August 2019 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Friday, August 30, 2019

Private Chingara Waterfall that is surrounded by forests, coffee, spices and hills

Chingara waterfall surrounded by greenery

One of Karnataka’s top monsoon holiday destinations, Coorg is certainly on the popular tourist trail, but it is still home to many lesser known gems. This mighty private waterfall is a case in point. Surrounded by forests, coffee estates, spices and hills, this waterfall enjoys pristine environment and a remote location.

The route that leads to Chingara estate, Honey valley estate and Tadiyendamol peak

Located in the Yevakapadi village of Southern Coorg, it falls under the Chingara and the Honey valley estates belonging to the Chengappa family. It is a perfect place for those who seek solitude and pristine nature. It is that kind of a place where you can walk in the rain, see colorful butterflies prancing around and where you can frolic in the waterfall at leisure. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is private property, which means you will have to either stay at Chingara estate or Honey valley estate if you wish to experience and explore this waterfall and surroundings.



If you ask me, these homestays set amidst coffee estates and spice plantations and with the Brahmagiri mountain range in the background are perfect for nature lovers, trekkers and especially for those seeking for fabulous monsoon holiday destinations. It gives then perfect access to hidden attractions of Coorg out of which Chingara waterfall is one such example.

Chingara - the forest and estate waterfall

My favorite way to explore this waterfall is by slowly trekking downhill after a good breakfast while admiring nature’s abundance around and then wash off all the sweat in the waterfall. It gets even better during the rains when both the trail and waterfall seem to get better. Have you been to this waterfall? Do you know other such hidden attractions in Coorg. Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

Lush surroundings of Chingara estate

Best season to visit this waterfall:

Chingara waterfalls has water most of the year, but it looks best during the monsoons when the surroundings are lush and the waterfall carries abundant water and falls with thundering noise. This is the best time for photography and for monsoon walks. If you wish to take a bath under the waterfall, I would recommend that you visit during the post monsoon months from October through February.

Pristine untouched environment - Chingara waterfalls

How to get access to this waterfall:

As Chingara waterfalls is inside a private property called Chingara estate, the public is not allowed to the waterfall. However, guests staying at Chingara estate and Honey valley estate are free to explore this waterfall. One can either trek to the waterfall from either of these properties or opt for a four wheel drive jeep to take them to the waterfall. The trek is very scenic and much recommended.

The beautiful walk to Chingara falls

How to reach here:

The best way to reach Chingara waterfalls is by road. It is located about 260 kms from Bangalore and the route would be Bangalore –> Srirangapatna –> Hunsur –> Gonigoppal –> Virajpet –> Kabinakad –> Chingara.

Buses ply regularly from Bangalore to Virajpet and from Virajpet, one can take a local bus that connects Madikeri via Napoklu and get down at Kabinnakad bus stop. From this bus stop, it is a few kilometers to the waterfall.

The nearest railway station would be Hunsur, though Mysore and Bangalore railway stations would have better connectivity.

The nearest airport would be Bangalore and it connects with almost all of the country.

A bright sunny day at Chingara estate, Coorg

Nearby tourist attractions:

1) Trek to Thadiyendamol peak, Coorg’s highest mountain

2) 220 year old Nalknad Palace

3) Honey valley estate for those who like to study amphibians, reptiles and butterflies

4) Chelavara waterfalls

5) Bhagamandala temple

6) Talacauvery wildlife sanctuary

7) Igguthappa temple

8) Trek to Nilakandi waterfalls, a pristine forest waterfall inside Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuary

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Nalknad Palace: A Kodava palace in the lap of lush nature

The beautifully sculpted elephant at the entrance of Nalknad palace, Coorg

It is surrounded by lush tropical forests of the Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuary. The towering Thadiyendamol mountain looks down upon it. And it was a place where the Haleri kings of Kodagu sought solace and refuge from their enemies. This place is the simple, yet beautiful Nalknad palace that was built in 1792 AD and that is nestled in the Western Ghats of southern Coorg.



Mercara was the main capital of Kodagu, but when the Kodagu kingdom was threatened by Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and later the British, the then Kodagu king Dodda Veerarajendra decided to make his second base in a thickly forested area that is today called Yavakapadi village. It was here that he built his second palace, one that would protect his family during attack and from where he could manage his kingly operations during distress. This Nalknad palace was built in traditional Kodava fashion. It houses beautiful frescoes that have stood the test of time in spite of the heavy rains and consistent humidity. It has security outposts and beautifully designed stations to hold your gun and to aim at the enemy. It has dark rooms that are totally hidden and where the royal family can hide in case the palace comes under a siege. While the interiors of the palace are still standing, the fortifications of its boundary wall have started falling apart, especially during the heavy rains of the past years.

Beautiful moss covered carvings inside Nalknad palace, Coorg

Like I have mentioned before, the Nalknad palace is not spectacular like the Mysore palace, but it enjoys a pretty setting where nature is bountiful. I would visit this place just for its location and may be learn a little bit of history while I am in the lap of lush nature. This cultural attraction of Coorg is a must visit according to me. Don’t miss it on your next holiday to Coorg. And definitely don’t miss it during a monsoon trek to Thadiyendamol peak, one of the most beautiful treks of Karnataka.

Ornate steps that lead into Nalknad palace, Coorg

How to reach here:

The best way is to travel by road. Nalknad palace is about 265 kms from Bangalore. The route is Bangalore –> Srirangapatna –> Hunsur –> Goniakoppal –> Virajpet –> Kabinnakad –> Nalknad Palace. After Kabinnakad, travel straight for one km and then turn left and then travel about 3 kms to find the palace to your left.

Hunsur would be the nearest railway station, though Mysore and Bangalore would have better connectivity with the rest of the country.

Bangalore would be your best bet for the nearest airport.

Where to stay:

If you wish to stay in a homestay located amidst coffee estates, I would recommend trying Honey valley estate and Chingara estate. If you wish for uber luxury, try looking up Tamara Coorg. There are many other properties located nearby to choose from.

Moss takes over structure inside Nalknad Palace, Coorg

Nearby tourist attractions:

1) Trek to Thadiyendamol peak, the highest mountain in Coorg and the second highest in Karnataka

2) Chelavara waterfalls

3) Trek to Kabbe hills

4) Bhagamandala temple and the triveni sangam

5) Igguthappa temple, the most sacred temple of the Kodavas

6) Talacauvery wildlife sanctuary

7) Chingara waterfalls

8) Nilakandi waterfalls

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Turkey Travel Guide

Istanbul, Turkey

INTRODUCTION


Famously referred to as the meeting point of the East and the West, the one unique city where not only cultures, but two continents collide. From exquisite museums, appetizing kebabs, a plethora of historic landmarks, diverse landscapes and the warmest people you’ll ever meet- Turkey is not only one of the most fusionist countries you’ll ever see but is quite honestly the perfect place for almost every kind of traveler. So, whether you’re a young couple, a full family, a beach lover, wanderer, foodie or a history buff- Turkey has something to offer for every kind of person, every kind of traveler. This guide aims to highlight and brief you on the things you should keep in mind before embarking on your journey, and some of the vital places you can visit and experience during your time there.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR UPCOMING TURKEY TRIP


How to prepare for your upcoming Turkey trip

1.
Map out a travel itinerary

From the places you’d like to visit to the convenience of time and travel, map out the different parts of Turkey you’d like to visit and chalk out a temporary itinerary you can follow and use for the rest of your pre-travel process.

2. Plan a realistic budget

Fortunately, Turkey is not an expensive place to travel to. Even though the Turkish Lira is higher than the rupee (with 1 Turkish Lira equivalent of Rs 12.78), everything from hotels, transportation and daily needs are very reasonable. Based on your personal feasibility, plan out a budget you’d want to stick to so you can make your bookings accordingly.

3. Figure out your home away from home

Your travel experience could be largely based on the kind of places you pick for your stay. Based on accessibility, convenience and feasibility, shortlist some hotels, or Airbnbs you’d like to reside in across the places you plan to visit.

4. Secure your trip with a Turkey travel insurance

Apart from the fact that a travel insurance (especially in some of Turkey’s famous scam cities!) secures you from all unforeseen circumstances, it’s also a mandatory to get one if you want your Turkish Tourist Visa approved. So, once you’ve booked your flight tickets- the next thing to do is get your trip insured with a travel insurance you can trust. As per the Turkish visa mandate, ensure it gives you minimum coverage of at least €30,000, i.e. approximately $33,000.

5.
Get that Turkey visa stamp!

There are primarily two ways to get a Turkey Visa for Indians. If you are an Indian passport holder with a valid visa of US/UK/Ireland/Schengen, then you can easily get an e-visa processed online for a fee of US$43.70. If you don’t have either of the above-mentioned visas, you can apply through VFS for a fee of Rs 4250, which takes around a week to stamp and process.

6. What to pack?

This primarily depends on what time of the year you’re traveling in. If you’re traveling during the summer months, carry just enough summer clothes and beachwear but also make sure you carry modest clothing pieces like long skirts or tunics (if you’re a woman) for the visits to Turkey’s many beautiful mosques. If you’re traveling during the winters, based on where you’re traveling- you'll definitely need an all-purpose jacket to keep you both warm and dry.

7. Other travel essentials

Apart from clothing, make sure you have all your other travel essentials in place. The last-minute chaos is so not worth it! So right from your documents like an international driving license (if you plan on driving in Turkey), your international travel insurance to the little nitty-gritties like your jacket, travel plug converter, sunscreen, travel pillow, backpack, et al. ensure they’re all in place!

10 THINGS TO DO IN TURKEY

1.
Be captivated by the culturally rich city of Istanbul

From its exceptional Ottoman architecture and historic art and museums to its bustling nightlife and bazaars; Istanbul is the one place that meddles in both tradition and modernity beautifully.

2. Embrace enchantment at the Princess Islands

Relish an enchanting day trip from Istanbul to the Princess Islands. With no access to cars at all and home to quaint horse carriages and bicycles, it’ll be your own life’s classic you wouldn’t want to miss out on!

3. Visit Konya - the Sufi powerhouse of philosophy and poetry

Home to Rumi’s grave and his poetic museum- Konya is known for its mystic whirling dervish performances and all things you can possibly connect Rumi with.

Hot Balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey

4. Take the Instagram-worthy hot balloon ride in Cappadocia

Experience a magical hot air balloon ride all the way in Cappadocia. There’s nothing like watching the sun rise mid-air, surrounded by the astonishing landscape of Cappadocia.

5.
Indulge in not only kebabs but the best kunefes and baklavas

Your trip is probably not complete until you’ve hogged on enough kebabs and given your sweet tooth a treat to the best kunefes and baklavas in Turkey. Might we suggest some warm Turkish tea to go with it all?

The legendary Turkish tea

6.
Tick off a UNESCO world heritage site off your bucket list

Known for its healing properties, Pamukkale near the city of Denizli is a must visit for its spectacular pools of milky water along a vast mountainside.

The natural wonder of Pamukkale, Turkey

7.
Go on an adventure across the Taurus mountain range

Perfect for the adventure junkies to hike around, the Taurus mountain range is in the Mediterranean region of Turkey and is home to beautiful waterfalls, underground rivers, hundreds of endemic flowers, migrating birds, ibexes, wolves, and some of the largest caves in Asia.

8. Embrace Turkey’s coastline with one of its many pristine beaches

For those planning out a trip in summer, a visit to one of Turkey’s beautiful beaches – especially of those in Antalya should be on your itinerary!

9. Fulfil that shopping wish list at Turkey’s many bazaars

Nobody leaves Turkey empty handed! So, whether it’s its range of teas and spices or its artistic ceramics and handwoven carpets, you’re going to love what the Turkish merchants have to offer, just don’t forget to bargain!

10.
Take the road less travelled

For those planning a longer trip than usual, traveling the country by road is an opportunity of a lifetime. Explore the many popular and unpopular destinations – all of which represent a culture and story of their own.

CONCLUSION

Although the above ten things mentioned are an array of options to delve into on a trip to Turkey; it’s still not enough. Given its rich and fascinating history, tourist attractions, great hospitality and diverse landscapes, there’s a lot Turkey has to offer. Use this Turkey Travel guide to assist your travel planning journey. This is only the start. Apart from this and many other online guides, you may also consider reading into some Turkish literature (fiction & nonfiction) for an insider feel of the place before you even travel (or even during). Some recommended works include Eat Smart in Turkey by Joan Peterson, Istanbul: The Imperial City by John Freely, Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk, The Musuem of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk and The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak amongst many other books by some of the most prominent Turkish and international writers. With all this in place, I hope you have an enriching travel experience and come back with not only memories and photographs, but stories and experiences that you can cherish for a lifetime.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

Offbeat Goa: 5 Best Monsoon Experiences

Best Monsoon Experiences in Goa

We all love Goa for its beaches, beer, parties, flea markets, churches and sea food, but do you know that there is a side to Goa that is equally beautiful, if not more. I am talking about the tropical forests, national parks and mountains of Goa that are a part of the biodiversity hotspot called the ‘Western Ghats’. This part of Goa is a hot bed of adventure during the monsoons when this belt is drenched by plentiful rains and thus making the alive ecosystem go into hyperactive mode.

These are 5 of the best monsoon experiences in Goa that you should indulge in during this monsoon season.

1) Go on a motorcycle ride through Chorla Ghat

Motorcycling through the lush green Western Ghats of India during the monsoons

Beautiful butterflies, rare wildlife species, panoramic green vistas, stunning jungle walks and umpteen waterfalls adorn this nature hot spot. Add to it winding mountain roads with hairpins and waterfall crossings and you have a dream motorcycle holiday destination. Chorla ghat is all this and more. Located in the lush Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats, Chorla ghat is located at the intersection of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The lush omnipresent nature, the mist on the roads and the consistent pitter patter keep you company during your monsoon ride here.

2) Try your luck on a delightful casino cruise

How about going on a luxury river cruise when it is raining? Not only do you get to see Goa from a different perspective, you get to enjoy the rains from a different vantage point and last, but not the least, you get to indulge in some gambling at one of the few casinos of India. You heard me right! Yes, you can legally gamble in India and that too at a popular holiday destination such as Goa. And one of the most popular monsoon ideas in Goa is to gamble when you float on the mighty Mandovi river in a lovely cruise boat.

Be it baccarat, roulette, andar bahar, poker, black jack, mang patta, Indian Rummy, Indian flush, slot machines or any of the other games, these casino cruises offer you innumerable avenues to spend your money while living in some luxury and enjoying some lovely monsoon spectacles from on top of the river. Big Daddy Casino, Deltin Royale, Casino Pride and Deltin Caravela are some of the popular casino cruise boats of Goa.

3) Trek through lush tropical forests that lead to pristine waterfalls

The pool at the bottom of Dudhsagar Falls, Goa

Tropical jungle treks and abundant water is the norm in the Western Ghats. One of the famous waterfall treks in Goa is the one that leads to the mighty Dudhsagar falls that literally falls like a sea of milk from the heavens above. This trek crisscrossing railways tracks, jungles and mountain streams is best experienced during the monsoons when the waterfall is in full flow and the picture perfect green views are legendary. A couple of points on this trek offer the perfect view of the waterfall, the dense Western Ghats and the train that periodically passes right next to the waterfall. For those who cannot trek, you can opt to take a jeep through Mollem National Park and head straight to the bottom of the waterfalls.

Other popular waterfall treks in Goa are the ones on Chorla ghat, Hivre falls, Arvalem falls, Netravali falls, Valpoi waterfall, Tambdi Surla falls, Kuskem falls and Charavane waterfalls.

4) Cycle in the rain through cashew plantations

Cycling through the green roads of Goa

Most of Goa’s forests and national parks are flanked by beautiful plantations and spice gardens that make for a lush and aromatic getaway. Since most trails here are narrow, it is best explored on a bicycle. That way, you can experience the beauty of the cashew plantations, the paddy fields, the small streams, the rich birdlife and a quaint village atmosphere, slowly as you ride in the rain. This is as romantic and authentic as a rural monsoon holiday can get.

5) Soak in nature’s Dr Salim Ali Bird sanctuary

Cormorant at Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary, Goa

An estuarine mangrove habitat lies on the Western tip of the offbeat Chorao island along Goa’s Mandovi river. This mangrove forest is home to a diverse ecosystem of birds, crabs, mudskippers, plants and flowers. Herons, bittens, avocets, fiddler crabs, mudskippers and a whole bunch of water birds can be seen on this island. This island and the bird sanctuary make it a perfect place for solitude seekers, nature lovers, bird watchers and water lovers. Go here during the early hours of the morning to revel in the divine sounds of mother nature.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Tips on How to Travel as Lightly as Possible

Packing for a gap year trip

Travel is a wonderful experience; the old cliché is true - traveling broadens the mind. However, if you don’t prepare properly beforehand then traveling can end up being stressful and uncomfortable. The following travel tips can be used by any traveler who wants to take a load off and travel as light as possible.

Find a Smaller Suitcase


Perhaps the simplest thing you can do to travel light, other than not bringing any luggage at all, is to find a more compact suitcase that enables you to easily carry your clothes and other luggage in a smaller package. A smaller suitcase will usually mean less room (although there are some suitcases that are remarkably efficient in terms of space usage), but this in itself is a good thing if you are trying to travel light.

When you have only a limited amount of physical space to work with, it forces you to think more carefully about how you use whatever space is available. Only permitting yourself to work with a smaller volume of space means that you will have to travel light.

Use a Packing List

The bare essentials of travel

Many of us will begin packing our holiday bag by gathering up all the obvious essentials. After that, we go through our wardrobe and pick out the things that we think we will need. This is a perfectly logical way of approaching your holiday packing, but it is not a perfect method. Even if you rub your eyes over everything that you own, you will inevitably, and literally, overlook something.

A much better approach, and one that minimizes the chances of your forgetting something is to use a packing list. As the name suggests, this is simply a checklist of everything that you think you will need to bring with you on holiday. Once you have put together your list of what you need, it is much easier to check both it and your luggage to make sure that you have remembered to bring everything with you.

Only Pack the Clothes You Will Need

A common packing mistake when preparing for a vacation or business trip is to try and account for all situations. If you are going on a relatively long trip, it is tempting to pack a set of clothes for every eventuality. However, this is rarely necessary and usually just means that you end up bringing a whole bunch of stuff that you don’t need.

Instead, do some research before you leave. Check what the weather forecast is for the time you will be there, as well as how likely the weather is to deviate from the forecast. In some places, the weather is very easy to predict and the forecasts are reliable. However, there are some places where the weather is more unpredictable. If you need to pack clothes for other weather conditions, try and pack as few as you can.

This is especially important when it comes to footwear. It is well worth investing in a pair of shoes specifically for traveling that is lightweight and resilient. Unless you need specialized shoes for the terrain or activities you are expecting to encounter on holiday, try to stick to only one or two pairs of shoes in total.

Prioritize Lightweight Items

How to pack for day trips

If you are traveling somewhere cold and wet, the temptation is to bring big thick clothes with you that will obviously keep you very warm. The drawback is that these clothes often require a significant portion of the space you have available in your suitcase. Instead of bulking out your luggage with bulky clothes, look for lightweight alternatives.

If you are planning a backpacking holiday and won’t be staying in a hotel or similar, you will inevitably need to bring more equipment with you than you would otherwise. However, if you shop around you can find what you need without adding too much to your overall weight. For example, a backpacking tent should be lightweight, otherwise, it will limit the amount of traveling you can do in a day.

Wear Your Largest Items

If there are any large items that you need to bring with you for your travels, a simple way of minimizing the impact they have on your overall space is to simply wear them as you travel. Of course, this won’t always be feasible, but it is a simple and effective tip you can use with many types of bulkier clothes.

Don’t Pack Laundry Items

Another simple way of reducing the number of clothes that you need to bring with you is to do some laundry while you are there. Washing the clothes you bring with you means that you can wear them again, meaning you won’t need to pack as many with you. Obviously, make sure that there are laundry facilities available at your destination.

However, if you end up having to pack a whole bunch of extra stuff just for doing your laundry, this will negate the benefits of not bringing extra clothes with you. Naturally, if the extra clothes take up less space and weigh less, you should just bring them instead.

Traveling light means that will be more comfortable and have greater freedom. The more stuff you bring with you, the more you will need to remember and the greater the chances of something going missing. Once you have some experience under your belt, traveling light will become second nature.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

The Traditional Lacquer Artisans and Toy Makers of Kutch

The innocent smile of a Nirona Kid, Gujarat, India

India’s cultural heritage is so rich that it sometimes boggles my mind. A case in point is the traditional art of making lacquerware. Lacquer, which finds its roots in French, Latin, Arabic and Persian is ultimately derived from the Sanskrit word ‘laksha’, which represents the number 100,000, the lac insect (because of their enormous ‘laksha’ numbers) and the scarlet resinous secretion that is produces. It is interesting how this simple art form using lacquer evolved in ancient India, China and Persia. Each of these three mega civilizations had their own form of making lacquer ware and then through trade (silk route, spice route, etc.), they picked up tips from others and improvised on their crafts.

Pakistani art form lives in Nirona, Kutch - handmade lacquerware

What we see today in our modern world is a sum of all these worldwide improvements. But, somewhere amidst all this modernization lie some hidden pockets where artisans still use traditional techniques and tools to build their craft. One such hidden cultural heritage of India are the traditional lacquer artisans and toy makers of Kutch, who might even be the forefathers of toymaking in Channapatna, Karnataka, another heritage hotspot of India.

A Nirona kid and her colorful puppet dolls, Kutch, Gujarat, India

Located today in a tiny village of Kutch called Nirona, these artisans are Hindus who migrated from Pakistan to Kutch many centuries back. Theirs is a family craft that has been passed on for many generations. Due to tough living conditions, remote location and lack of money and exposure, they hardly modernized their tools unlike the others who apparently learnt their craft and have mechanized the entire process. Which means that they still create their crafts using basic tools that they themselves have built by hand. The entire setup resembles a vice to hold the wood, a wooden rod based manual belt drive to turn the wood and metal based cutting and shaping tools.

Women from Nirona village, Kutch

Through these traditional and ancient techniques and tools, they create beautiful kitchen ware, toys, puppets and many other wooden decorative items. While the men in this family create the tools and the craft, it is the women who do the hard work of cutting wood, making the laak resin, making of natural colours using natural stones and materials and the making of adhesives using the gum of the babool tree. The end result of the efforts of the men and women of this family are natural wooden products that are look great, feel smooth to touch and that are an outcome of our ancient cultural heritage.

The lacquerware artists of Nirona, Kutch

From the outside, this Hindu toy making family look as colorful as the other people of Kutch, but they have a slightly different story to tell. If you happen to be visiting Kutch on your Gujarat holiday or if you are on a culture and heritage trail through Kutch, do not miss the opportunity to interact with these traditional lacquer artisans and toy makers of Kutch. Their humility, story and crafts deserve to be shared with the world.

The innocent smile of a Nirona Kid, Gujarat, India

How to reach here:

The nearest airport is Bhuj, which has daily flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad. Bhuj to Nirona should be about 60 kms and you can cover this distance in an hour by road. Local buses are available, though it is best to have your own mode of transportation if you wish to explore nearby villages.

Bhuj also has a railway station that has good connectivity with the rest of the country.

Bhuj also enjoys good road connectivity with the rest of the country.



Where to stay:

If you like traditional homestays, stay with the locals in their traditional homes in Nirona village. This will allow you to be in the midst of all the action while getting to experience the authentic life of this creative village.

If you prefer luxury, stay at Rann Utsav tent city or any of the many properties located in Dhordo. If you prefer beach luxury, opt to stay at the Vijay Vilas palace.

If you like city hotels, opt to stay at Bhuj.

Portrait of a Kutchi man from Nirona, Gujarat, India

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) The family schooled sound engineers of Kutch who turn scrap into music

2) Rogan art, the 300 year old art form of Kutch

3) White Rann salt desert

4) Bhirandiyara village, known for its embroidery

5) Mandvi beach

6) Rann Utsav tent city

7) Gandhi nu gram weaving village

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Thursday, August 08, 2019

Yala National Park: Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Gem

The Sri Lankan Leopard walks on the jeep track and towards us

It has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. It is one of the 70 important bird areas in Sri Lanka. It harbours 215 bird species including 6 endemic species of Sri Lanka. It is a treasure trove when it comes to an overall wildlife experience. I am talking about Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s second largest national park that borders the Indian Ocean to the south of the country.

All pumped up Indian Pitta

Home to many ancient civilizations, Yala and its surrounding forest has existed for over a million years and this legacy can be seen in its rich flora and fauna. Exotic wildlife such as the land monitor lizard, Sri Lankan elephant. Sri Lankan sloth bear, Golden palm civet, Sri Lankan leopard, Red slender loris, Fishing cat, mugger crocodile, Sri Lankan grey hornbill, Sri Lanka junglefowl, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, Crimson fronted barbet, black-capped bulbul, blue-tailed bee eater, brown-capped babbler, Sri lankan flying snake, Wiegmann’s agama, Bahir’s fan throated lizard, common mormon butterfly and many others can be found here.

Land Monitor lizard hanging on the tree trunk

A wildlife safari in Yala National park gives you a sneak peek into its many diverse riches that could be anything from a dancing peacock, sunbathing crocodile, strutting leopard, social langurs, colorful butterflies, bright birds to its majestic elephant herds. The longer you stay inside this forest, the richer your wildlife experience becomes. And this experience is different and unique at different times of the day. And that’s what makes this place so special.

Sri Lankan Grey Langaur - A mother and her baby

Yala was once part of King Ravana’s kingdom and it was an important location on the sea-faring route of Sri Lanka. Today, it is a safe haven for Sri Lankan wildlife and is a paradise for all kinds of nature and wildlife enthusiasts. I have been to Yala National park on 3 separate trips and have absolutely enjoyed each stay thoroughly. I personally feel that the true colours of Yala can be experienced during the rains when the denizens of the forest are celebrating the abundance in the nature around them.

A serious looking Green Bee Eater

Whatever season you choose to visit Yala in, it is bound to blow your mind with its diversity and depth of animal and bird sightings. If you are going to Sri Lanka on a holiday and if you happen to enjoy wildlife holidays, then Yala National Park has to be an important part of your Sri Lankan holiday itinerary. It is Sri Lanka’s wildlife gem and I absolutely love the place.

A mighty tusker

Things to keep in mind while visiting Yala National Park

1) Days can be usually warm and humid. Do ensure to carry your sun protection hear and water.

2) Do remember to stay quiet to get the best wildlife experience.

3) Do carry mosquito repellents to combat the mosquitoes that might pay you a visit during the evening and night.

4) Do not get outside your safari vehicle unless and until your forest guide tells you to.

5) Carry beach wear when visiting Yala National Park so that you can enjoy its beaches at its southern extremes.

A peacock just finishing its unsuccessful mating dance

Best season to visit:

Yala national park is open all through the year. If rich wildlife sighting is on your mind, the dry summer months from Feb to May would be fabulous. If you like lush nature and rainfall drama, visit during the monsoons. For a relaxed and pleasant time, visit during the winter months.

Malabar Pied Hornbill at Yala National Park

How to reach here:

The closest international airport to Yala National Park is the Mattala Rajapaksa international airport near Hambantota, but due to extremely low number of flights, it has been dubbed as the world’s emptiest international airport. If you find a flight operating to this airport, Yala National Park is just an hour or so away.

A Leopard's glaring look

The other more popular option is to fly into Colombo international airport and do a road trip to Yala National Park. While one route is the coastal route (Colombo –> Galle –> Unawatuna – Tangalle –> Hambantota –> Yala), the other is the mountain highlands route (Colombo –> Kithulgula –> Nuwara Eliya –> Ella –> Buttala –> Yala). Both routes are about 700 kms long and should take you about 12 to 14 hours.

Common Kingfisher at Yala National Park

Where to stay:

If you don’t mind shelling out a bit of moolah, stay at the beautiful beach side properties inside Yala National Park.

For a unique experience, stay inside tree houses in the periphery of Yala National Park.

The famous crocodile of Yala National Park

For budget, yet luxury accommodation, opt to stay in and around Thissamaharama lake.

Changeable Hawk Eagle at Yala National Park

Nearby Tourist Attractions:

1) Thissamaharama Lake, a great destination for birding and relaxation

2) The beautiful beach destination of Arugam Bay

The eyes of Changeable Hawk Eagle at Yala National Park

3) Horton plains National Park for grasslands, mountains and waterfalls

4) The beach destination of Tangalle

5) Rawana Ella waterfalls, one of the tallest waterfalls of Sri Lanka

Land Monitor Lizard enjoying the rains at Yala

6) The mountains and tea estates of Nuwara Eliya

7) Sinharaja rainforest for a rare rainforest nature experience

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Monday, August 05, 2019

Monsoons in Malnad Countryside: A Photo Story

A Malnad Countryside view during the monsoons

Monsoon in the Western Ghats is nothing short of a dream come true for nature, waterfall, rain. dirt biking and trekking lovers and photographers. The dark menacing clouds seem to be always forming some kind of drama in the sky. The surroundings are clean and always dressed in fresh green. The consistent pitter patter washes the air and the earth and leads to an abundance of growth from all quarters. In short, the entire view and experience is nothing short of magical.

As the monsoons have again picked up in the Western Ghats of Karnataka after a long gap, my heart yearns to be back in the Western Ghats to discover more dirt biking trails, to see more waterfalls in full flow and to enjoy the rains in one of the best places on our planet. Here are some monsoon scenes from my last monsoon trip to the Western Ghats a few weeks back. This trip was to the gorgeous countryside of Malnad. Hopefully, you will get a feel of the monsoon magic through this photo story. Can’t wait to return to the ghats!

Above photo: Beautiful monsoon atmosphere in a remote Malnad village with the Kaginahare forests in the background.

Monsoon magic and dirt tracks - perfect for a monsoon ride in the Western Ghats

Above photo: The dirt trail that leads to Malnad home stay in Athihalli village that is tucked somewhere between Sakleshpur and Bisle Ghat.

Beautiful monsoon atmosphere in Malnad, Karnataka

Above photo: Muddy waters, fresh green and dark clouds – the three common spectacles of the monsoons in the Western Ghats.

Gorgeous Mookana Mane Waterfalls of Malnad, Karnataka

Above photo: Mookanamane Falls, a hidden waterfall in the Malnad region of Karnataka.

Monsoon scenes as seen enroute to Mallalli Falls, Coorg

Above photo: Dark monsoon clouds descending on the route between Mallalli falls and Bisle Ghat.

Monsoon Scenes from Coorg

Above photo: Indian villages and their surrounding farms are in the thick of action during the monsoons.

Forests and green rolling hills as seen during my Malnad Motorcycle ride

Above photo: Clouds form all kinds of drama on the way to the Yedekumeri railway bridge, one of the iconic railway bridges of India and part of Karnataka’s green route.

Mallalli Falls - Prettiest waterfall of Coorg

Above photo: The gorgeous Mallalli falls surrounded by lush forests and moisture laden monsoon clouds.

Lush greenery all across Malnad

Above photo: The rolling hills of Kaginahare in the background and coffee and pepper plantations in the foreground.

A Monsoon Motorcycle Ride to the Western Ghats in Malnad, Karnataka

Above photo: A monsoon pitstop at the border of Coorg and Malnad, two magical monsoon destinations of Karnataka.

Dirt road leading to Yedekumeri Railway track, Karnataka

Above photo: Dirt tracks turn to slush during the rains and offer the perfect platform for some dirt and slush biking. This particular trail leads to one of the prettiest treks of Karnataka.

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Logo Credits : Jobi T Chacko. UI/UX Credits : Murugan S Thirumalai
Copyright © 2009-2019 Sankara Subramanian C (www.beontheroad.com)
Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. All Rights Reserved

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