|Posted by Sathesh on September 15, 2009 at 10:43 PM|
Taking a jungle safari in India is an exhilarating experience if doneproperly. To fully enjoy and experience nature the visitor needs to beextremely sensitive to his surroundings and display a large measure ofpatience and self-discipline.
India is blessed with a largediversity of wildlife. This is because of the variations in climate andtopography of the sub-continent. India is divided into tenbio-geographical zones based on a distinctive set of physical andhistorical conditions. These are further divided into twenty-threebiotic provinces. The major ecosystems found in these provinces arecalled biomes. Each biome is unique and is home to different types ofanimals and birds with a certain amount of overlap. To put it simplyIndia possesses a large variety of animal and bird life.
India has about four hundred species of mammals and 1300 species ofbirds. It is the only country to have the Asiatic Lion and is home toabout 65% of the world?s tigers and 85 % of the world?s Asian onehorned rhino. It is also home to five species of big cats, four speciesof wild cattle, eleven wild goat and sheep and fifteen primates.However, in the Indian jungles one will not find many species in closeproximity as often seen in Africa, though there are places wherewildlife can be viewed in abundance.
The Asiatic Lion can onlybe found in the Gir forest of Gujarat and number no more than aboutthree hundred individuals. One needs to consider himself fortunate tobe able to see them in the wild- truly the last of the Mohicans.However, the most charismatic of the Indian big cats is the tiger and atiger safari in India is the ultimate safari experience for the averagevisitor. Apart from the tiger, the One Horned Rhino, the Asian Elephantand the Gaur are some of the other wildlife that can be best viewedonly in India.
India has more than five hundred National Parksand Wildlife Sanctuaries and more than half of them have adequateinfrastructure for the tourist. For those willing to put up with acertain amount of physical discomfort the sky is the limit.
A safari can be best described as a sojourn into the wild and there aremany ways to do so. Most parks in India offer jeep rides into the parkand these are one of the best ways to do so. The advantage of a jeepride is that one is able to cover a lot of ground in the shortestpossible time thus maximizing ones chances of seeing wildlife. However,most jeep safaris turn out to just mindless driving in the forest. Oneneeds to stop every now and then especially near ecological featuresthat attract game like waterholes etc. A discerning guide is necessaryon any safari and he should not be pressured to show animals, as no oneis a magician to be able to conjure up game. Sounds play an importantrole and one must be willing to stop and spend time listening
An elephant safari is probably the best way to get up close andpersonal with nature and in certain habitats, such as the tall elephantgrass habitats, it is the only way to go about. The advantages ofelephants are that wildlife accepts them as animals and does notassociate them with an alien presence. With the result, that one canusually get very close to wildlife. The other advantage is that thereis no noise pollution and one can get to listen to the jungle sounds,which are usually drowned out in the roar of a jeep engine. Theelephant also give you a vantage point and visibility is much improvedadding to the overall experience.
Trekking in protected areasis discouraged in India and rightly so. The average tourist does notposses the skills required to survive in the forest and is thus mostvulnerable while on foot. Fitness levels and the ability to climb treesplay an important role is escaping danger while on foot and as theseare hard to assess it is best to avoid going into the forest on foot.
Waterbased safaris are on offer in certain parks that have large waterbodies within them. A boat safari can be quite an enjoyable experienceat the right time of the year and is certainly the most comfortable andrelaxing way to do a safari. For the avid bird watcher a boat is one ofthe best ways to get close to certain species of birds.
Amachan or a hide situated close to a waterhole during the heat ofsummer is probably the best way to view game. However, one demands alot of patience. Most parks have machans built close to waterholes andwith prior permission one can get to use them. Make sure to check onthe availability of these before you visit a park the next time.
To derive maximum pleasure from a safari one must go properly prepared.A pair of good binoculars is the most important piece of equipment tocarry on safari. A pair of 8X magnification is suitable for the mammalsbut for watching birds a 10X magnification is required to bring outdetails of plumage for correct identification. One should carry a pairthat has an adequate diameter of lens as it helps in capturing morelight. A ratio of 1:5 (magnification to diameter) is the norm.
Agood camera is an asset to jog your memory later however one should notget obsessed with taking the perfect picture, as the effort tends todistract for the experience. Large and cumbersome lens add to thediscomfort and it is best to restrict your photography when using hidesor machans. Most resorts allow photographers to hire jeeps for theirexclusive use, for an extra charge, and if photography is your purposeit is recommended that you do so.
A good field guide that is easy to carry can be an invaluable asset.
Dressfor comfort and cotton fabrics in neutral or dull colours is mostsuitable. Avoid synthetic fabrics and those made of vinyl as theyreflect UV light that is visible to animals. Use detergents that do notcontain brighteners for the same reason. A wide brimmed hat is usefulin summers and dark glasses are a strict no no.
Smells playsan important role in the wild and therefore do not use strongdeodorants and avoid insect repellents and sunscreens that havepowerful scents.
Your behavior and gestures are extremelyimportant. Do not get excited on seeing wildlife, take care to speak inhushed tones and do not make any sudden or violent gestures. Try not tobreak the profile of the jeep by standing up.
Leave the forestas you find it. Do not litter, it can be fatal for wildlife. Resist thetemptation to pluck flowers and fruit. Do not leave anything behind anddo not take anything away except memories.
In addition, giveyourself time. Nature cannot be hurried. She does not respond todeadlines. If you wish to get a better understanding then you must beprepared to be patient. The more time you spend the better your chancesof seeing wildlife and the more time you spend watching wildlife themore you learn about them.
Strictly follow the local rules thatmay vary from place to place and listen to your guide. In the forest,he is also your minder and teacher. Respect him and respect wildlife.Wildlife can be dangerous and therefore it is best to avoid cheapthrills. Do not under any circumstances encroach upon an animal?sprivate space ? it can be fatal.
If you strictly observe theseguidelines, you can have one of the most rewarding experiences of yourlife. A word of caution- wildlife safaris can be highly addictive!
script by Sr Vikram najappa ,world known wild life expert in India