Well, worst of summer is over. Although with onset of Monsoon, humidity will keep pushing us to limits. It’s safe to be in homes therefore due to all sorts of reasons, and surely weather is the least of our concern. In any case, by the time it is safe or rather safer (than now) to travel in times of COVID19, it will be already winter perhaps. So, travelling to desert won’t be a bad option. This post is regarding keeping yourself ready for it, or giving you just another travel idea.
In Indian hot desert of Thar, Jaisalmer is already a hotspot for tourists. But among the attraction of usuals glamorous tourist spots like Sam Dunes, Sonar fort, havelis, Bada Bagh few others are constantly missed. One prominent among them is the Desert National Park.
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The Desert National Park displays the best of the Thar desert’s ecosystem and its varied wildlife. The Park is formed of undulating sand dunes, jagged rocks, dense salt lake bottoms. Various species of animals such as black buck, chinkara and desert fox inhabit the Park. In winter, the park hosts an incredible variety of migratory raptors such Himalayan and Eurasian Griffon Vultures, Eastern Imperial Eagle, and the Saker Falcon. Park is also known for Indian Desert Monitor and bigger Monitor Lizards. You could be lucky enough to spot a Great Horned Owl at DNP.
It is unlike any other safari you would do in any other National Park or wildlife reserve in India. Rugged terrain, sand dunes, hot weather, camouflaged surroundings make it a bit challenging. There will be no shade, no big trees, nothing that hides wildlife from you. But everything around you will be so uncoloured, so dusty and hazy that you will find it tough to focus and spot things. Moreover most of the wildlife found here is of almost the same skin colour as desert, making them hard to spot.
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Blackbucks are aplenty as there are no big cats to feed upon them. But the park is best known for the highly endangered Great Indian Bustard— one of the world’s heaviest flying birds—locally known as Godawan (गोडावण). How seriously it is endangered can be understood by the fact that only around 150 great Indian bustard (GIB) are left in India today and of them about 122 are in Rajasthan, concentrated near the Desert National Park in the western front. There number was about 1,260 in 1969. So, we see that it is dwindling continuously. Thus there number isn’t the same as was when I visited this park and it won’t be what it is today when probably you visit the park next. Chances of sighting them will thus diminish more. I was fortunate to see a group close by through naked eyes. Today, most wildlife enthusiasts feel lucky enough if they are able to spot them through powerful binoculars in the vastness of this unforgiving desert.
At first sight, the Great Indian Bustard certainly doesn’t look as if it needs protecting. Towering at a metre tall, this imposing, robust bird struts slowly through the grassland of the Indian subcontinent as if it owned the place. And once upon a time, it did. Formerly widespread and abundant, this nomadic bustard made yearly journeys between India and Pakistan – a relatively modest migration compared to some species, but no mean feat for one of the world’s heaviest flying birds. According to a report by Wildlife Institute of India, the bird was once abundant in Kutch, Nagpur, Amravati, Solapur, Bellary, and Koppal districts in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.Today, it is one of the most critically endangered bird species in the world. Once the frontrunner to be named India’s national bird, the Great Indian Bustard has long been on the brink of extinction. It is still the state bird of Rajasthan.
There have been many reasons for this dwindling numbers and hunting is one of them. It is said that historically, the Houbara bustard or MacQueen’s Bustard (similar to the Great Indian Bustard) was once a commonly hunted bird, and India would officially invite royal guests from foreign countries on hunting expeditions. This was until the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 came into being. Although it became illegal thereafter, the GIB continued to be hunted, mainly for the consumption of its meat.
Globally and in India, high voltage power lines are also a major threat to the Great Indian Bustard. The bird is said to have poor frontal vision, which restricts it from spotting power lines early. This bird is known to eat insects, harvested foodgrains, and fruit. The uncontrolled use of pesticides and insecticides in farms has also badly hit their food habitat.
Recently a project was initiated by a wildlife biologist couple to involve the local community in conservation of bustards, that also indirectly gives them monetary benefit. Under the project a select group of youngsters are trained to become nature guides. Besides being guides, they help the conservationists in keeping track of the location of the Bustards and inform the forest department of any attempts of poaching of any wildlife in the area.
Best way to enter the Desert National Park is through Sudasari Check Post. It is over 45 kms from Jaisalmer city. Since this place is in desert wilderness, you won’t get any public transport to reach here. You will have to hire a vehicle from the city. Safari can be done in two ways- open roof buses run by the park or a camel cart. Camel cart won’t cover too much of a distance, but it can take you close enough without making any noise or scaring any animal. It can also take you off-road where bus won’t be able to go. For all those, who want to be really close, the park also has a limited number of huts for tourists to stay but only with basic amenities. Don’t expect a luxury stay.
Carry enough drinking water as you won’t get any during the safari. Check post does have water- tapped as well as bottled. Also keep something to chew and munch but don’t litter around inside the park. Binoculars and tele lens for photographers will be good to spot birds, specially Great Indian Bustard. Needless to say that earlier part of the day is best to take a safari in this desert.
So, next time you visit Jaisalmer, make sure to spare a half day for desert safari. You will not only have a chance to see some very rare wildlife, but you will actually also be helping the local community and the conservation of some endangered species. Do make a point!
Have you visited Desert National Park? Have you been lucky enough to spot a Great Indian Bustard? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.
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