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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Zebra Stripes, Human Fingerprints and Camouflage

The black stripes on the zebra’s white coat is very much appreciated by wildlife lovers. But, you might wonder how something that stands out so vividly for us is good for protecting it in the form of camouflage. Well, in fact it is.

Cuddling Zebras
The Zebra’s main predator, the lion is color blind and the black stripes merge well with the blades of grass in the savannahs and woodlands. But, this does not ensure it total protection, but coupled with the zebra’s nature to stay in a large group ensures it remains safe most of the times.

Its Zebra fever at Maasai Mara
If you understand how predators such a lion and tiger hunt, you will know that they single out their prey in the distance, chalk out a line of attack, create a plan, get closer and then use strength, stealth and/or camouflage to surprise its prey.

Zebra mania
When the zebra sticks with its own kind, the maze of stripes look to the lion as a massive body that is moving in multiple directions. This throws off all the attack calculations in the lion’s head and thus ensures that the zebra remains safe for the time being.

Common Zebra and its foal
Now, coming to the other interesting thing about the zebra stripes. To the normal human eye, the appealing stripes of the zebra look the same. But, in reality, the print pattern on each zebra is as unique as the human fingerprint. And the most interesting fact is that even though their stripes are different, the zebra tracks its  family by their pattern type. This is how a foal find its mother and stays out of danger.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

South American Adventure: Bogotá, Colombia. 5 Places to Love

Nestled in the Andes in South America, Bogotá is the capital and the largest city of Colombia. Shedding its nefarious past, Bogotá has evolved into one of Latin America’s best metropolis to visit and live. This locale is a perfect destination to visit if taking your first trip to South America or as the destination to choose for your honeymoon registry.

clip_image002 Photo Credit: luxuo.com

Here are 5 perfect locations to visit in Bogotá.

1. History and Culture: La Candelaria Neighborhood clip_image003
clip_image005 Photo Credit: es.wikipedia.org

La Candelaria is in the historic neighborhood and located within central downtown Bogotá. This quaint section of Bogotá boasts a rich and vibrant scene for art and historian lovers. The architecture in La Candelaria is a mixture of Baroque and Spanish Colonial, all lining cobblestone streets. Places to visit include Plaza de Bolivar, the beautiful yellow pastel church—Iglesia de la Candelaria, and the Coin House. A must see spot is The Gold Museum. With three floors, this interesting exhibit showcases one of the world’s most amazing selections of pre-historic gold. Besides the historical and cultural influx in this section of the city, La Candelaria offers a variant of delicious cuisines that boosts both a local and international flavor: Middle Eastern, French, Japanese, and Mexican.

2. Rise Above The Clouds and Into The Sky: Monserrat
clip_image007 Photo Credit: www.latin-wife.com

A beauteous mountain that sits at the center of Bogotá, Montserrat is the perfect hiker’s paradise that takes 1.5 to 2 hours to get to the top. Rising to 3,152 meters (10,341 ft) above the sea level, this is the site of pilgrimages during holy holidays and the perfect spot to enjoy the scenic view. At only $7 USD per ride, this is the perfect way to enjoy a relaxing view of Bogotá. Visit the eastern side of the mountain, Cerro de Monserrat “Sanctuary of Monserrat.” Here is the famed and revered shrine of Señor Caído also known as the “Fallen Lord,” which sits at the top of Montserrat. Locals believe that miracles are in abundance and the pilgrimage to the top speaks of penance. Ride the teleférico or funicular railway for an easier way up. Dine at one of the two main restaurants to enjoy the view of both the city and the mountains: Restaurante Casa San Isidro or Restaurante Casa Santa Clara. At either restaurant, both local cuisines and international flavor mesh for the perfect entrée.

3. The Road to El Dorado: Laguna de Guatavita
clip_image009 Photo Credit: www.colombia.travel

Also known as Lake Guatavita, “the gold lake,” this circular lake resembles a meteor crater. Located 35 miles northeast to Bogotá, Lake Guatavita is thought to be the site of El Dorado. Tours are available, where your guide will regale you with tales of the history of the lake. Locals believe treasures of gold from the indigenous Musica tribe sprinkled the lake’s bottom and surface with gold dust, objects, and jewelry. Learn how Spanish conquistadors in 1537 attempted to empty the lake with buckets and cups after enslaving the Musica tribe as laborers. After learning about this history and the rich stories that surround this “lake of gold,” stroll around and capture the essence of this scenic landscape which surrounds Lake Guatavita. Find the perfect souvenir at one of the nearby fairs, where locals cleverly crafted pieces made of wool, gold, or clay.

4. A Breath of Fresh Air: Bogotá Botanical Garden
clip_image011 Photo Credit: travel.mongabay.com

Named after the Spanish botanist, Jose Celestino Mutis, this lush paradise features a19 hectares (46.95 acres) of over 18,200 species of plants and flowers, a veritable greenhouse, the largest Amazonian flower, and the national tree of Colombia, “Palma de Cera.” Former travelers to this beautiful garden recommend a tour guide to provide a better and more informed visit, especially the history and stories behind the botanic. Other hidden gems around this garden include an ecologic center, well placed lakes, and fountains to produce a tranquil ambiance. What makes this botanical haven different from others is the brief showcase of regions around Colombia. Observe how these different sections of the garden are organized based on the weather, habitat, and indigenous plants of that region: paramo, Amazonia, the Andean landscape, plains of the Orinoco and swamps. Just don’t forget your camera, to capture the beauty and essence of the haven.

5. A Bogotá Nightlife: La Zona Rosa de Bogotá
clip_image013 Photo Credit: img.timeinc.net/

Unwind after a long day from hiking and sightseeing at one of the plush restaurants, clubs, or bars in La Zona Rosa, “the Pink Zone.” Handcrafted beers abounds, while bistro-style seating at one of stylish cafes beckons the trendy and hip crowd. This section of the city is also home to upscale, exclusive shopping districts. Despite the seemingly higher budget range, travel on the cobblestone pathway to south of La Zona Rosa towards the Gourmet District. Travelers can find a vast and lustrous selection of eateries that will fit any budget range. Reserve a table at Astrid and Gaston for a luxurious Peruvian experience or La Herencia for a traditional Colombian cuisine and ambiance.

P.S. These photographs do not belong to me. Photo credits have have been mentioned below each post.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mating of African Lions from the savannahs of Maasai Mara, Kenya

Seeing a lion, the true king of the African jungle, in the wild is quite a surreal experience. Seeing it together with a lioness is a bonus. Seeing it with 2 lionesses is a double bonus and seeing it mate with these 2 lionesses for more than 10 minutes is a dream come true altogether.

A Lion groans during a mating session
Typically, we get to see such events only  on the television when the likes of National Geographic, Discovery or Animal Planet show it. We watch in wonder as these events unfold on TV, but it is quite a different experience to watch it take place at about 15 to 20 feet from you.



You get to see the mannerisms of the animals, hear the grunt that comes from deep within (no wonder it is called the animal grunt), see the clenching of teeth, watch the seduction and sometimes even fights.

Lion chases the lioness
Here’s how the events unfolded…There was an hour to go for sunset and I was on my game drive exploring the savannahs of Maasai Mara when we suddenly noticed a lioness. As soon as we stopped, we noticed that it was not alone and there was a lion and another lioness next to it.

Lion and lioness stare at each other
Shortly, the Lion got up, tried to attract the lioness’s attention and started off with the first mating session. Then there was another and another. The lion went 5 times with 2 lionesses in less than 10 minutes. My guide told me that in his 17 year wildlife guide career, he did not see such a healthy lion. He sure looked real strong.

The Lion looks up during the mating session
In between these mating sessions, the attraction mechanism would switch sides and the lioness would lead sometimes. There were 2 events that really stuck into my mind. One, the guttural sounds emitted by the lion during the mating session and second, the way he flopped down contented after every single mating session.

Animal instincts?
These are some things that you can only feel while seeing it in real and not on television. These are such treasured feelings and memories.

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Bird Photography: Yellow Footed Green Pigeon from Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve

The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is a great place, but it somehow lacks the zing of other forests when it comes to bird life. Hence, it is a treasure if you see a bird lest alone photograph it.

Yellow-footed green pigeon
This is a yellow footed green pigeon, a very pretty bird that I got to see at TATR and was lucky to photograph it against the bright blue sky.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Top 9 Wildlife Holidays in India

Now that the Indian government has relaxed the tourism norms around India’s tiger reserves, wildlife lovers can breathe easy and plan their wildlife holiday in India. And with the upcoming Diwali holidays and the Christmas/New Year holiday season, I thought it would be helpful if I put together a list of the best 9 wildlife destinations in India. This list is not based on the best forests per se, but that provides the best wildlife experience including good infrastructure for a holidaying family or group.

Rhino with a Little Egret on its back
1) Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, Assam
This UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in the floodplains of the mighty Brahmaputra is home to endangered and rare species such as the Indian one-horned Rhinoceros, Wild Water Buffalo, Capped Langur, Hoolock Gibbon and more. It is one wildlife sanctuary where no one gets bored as it’s central, western and eastern ranges keep changing from woodlands to swamp plains to elephant grass to hills and evergreen forests while offering the wildlife lover to check out rich and diverse mammal, reptile and bird life. It is also one of those places where apart from the jeep safari, one can get on top of an elephant and get within close quarters of the Kaziranga wild denizens, be it a tiger, rhino or wild buffalo.

Best Season to Visit: November through March

Location: 260kms or 5 1/2 hours from Guwahati

Other Sightseeing Options Around: Hoolongopar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, Nameri National Park, Majuli Island

Chaos in the name of tourism...making the WILD suffer at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India
2) Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
Charger and B2 were one of the largest Indian tigers. They belonged to Bandhavgarh and their bloodline roam the forests of Bandhavgarh today. Bandhavgarh with the highest density of tigers is your best bet to see a Royal Bengal Tiger in the wild. The Tala zone of Bandhavgarh enjoys iconic status. It is very difficult not to see a tiger in the Tala zone during the warm summer months. But, it is not just about the tiger here. Bandhavgarh is home to some exotic birds and mammals. The Bandhavgarh river and the fort offer variety too.

Best Season to Visit: March to May and November to February

Location: 200 kms or 5 hours from Jabalpur

Other Sightseeing Options Around: Khajuraho, Panna Tiger Reserve

A tusker in MAST at Nagarhole National Park
3) Kabini National Park/Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, Karnataka
This place sees the biggest congregation of elephants in summer, offers possibly the best opportunities to see the leopard in the world, is fantastic for birding and also offers regular sightings of the tiger. Sounds unbelievable right? But, it is very true here at Kabini, which is one of those tiger reserves in India that is open all around. Boat cruises on the Kabini reservoir and jeep safaris in the Nagarhole forests is also one of its striking qualities.

Best Season to Visit: All year around, though it is special in the monsoons

Location: 200 kms or 4 1/2 hours from Bangalore

Other Sightseeing Options Around: Mysore, Srirangapatna, Coorg

Ripped Indian Gaur at Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Kerala, India
4) Anaimalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu / Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Kerala
This contiguous forest spanning the Western Ghats of Kerala and Tamil Nadu is home to some of India’s most pristine evergreen forests. The funny part is that both Anaimalai and Parambikulam needs to be entered from Tamil Nadu. The best part about this place is that everything is within the forest and hence you are always close to the wild animals. Gaur, spotted deer and sometimes even elephants will walk by your room. It is quite an experience. One can do jeep safaris, boat safaris or go trekking on designated trails in the evergreen belt in the presence of armed forest guards.

Best Season to Visit: All year around, except the monsoons

Location: 75 kms or 2 hours from Coimbatore

Other Sightseeing Options Around: Aliyar Dam, Valparai, Athirapally Falls, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

2 Little green bee-eaters at Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, India
5) Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand
India’s first national park has its own unique aura. The man-eaters of Kumaon and Colonel Jim Corbett himself lend a lot of legacy to this place. Tigers, leopards, elephants and many other wild animals live here in healthy numbers, though one needs to get lucky to see all on a single trip since Corbett NP spreads over quite a large area. The Ramganga river is also one of those rare places to spot the very endangered Gharial. One of the best things about Jim Corbett NP is Dhikala lodge, a forest department run accommodation that is located in the inner reaches of the tiger reserve. Even though it is fenced for safety reasons, it is something to experience the true wild by being real close to them.

Best Season to Visit: Oct to Jun

Location: 230 kms or 5 hours from New Delhi

Other Sightseeing Options Around: Ranikhet, Nainital, Almore and Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary

Friendly with humans and ready for a bite of junk food - Rufous Tree Pie, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, India
6) Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
Royalty and lots of tigers is how one connects with Ranthambore. Ranthambore is possibly the jewel of Rajasthan when it comes to wildlife. After all, Machli, Ranthambore’s very own carries the tag of the most photographed tiger in the world. Set in arid terrain and surrounded by the Aravallis, the oldest mountain range in India, Ranthambore is an oasis when it comes to wildlife. It’s lakes also attracts a lot of winged visitors every winter. The temple on top of Ranthambore fort, the ruins where Machli used to live and the surrounding hills and caves, each have a lot of tiger stories to share.

Best Season to Visit: March to May (for tigers) and Nov to Feb (for a full wildlife package including migratory birds)

Location: 180 kms or 3 hours from Jaipur

Other Sightseeing Options Around: Jaipur, Chittoragarh

The pride of Gujarat....the rare Asiatic lion at Gir National Park, Gujarat, India
7) Gir National Park, Gujarat
The king of the jungle is seen in only one place in India and that place is Gir. The Nawabs of Junagadhs have gone and the African slaves have embraced Indian language and culture, but the lions of Gir have continued their lineage. The forest is quite large and thus the wildlife is quite diverse. The entire place makes for a lovely green setting in an otherwise dry part of Gujarat. The only sad part is that the lions have originated from a small gene pool, thus making them sensitive to certain virus strains. But, that doesn’t reduce the awe factor even a wee bit.

Best Season to Visit: All year around except the monsoons

Location: 365 kms or 6 1/2 hours from Ahmedabad

Other Sightseeing Options Around: Diu, Somnath, Junagadh, Rajkot, Rann of Kutch

Juvenile Changeable Hawk Eagle
8) Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
TATR is one of those places that people never knew existed in India. Today, it boasts of a healthy tiger population that is multiplying quite rapidly. It is also one of those rare tiger reserves that is open all year around thus making for a great monsoon wildlife destination. But, this place is mainly about the big animals and that too the tiger. For some reason, I don’t like forests that don’t have variety and that is why TATR is low on my list else it would be pretty high given its very high tiger sightings. And the forest department really care about their forest and are doing their bit to save this beautiful environment. The leopard and the black panther are also sighted here quite often.

Best Season to Visit: All year around (Best tiger sightings in summer and the monsoons)

Location: 130 kms or 2 1/2 hours from Nagpur

Other Sightseeing Options Around: Nagpur, Pench Tiger Reserve

Its sunset time at the Sunderbans, West Bengal, India
9) Sunderban Tiger Reserve, West Bengal
It is the land of the man eating tigers. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site that is the world’s largest mangrove forest. It is also the place where the Royal Bengal Tiger swims, eats fish and weighs half of its counterparts that live in other parts of India. The Sunderban Tiger Reserve is one of those tiger reserves where it is very difficult to see a tiger and if you do, you are flirting with real danger. But, the true beauty of Sunderbans lies in its boat cruise that takes you through creeks and rivers and estuaries. The sheer variety of mangroves will keep your mind interested. The low and high tides will help you remember you physics classes. In between, you will get to see the famous salt water (mugger) crocodile, fiddler crabs, deer, terrestrial birds and may be the elusive tiger. But, you will definitely see and understand how the locals here live with these man eating tigers.

Best Season to Visit: Nov to Feb (check out the weather forecast here. can get pretty rough here sometimes)

Location: 120 kms or 2 1/2 hours from Kolkata by road and one hour by boat

Other Sightseeing Options Around: Digha

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blog gets a new search

After a long wait, I have finally moved from Google’s default, yet functional blog search to the more powerful Google custom search. Apart from giving me the functionality to customize the search function completely, it allows you to search easily through a whole bunch of helpful features.

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Below are a list of helpful features for the user and the blog owner:

User Features
1) Auto suggestions as you type in your search text
2) Accurate content search with thumbnails of each post
3) A superb images search, like Google image search that leads to the respective post
4) Ability to search by relevance or date
5) Search box always located on the top right corner of the site

Blog Owner Features
1) Ability to make money through Google Ads within search results
2) Ability to customize the look and feel of the search box, results n all to a large extent including styles, themes and all
3) Increase in traffic through search due to more visual and helpful features
4) A reporting interface that integrates very well with Google Analytics and show search related data

Auto Suggestions as you type
Auto suggestions as you type

Web Search with thumbnails that link to each post
Web search results with thumbnails to each post

Image Search (similar to Google Images Search)
Image search that links to relevant post

I hope you like this search feature and are easily able to find interesting travel information and more photographs from my blog that has close to 1000 posts.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Maasai Giraffe in Monochrome

Seeing the giraffe on TV is great, but seeing them in real and especially in the wild is a wonder of gigantic proportions. These majestic animals are so big that they will comfortably fill the frame of even a point and shoot camera. It was one of those rare instances that I was able to place a full giraffe in the frame and luckily for me I got 3 of them in one delightful frame.

The Maasai Giraffe in monochrome
And I tried and experimented this frame in monochrome. I think it gives depth and a whole new dimension to a wildlife photograph. What do you think?

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Four of the Most Fabulous Fiestas in Tenerife

As the largest and most populous of the Canary Islands, it’s not surprising that Tenerife has the most jam-packed annual events calendar with fiestas and traditional events taking place almost every month! If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Tenerife on cheap flights with airlines like Jet2.com, here are four of the best reasons to go.

Los Reyes Magos, January 5th Although Christmas is a major event for the residents of Tenerife, the real celebration takes place a couple of weeks later with the arrival of Los Reyes Magos, or ‘The Three Kings’. These are the same three kings from the nativity story, and are said to be responsible for distributing gifts across Spain, thus their arrival is marked in all the major towns of Tenerife by colorful parades, fire-eaters, acrobats and musicians, as well as an extravagant fireworks display at night.

Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, February
After the one in Rio de Janeiro, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the second-largest Carnival celebration in the world – and when you experience it, you’ll understand why! Thousands of costumed performers take to the streets to dance until the very early hours, with many different celebrations taking place over the course of about two weeks. The intricate and elaborate costumes will blow your mind and the atmosphere in Santa Cruz around Carnival time is like no other, making February perhaps the ultimate time to make that visit to Tenerife.

Fiestas del Carmen, July 16th You’re going to need your swimsuit if you visit Tenerife around the time of the Fiestas del Carmen, as this festival which celebrates the patron saint of fisherman involves getting very, very wet! Taking place in the town of Puerto de la Cruz, the water around the town’s harbor becomes filled with people, boats and inflatables throughout the day, and the streets are thronged with revelers wielding water guns and buckets, hoping to initiate a large-scale water fight. In the evening, an emotional parade will take place in which a statue of the Virgin del Carmen is sailed around the harbor accompanied by fireworks and music, making an unforgettable end to a truly unique fiesta.

All Saints’ Day, November 1st Images of ‘Sugar Skulls’ have made their way into popular culture in recent years, but their origins lie in All Saints’ Day, a traditional Spanish celebration in which families remember their dear and departed relatives. This day is a national holiday in Tenerife and people will go to the graves of their families to lay flowers, but the enormous flower stalls that line the streets and the ornate displays of flowers and Sugar Skull ornaments that people put together for the occasion are a sight to behold for visitors.

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Caravan Costs: Awnings

Caravanning, despite being the budget option for many UK holidaymakers, has a number of expenses associated with getting started. Even with cheap caravans for sale from the used market, you’re going to be shelling out a few grand. Once you’ve bought the caravan, the costs don’t stop there. There are a number of accessories that you will need to invest in to personalize and improve your caravan holiday experience. Heaters, generators, new fittings – they all add up. And with inclement weather a perennial near-certainty, an awning is one of the most important outlays.

As any caravan owner knows, a good awning effectively doubles your living space. They are complex, mechanical constructions costing anywhere from £300 to £2000 and more. Setting up your awning on holiday is not difficult, but it’s essential that you protect your investment with some good maintenance practices.

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Photo Copyright: That's how it's done, courtesy of Tim Regan
The best time to give your awning a good clean is when it is erected. This way, it will be much easier to get into each nook and cranny. Most awnings on the market can be perfectly well cleaned using any soft brush and plenty of warm water. Stay away from bleach and other abrasive cleaning fluids – they may damage the waterproof coating. Use a hose with a nozzle and spray water evenly across the canvas, loosening dirt with the brush as you go. Pay special attention to the most exposed parts of the awning, such as the roof. Do this twice a year to prevent permanent dirt stains.

The pegs and poles that support the awning are just as important to maintain. Clean the mud off the pegs regularly, but be sure to replace any that are damaged as you come across them. The poles just require shaking out to remove sand and grit. Also, check the joints and fixings. If you are using metal poles rather than fiberglass, you will need to give them a yearly polish with car wax or silicone furniture polish to prevent corrosion.

Once back home from your caravan trip, unpack your awning to give it an air-dry – this will prevent mildew. If you have a large, clean, dry garage, keep it open in there until it is bone dry. Then repack it. Remember to dry out the bag you are storing it in as well. Store the awning in a cool, dry place, out of the reach of vermin such as mice.

Check out the Park Resorts website for more tips and advice on caravans and caravan accessories. If you’re looking for holiday inspiration then they’re great for that too – they manage a number of Isle of Wight holiday parks and various others, all across the UK.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Packing Tips for your Motorcycle Trip

Unlike a backpacking trip or a family holiday, luggage planning for a motorcycle holiday follows a different set of rules. To cite an example, one doesn’t carry a backpack or a suitcase on a motorcycle trip, but a saddle bag, a magnetic tank bag or other small accessories that are mounted onto the two wheeler. This post aims to list out packing instructions, benefits of such packing, tools,clothes and other accessories that need to be carried, gear that will protect your luggage from the elements and provide all the tips that will ensure that you have a comfortable motorcycling vacation. All these tips are based on my personal experiences.

Luggage Planning for your Motorcycle Vacation
LUGGAGE PLANNING

Saddle Bag

This bag comes in many shapes, sizes and textures. For motorcycles with a flat exhaust, there are rectangular bags, while for ones with elevated exhausts, there are trapezoidal bags. Depending on your budget and need, you can either invest in a leather one or a standard cloth fiber material.

Advantages of a saddle bag:
1) Prevents back pain as it rests on the rear seat of the motorcycle
2) Provides an additional layer of cushion for the pillion rider
3) Has pockets to hold ready-to-use items like water bottle, fuel can and oil container
4) Can handle quite a bit of weight without affecting the balance of the vehicle
5) Is built to face the rigors of a motorcycle ride
6) Can be easily fastened to the motorcycle and can handle very rough rides

Magnetic Tank bag
This is a bag that attaches itself to the fuel tank of your motorcycle using magnets.

Advantages of a tank bag:
1) Allows you to carry additional stuff without obstructing either the rider or pillion positions
2) Comes in handy to refer to a pullout map, guide book or access small tools
3) Doesn’t compromise on riding safety
4) Also doubles up as a easy to carry shoulder sling bag, though it can become inconvenient if you pack it with a lot of stuff

Apart from the above two, you can carry a small day back, sleeping bag or other small accessories.

PACKING TIPS
1) Pack all your clothes, gear, tools and accessories in trash bags and then pack them into your main luggage. This will ensure your gear stays dry even in heavy rains.
2) For additional cover, use rain proof covers for saddle and tank bags. It is very easy to design one.
3) Ensure that you distribute the weight equally one both sides of the saddle bag. This will ensure that your vehicle doesn’t sway to one side.
4) Make sure that you keep your first aid kit, cash and frequent use tools in a place where it is easy to access. This would ideally be on top of the saddle bag.
5) Stitch an extra protection layer to the underside of the saddle bag to prevent wear and tear with use.
6) Tie the magnetic tank bag to below the handle bar to ensure magnets don’t slip down on rough roads.
7) To carry the saddle bag easily in spite of its heavy weight, let the center of the saddle bag to rest on your shoulder (one bag rests on your chest, while the other side rests on your back)

GEAR PLANNING


Clothes (Considering a 2 week trip for one person)
1) Waterproof Armored Motorcycling Jacket (contains thermal layer for cold weather)
2) Armored gloves (material can vary depending on riding conditions)
3) Knee safety guards
4) Boots or good pair of rugged shoes
5) Bathroom slippers
6) Sunglasses – 1 pair
7) Full sleeve cotton shirts – 2 nos
8) T shirt – 3 nos
9) Track pants/Jeans or Motorcycling Pants – 2 nos
10) Night Shorts: 2 nos
11) Inner wear – 5 pairs
12) Socks – 5 pairs

Tools
(Ideally for a Royal Enfield Motorcycle, but can be used for other motorbikes too)
1) Foot pump
2) One tube each for both your front and rear tires (not applicable for tubeless tires)
3) Tubeless repair kit (not applicable for tires with tubes)
4) Rod to separate tire from rim (helps while fixing punctures/flats)
5) Clutch cable: 1 piece
6) Accelerator cable: 1 piece
7) Spare Headlight Bulb: 1 piece
8) Spare bulb for rear brake light: 1 piece
9) Battery fuse: 6 pieces
10) Chain link locks: 2 pieces
11) Tube Adhesive and tube stickers (for fixing flats)
12) Standard tool kit of vehicle plus spanners to remove rear and front wheels
13) Medium size scissors and pocket knife
14) Strong duct tape
15) Fuel cans: As required
16) Oil cans: As required
17) Brake shoe: 1 piece (if using a rear brake)
18) Brake pad: 1 set (if using a disc brake)
19) Brake shoe springs: 2 pieces
20) Multi-function screw driver and plier
21) Helmet
22) Balaclava or bandana to be worn inside the helmet: 1 to 5 pieces depending on washability
23) GPS Device, if you don’t like referring to a map (not necessary)
24) Short distance radio to stay in touch with fellow riders (not necessary)
25) Waste rags to clean vehicle of oil spills

Documents and Important Accessories
1) Motorcycle Papers along with insurance documents
2) Valid Driving License
3) Cash. credit and debit cards as required
4) Road Atlas book with detailed maps
5) Contact details of service stations on your route
6) First aid kit
7) Toiletries kit with two rolls of toilet paper
8) 8 Passport size photographs
9) Electronics and chargers as required

I hope this post helps you in packing properly for your upcoming motorcycle tips. Do drop in a comment if you have any questions. Happy travels and ride safe!

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Classic Maasai Mara Landscape

The Maasai Mara in south west Kenya and bordering Tanzania is known for its rich wildlife and the great migration. But, apart from admiring its wild denizens, I absolutely love its simple landscape that is so pleasing to the eye. This landscape is mainly made up of savannah grasslands, small pockets of woodlands, shrubs and thorny trees.

The beautiful landscape of Maasai Mara; the sprawling savaanah and the rare yellow fever tree
But, one of the more classic views is when you see a lone yellow fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) standing tall amidst the sprawling savannahs of Maasai Mara. This is one of those views that define this fiercely popular game reserve.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Mentioned in Deccan Chronicle

Now, I get mentioned in newspapers too! The newspaper Deccan Chronicle (DC) mentions me in their lifestyle article along with other travel bloggers. Anusha Vincent of DC talks about ‘Blogspotting for a travelogue’ in her article on wanderlust in the lifestyle section of her newspaper. In this article, she talks about the current breed of travel bloggers from Bangalore, what makes them blog and what all do they talk about on their blog.

Here is an excerpt of the mention: “while for Sankara Subramanian (www.beontheroad.com), back-packing is a means to meet new people, explore wildlife, and take off on his beloved motorcycle”.
This article  was published on Aug 15, 2012, but I came to know about it only today when I looked at the data of sites linking back into me.

Even though this news is delayed, it definitely makes me very happy. Thank you DC, Anusha Vincent, fellow travel bloggers, my fans and all my blog readers for making this happen. Cheers!!

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Travel Smart, Shop and Save in Singapore with Groupon Deals

Are you looking for somewhere exotic, beautiful and warm to travel to? With the help of travel blogs you can find extensive information about many different locations as well as read personal experiences by other travelers. Travel blogs give you information about places to visit, how to get there and ways to economize or get special deals in each country. For example, Singapore is a small city state with all modern amenities yet retains an Eastern splendor. If time is at a premium and you want to pack in a lot of experience in a three or four days trip Singapore is an ideal choice.

Singapore is highly urbanized with modern roads, hotels, night clubs, restaurants, karaoke places, shopping districts and all other attractions to keep you busy. You can visit the Jurong Bird Park and other natural attractions. You can stay in a moderately priced hotel or a classy one; dine in the best restaurants and shopping here is like paradise. Spend wisely or splurge, it is all up to you. Take a look at online voucher and coupon deals and special offers for Singapore travel, cruises, air tickets, spa and health services, shopping, hotels and dining. Groupon travel vouchers Singapore will help you too find these amazing money saving deals. Simply register on the Groupon Singapore website and follow the steps to receive tremendous deals on travel to Singapore and travel within Singapore.

Travel vouchers Singapore open up doorways to exciting and fun activities. Groupon partners like Cebu Air Travel, Sea Wheel Travels and HLS travel take care of your travel itinerary. Accommodation at premium hotels like the Orchard Hotel becomes all the more affordable when you have discount coupons valid for all these premium establishments.

Groupon Singapore special offers website is not restricted to travel alone. You can find tremendous discounts on purchases and services at select establishments through Singapore City Leisure vouchers. Groupon partners with the best travel and service providers, hotels, restaurants and shops in Singapore like Air Asia, Subway, Ben &Jerry’s, and Visa. Leisure activities like water sports, wind surfing and kite surfing become affordable and more enjoyable when you enjoy discounts that could go up to 70 per cent and even beyond. Pick a spa and have a full treatment without worrying about high costs. You have a Groupon voucher and this entitles you to discounts on all categories of health and fitness services at these establishments. Enjoy elegant meals at fine restaurants in the company of gracious people through these coupons.

If you are planning to visit Singapore, make it a point to get these vouchers. You can use the savings to do more, buy more and travel more or for a high end experience at a lower cost.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lamayuru: Of rock mountains, scenic peace and home to Ladakh’s largest gompa

People perceive the Himalayas as snow covered mountains, blue skies and desolate beauty. But, within this Himalayan world, different places present a variety of panoramas and vistas. And the specialty is that these sights change quite rapidly. Sometimes, they change at the end of a curve or when you move from one hill to another.

Lamayuru in monochrome
Such a unique set of views is presented at Lamayuru, a scenic high altitude Himalayan town that is located between Leh and Kargil. The specialty of this town is its rock mountains and the buildings that perch themselves on it.

Lamayuru Monastery - one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh
This town gets its bearings from the Lamayuru monastery that was built in the 11th century. This Tibetan Buddhist gompa, that today exists as the largest and one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh, gives the Lamayuru town its character.

Entering the Lamayuru Monastery
It is this Lamayuru monastery and the surrounding buildings that give the Lamayuru town its iconic look. This look includes the mighty Himalayas in the background and the monastery buildings located on the edge of the rock mountains in the foreground.

Ladakhi women - old and young
The nearby high altitude mountain pass of Fotu La that is located about 12 kms from Lamayuru also ensures that this Himalayan town gets its share of cold winds. A lot of people who visit Lamayuru also try to make it to the nearby Fotu La to soak in its snow capped views and enjoy its bitter cold.

Lamayuru town from on top of the Lamayuru Monastery
One of the best things to do in Lamayuru is to amble by its many lanes that surround the monastery, pick a nice comfortable spot and enjoy its serene beauty by staring into the Himalayan oblivion. Such a spot would be ideal for meditation too. If it gets too cold, one can continue their meditation from inside the monastery.

Colourful Murals inside the Lamayuru Monastery
The monastery is also a great place in itself. While its open corridors ensure you get fantastic Himalayan vistas to see, its interiors awe you with its spirituality and rich wall paintings.

A pathway inside Lamayuru Monastery
With all these ingredients, Lamayuru makes for a great spiritual/nature holiday. At 127 kms or about a 3 hour drive from Leh, Lamayuru can either become your full-fledged holiday destination or can be a day trip from Leh. Such a day trip would include stops at Sangam (confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers), Magnetic Hill, Lamayuru and Fotu La giving a lot of variety in a single day.

Lamayuru town and Lamyuru Monastery
A longer stay is always recommended as that would give you the chance to go on some nice treks nearby and explore Lamayuru and its surroundings at length. Some other key attractions nearby include Wanla Gompa, Namik La and Hannupatta.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Zebra in Black n White Shades: A Wildlife Photo Essay

I am generally not a big fan of taking wildlife pictures in monochrome, but when it comes to the zebra, I tend to take more black and whites than color photographs. The white coat and the black stripes of the zebra ensures that one doesn’t lose any detail while creating the frame and hence monochromes seem very appealing.

Young Zebra foal and its mother in monochrome
Here are some monochrome shots of the common (Plains) Zebra that I took at Lake Nakuru National Park and at Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.What do you think of these black and white shades? Do you think it fits the zebra well?

Brilliant contours on the common zebra
Common Zebra in monochrome
A small herd of common zebra run on the jeep track
Zebras graze together

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Rothschild Giraffe: The most endangered giraffe subspecies

The Rothschild Giraffe is one of those species that is found in the wild only in two places in the whole world. One is Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya and the other is in northern Uganda. While the other giraffe species are placed in the “Least Concern’ category, the Rothschild Giraffe is in the heavily endangered category.

Side view of Rothchild's Giraffe
I was lucky to see this rare species during my game drive in Lake Nakuru National Park in central Kenya. It was late afternoon when I saw this giraffe sub species and found them grazing in the thick woodlands in the higher reaches of Lake Nakuru National Park.

A large herd of Rothchild's Giraffe at Lake Nakuru National Park
They seem to be quite tall like the Maasai Giraffe and have broad patterns on them. The main thing that differentiates them from the other sub species is their lack of patterns on their feet. They have plain white feet, which give a feeling that they are wearing white socks on their feet.

Rothchild's Giraffe
But, like all giraffe species, even this one is a sight to watch. Their gigantic figure and their beautiful patterns make them stand out in the Lake Nakuru landscape.

Rothchild's Giraffe, a sub species of the Maasai girafee and seen only in Lake Nakuru National Park
If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you should definitely try and sight them. After all, there are only about one hundred odd living in the wild.

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