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INDIA IN WINTER

During Christmas break plus one extra week, thanks to our mutual schools, Ellie and I were able to visit India for 3 weeks. Starting, after reaching New Delhi (and accompanied by Rakesh Sharma, our wellknown friend and manager of a nature bureau), in Nagzira National Park in the far northeastern corner of Maharastra. Both for us, as well as for Rakesh, a completely new travel destination. Rakesh had heard that Leopard sightings in this area are good. We stayed at "Nagzira Nature Camp" in a safari tent. It's is a very nice place, food is good, people are friendly and it is a small scale (only 5 tents) eco tourist accommodation. During our first game drive we saw the beautiful Racket-tailed Drongo in backlight.

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 We liked Nagzira for its beautiful forests, variety of animals (like: Tiger, Leopard, Gaur, Sloth Bear, Dhole) and, above all, it was much more calm and less hectic than the more well known Tiger Reserve's like Bandhavgarh and Ranthambore (The latter is even turned into a sort of " madhouse"  according to us). We did see Leopards during about 50% of the game drives, which is pretty good for an elusive animal like that. Another thing is, maybe because of the smaller amount of visitors and calm driving in general, the Leopards were not that scared at all!

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male Leopard in a tree....

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portrait of a young female...

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scanning the surroundings before crossing the track...

We saw quite a good number of deer, Indian Bison (Gaur), Indian Wild Dog (Dhole) and more. 

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head of a Gaur, hidden behind leaves...

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Chital or Spotted Deer males in backlight....

The area around Nagzira Nature Camp is good for walking, birdwatching and exploring the village Chobkamara, which is a very pleasant typical Central Indian village, with extensive farming. Each morning loads of Wild Boar were roaming the rice fields (which were already harvested).

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village of Chobkamara in the early morning...

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village life: cows are arround, a man is trying to get warm and a temple in the background....

After 4 days Nagzira we went back to Delhi and had a flight next morning to Guwahati in Assam. Our local guide was waiting for us and was bringing us by car (6 hours drive) to Kaziranga NP. Still in Guwahati he asked us if we were interested in seeing the rare Greater Adjutant Stork. The best place to see them is the garbage dump of Guwahati. We agreed and went there to have a look. Apart from these storks, thousands of Black Kites, numerous Cattle Egret, Crows and hundreds of cows, there were also people... We witnessed a group of people ( many children included) from Bangla Desh, who tried to make a living on this dump. With piles of garbage around them, sometimes more than 30 meters high, everybody was walking in this greasy environment, equipped with a steel hook to be able to find something useful, which could be sold. If a shovel was turning garbage, kids immediately were running towards the big machine and worked themselves into the dirt...! What struck me the most was the image of a maybe 9 year old girl, with 3 Greater Adjutant Storks around her, not even a couple of meters away. This means that the birds know this girl, because she is there every day....

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Greater Adjutant Stork in flight....

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While the big machine is digging up the dirt, children are running inorder to find some useful stuff....

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Three little boys on top of the garbage and a Black Kite soaring above...

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To me: this picture tells it all... (The birds are even larger than the girl)

When we left the place we saw a camp with huts next to the dump, where these poeple try to live. The smell of burned plastic was always present...

This is typically India: large contrasts, sometimes you see fantastic nature fenomenons and the next minute you find yourselve in a horrible environment. In general this goes for the big cities (and they are BIG..!) in comparison with the countryside. After 6 hours driving through Assam we arrived in " Wild Grass Lodge" near Kaziranga National Park.

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diningroom in colonial style at Wild Grass Lodge...

Kaziranga is a fantastic wildlife area, with herds of wild Indian Elephants, Tigers (although hard to see because of the elephant grass...), and the icon of the park and the state: the Indian one-horned Rhino. 

Indian Rhino with calf, crossing a park road,whith safari jeep in the back, in backlight...

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Greater Coucal...

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swimming Wild Buffaloe at sunset...

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female Great Hornbill...

After visiting Kaziranga we had a long car journey through Assam to Manas National Park. We'd never been there; the park is open again since a couple of years due to a guerilla of a local tribe against the govenment in Delhi. The rebel fighters often hide themselves in the forest of the National Park. Manas has a beautiful and divers forest, which hosts a lot of exotic bird species and the park is bordering Bhutan.

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Silver breasted Broadbill...

Beside birds also mammals roam the woods like Wild Asian Elephants, Indian Rhino's and Tigers and smaller species like the Capped Langur. 

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Capped Langur between the flowers of the Silk Cotton Tree....

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Giant Squirrel...

I celebrated my birthday in Manas, which was very special. The lodging was a very nice small scale B&B (some little cabins, rooms and safari tents) on the premises of a huge Tea Estate, bordering the Park.

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Overview at a river bank looking at the hills of Bhutan in the background...

The Indian subcontinent does not only contains an incredible diversity of natural items, but is at the same time, extremely interesting in a cultural way. Because daily life in most parts of India is so obviously present, you simply can not escape from it, if you would of course...In Varanasi culture is very dominating present; simply walk through the city to the ghats at the borders of the holy Ganges river and everybody can see why. The ceremonies in the evening , what ever you might think of it, one thing is clear: it surely has something mystical about it. Here are some pictures to prove that...

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Hindu ceremony in the evening at one of the main ghats bordering the Ganges....

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Priests and flowers....

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Varanasi by night...

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boats on a misty morning on the Ganges river....

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man entering one of many temples on the ghats...

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a sahdu (holy man) on the ghats with his trident...