Saturday, 11 June 2016

Quick Trek to Ghangad, Lonavala

As monsoon begins, many trekkers booked their calendar for treks nearby Pune and Mumbai. On late Friday evening, we (Me, Friend Himanshu & Vishal) decided to go for a trek on Saturday. The weather was set perfectly fine and we decided to for Ghangad fort.

Trekkers for Ghangad fort were me, friends, Himanshu and Vishal.

Ghangad Fort
Ghangad Fort

About Ghangad:
Changed fort located in Lonavala region and the base village is Ekole. Fort is close to Korigad fort and Tel-bail Wall Mountain. This fort was mainly used to keep a watch on the surrounding area. Not much is known about the history of this fort. This fort can be cover in half day OR combined with Korigad for the day trek.

To reach the base village of fort from Pune is Pune – Lonavala – way to Ambi valley - Peth shahpur – After 1-2 km drive, take right turn for Bhamburde village - Bhamburde village – Take right after Bhamburde village – Ekole village

11th June 2016: Ghangad Fort:
               We woke up early morning by 5.30 AM and left Pune by 6.30 AM. On the way, we picked up our friend Vishal and joined Old Pune-Mumbai highway due to less traffic however we came back to Pune via expressway. The drive was wonderful with light rain and cold morning breeze. We took our first pit stop for breakfast at Manshakti center. We enjoyed tasty Vada-Pav as it was drizzling outside. After breakfast, we began our journey towards Peth shahpur village near Ambi valley city.
              After driving through the fog while enjoying the beauty of nature we reached the base village Ekole by 8.45 AM. Without wasting a time, we began our trek. There is sigh board pointing Ghangad route. After small walk towards a hill, we joined forest route laid with rocky steps. After 10-15 min, we reached Garjai temple. Temple area consist of deepmaal (Stone pole to keep oil lamp) and old time Shilalekh (Inscription). There is a small route on the left side which takes you on the fort.

Route to Ghangad from Village
Garjai Temple, Ghangad
Garjai Temple, Ghangad
Way to Fort from Garjai Temple
Way to Fort from Garjai Temple

               After few meters climb, we reached the entrance gate of the fort. The entrance gate is facing towards East direction. After crossing gate, you can see a large cave. People can use this cave for overnight. On the right side, you can see huge rock inclined on mountain wall. Rock was a part of the mountain which slide down creating nature tunnel. We decided to visit this part while climbing down.

Entrance Gate, Ghangad
Entrance Gate, Ghangad

                On the other side (left side after entrance gate), you can see a ladder. As per history, there were stone steps which were destroyed by British after capturing fort in 1818. Now Iron Ladder was placed so trekker can climb up on the fort. Be careful while climbing a ladder. At the end of the ladder, there is small metal part penetrated in rock to move further.

Ladder to Climb Ghangad...
Ladder to Climb Ghangad...Be careful in Monsoon...Himanshu looking at Vishal's Climb

                There is Water trench at the end of a ladder which content drinking water and available throughout the year. After Ladder section, we climbed some rocky patches to reach the final entrance gate of the fort. Entrance and other structures are in ruined condition. Be careful on rock patch in monsoon. Shivaji Trail group installed metal rope on rocky patches which make your climb easy.

Water trench at Ghangad
Water trench at Ghangad
Rocky Climb on Ghangad
Rocky Climb on Ghangad

               Fort area is quite small and can be covered in just 30 minutes. You can see the main bastion of the fort on the left side after crossing final entrance gate. This was used as a watch tower. We took right side route after entrance gate to explore fort area. There is one water trench which is in ruined condition. At the end of this route, you can see two water trenches.

Entrance to Fort on top, Ghangad
Entrance to Fort on top, Ghangad
Huge Bastion on Ghangad
Huge Bastion on Ghangad
View From Ghangad
View From Ghangad

               View from this point is simply breathtaking. You can see Tailbaila Mountain, Sudhagad fort, and Sarasgad fort. We took rest here and enjoyed the different moods of Mother Nature. After capturing nature in camera and group photos, we continued our trail. Walking for few more minute, we reached Fort's bastion. We decided to leave the fort and came down quickly.

View of Tailbaila
View of Tailbaila
View of TailBaila
View of TailBaila
Climbing down from Ghangad

               After crossing Ladder, we saw natural tunnel / stone arch. There is a small route at the end of the stone arch which takes you to water trench. We saw water trench and returned at the entrance gate. Kindly avoid this patch in monsoon even though metal rope is installed in rock for support.

View from ladder at ghangad
View from ladder at Ghangad
Rock arch at Ghangad
Rock arch at Ghangad

               We climb down remaining fort with lighting speed. We left Ghangad by 12 PM and took a lunch break at Manshakti center for Misal Pav. After heavy lunch, we join Expressway and reach home safely.

View from Ghangad
View from Ghangad

Ghangad Fort
Ghangad Fort

Expenses:
  • Car Petrol: INR 1000/- (approx. 14 Lit and 3 people in car)
  • Toll: INR 91/- (Pune to Lonavala one way from old highway)
  • Breakfast: INR 150/- for 3 people (2 Vada Sambar, 4 Vada Pav and 3 coffee)
  • Lunch: INR 285/- for 3 people (3 Misal Pav, 2 Sabudhana Wada and 3 coffee)
  • Toll: INR 117/- (Lonavala to Pune one way on Expressway)
Things to carry for Ghangad trek:
  • A water bottle to carry at least 2 liters of water
  • Some dry food and packed lunch, No suitable food stall is available on Torna fort.
  • Windcheater / jacket / Barsati during monsoon trek.
  • First aid kit
  • Do carry instant energizers like Glucon-D or Tang.
  • A towel or napkin and 2-3 old newspapers
  • Camera to capture best nature movement
  • Better avoid wearing Gold and other ornaments. No need to carry heavy cash.

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.

Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary: New forest land for Tiger

Forest from Maharashtra was on my wish list from a long time. Mainly wanted to Visit Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) but decided to start with Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary.

Travelers for this trip were me and wife Renuka.

Pugmark in Umred Forest
Pugmark in Umred Forest

About Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary:
               Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (Also known as UKWS) is located 60 km from Nagpur city. The nearest town is Umred. The entire forest is divided into 4 different zones. Names of the zones are Karhandla Zone (also known as Umred Gate), Gothangaon zone, Pullar Zone and Pauni Zone. It is more popular in tourist nowadays, due to increasing count of Tiger and close to Nagpur City.
This is newly formed small forest which is home of 14 Tigers (It will be 17 soon as when we went, one Tigress found with 3 new cubs to forest team. Location was disclosed but we saw cubs in mobile photo)
Species found in UKWS are tigers, Leopards (Rare), wild cats (Very rare), Wild Dogs, Indian Gaur, Spotted deer, Sambar, Barking deer and Langur. Spotting of Indian Slot bear and Hyena in UKWS is rare nowadays. The park is also a home of forest birds.

Suggested plan/Tips and Rates to book Safari are mentioned at the end of this blog.

Day
Date
Location
Trip Plan
Day 1
23-April 16, Saturday
Pune
Pune to Umred Car Journey
Day 2
24-April 16, Sunday
Pullar Zone
Gothangaon zone
Morning Safari at Pullar (Safari 1)
Evening Safari at Gothangaon (Safari 2)
Day 3
25-April 15, Monday
Pauni Zone
Morning Safari at Pauni (Safari 3)
Evening Safari at Pauni (Safari 4)
Day 4
26-april 15, Tuesday
Karhandla Zone
Morning Safari at Karhandla (Safari 3)
Return journey to Pune
Day 5
27-April 16, W’day
Pune
Reach Pune by 3.30 AM

Welcome to Jungle

Day 1: 23-April 2016: Pune to Umred:
               We decided to have a road trip for Umred. We woke up at 5.30 AM and left Pune city. Our route was Pune – Ahmednagar – Aurangabad-Jalna Bypass – Jalna – Mehkar – Malegaon – Karanja – Amravati – Took right on Outer Ring Road – Took left at Vhirgoan – Umred.
              We took the first break at Smile stone near Ahmednagar and then directly lunch break at Karanja. Road condition is average till Karanja whereas smooth wider highway is available after that. We reached Umred by 7 PM after driving for around 13-14 hours. We booked Hotel Sree Sai Sheetal in Umred. It consists of 4-5 rooms with all required basic amenities. They have a huge area for Parking and dessert cooler which gives you feel of AC room. The hotel room doesn't have TV. Personally, I prefer a room without TV for nature trips. The hotel doesn't have kitchen or restaurant facility. The owner can arrange food from Village. Meal was tasty with all essential variety.

Expense:
  • Car petrol: INR 2500/-
  • Two Coffee at Smile Stone: INR 50/-
  • Coffee and snacks: INR 50/-
  • Lunch at Garva: INR 220/- (Masala Papad, Panner dish, Rotis and Cold drink).
  • Toll: INR 80/- (one way)
  • Toll: INR 10/- (One Way)
  • Toll: INR 51/- (One Way)
  • Toll: INR 41/- (One Way)
  • Car petrol: INR 1000/-
  • Toll: INR 90/- (One Way)
  • Pani puri at Amul restaurant: INR 20/-
  • Dinner: INR 105/-

Forest Route at Umred

Day 2: 24-April 2016: Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary Safari
             We woke by 4 AM and left Hotel by 5 AM for our first Safari. Our first safari was at Pullar Zone which was around 30km from Umred. The route from Umred is Umred – Armori Nagpur highway – Bhiwapur – Take left at bhiwapur – Somanala village – Pullar Village – Take left at Pullar village for Forest Gate.
            We reached before by 5.30AM. We did verification of permit, guide fee payment, and jeep safari payment after reaching to the entrance gate. Hiring a guide for safari is compulsory and you can visit the park with your own vehicle as well. We prefer hiring a jeep for Safari.
           When we entered into the sanctuary, we saw few spotted deer. Pullar zone is not a densely populated forest. You see them all over India very easily, but somehow I always love looking at these animals again and again. After exploring for an hour, we saw Indian Wild dog. We spend some time watching his activity and then left for Tiger search.

Wild Dog

Nilgai

Waiting for you

              Pullar zone is a home to 3-4 tigers. We searched a lot but fail to spot Tiger in Safari even though we saw pugmarks. As deer and Langur population is less in a Umred forest, it becomes difficult to track tiger based on their Alarm Calls. You Luck plays a vital role in spotting a tiger here. We enjoyed beautiful landscape and few forest birds before leaving Forest.

Summer effect

Paradise Flycatcher at Umred
Paradise Flycatcher

Indian Roller

              We came back to the hotel and had lunch. After a quick power nap, we left for our Next Safari in Gothangaon Zone. The route from Umred is Umred – Deni – Tarna – Chikna Tukum – Dongarmauda – Gothangaon. We reached at gate by 2.30AM. After the mandatory process, we went for our Evening Safari.

Lake in Forest

             Gothangaon consists of 2-3 small lakes which offer you beautiful landscapes and verity of Birds. This zone is a home of 2 Tiger brothers known as Srinivas and Bittu. This zone also consists of 1 Tigress and 1 Male tiger. When we entered the forest, we got to know that, these two Tiger killed cow-calf a few hours back. We were aware of spot hence we went there. Both Tigers already dragged the kill. Blood mark and dragged marks were clearly seen. We follow the marks which went inside dense bushes. We searched a lot but unable to spot them. We explore forest for next 3 hours and saw spotted deer, Nilgai, barking deer, wild boar, wild gaur and wild dog.

Wild Boar

              As Gothangaon zone consist of Lakes, we saw few migratory birds. The landscape was an additional point to explore this zone. This zone have village inside forest boundary. Due to their farms, they were not ready to relocate outside forest where Government allotted new land. We heard quite interesting stories of Srinivas and Bittu. By evening time, we left the forest and came back to hotel room at Umred for rest.




Expense:
  • Pullar Zone entry permit: INR 265/- (for 2 people)
  • Pullar Safari jeep: INR 1800/-
  • Guide: INR 300/-
  • SLR Camera: INR 200/-
  • Breakfast: INR 100/- (Medu Wada-Masala Dosa and Cold drinks)
  • Lunch: INR 300/- for 2 person
  • Gothangaon Zone entry permit: INR 265/- (For 2 person)
  • Gothangaon Safari Jeep: INR 1800/-
  • Guide: INR 300/-
  • Car petrol: INR 2500/-
  • Dinner: INR 300/- for 2 person

Day 3: 25-April 2016: Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary Safari
              Our day began with new hope. Today our both safari was booked in Pauni Zone. All other zones are closed on Monday hence we selected Pauni zone. This zone is quite far away from Umred and separated from rest for forest due to Dam’s backwater. It is around 38-40 km from Umred town. The route to reach Pauni is Umred - Armori Nagpur highway – Bhiwapur – Nilaj – Take left at Neelaj Phata – Pauni Road – Pauni – Take a left after Pauni village for Forest gate. Once you reach in Pauni village, do ask for forest gate as the route is bit confusing and no proper signboard was placed on the route.

Welcome Gate at Pauni

             We did our process and went inside for our 3rd safari. Our luck was not with us this time. We spend around 3 hours but fail to spot Tiger. We saw other animals but no luck with the big cat. We also saw the wet land bird. Pauni forest area is richer than the rest forest area due to dense forest and many waterholes. It is also close to dam's backwater.

Open Billed Stork

             We got to know for the forest that huge male Tiger Jay belongs to Pauni zone and Karhandla Zone. Last Time he was spotted in Pauni zone. 7-8 year old Jay Tiger was missing from Mid-March (Even till today i.e. August 2016, He is still missing). He is the Biggest forest Tiger in the Asia. We came in this forest in the year 2009 and all Tigers from Umred belong to his next generations. Jay is 284 kg weight (officially recorded weight) and forest says now he must be above 300kg.

Jungle Route, Pauni
Jungle Route, Pauni

              Jay, the young male tiger from Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary traveled around 120-130km to reach Paoni range of Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary. Jay (Also known as Jai) and Viru, the two male tigers were born in 2010 to a tigress Mai, responsible for maintaining tiger population in Nagzira and had reproduced about five generations till now. While three-and-half-year-old Jai has migrated to Umred in search of a female.

Pauni Zone

               The story of Jay's migration became study material for many wildlife lover and channels like Discovery and animal planet. Migration of Jay confirms the forest corridor between Nagzira-Umred-Karhandla-Tadoba. The tiger probably traveled an aerial distance of around 75+km through Nagzira, New Nagzira, Kisanpur, Kardi, Kesalwada and Koka. Later, it crossed national highway No. 6 between Bhandara and Sakoli followed by Vainganga River to reach Umred-Karhandla sanctuary's Paoni range.
              The path between these corridors is fragmented at several places with huge human settlements and agriculture fields. Tigers must be dispersing through this corridor regularly. We were unable to spot him and hope to see him again in the forest. We came out for the forest by 10 AM. We were not interested in traveling back to Umred for just 4 hours. We went in Hotel Sunshine for breakfast.



Meri Safari...treepie on deer


             Hotel manager/owner came to know that we have evening safari as well in Pauni. We offered us one room for relaxation without any charges. We had our lunch at the same hotel and then went for next safari. As we failed in last 3 safaris to spot Tiger, Hotel owner gave us his Jeep with a driver which is also forest registered jeep. He gave us assurance good safari even if we fail again in spotting Tiger.

Nilgai Male

             We accepted it and went for our 4th safari. Jeep driver and guide tried their level best to spot Tiger. Guides are not allowed to carry Mobile inside a forest in Umred. Reasons were, In January 2016 one male Tiger approached towards jeep and started playing with Side mirror. The guide called all other jeeps which might create a panic situation. Also in the Same month, when one Tiger was spotted in a waterhole, he called all another jeep to join the same spot. After some time many jeeps came and started approaching towards Tiger. The intention was all tourists can enjoy the view but Tiger was panic and ran away. Everything was recorded on different camera. Hence Umred forest Ban Mobiles for Guide.

Wild Dog
Wild Dog

              Our Jeep driver was carrying Mobile (which was allowed as per them) and called other jeep drivers so they can show us, Tiger. We saw all other mammals but missed Tiger sighting. After some time we saw leopard’s fresh pugmarks and started fallowing him. It went on one route which rarely used by forest jeep due to steep height gain and difficult to drive. Our Driver took us on this route as we haven’t seen any Cat spices. Forget about Tiger but that Route was simply amazing. Finally, we saw running Leopard on the hill. The show was a hardly 4-5 sec. I and Renu manage to see only his butt and tail.

Pauni Zone


             We left Pauni Forest with a beautiful memory of Leopard sighting and fabulous landscape. We reached in Umred and had a meal in town.

Expense:
  • Pauni Zone entry permit: INR 265/- (for 2 people)
  • Pauni Safari Jeep: INR 1800/-
  • Guide: INR 300/-
  • SLR Camera: INR 200/-
  • Lunch: INR 313/-
  • Pauni Zone entry permit: INR 265/- (for 2 people)
  • Pauni Safari Jeep: INR 1800/-
  • Guide: INR 300/-
  • Camera: INR 200/-
  • Dinner: INR 190/- (Pizza, Sandwich and Chaats)

Day 4: 26-April 2016: Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary Safari – Pune journey
              We booked morning safari to Karhandla zone. It is one of the largest zones from Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary. More than 20 jeeps are allowed inside the forest. The route to Karhandla gate is Umred - Armori Nagpur highway – Take first left after crossing HP petrol pump (Itankar petrol pump on the right side) – Take right after 2.2 km – Take slight right after 1km drive – Drive on Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary till forest gate. Distance is around 11 km from Umred.

Into deep forest...Karhandla Zone

              We went inside forest after completing permit process. We explored forest for next 3 hours and again fail to spot any Tiger. We lost hopes so we decided to enjoy the nature and other mammals. We saw some forest birds and explore most of route/trail from the forest. We came back by 10 AM.



              Even though we unable to spot Tiger, Still I will recommend this place for Safari. Yes, I agree that apart from Tiger there is very less flora and fauna available. Due to fewer antelope spices, it becomes difficult to track Tiger based on alarm call and has to rely on pugmarks only. Tiger count compare to forest area are high and we hope that Jay will be back soon in the forest.

Wild Dog
Curious to know 

             While leaving Umred, we decided to plan one more forest trip soon in Tadoba. By the time I’m writing this travel blog, I just came back from my Tadoba and lucky to spot 6 Tigers. Reason to mention here is, Tiger sighting in the forest is not in our hand but what is in our hand is to protect the forest and respect the nature.
            We left Umred by 11 AM for our return journey to Pune. We hired Driver from Nagpur (our known driver was in Nagpur for his personal work) so we can have rest in the car and join office on next day. We took a lunch break at Karanja and dinner break in Aurangabad. We reached home safely by 3AM in the morning.

Expense:

  • Karhandla Zone entry permit: INR 265/- (for 2 people)
  • Karhandla Safari Jeep: INR 1800/-
  • Guide: INR 300/-
  • SLR Camera: INR 200/-
  • Hotel stay: INR 4500/-
  • Lunch: INR 65/- (Snacks)
  • Car parking: INR 40/- (In Nagpur)
  • Driver charges: INR 1000/- (Nagpur to Pune)
  • Toll: INR 41/-
  • Toll: INR 51/-
  • Toll: INR 10/-
  • Toll: INR 80/-
  • Snacks: INR 175/- (Panner baji, Mix Baji and tea-Coffee)
  • Dinner: INR 390/- (Masala Papad, Panner veg dish, Roti and cold drinks)
  • Car petrol: INR 1000/-

Process for Safari booking:
  • Go to http://mahaecotourism.gov.in/Site/Common/OnlineBooking1.aspx site and Click on book now button
  • Select park name and Safari Dates to check the available Permits.
  • Enter all required information and do the online Payment (This is only entry permit and not jeep safari booking or jeep chargers)
  • Please carry your mentioned ID proof for safari. Only those tourists are allowed in the park whose names are mentioned in a permit. To modify permit before safari, you need to contact forest department.
  • Carry print out of your permit as showing an online receipt at the counter doesn't work every time.
  • Once you get permit then make you stay and journey arrangement
  • Once you reach in Umred, Visit at gate 1-2 hour before safari Time to block/book jeep against your permit number.
  • Safari jeep can pick up from Hotel. For this service, you have to pay extra cash.
  • On the date of safari, reach 45-60 min prior to safari time at the entry gate. E.g. if morning safari starts at 6AM then verification process starts at 5.30 AM and for evening safari, if timing is 3PM then verification process starts at 2.30 PM
  • Show your permit and ID proof at the entry gate and pay INR 300/- chargers for Guide.
  • Board your jeep to enjoy beautiful Umred forest

Tips/suggestion for Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary:
  • Umred-Karhandla forest is divided into 4 zones and permits for each zones are as Karhandla (15 permits), Gothangaon (12 Permits), Pullar (5 permits) and Pauni (12 Permits)
  • Try to book the same Zone for 2 or 3 continues safari which will increase chances of Tiger sighting. You get familiar with wildlife movement on safari 1 and then it becomes easy to track in next Safari.
  • Request Forest team to allow the same guide for a particular zone. He/She knows what you have seen in safari 1 so the guide can change route or tracking method for other habitats. In few forest, same guide allocation is not allowed.
  • Karhandla zone and Gothangaon zone lies on the same side. If you are unable to book the same zone for morning and evening, then you can combine these two zones
  • The distance between Karhandla zone and Pullar zone is less. If you are unable to book the same zone for morning and evening, then you can combine these two zones
  • You will not find any restaurant nearby Karhandla, Gothangaon and Pullar Gate. Kindly carry pack food OR if you have your own vehicle, then visit Umred or your hotel for a meal.
  • Pauni zone is far away from Umred. Try to book the same Zone on 1 day which will avoid your journey Time. Hotels, restaurants are available near Pauni.
  • Tiger count in Pauni is less compare to Karhandla zone but the forest is dense and home of wetland birds.
  • Make sure that your jeep should be among first 5 vehicles to enter in a forest. It increases your chances in summer to spot Tiger on road in respective zone
  • Tiger activity in particular zone changes as per time. So do not believe anyone who says a chance of spotting tiger in XYZ zone is higher than other. It completely depends on upon your luck and observation of guide.
  • Kolara Gate from Tadoba – Andhari Tiger reserve (TATR) is around 64km (Can be cover in 1.5 hours). You can cover Kolara Zone from Tadoba along with Umred-Karhandla Sanctuary.

Contact number for Reference:
  • Sree Sai Sheetal Vishram: 9822231642.
  • Forest Guide Nitin from Umred: 9158696787.
  • Umred resort: 9075578316. (We were looking for this resort but it was booked)
  • Hotel Sunshine at Pauni: 9011595565 / 9822691559.
  • Hotel Garva at Karanja:9637367929 / 8805236777.
Time to say Goodbye...

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.

Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune