar. The hunger for more should never die; else you can never reach the unseen shores. After walking almost a kilometer into the sea, here I was in Oman snorkeling and floating on the sea, in the middle of nowhere and taking a peek at the marine life inside!

Musandam played host to me for a full day Dhow (big boat) Cruise. We were told that this Dhow will be our little piece of land over the waters of Persian Gulf till late in the evening. It was a true holiday, we had nothing to do other than sail on the sea and have watchful eyes to spot any aquatic fauna. It is a luxury to do nothing but to have truckloads of food, oops, Dhow loads of food to fill your stomach to your heart’s content is indeed an indulgence.

We were just settling down on the decks, choosing between beach chairs and manmade turf that the captain of our boat announced that we have reached shallow waters and we could see the sea bed. The water was actually very clear and we could see fish swimming through. However, we were informed by our captain that the water was not that shallow— it could easily take two people like me, one on top of the other!

But I literally dropped my jaw when I saw the captain anchor the boat in shallow waters and jump into the sea with a harpoon. All of us wanted to know if there was some dangerous animal that he had gone to kill! But he came back with a hunted squid! The squid, in its last effort to save itself, sprayed the black liquid one last time before bidding adieu to us. The marks of the black liquid are still afresh on my clothes, just like the memories of the sea world in my mind. Soon, other tourists also started taking a plunge into the deep waters. Others like me, who had not befriended the water as yet decided to stay on board. Mustering some courage, I slipped into the water with the life jacket but held onto the ropes.

Snorkeling in musandam

Snorkeling in musandam

We were told not to worry! We were then given these masks that created vacuum near our nasal area so that we do not inhale water. These masks had pipes that we were asked to bite at one end with our teeth while the other end that would be peeping out of the water, would help us draw fresh air. We were then asked to do some “breathing with mouth” exercises using this mask in the water near the boat itself– this is what will save us when in the water for next 30 minutes! The feeling itself was exhilarating to begin with! Assisted with professionals, we entered the “safe sea”!!! We were told to forget everything else and just concentrate on enjoying the marine life apart from of course, remembering to breathe through the mouth! Words fail me here again, but it was a beautiful experience. What an aerial view of the world beneath the water! The big fish seem to be on a patrol and the smaller ones always roam around in groups. There are rocks out there just that way we have on land of which some looked to symmetric and that I could not help but wonder if all these fish together had built some building of sorts. Alive is awesome, you have to live this experience to understand what I am saying.

Soon all of us took a shower and headed for lunch!

Almost 70% of our planet (check this percentage) is covered with water, so wherever you go, you are bound to touch water in some form or the other. Just that it hurts when we ourselves pollute what is so very important for our very existence. I will not bug you much with my preaching here. I believe that you will preserve what you understand and enjoy. So preserve the environment and live these experiences, ‘Alive is Awesome’ in the true sense!

And my water stories continue for some more time. Adios! See a larger photo gallery here.

Bandipur tiger pugmarks

Spotted deer at Bandipur

Spotted deer at Bandipur

Bandipur National Park, located in the India’s southern state of Karnataka, is known as the playground for wild elephants and tigers. The sanctuary is divided into five ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota. The Mudumalai Tiger Reserve has the highest density of tigers in the country. It is every wildlife enthusiast to spot the wild cat in the jungles of Bandipur.

I had long been waiting to pay a visit and catch a glimpse of the beast in its natural habitat. So, as soon as the rainy season got over and the park was thrown open to the public, I booked my tickets for Bandipur.

But they say, keep your expectations as low as possible as far as sightings are concerned, especially when in the jungles or national parks. There are people who sight tigers/lions/leopards in their very first visit while others are not lucky even after multiple visits.

Anyhow, equipped with the right attitude and equipment, I landed in Bandipur on a Wednesday evening. I decided to catch up on my sleep as I had booked an early morning safari in the hope of tracking down at least one tiger.

After roaming about on different tracks for few hours, all we spotted were deer, elephants, gaurs, raptors and spiders. Our guide was more disappointed than us—pointing towards the cloud-laden sky, he said that it probably was not a good day. And as luck could have been, within minutes, it started pouring and all the safari jeeps started heading towards the exit point. We were told that it is not safe to be in the dense forest during such a downpour. We were already drenched in the rain but were quite happy to see peacocks dancing!

Imagine this, right in the middle of the jungle, raining heavily, already half drenched and at this very point and time, your jeep decides to call it quits! Yes, we were all marching down on the otherwise prohibited paths of the jungle besides of course enjoying the unscheduled for bath time! We were told that since all safari jeeps were on way to the exit point, we would either have to wait for them to drop other tourists and then come to pick us or continue walking.

Bandipur Tiger pugmarks

Bandipur Tiger pugmarks

Call it luck or destiny that day, while we were walking, our guide signalled us to not talk. And next he showed us something that made my heart skip a beat – can’t say if it was in excitement, fear or disbelief. I had made a footprint with my sports shoes right next to a fresh pug mark by a tiger!! A tiger had crossed that path and must have gone into the hiding. Or was it secretly watching us go away from its home? The guide told us that the pug marks were fresh since there were no tyre signs over them and the pug marks were filled with rain water.

I did not get to meet Mr Wild Cat but I did match my footsteps with him! It was an amazing feeling, alive is awesome indeed.

Awesome Zanzibar-Jambiani beach

The very smell of sea and the waves splashing on the beach can get one excited. But when you are surrounded all around with water, it is an experience in itself.

Zanzibar-Jambiani beach

Zanzibar-Jambiani beach

Zanzibar, an African island, is one of the most exotic locations I have visited. The pristine beaches are in sparkling turquoise shades on white sand beaches. The tall coconut palms calmly waters of the Indian Ocean lap softly.

I am not sure if I am able to pass on the excitement to you here. At times words fail you miserably when you want to articulate something very Awesome.

The story dates back to a couple of years back, I had read a lot about the virgin beauty of Zanzibar. What Ganges is to the rivers of the world, Beach Jambiani would be to the beaches on this earth – no, am not exaggerating! Soon enough, a local villager literally hand-held me, acquainting us with the mesmerising waters showing us a fish here, a fish there and letting us enjoy the periodic splashes of the warm water.

After a few minutes, we spotted a water snake in the crystal clear water. We wanted to run away back to the shore, but he asked us to forget everything and keep walking. The illusion being created by the water was just so scary now, I could see huge waves ahead and it seemed as if the waters of the Indian ocean will just gobble me up. But the water level never rose above my knee level! There was a fear of being swept away but the temptation of walking in such clean and clear water was just too much. Hardly do we see beaches that are not polluted.

I was in a fix, probably there are more snakes there, probably some poisonous species of fish and the fear of the unknown depths of the ocean. Let me explain the feeling to you, it is like a seductress leading you to a death well and you gladly following just for the sake of those few moments.

It was amidst these thoughts, our guide asked us to look back. And it was unbelievable! We had left behind the shore long away. We would have literally been more than half a kilometre into the waters!!

The first thought that came to my mind was, how the hell did I “stray away” this far with a stranger!  You will not believe me but he said that we could walk another kilometre into the beach and nothing will happen. You think I was not scared? I secretly wished I had never come this far because the person insisted that we walk further deep into the sea—why? Just to prove his point that the sea is not that deep!

Zanzibar-Jambiani beach

Zanzibar-Jambiani beach

I did walk a few more steps with him into the water. And then he asked me to sit down on the white sand….here I was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by water from all sides, sitting on the white sand that kept on slipping from beneath me at periodic intervals giving my bottom that nice ticklish feeling! Oh it was an experience. I sat down, allowing the sea to bathe me. I took some water in my hands and while I was pouring it back into the sea.

It was one truly Alive is Awesome feeling! And yes yes, I came out alive from the deeps of the sea to narrate this story to you.

Keep tuned in for more such episodes!

Healing Mother Earth

I volunteered for a tree plantation drive organised by KPMG, on September 8, 2012. In spite of being absolutely kicked about the activity, dragging myself out of deep slumber on a Saturday morning was definitely not an easy chore.

KPMG Tree plantation drive

KPMG Tree plantation drive

When I reached the spot, it looked like a huge expanse of lush greenery, not maintained, but the lungs felt heavenly and wanted to lap up the abundant fresh air in the vast eco-friendly spot in the middle of a concrete jungle called Gurgaon. The venue was the Bio-Diversity park, being developed alongside the Mehrauli – Gurgaon road. The weather was extremely fabulous, and just played along. Upon reaching the venue, I saw a lot of my peer group members wearing the bright green T-shirts who had embraced responsibility for KPMG’s encouragement to have a positive impact through its activities on the environment, employees and communities. The place is a natural conservation site, and is taken up by a lot of corporates for initiatives like tree plantation.

KPMG Tree plantation drive

KPMG Tree plantation drive

As we started the activity of healing mother earth, we had to walk along the trail, led by the KPMG seasoned volunteer already present, take a de-tour into the little shrubs and reach the little dug-up pits where saplings were placed prior to our arrival. It was not a manicured lawn where we needed to do the plantation, but an uncultivated natural wasteland. All of us had to do this activity in groups of two people – one for digging and one for planting. We began with a little garden hoe and a watering can as the starter kit. I think each of us have grown up seeing the gardeners do their ‘bit’ when they maintain plants but never realised that this is a physically exhausting job. The Bio-Diversity park nursery-men were available as ready-reckoners and enthusiastically gave amateurs like me a ‘demonstration’. A quick live presentation and we were all good-to-go. The more seasoned ‘gardeners’ had already planted a couple of saplings by then. One needs to dig out some soil, place the sapling (minus the polythene bag which it comes in) into the dugout, and fill the original soil back into the hole.  Compress gently using your feet/hands. Water the sapling and take the polythene along to be trashed into the bin. Yes, I got it right! A total of 7 trees planted with a colleague. Each of us looked at the other hoping we would top the chart with the ‘highest planter’ accomplishment, I think the maximum was about 11 saplings by a colleague individually.

KPMG Tree plantation drive

KPMG Tree plantation drive

By the end of the exercise we were all very exhausted, mucky, hungry and yet very happy about a great start to the day. As I recounted my story of hardship and a little contribution to ‘environmental revolution’ my pride in accomplishment as a first-time tree planter beamed in my eyes throughout the weekend Healing Mother Earth.