Saturday, September 12, 2020
“Across The Kala Pani
An article I had written in 2013 which lay buried! This may be of use and inttrest to the Indian traveller, once normality returns.
“Across The Kala Pani
Journeys Abroad For The Contemporary Indian Family “
The Indian traveller from every possible background has become a well-defined entity on the firmament of international travel. So much so, that now this demographic is one that numerous countries work to woo actively to their shores. Whether the specific audience be the Indian Business group, Indian family, Bollywood Director’s set, or newlyweds to be, Indians have become a well defined inbound tourism segment for countries ranging from tiny New Zealand to Australia, Canada, Switzerland and South Africa to name a few.
As is well known, Indians with their ancient instincts of being merchants and traders have in fact been crossing the Kala Pani or the black waters as the seas surrounding the Sub Continent was once known, since aeons. It was this trait that close to a century ago, took Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’ family to South Africa, the Sikhs to Vancouver, Port Morseby in Papua New Guinea, and Hong Kong Kong. Even the indentured labour from Bihar and other parts of the country who ended up in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Mauritius used this forced travel to advantage, and after a generation, adapted and donned the cloak of seasoned émigré, and one today who travels back and forth once again.
The aim of this writer’s columns will be to offer the well-heeled Indian traveller looking to experience the great outdoors, in a specific destination abroad as well as some select destinations in the Indian Sub Continent which would be of interest to Indian audiences. Each of these destinations are selected on the basis of them possessing a singular quality, ie primarily an outdoor wilderness destination or travel idea, occasionally with a cultural dimension to them and offering excellent value for money.
“Some of the basic skills one needs in order to experience the great outdoors in the African continent are fundamentals of how to live and travel in the bush, and essential cautions and precautions.That the African continent is teeming with a dangerous big game as well as reptiles and insects, makes this a very important area of travelling and holidaying on “the Dark Continent” as it was once called.
The word “trek” is an Afrikaans word, which has its origins in the days that the Dutch Boer pioneers walked across the African jungle contending with all that it threw before them. Similarly, the word “commando” as in to mount a commando, relates to the guerrilla tactic of mounting a raid or ambush, harks back to the same source. These two words alone, give some sense of what travelling in Africa entails.
While holiday brochures and catalogues portray an idyllic image of the wilds of Africa, it should be realised that making your journey facile and relatively easy, once there, is possible because of a well trained and experienced host establishment with able guides. To make their task easier, you need to be alert, sensible and obedient. When everything goes well, one can walk away thinking, “well that was a cakewalk!” However, one needs to have the utmost respect for nature as well as one’s guide, and be willing to work unquestioningly as a team player, especially when travelling with a group.
All this having been said, if one does possess of the right skills and the attendant qualities mentioned, one can enjoy the wilds of Africa in full measure. Naturally, the greater the range of skills, the greater the enjoyment!
The aim of this column is to help readers to pursue skills along with learning about travel opportunities that abound in select wilderness regions.
When one enters a national park or reserve, one usually covers territory by jeep or occasionally by elephant though our Indian readers will know, that this is becoming rarer by the day. In India, one is not allowed to walk in a national park or reserve.
One of the striking aspects of travelling in Africa that the Indian the traveller will notice, is the very little governance visible, unlike the generally overprotectiveness that is warranted by conditions at home.
The absence of a teeming population allows visitors in African parks, the opportunity to often also traverse territory by foot, dugout, elephant and horse, besides jeep, hot air balloon or plane.
Approaching a herd of big game such as elephant, on foot is has become something of a trend in Africa. Similarly travelling on horseback affords some of the most memorable wildlife adventures ever. While it is often said that wild animals are suspicious of the biped human, it allows a four-footed animal like the horse to approach it at close quarters. How then do we account for the “walking safaris” that are now offered in Africa? If one looks at the way these are conducted, it is by positioning all the visitors in a line across facing the game. This effectively creates more than just a solo biped. Facing frontally also enhances the effect perhaps creating a very large creature in the eyes of the game. Big game which knows little fear, tend to react to something large than themselves by “ casting a beady eye” but hardly panicking.
Both in the case of walking safaris, as well as for horseback safaris in Africa, one is able to get “up close and personal” with game. The adrenalin rush is of a very high order as one is on a one on one with the animals and knowing that there is no artificial means to come to one’s rescue in the event of anything going awry, heightens awareness and being one with the elements.
For this first column, we feature Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill in South Africa
Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill are both very private bush homes set on a 5000 hectares (50,000 acres) game conservancy in the magnificent, malaria-free Waterberg region of the Limpopo province in South Africa. The Reserve t boasts with over 40 species of game including the rare sable antelope, Livingstone eland, Nyala, Oryx, Giraffe, Buffalo, White Rhino and well over 300 species of resident and migrant birds. A detailed game list is available.
Ants’ offers a unique safari experience, offering a wide range of activities to keep everyone entertained, from the youngest to the oldest, the fittest to those most in need of a rest.
In addition to game drives, the reserve offers a safe and secluded environment to allow guests of all ages to enjoy guided bush walks, horse rides and cycling.
The Bush Homes:Ant’s Nest
Ant’s Nest is where it all began. Lying in a natural amphitheatre the original homestead, with its wide verandahs, has a classic, relaxed, African atmosphere. A wide variety of game frequents the waterhole in front of the bush home where horses and dogs abound. The six luxurious en-suite bedrooms accommodate a maximum of twelve guests. There is a 15 metre swimming pool in the garden, ideal for those needing some exercise or for purely cooling off after an active day. This is great for kids as it’s heated all year. Extensive lawns with indigenous plants surround the pool and there is a wonderful thatched chill-out spot with vast sofa beds where you can relax during the heat of the day.
Ant’s Hill is hosted by a wonderful team who create an open and friendly atmosphere. Built on the edge of a cliff, this bush home offers breathtaking views across the Waterberg. With spacious rooms and vast folding doors, the thatched lodge blends into the bush, while exotic furniture and brightly coloured African fabrics make it both sophisticated and comfortable. The draped four-poster beds are seven foot wide and each bathroom is spectacular, offering guests sunken baths and waterfall showers. Set in boulders on the edge of the cliff, the heated swimming pool cascades over the lip of the gorge, inducing you to relax there for hours. Ant’s Hill caters for a maximum of 16 guests and can be booked non-exclusively or exclusively to one party.
Wining and dining
Ants’ staff take great pride in our sumptuous home cooking, dining in a variety of places and outside whenever possible. We often end morning game activities with a bush lunch, whilst at night we sit around open fires under the stars. The chefs can cater for all dietary requirements and we serve excellent South African estate wines.
For those who prefer walking, our guides will lead you through the bushveld on foot. These walks are informative and interactive, enabling you to gain knowledge of African flora and fauna. One can often miss the smaller details of our beautiful environment when on a vehicle or horseback, so guided walks are highly recommended. Whilst these can be in the form of a gentle stroll, the more energetic can hike over the plains and up impressive gorges. Whilst identifying insects and birds and learning about the medicinal uses of various plants you can also learn how to track game. Specialised bug hunts are available for children at both bush homes.
Our guides will be available to take you out in an open 4x4 Land Cruiser either for morning or afternoon game drives or using a spotlight at night to find elusive nocturnal animals, such as the rare brown hyena, aardvark bushbaby and porcupine. The advantage of a game drive is that you are able to cover more ground across the reserve. Game drives and walks can often be combined to make game viewing and photography more exciting.
Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill will give your children a life-changing experience. Our unique policy is to allow children of all ages to join their parents on all game viewing activities, so you can witness their first encounters with wildlife. We have a selection of wonderful ponies catering to both the novice and experienced child rider. Children of four years and under can be taken on a pony ride around the lodge, led on foot. Children of five years and over can be led on foot or from horseback, if necessary, depending on their riding experience. Lessons are also available
We have created specialised kids “bug” and “spoor” walks, although driving in an open 4 X 4 on game drives is always popular.
Both lodges have various facilities ideal for kids, such as the heated swimming pools, trampolines, sandpits, a badminton & volleyball net with a selection of toys and books. Children are welcome to join their parents for dinner, alternatively, special mealtimes can be arranged.
Due to our relaxed and informal atmosphere, Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill are ideal for families with kids of all ages. While the activities keep all well entertained you will learn a great deal about wildlife, gaining inspiration to last a lifetime.
Weddings and honeymoons
The Waterberg with its spectacular views is the perfect place to escape to and makes a wonderful honeymoon destination. Romantic private dinners, bush lunches, sundowners and the opportunity to go out game viewing, without other guests, make Ant’s lodges quite unique. You can get married on the top of a mountain or under a shady Acacia tree
Both Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill offer the opportunity for some of the greatest game viewing in the African bush – from horseback. You can canter along open sandy tracks or traverse high ridges with spectacular vistas. The pace can be as fast or relaxed as the riders would like. Often we can get so close to the game that the experience remains unforgettable. One does need to be an accomplished rider.
The incredibly diverse terrain offers extreme technical cycling as well as gentle meanders.
Clay pigeon shooting:
For those wanting a bit more action you may wish to try out target or clay pigeon shooting (additional charge applies).
These can be either half an hour or hour massages in the privacy of your own room or next to the pool, wherever you prefer(additional charge applies).
We are very happy to take you through the Waterberg to see other interesting sites (for an additional charge), including:
- A local ‘Big Five’ game reserve, so you can try to find the lion and elephant we would rather not ride or walk with.
- Elephant Safari: you can take the opportunity of interacting with a number of trained African Elephants, which is the most enjoyable and educational experience. This is followed by a ride through the bush on elephant-back with an experienced elephant handler.
Location: The reserve is situated on an escarpment looking out over the Waterberg Plateau in the Limpopo Province, 3 hours north of OR Tambo International Airport (formally known as Johannesburg International Airport) We are 3.5 hours east of Madikwe and 5 hours west of the Kruger National Park.
Getting here: We can arrange private road transfers or air charters between destinations but let us know if you would rather hire your own car
Visa Requirements: Visas vary depending on your nationality, so
please check with the lodge or your travel agent to confirm visa requirements
for your travels.
Airstrip co-ordinates: Surface =grass, co-ords = S 241208 E 280558, Elevation = 3780 ft, Length = 1000 m, Direction = 03/21
Recommended stay: 4-7 nights (this could be at one of or a combination of both lodges.)
What’s included: accommodation on a full board basis, selected soft drinks, selected spirits and house wines, laundry and all game viewing activities including riding, walking, game drives and mountain biking.
Not included: massages, clay pigeon and target shooting, additional activities off the property, curio shop purchases and gratuities as well as premium spirits, cellar wines, cocktails and liquors
Meals: We are able to cater for all dietary requirements, but would require you to advise us in advance if you have allergies or special needs. We are happy to prepare special children’s’ meals.
Facilities: Ant’s Nest consists of the main house, which has two double rooms downstairs and two double rooms upstairs, all with private lounge areas. There are also two double suites, with private bathrooms and verandahs across the lawns.
Ant’s Hill consists of two privately situated
honeymoon suites away from the main lodge with stunning views, a family cottage
that has two main bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and an extra loft room, perfect
for kids, as well as a private sitting room and veranda. Another family cottage
with two bedrooms as well as upstairs and downstairs living areas and private
plunge pool. A standard double/twin room
with a private verandah is located above the main lodge.
Planning your visit ,climate and weather:
Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill are located in the
Waterberg region of the Limpopo province in the northern part of
Summer (November to March) – the days can get quite warm (up to 28-32 degrees
on average) but it is a dry heat. We do get summer rainfall, normally in the
form of thunderstorms. These rarely affect activities and are usually in the
evening, however, the African climate is still always unpredictable.
Autumn (April to May) – days can still be warm but the evenings cool down. Average day time temperature 22-28 degrees. Evenings 10-15 degrees.
Winter (June to August) – days are warm (temperatures in the mid-twenties) evenings and early mornings very cold with average early morning temperatures 5-12 degrees. It very rarely rains at this time when the bush is golden and dry.
Spring (September, October) – days start getting hotter, evenings and mornings could still be crisp but not as cold. A very slim chance of rain. On occasion, we can get very hot days.
Guests will be required to sign an indemnity before going out on any of the activities.
SOME KEY DO’s and DON’T’s Column
Remember: your hosts, as well as the wildlife, represent a dramatically different culture!
Silence, the unstated word, listening more than talking, will normally bring you greater dividends.
Animals hear at a decibel level many times more than humans do. Therefore your hosts will be habituated, living in the midst of wildlife, to be measured in their actions and volubility. Not adhering to this etiquette indoors and outdoors will not go down well, so a conscious effort needs to be made in this regard.
Listening to instructions and commands, and also agreeing to move away from the sighting of a kill if one has come across one, is both prudent as well as considerate to others as well as to the wildlife.
Read the norms, forms and orientation provided by the establishment in advance so that you are fully familiar and comply with the local laws.
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Sunday, July 12, 2020
Friday, July 12, 2013
Since then,I was to spend all my summers for almost eight years including the years when I operated my own company there.
However, the troubles were just "brewing" during this period and seeing the writing on the wall, decided to exit the state in 1987
In 2009 my company began sending European and Americans back to Kashmir, as there was a relative calm thanks, to the sustained operations of the Indian Army against Paksitani militancy. Indian tourists thronged in their thousands.
I conducted 24 Germans and 8 Americans respectively in march 2011 and 2013 on a himalayan journey, following Michael Palin's book and tv series "Himalayan", which began in Chitral, NWFP Pakistan, and ended in Bhutan via Kashmir, McLeod Ganj, and Amritsar. And I noticed certain changes.
The hostility of the man of the street had substantially reduced. He had, as one shikara boatman told me, realised " that in the old days or even now, because of the nature of the visitor, the foreign tourists' revenue was confined to the houseboat owners, and the transporters, guides and the shops linked to them. In contrast, with the domestic tourist, money was spread. A little here, a little there, and thereby a greater respect was accorded to the latter.The man on the street had also suffered. He was forced to look for work in the plains. The Kashmiri trader was now entrenched in Jaipur, Goa, Jodhpur's desert Kingdom and so on. The young Kaashmiri was now an executive in a New Delhi firm. Heck there is for the first time a Kashmiri lad playing in the Indian cricket team. I am waiting to see when, when this lad is playing in the Indian team, against Pakistan, who the man on the street in Kashmir, will root for! It was always but always for Pakistan.
I learnt many things that I had not thought about earlier, with regards to Kashmir. It was the land of Sufiana -land of peers or saints- a concept that was anathema to the Wahaabi Islam of the Arabs. This, along with the fact that it was the cradle for ancient Hindu and Buddhism, itself would according to many, ensure that it would not come under the sway of the Taliban.
I was listening to the ring tone of an elderly Kashmiri's mobile phone. I realised the deep similiarity it had with the hymns from my faith, Sikhism.
Majid Peer also told me that the Amarnath Cave to which thousands had begun thronging to in recent years, was actually not the correct site according to Hindu mythology, as this was the cave where Shiva and Parvati had merely stopped to take a rest. The actual site was farther up!
Even while I felt the pain and anguish of the Pandit hindu community who had been forced to leave Kashmir (ethnic cleansing according to a friend of mine, who had to flee), the cultural assault of hordes from the plains trekking to Amarnath, the heavy police contingents and resulting debris, all made me sympathise with the Kashmiris who had these rather inconsiderate guests, even while they profited from the yatra, each year.
It is the same in my native state of Uttrakhand, which is similiarly assaulted each year by plains people especially the Kavarias, who walk to take away Ganges water. They take not just the water, but degrade the soil, and leave behind dirt and debris, much of it non biodegradable.
The beautiful meadows of Gulmarg were marred by poor handling of the Gondola arrangements. Thousands queing, touts and others abusing the system, pushing, shoving, and standing in line for hours on end. Gulmarg is only worthwhile being visited in winter!
Pahalgam is similiarly ruined by the tourist both from the plains and from Kashmir, as they all come in cars, honking their way down the main single street.
In the midst of all this however, past knowledge and good grounds people helped me and the family, as well as my English clients, find solace. Also, having a good local guide, allowed me to get into some beautful valleys for trout fishing, and experiencing once again, the Kashmir of old.
I learnt something else. My Kashmiri houseboat owner, told me of how he gave up trout fishing, something he was a keen expert on, accompanying many a famous western visitor for four decades. He narrated how late one evening he caught and felt almost sucked into the river, by a monster fish. The fright he got, put him off fishing for the rest of his years! But what I learnt from him was, that to preserve a trout for long periods, one needed to sprinkle charcoal inside the cleaned out trout, and it would freeze for long periods!
Later, I crossed the Zo Ji La, the himalayan watershed, into Ladakh. Here I visited Leh, Hemis and Pangong Lake twenty seven years later. The road after the Zo Ji La pass, now is better than world class, barring some causeways.Leh and its surroundings have inevitably grown. The traffic and fumes fro diesel gensets its worst aspect. But smart cafes, producing excellent fare are now to be found.
ed 12 Jul 20. Currently Kashmir is now under central rule , and Ladakh, a Union Territory, with a major series of border incidents instigated by CCP China.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
IJ Singh Founder TigerPaw Adventures (I) Pltd 1982 INDIA,1995 CANADA
Founder IJ's Exotic Int'l Horseback & Polo Holidays- Canada 1997
Fellow Asia Foundation San Fransisco Environmental Education (First Five-INDIA)1994; Awardee India- BioDiversity Conservation Award 1995 Wash DC USA: Sole International Speaker Polo America 2000, 2001 Polo Holidays,LAS VEGAS,USA;
Royal Signals HIMALAYAN SKI MOUNTAINEERING, & ROYAL AIR FORCE, KINLOSS,SCOTLAND, EXPEDITION MT KEDAR DOME;1995
TRAINING AGENCY FOR INDIAN ARMY'S 2nd MOUNTAIN ARTILLERY BRIGADE (& OTHERS/NAVY). FIRST DESCENT RIVER LOHIT, International Tri Junction (INDIA,CHINA,MYANMAAR-
FIRST PRIVATE OUTDOOR MANAGEMENT TEAM & LEADERSHIP PROGRAM COORDINATOR, FOR AMERICAN EXPRESSINDIA 1994,1995;
MOTIVATIONAL WEEKEND PROGRAM COORDINATOR -HONGKONG & SHANGHAI BANK 2002;
SELECTED BY VICE PRESIDENT HARVARD UNIVERSITY,FOR REMOTE AREA JOURNEYS OF DISCOVERY 1999;
ALSO: OTHER "FIRSTS IN ADVENTURE".