Gujarat Trip: Somnath & Diu


Somnath

Temple of Somnath

SIGHTS / RELIGIOUS

Location: Somnath , India

Opening hours: 6am-9pm

It’s said that Somraj (the moon god) first built a temple here, made of gold; this was rebuilt by Ravana in silver, by Krishna in wood and by Bhimdev in stone. The current serene, symmetrical structure was built to traditional designs on the original coastal site: it’s painted a creamy colour and boasts a little fine sculpture. The large, black Shiva lingam at its heart is one of the 12 most sacred Shiva shrines, known as jyoti linga.

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Somnath Temple

A description of the temple by Al-Biruni, an Arab traveller, was so glowing that it prompted a visit in 1024 by a most unwelcome tourist – the legendary looter Mahmud of Ghazni from Afghanistan. At that time, the temple was so wealthy that it had 300 musicians, 500 dancing girls and even 300 barbers. Mahmud of Ghazni took the town and temple after a two-day battle in which it’s said 70,000 Hindu defenders died. Having stripped the temple of its fabulous wealth, Mahmud destroyed it. So began a pattern of Muslim destruction and Hindu rebuilding that continued for centuries. The temple was again razed in 1297, 1394 and finally in 1706 by Aurangzeb, the notorious Mughal ruler. After that, the temple wasn’t rebuilt until 1950.

Cameras, mobile phones and bags must be left at the cloakroom before entering. Colourful dioramas of the Shiva story line the north side of the temple garden, though it’s hard to see them through the hazy glass. A one-hour sound-and-light show highlights the temple nightly at 7.45pm.

Prabhas Patan Museum

SIGHTS / MUSEUMS & GALLERIES

Location: Somnath , India

Prices: Indian/foreigner 5/50

Opening hours: 10.30am-5.30pm Thu-Tue, closed 2nd & 4th Sat of the month

This museum, 300m north of the Somnath temple, is laid out in courtyard-centred rooms and contains remains of the previous temples, some intricately carved, though many are very weathered.

Diu

Diu is different. This tiny island linked by a bridge to Gujarat’s southern coast is infused with Portuguese history; its major architectural landmarks include three churches and a seafront fort; the streets of the main town are remarkably clean and quiet once you get off the tourist-packed waterfront strip; and alcohol is legal here. If you’ve been spending time immersed in the intensity of Gujarati cities, or just really need a beer, Diu offers a refreshing break.

Despite its draw as a seaside destination, Diu is not a great choice for a beach-centric vacation. Most of its sandy strips are littered with trash, and the throngs of families make them better for people-watching than sun-worshipping. Add in the random drunk-guy factor and any fantasies you have of a tropical paradise will surely be dashed. Diu, however, is one of the safest places in India to ride a scooter, with minimum traffic and excellent roads, and zipping along the coast with the wind in your hair is a joy.

Like Daman and Goa, Diu was a Portuguese colony until taken over by India in 1961. With Daman, it is still governed from Delhi as part of the Union Territory of Daman & Diu and is not part of Gujarat. It includes Diu Island, about 11km by 3km, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel, and two tiny mainland enclaves. One of these, housing the village of Ghoghla, is the entry point to Diu from Una.

Diu town sits at the east end of the island. The northern side of the island, facing Gujarat, is tidal marsh and salt pans, while the southern coast alternates between limestone cliffs, rocky coves and sandy beaches.

The island’s main industries are fishing, tourism, alcohol and salt. Kalpana Distillery at Malala produces rum from sugar cane.

One custom of the Portuguese still very much respected by local businesses is that of the siesta, meaning you shouldn’t count on much being open in mid-afternoon.

Diu Fort

SIGHTS / MILITARY

Location: Diu , India

Opening hours: 8am-6pm

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Diu Fort

Built in 1535, with additions made in 1541, this massive, well-preserved Portuguese fort with its double moat (one tidal) must once have been impregnable, but sea erosion and neglect are leading to a slow collapse. Cannonballs litter the place, and the ramparts have a superb array of cannons. The lighthouse, which you can climb, is Diu’s highest point, with a beam that reaches 32km. There are several small chapels, one holding engraved tombstone fragments.Part of the fort also serves as the island’s jail.

St Paul’s Church

A wedding cake of a church, founded by Jesuits in 1600 and then rebuilt in 1807. Its neoclassical facade is the most elaborate of any…

Diu Museum

A spooky, evocative collection of old Catholic saint statues inside St, Thomas’ Church.

St Thomas’ Church

A simple church that now houses a museum.

O’Coqueiro

Here, the dedicated Kailash Pandey has developed a soul-infused garden restaurant celebrating freshness and quality. The menu offers…

Vanakbara

SIGHTS / NEIGHBOURHOODS & VILLAGES

Vanakbara information

Location: Diu , India

At the extreme west of the island, Vanakbara is a fascinating little fishing village and the highlight of the island. It’s great to wander around the port, packed with colourful fishing boats and bustling activity – best around 7am to 8am when the fishing fleet returns and sells off its catch.

Beaches

SIGHTS / BEACHES, ISLANDS & WATERFRONTS

Location: Diu , India

Nagoa Beach , on the south coast of the island 7km west of Diu town, is long, palm-fringed and safe for swimming – but trash-strewn and very busy, and often with drunk men: foreign women receive a lot of unwanted attention. Two kilometres further west begins the sandy, 2.5km sweep of Gomptimata Beach . This is often empty, except on busy weekends, but it gets big waves – you need to be a strong swimmer here. Within walking distance of Diu town are the rocky Jallandhar Beach , on the town’s southern shore; the longer, sandier Chakratirth Beach , west of Jallandhar; and pretty Sunset Point Beach , a small, gentle curve beyond Chakratirth that’s popular for swimming and relatively hassle-free. Sunset Point itself is a small headland at the south end of the beach, topped by the INS Khukhri Memorial , commemorating an Indian Navy frigate sunk off Diu during the 1971 India–Pakistan War. Unfortunately the region around Sunset Point is also a dumping ground, and any early-morning excursion will reveal that the tidal zone here is a popular toilet venue.

The best beach is Ghoghla Beach , north of Diu. A long stretch of sand, it’s got less trash and fewer people than the others, along with gentle waves and some decent restaurants behind it.

05 hand-picked vacation destinations that are worth a visit in Gujarat


  1. The north west desert ( rann of Kutch )

The white sands portrayed in the tourism of ‘Khushbu Gujarat Ki’ are well within travel reach. This place is an ideal for winter travel as daytimes are less hot while night are really entrancing.

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White Rann of Kuch

Special attraction: there is a place in the Banni Grasslands which is adjoining the Rann of Kutch where according to locals one can see floating lights move around the air. Locals call the phenomenon ‘cheer batti’ or ghost lights which can be seen 2 to 10 feet off ground. Scientists believe the lights are scientific photo emission by oxidation of Phosphine and Disphosphane gases however local legends can be fun to hear over a full moon for adrenaline seeking travelers.

  1. Gir Forest and Girnar
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Cubs been fed my Lioness at Gir Lion National Park, Sasan Gir 

This region between Junagadh and Amreli district are known for its diverse wildlife. It is home to the Asiatic Lion and the Girnar Mountain. This place can be of great adventure for people who find solace in the wild.

Special attraction: the place is the world’s second home to Lions outside Africa. One can also get a chance to mingle with the local ‘siddi’ population whose ancestry can be traced back to African tribes. The mountain Girnar is also a host to ‘Naga Babas’ or naked saints and witnessing them is considered a good omen. It is also a known fact that the formation of this mountain is older than the Himalayan Range.

  1. The deep forests of Dang
Saputara Picnic

Saputara, only Hill Station of Gujarat in Dang Forest Region

Popular among travelers as Saptuara forest; this place is a good winter retreat. The place has a lot to offer for tourists ranging from treks and hiking to a whole unexplored wildlife.

Special attractions: there are a lots of hotels that offer stay in three houses which can be of interest. There might also be a few waterfalls to visit in this area. Taking a good day’s hike in the forests can be of great adventure.

  1. Dwarka & Somnath
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Somnath Temple overlooking Somnath Beach 

These places are of high religious importance. Each of them has a unique spiritual experience to offer.

Special attraction: dwarka is home to ‘bet dwarka’ which is like the lost city of Atlantis and is submerged in water. Somnath is one of the ‘Jyotirlings’ which lord Shiva himself has established which makes it a very significant destination for religious and spiritual people alike. Somnath also has a beach.

  1. Diu & Daman
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Diu 

Contrary to popular befief, Diu & Daman are far away from each other. However both of them offer a good winter gateway with coastal climate and beaches.

Special Attraction: it wouldn’t be wrong to mention it is one of special attractions for anyone wanting to unwind a bit. Daman is soon to be host to onshore gaming complexes (casinos) and it has recently been host to Sunburn Music Festival. Diu is known for its Diu Fort and the Naida Caves.

When the travel bug bites all these places can be on the list for the various special attractions they have to offer. Tourists not wanting to travel far off lands can find proximity in all of these places. After all; all of them have ‘Khushboo Gujarat ni’ in common.

Khijadia ( Jamnagar, Gujarat, India ) aims for global site status


After Nal Sarovar( A Ramsar Site ), the state forest department wants Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary in Jamnagar districts as a Ramsar site. For this, it has sent a proposal t the Union Ministry of environment (MoEF). Till now, Nalsarovar is the only site which has been recognized as a Ramsar site in the state.

The World Wetlands Dat was observed on February 2. For the past couple of years, the department had been working on the proposals for Ramsar recognition for Khijadiya, Marine National Park in Jamnagar, and Thol Bird sanctuary in Ahmedabad, said officials.

The convention on Wetlands of international importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a wetland ecosystem. The treaty was adopted in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971.IMG_8252

Once recognized as Ramsar Site, the wetland will be given funding. Besides, the state and the international body will work towards the wise use of all their wetlands through national land use planning, appropriate policies and legislation, management actions, and public educations. They will also ensure their effective management. According to officials, so far there are 2170 odd Ramsar sites in the world. And Nalsarovar has been listed at 2078. According to the proposal, Khijadiya is home to the globally threatened black necked stork, which is a resident species of the wetland declared as a Sanctuary in May 1981. Apart from the black necked stock, other globally threatened species such as Dalmatian pelican, dater, and Asian open bill stork, black necked stork, black headed ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, Palla’s Fish eagle, pallid harrier, Indian Skimmer, Osprey are also found here.

Khijadiya sanctuary is spread over just 6.05 sq. km. However, the sanctuary and its adjoining areas habe a diverse habitats and ecosystems which include marine habitat, fresh water habitat, marshy lands, mangroves, prosopis areas, salt pans, open mud flats, intertidal mudflats, creeks, scrubs sandy beaches and adjoining farmlands. Because of its high diversity of landscapes, the sanctuary has a rare distinction of having maximum bird species density in the state with more than 220 species in a relatively very small area, the proposal  states.

Courtesy – Times Of India 

Birds Bonanza


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Photo Courtesy – Times Of India 

Missing cub traced, may find new family soon


The cub that had gone missing ever since the body of his mother was shifted from the forest has been traced and is under constant watch by the department. The cub will soon find a new family.

At present the cub is showing signs of post traumatic syndrome and running away from foresters. It was doing so even on seeing Rana Madi, who was led to the dead mother by this 18 – month old cub. Officials following the developments said they want to cage the cub and carry out a health check before allowing it to move around on its own or be released in another group.

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On Saturday, foresters had the carcass of an 11- year old lioness, who had been gored to death by a buffalo herd. The carcass was found by a beat guard who had been led to the dead mother by an 18- month old cub.

Forest officials were surprised by this unprecendented incident, which was confirmed by the postmortem report. the postmortem pointed to the lioness having multiple fractures in her ribs and that she had died of an intestinal hemorrhage.

However, as the cub and mother were alone, the forest department will ensure a safe release of the cub in another group. “ we have in the past carried out such safe releases and orphan cubs have been accepted. The release is mostly done in groups that have cubs of the same age, so that the orphan is easily accepted”, says deputy conservator of forests Anshuman Sharma.

He said that the dead lioness had two cubs, one of which had died seven months ago.

“The department has identified a couple of groups in Khambha and Jambudi area and once the cub is caged it will get a safe monitored release in one of these groups,” said Sharma.

The officials said the department was observing the behavior of the groups identified before the cub can be released.

Courtesy – Times of India 

Rare Masked Booby spotted near Mahuva ( Bhavnagar, Rajkot, Gujarat, India )


The bird is usually found in tropical zones

Manoj Sanghediya, a 23-year old amateur bird watcher from Datardi Village in Mahuva taluka of Bhavnagar District ( Rajkot, Gujarat, India ), could not identify the large seabird that had fallen in his farm on Saturday.

But he was quick to rescue the sick bird that was unable to fly and take it to Mahuva Town. An environment activist, he often rescues snakes in his village.

masked booby in Mahuva

The bird that he rescued was Masked Booby, a large bird found in tropical zones of theoceans.

“When the Masked Booby was brought on Saturday, it was sick and exhausted. We contacted, Dr. Nayan Patel, a veterinary doctor, who earlier worked with forest department in Mahuva advised us to give glucose to it. We tried to save the rare visitor but it died on Tuesday evening”, said a wildlife activist from Mahuva Chirag Koradiya.

Bird conservationists say that the Masked Booby may have been exhausted and landed in the coastal area in a sick condition. It nests on small tropical islands especially without forests. It breeds in central and western pacific as well as off Mexico.

According to experts, Masked Booby are spectacular divers that can plunge diagonally into the ocean at high speeds. They mainly eat small fish.

“This could be the third time that a Masked Booby was reported to be seen on the Saurashtra coast,” Koradiya said.

Courtesy – Times Of India 

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE


India’s forests, wetlands, deserts, mountains, rivers and rainforests host a diversity of bird and wildlife that is one of the richest in the world. We give you practical tips and suggestions about where to sight…

Asiatic Lion: The only place in the world where you are likely to spot the wild, uncaged, endangered Asiatic lion, is ironically, at the former hunting ground for the king of the jungle – the Gir National Park in Gujarat, which has a population of about 400 Asiatic lions. Since, as a rule, lions are known not to attack once they have had a good meal, if you are lucky, you might chance upon a pride of lions in post-prandial hushful response.

asiatic lion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bengal-Tiger-4Bengal Tiger: The ultimate lone ranger, the Bengal Tiger survives by itself, often hunts in the dead of the night, is mighty sneaky and pretty spry and the sound of its roar can be heard three kilometres away. Though critically endangered, you are most likely to spot the Bengal Tiger at national parks like Bandhavgarh, Corbett, Kanha and also at the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.

 

 

 

leopardLeopard: The leopard is superjock – an excellent swimmer, a superb climber and armed with plenty of stealth, muscles and power, it makes for a formidable predator in the wild. The best places to spot the leopard are the Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka and the tiny hamlet of Bera in Rajasthan. You can also try your luck at the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka or at Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand.

 

 

 

desert foxDesert Fox: The best place to spot the desert fox, also known as the white-footed fox, is in the massive parchedness of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan or in the salt marshes of the Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Ran of Kutch in Gujarat. While in the sanctuary, you might as well appreciate the Indian Wild Ass, that exists only here and in the high plateus of Tibet.

 

 

 

hyenaHyena: May be it’s the singular sound they make or maybe it’s the fact they are scavengers, but hyenas have, for centuries now, endured general contempt and obloquy. They don’t quite deserve it though, for they are usually smart, surprisingly monogamous and generally step out of their dens only when it’s dark. Head to the Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, Gujarat for a sure-shot sighting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

indian_wolf_jpg_69460Indian wolf: The wild dog-like Indian wolf can look misleadingly demesticable. But know that even though it is smallest of the wolf subspecies, the Indian wolf is ferocious and known to prey on human when natural prey is not available. They usually move in packs of six or eight and hunt by ambush. To check them out, head to the Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, Gujarat or to the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Nannaj, Maharasthra.

 

 

 

golden langurGolden Langur: There are only two places in the world where you can see the lush beauty of golden langur: India and Bhutan. An herbivore, the golden langur lives on fruits, nuts, seeds and leaves. Today, the golden langur is endangered and very few individuals survive in the wild. Head to Manas National Park in Assam and try to look upward on high trees to see if you can catch a glimpse of this gorgeous primate.

 

 

 

 

ridlet turtleOlive Ridley Sea Turtles: These turtles make their way to the sea after hatching at the Rushikulua, Devi and Gahirmatha in Odisha from the largest breeding ground for these turtles in India. The synchronised nesting (anywhere between 100000-500000 annually) and march of these turtles towards the seas makes for a spectacular site that is not one to be missed.

Dholera ( Gujarat, India ) SIR ( Special Investment Region ): Campaign to save Bhal ( Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India ) ecology launched


Wildlife activities from Saurashtra opposing the proposed Dholera Special Investment Region ( DSIR ) project have undertaken a letter writing campaign, raising concerns about the threat propsed to the ecology and biodiversity of Bhal region.

Chill out for Bird Watchers

They are posting letters to top shots in Union environment ministry, Ahmedabad collector, officials of environment and forest department in Gujarat and prominent wildlife conservationists across Indian raising their concerns.

Last week, Gujarat Pollution Control Board ( GPCB ) and Ahmedabad district collectorate held a public hearing on environmental impact assessment on the proposed DSIR. The site for the proposed DSIR is a rural area of approximately 920 square kilometers, comprising 19 villages of Dhandhuka taluka and three villages of Barwala taluka in Ahmedabad District.

“the areas where DSIR is proposed is unique grassland having rich bio diversity. The proposed DSIR is just 600 meters away from the Blackbuck National Park, which is a habitat of endangered species like lesser floricans, harriers, wolves and hyenas among others. The highest density of wolves in the country is in Bhal area. Moreover, the Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar is world’s largest roosting site for harriers. Out of 16 harrier species in the worl, at least four species of Montagu, Pallid, Eurasian Marsk and Hen are found here. All these aspects need to be takes care of. Hence, we are writing to the concerned authorities,” president of Dharamkumarsinhji Nature Conservation society in Bhavnagar Dr IR Gadhvi said.

He added that Bhal is of the 17 important bird areas in the state indentified by Indian Bird Conservation Network besides being the largest breeding ground for lesser floricans.

Activists claim that the ecological zones of Blackbuck National Park and proposed DSIR over lap at places which is very worrying.

“All wildlife conservationists and environment activists from the state are concerned over the adverse impact the DSIR will have on Bhal region, which is the wheat bowl of Gujarat. We want that this project should not be cleared without addressing these concerns. We will also write to National Wildlife Board for its intervention,” a wildlife activist from Bhavnagar Shrenik Shah said.

Courtesy:- Times of India

4th Global Bird Watchers’ Conference from January 31, 2014


The 4th Global Bird Watchers’ Conference, the annual event of Gujarat tourism department in coordination with forest department will be held for three days, from January 31.

To put water bodies in the state on the international map and attract tourists, Gujarat Tourism Department in association with various organization began this event in 2009-10 and it has become a regular event.

Officials said Gujarat is emerging as an eco-tourism destination; being host to wide range of pristine and hitherto unexplored destinations for nature lovers. The conference will not only showcase the destinations of Gujarat; but discussions will also be held on how to preserve these winged visitors who are facing many threats.

Officials said the objectives of the fourth conference were to promote Gujarat as a birding destination and project it as a eco-tourism destination. The conference aims to provide a platform for discussion by international experts on birds, birding and bird watching to promote tourism and conversation.

Also, the conference will discuss on the migratory route of birds from Europe and West Asia to the coasts, wetlands and islands in Gujarat. Officials said, that this time, the focus is likely to be Nal-Sarovar and nearby areas as the water body was recently declared a Ramsar site.

For Details contact, 00-91-281-2465237 || 00-91-281-2483878

Caracal trapped in gando baval (Prosopis juliflora) rescued


The forest department rescued a female carcal (a wild cat known for its reclusive behavior) that had got trapped in gando baval weeds ( Prosopis juliflora ) in Jatavira Village of Nakhatrana taluka in Kutch district ( Gujarat, India ) on November 23. This is perhaps the first instance of a caracal being rescued after it got struck in wild weed.

Caracal, Felis caracal, Augrabies Falls National Park, N. Cape, South AfricaCaracals usually venture out of their lair at night. There are around 50 of them in the state and are found only in Kutch. One of these wild cats was last spotted by the officers of the Gujarat forest department in 2006. The conservator of Forests D.K. Sharma said that the rescued caracal was female and around three years of age.

When the rescued animal was found on November 25th had injuries on its front left feet. “ On getting information about it, officials rushed to the spot. After clearing the bushes, the caracal was brought to Nakhatrana ( Kutch, Gujarat, India ) for veterinary care. The services of two expert veterinary doctors were taken to cure the animal,” said Sharma. He further said that the animal had got stuck in thick thorny dry bushes while trying to capture a prey.

Deputy Conservator of Forests Pravinshinh Vihol said that the species is considered rare in India. It has also been listed in annexure – 1 of the CITES (‘Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’, also known as the Washington Convention) and is also a schedule – ` animal under the Wildlife Protect Act.

According to Dr. Naveen Pandey, veterinarian f the Corbett Foundation who treated the rescued animal, said the paw of the caracals’ lift forelimb, had mild abrasion between the second and third fingers of the toe.

Courtesy: – Times of India

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