The Spice of Life

Consumer Voice - - Contents - Gouthami, CEO and co-founder, Travel Another In­dia

When I lived in Kutch almost a decade ago, I was fas­ci­nated by the bird life there. It was hard to miss the large pink flamin­gos and the storks against the bleak land­scape of the Rann. And fi­nally I started notic­ing the many forms of life around me – both the big and ob­vi­ous and the small and easy to miss. Meet­ing some ex­cel­lent nat­u­ral­ists along the way has helped to in­crease my in­ter­est. What this trans­lates into when I travel is that each jour­ney is a lot more in­ter­est­ing.

In Kutch there were or­nithol­o­gists who would name the birds just by hear­ing the call once, with­out even look­ing at the bird. It was cer­tainly fas­ci­nat­ing to be with them and now sub­con­sciously I try to con­nect the bird and its call – my reper­toire is still limited, of course.

Later in Kar­nataka, I was for­tu­nate to do a nat­u­ral­ists train­ing with the Chief Nat­u­ral­ist of the Jun­gle Lodges and Re­sorts, Karthikeyan. He vis­ited us at one of our des­ti­na­tions to con­duct a train­ing pro­gramme for the vil­lage com­mit­tee. I was try­ing to ex­plain to them what a nat­u­ral­ist did, when he stepped in. We were in the guest­house which was to­tally empty at that point. He looked around and pointed out sev­eral dif­fer­ent types of spi­ders and ex­plained a lit­tle about each of them. Sud­denly

we were all notic­ing the many small in­sects that in­hab­ited an empty build­ing. Ev­ery­one au­to­mat­i­cally un­der­stood what a nat­u­ral­ist did.

Do in­sects creep you out? Do you pre­fer not to no­tice them? Well, then fo­cus on the birds, the small an­i­mals, the flow­ers and the trees that are ev­ery­where. Just keep your eyes and ears open. And slowly you will find that your travel ex­pe­ri­ence is en­hanced man­i­fold.

While this is true for any travel, it is es­pe­cially true if you are go­ing to a for­est area. In­creas­ingly, tiger tourism has be­come very popular in In­dia. The tiger is a mag­nif­i­cent cat and it is def­i­nitely a great thrill to sight it. Those who visit a tiger re­serve and do not see a tiger come away feel­ing a bit cheated. Of­ten they are so in­tent on see­ing a tiger that they com­pletely miss out on the many other species that cross their path.

I was once with a group of tiger fa­nat­ics – thank­fully, we saw a ti­gress as soon as we en­tered the re­serve. Even then, they were com­pletely un­in­ter­ested in the other species, how­ever colour­ful and beau­ti­ful they were. We had a nat­u­ral­ist along who was very knowl­edge­able and showed us many birds that were beau­ti­fully cam­ou­flaged. The tiger fa­nat­ics were not im­pressed. They kept urg­ing him to show another tiger.

I am at a com­plete loss to un­der­stand their think­ing. Yes, the tiger is at the head of the food chain. If there are suf­fi­cient tigers in an area, you know that there is an eco­log­i­cal bal­ance in the area. And that is why there is such a huge con­cern about de­plet­ing tiger num­bers. How­ever, the tiger will not sur­vive un­less all the other species do. So in a tiger re­serve, you will get a rich bio­di­ver­sity. If you have gone all the way there, you might as well ap­pre­ci­ate it.

The Chaos Is Their Or­der

There was a time when af­foresta­tion pro­grammes fo­cussed on plant­ing one species of a tree re­peat­edly. Time has shown this to be an in­cor­rect pol­icy. Of course, it looks good and neat to have the same species grow in straight lines. But it com­pletely messes up the ecol­ogy of the area.

Na­ture is such a beau­ti­ful mix of or­der and chaos that if you look closely, a whole new world opens up. For ex­am­ple, look at a grove of trees. At first sight it is a bunch of trees grow­ing all hig­gledy-pig­gledy. Look closer at any one tree. There is a def­i­nite pat­tern to how the leaves are laid out. The leaves them­selves have a beau­ti­ful sym­me­try. If there are flow­ers, they have yet another pat­tern hid­den in their colours. Of course, to no­tice all that, you need to look up from what­ever is that lat­est gad­get you are hold­ing. The com­plete ex­pe­ri­ence is to use all senses wher­ever pos­si­ble – smell, sight, feel, sound. Go easy on the taste, though!

Re­cently I vis­ited the vil­lage of Ver­lem in South Goa. With me were two in­sect ex­perts. The en­tire time we were in Ver­lem, it rained heav­ily. Yet, th­ese two were very ex­cited to be there. It turns out that but­ter­flies come out dur­ing the breaks in the rain and that is of­ten the best time to study them. I cer­tainly did not ex­pect that. A whole new as­pect was added to my ap­pre­ci­a­tion of bio­di­ver­sity dur­ing that trip.

Over­all, I pre­fer an­i­mals, birds and trees to be of a size and colour that I can sight eas­ily. But once you start to spot the smaller crea­tures, you re­al­ize just how fas­ci­nat­ing they are. My lat­est muses are the tri­coloured mu­nias and sun-birds out­side my win­dow. They rarely sit still, mak­ing them very dif­fi­cult to pho­to­graph and show off on Face­book. How­ever, they pro­vide me hours of en­ter­tain­ment – what more can I ask for?

Travel Another In­dia part­ners with ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to set up in­clu­sive des­ti­na­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences that keep the hosts, guests and mother Earth smil­ing. Here’s the web­site url: www.trav­e­lan­oth­erindia. com

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