The Kings Canyon National Park in the central Sierra Nevada is in a remote location. This aspect makes it more charming and less spoiled than other popular national parks. You are surrounded by mountains with deep glaciers and gorges, countless lakes, rushing waterfalls, expansive green fields and more than 20 peaks, all 13,000 feet high. There are also six giant redwood groves in the south of the park that the park shares with Sequoia National Park. Both are under the same administration and have a similar terrain. The only point of distinction is that the Sequoia National Park has more numbers of huge trees. Continue Reading
The Redwood National and Regional Parks are located on the north coast of California and home to the tallest trees in the world. These parks protect nearly half of the redwoods in the world, which can reach an incredible height of more than 350 feet. Redwood National Park works in partnership with three state parks; Jedidiah Smith, Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Together, they offer tourists vast expanses of lush land, grassy meadows, riverbeds, and beaches to explore, all the while impressed by these magnificent redwood wonders that tower everywhere.
Redwood National Park:
The journey to this land of high-rise living can begin with the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center, which offers access to a beach, several exhibitions and a movie about the redwood ecology. From here you can reach the Klamath River Overlook with a five-mile drive. The vantage point is 650 feet above sea level and lies at the confluence of the freshwater river and the Pacific Ocean. It is a good place to watch wandering whales and spectacular waves. You can continue along Coastal Drive on the coast and stop to see the radar station. You can also drive along this coast if you are adventurous. Another aspect is the High Bluff Overlook, which is great for having a picnic while watching the sea life, such as whales, sea lions and seabirds on the rocks. Redwood Park is also full of trails that meander through the redwoods of the forest, the beautiful diversity of wildlife and beach stations.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park:
With some of the most picturesque redwoods in its vicinity, Jedidiah Smith Park has much fewer trails because of its dense and uninterrupted growth. It is suitable for camping and has some nice campsites near the river and in the middle of the big redwoods.
Del Norte Coast Redwood State Park:
Popular for its trails and campgrounds, Del Norte Park also has many scenic picnic areas along the mighty Pacific Ocean. Some of the most popular stops are Wilson Creek for great views of the ocean and the Damnation Creek Trail, Coastal Trail for spectacular walks and Mill Creek Campground, the largest in the Redwood National Park.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park:
This 14,000-hectare park is an example of everything big and green. The rainforest with ferns, mossy paths and rocks, redwood leaf mats under the prickly trees and the spots of Roosevelt’s moose are just some of the attractions of this park. The Prairie Creek Visitor Center, Elk Prairie, Trillium Falls Trail, Newton B. Drury Scenic Drive and Gold Bluffs Beach are just a few of the many places that make Prairie Creek Redwoods a gem.
The Premier Hill Station
The cool, crisp air of the hills beckons as you drive up the majestic rocky slopes of Kodaikanal. Steep and winding, the views get increasingly spectacular with the gradual rise in altitude. We have traveled far and wide but still come up short in finding a paradise as wild as Kodai, putting the premier hill station in a league of its own.
This age old Imperial holiday choice is currently among the top ten destinations for trekking in south India. From among valleys that are shrouded in mist all day long is unveiled the delicate grasslands of Shola, merely one of the many rich and beautiful ecosystems in the prolific sub-continent of India.
Introducing the Sholas
One loses hours just gazing at the hilly vistas of Kodai; among the lush forested valleys and cliffs, you will notice certain rounded hilltops that look rather bald in the dry summers or a brilliantly radiant green in the monsoon. These seemingly bare and naked patches are grassland hilltops, forming a part of one of India’s most crucial ecosystems.
Scientists are still out on the precise origin of the Shola ecosystem, a highly debated subject on which researchers are yet to reach firm conclusions. Thriving within the tropics, the Sholas are found at high altitudes (beyond 1500 meters above mean sea level) and as part of the biodiversity hotspot of the Western Ghats, they naturally support a host of endemic flora and fauna.
Essentially, the Shola complex is a mosaic of dense valleys of montane evergreen separated from one another by extensive grassland; this is a gloriously unique combination of greens from which unforgettable views are born.
The Shola grassland complex falls under classification of southern wet temperate forests and can also be found in Palakkad, Wayanad, Idukki, Thiruvananthapuram and Agasthyakoodam in Kerala; the Nilgiris and Palani hill ranges in Tamil Nadu and Kudremukh, Sharavathi Valley, Chikmanglur and associated regions in Karnataka.
Where the clouds are your constant companion…
This ecosystem is a part of the broader class of ‘tropical montane forests’ that exist in three sub-categories in India – montane wet temperate, Himalayan moist temperate and Himalayan dry temperate forest types. Alternatively, the Sholas are also categorized as ‘tropical montane cloud forests’ or just ‘cloud forests’, a type of forest defined by a primary feature i.e., the persistent presence of cloud cover.
True to this definition, when you spend a luxurious few days just trekking the Palani Range of hills (on whose fringes Kodai is poised), the clouds are a constant companion, collecting in the hollow of deep valleys every few minutes only to fall in magnificent rain soon after. By virtue of its high altitude, the Shola hilltops eternally kiss the clouds and so manage to capture a substantial amount of moisture from them. This distinguishes them as cloud forests.
An endless range of grass meadows
Shola trees display stunted growth owing to the severe wind action of the peaks, their foliage sports a variety of colors, brushed with blazing oranges and maroons that fire up the dark green canopy. Collectively though, the Sholas appear as an endless range of grass meadows on hill ridges and tops, easily one of the most gentle and pleasing avatars Mother Nature quietly slips into.
The immense endemicity of fauna in the Shola grasslands can be attributed to their isolation, altitude and evergreen nature. Tigers, leopards, sambhar deer, porcupines, muntjak, bison and elephants are among the many mammals found here. Though disappearing, the Sholas are the primary natural habitat for the Nilgiri Tahr (given the prestigious title of state animal of Tamil Nadu) that has emerged as a flagship species to save its grassland home. It is because of the decades of tireless conservation efforts spent toward preserving this rare and endangered goat-antelope that the grassland ecosystem of Sholas has finally been put on priority for conservation.
These quiet meadows liven with birdsong from hundreds of unique avian species – laughing thrushes, bulbuls, martins, shortwings, flycatchers, bee eaters, babblers, birds of prey and many more, several of which thrive only in Shola grassland – a lost paradise for birders.
Amazingly gigantic species of fern
Floristically In terms of flora, dwarf trees growing up to 30 feet exist along with closed canopy. Dense shrub fills the space between the upper storey and under storey making up the Shola forest. Velvet layers of moss and lichen also thrive amidst the high moisture; hard, woody creepers entwine the forests’ trees as beautiful orchids show themselves on occasion. One of the most interesting floras encountered in the Sholas is the amazingly gigantic species of fern that can be seen in the narrow transition to grasslands. Finally, the grasslands themselves are a truly stunning sight.
It is a well known fact that the Western Ghats are one of India’s largest watersheds and receives some of the heaviest rainfall on planet earth; that said, the role that the Sholas play in sustaining water cycles is crucial. An important feature being that they act like natural sponges, able to retain more than half the rainwater received from the monsoon. This water is then gradually released through a large network of streams and rivers whose very existence is thanks to the grasslands themselves.
This intricate network of freshwater goes on to enable a hundred thousand lives downstream, and across southern India. You will be surprised to know that several rivers originate in Sholas – among these are Tungabhadra, Nethravati and Kaveri (Cauvery). The Sholas also function as thermostats, keeping annual minimum and maximum temperatures at a constant average of 15C-20C, even at the peak of the driest summer.
Regardless of their ecological imperative, the Sholas are one of the most neglected ecosystems we have come across. Its degenerative story began back when the British were busy acquiring ghats as hot new summer getaways, converting native forest to commercially viable private estates of coffee and tea or mining them beyond repair. It was from then on that south India’s fragile natural heritage was doomed.
This rare and unique grassland ecosystem was overlooked, mistakenly perceived as wasteland, causing the greedy colonials to go on a rampage converting Sholas to mono-cultured land where cash crops such as eucalyptus became prime money makers. To this day, you will find eucalyptus, pine, acacia, wattle and other such exotics invading the flora of Western Ghat hills, a stark reminder of our imperialistic past.
As a precious source of many streams and rivers, the Shola biome must be conserved in order for us, along with hundreds of other organisms, to survive. Further, it is an extremely sensitive type of forest that is directly affected by climate change and is especially difficult to reconstruct once fragmented.
Time to preserve an authentic portrait of India’s landscapes
So far, we have already lost 80% of the historical range of the Sholas and continue to lose more at an alarming rate. Deforestation for the purpose of agriculture has heralded the end of the Sholas. This raises red flags, implying that we must act swiftly so as to preserve an authentic portrait of India’s landscapes. For if we do not, our children will not have the chance of learning life-giving lessons from the gentle heart of the Sholas we have grown to love so dearly.
Tourism can be interrupted in the warmer months of the monsoon, but during these months, Goa really comes to life.
His campaign is quieter than usual. The dew settles on new delicate leaves, moss dark velvet rage all sorts of manufacturing surfaces, rejuvenated coconut palms, is wild in the sea breeze, fisherman carry reedbaskets where to wind the catch of the day. This moving scene resonates throughout the state as glorious tropical rain lashes at this world-famous coastal city.
If we imagine Goa, the characterful landscapes, the narrow ghat streets and fragrant cashew plantations come to mind. However, its “cities” – including Panjim (Panaji), the capital – are not so urban and hectic and do not resemble those of Mumbai, Delhi and other major cities. This colorful little town fabric it seems to be preserving could be the reason why Goa’s wilderness is so easily accessible.
Some wild species such as mongooses and monitor lizards can still be seen in the cities of Goa, becoming part of their urban fauna.
These intelligent hunters spread in Africa and Asia; They are found in the forests of Goa.
For decades there have been many injustices against controllers. Shamelessly sold as exotic pets to be slaughtered for their meat, the list is long and the crimes abominable.
Many villagers in Goa have a very serious misunderstanding that only serves to allow poaching of lizards. It is generally accepted that eating lizards increases libido and increases muscle mass, which will also have a positive effect on bodybuilding.
The cultured taste of meat, a habit that was hard to break. Outrageous is the fact that the purchase has created a growing market every day.
The dishes like kebab lizard, lizard lizard or lizard 65 are, in many places, as many local specialties as the fish curry and rice coastal towns of Goa. Regularly prepared, they are offered to unpretentious tourists as a delicacy.
Lizard poaching is only a symptomatic side effect of the massive boom in Goa tourism, combined with widespread ignorance.
In Goa, as everywhere, a tourism boom affects endemic animals and birds, forests, backwaters, reptiles and indigenous communities of fishermen, tribal art and woodwork, kitchens; change everything that can not be repaired.
Instead of observing these animals from a distance and learning from them, easy access to Goa’s wild animals is a double-edged sword. As it is the main reason for the amazing survival of the lizards. Only one hundred thousand examples of Mother Nature generously offer its abundance, but the human condition were destined to destroy.
With the Monitor Wildlife Protection Act 1972, their immediate protection for their existence is crucial.
The Goa Forestry Department has done its best to create simple and in-depth communication to increase awareness of this issue. Many banners written in the local language have been introduced as part of this effort, pleading for a collective effort without which the future of the lizard monitor in Goa (or elsewhere) is dull.
It’s really very easy to forgive a cliché call but the truth is, “If buying stops can also be selling.”
(Are not clichés the result of a collective effort?)
To be called ‘India’s future tiger reserve’ is impressive in itself; living up to the title is quite a task and one that Dandeli – Anshi Tiger Reserve (DATR) accomplishes impressively. Anshi National Park was granted its status as a tiger reserve the same year as Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, in 2007; along with six adjacent protected zones in north Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, they form over 2000 kilometer square of uninterrupted forest area. This is extremely important in laying the foundation for successful conservation, especially with regard to an animal as territorial as the tiger.
With a larger vision in mind, the concerned Forest Departments are already working in tandem, having set the wheels in motion with forging an undisturbed belt for tiger protection. As part of this, they have also been working on designing scientific itineraries tying together Bhadra, Dandeli, Anshi and Goa so that they function as one unit. Splayed over three states, this wide range puts DATR and Bhadra in the run, lending it the potential to be one of the largest protected areas of the Western Ghats; a corridor that will assume first priority in the national efforts to’Save the Tiger’.
It is shocking to learn that the range of the tiger has been slashed by 93% in the last century alone. A regal predator that once hunted throughout east Russia and Turkey; central and south Asia is now scattered, surviving in habitable forests from India to southeast Asia, the Russian far east and Sumatra.
Though solitary in nature, tigers need a vast area for mating, territory and food; fragmenting available forests with imagined political borders adversely affects their survival. Still, some of its range has been well maintained under a plan called Double Dhamaka.
As part of this, the Forest Department of Uttara Karnataka offers a compensation to villagers in and around Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary if they will relocate to alternate housing provided by the former. This incentivized scheme is working rather well and has given several families the chance to play an albeit small but relevant role in tiger conversation.
Quite apart from addressing the major issue of forest fragmentation in protecting the tiger’s range, DATR is also being prepped as a popular destination for tourism along with its neighbor in Goa. Be it river rafting along the rapids of Kali, trekking against the backdrop of the majestic Dudhsagar or exploring the caves at Syntheri rock, eco-tourism is taking shape and the Forest Departments are certainly headed in the right direction.
That said, many state and national highways run through these protected areas and what is most exciting about them is that you are not limited to thoroughfare but can actually spend quality time immersed in the wild. This is a golden opportunity; as is with all great opportunities, one has the responsibility to to exercise great caution.
For one, it is a disgrace to know that these parts see rising numbers of road kill, from reptiles, small mammals to a wild cat as rare as a malinistic leopard. The immensity in micro habitat means that even smaller animals are affected by reckless driving, the absence of speed breakers only pronounces the problem as the Forest Departments struggle with regulating popular tourism.