Q&A: In conversation with travel writer, Chittra M
Chittra M, is a former software engineer on a career break – she now travels and writes, like there’s no coming back home. What gives her a high is anything to do with architecture, history, heritage, wildlife, nature, national parks, photography, food and coffee. Loves to explore rustic country roads, and once in a while gets her passport stamped. Her mantra has always been “work hard and travel harder”. She’s passionate about natural habitats and can get ready for a wildlife safari within two minutes – her travel gear is always in a state of readiness.
Chittra is a natural storyteller and writes about her experiences and stories on her blog, MasalaBox. We now share sound bytes from our conversations with Chittra M, and this conversation centers around visits to wild life sanctuaries. (In continuation of segment 01 featured in July, this year.)
It is useful to take children out on a safari, as it rolls out lessons on a whole new world out there, and the need to protect it. They get to learn about animal behavior and natural habitat. They learn the importance of patience and discipline. They could also learn about conserving nature and protecting our national reserves. Personally, I think this should also open people’s eyes to the sanctity of wild life. If your children see an elephant in the wild, they should be alarmed at the prospect of “converting it into a tourist vehicle” for revenue and profits.
Having said that, I must say that it is not advisable to take children below six years, for more than one reason. For one thing a three-hour-long safari can be extremely tiring - it can also be scary in terms of jungle noises and sounds. (It can also be difficult to expect them to be orderly and quiet – just not possible.)
On a recent safari I saw a family with a baby, barely five months old. It was 40 degrees Celsius and extremely dusty – uncomfortable even for adults. I just cannot understand how people can be so irresponsible.
I must clarify here that only a limited area of the forest is actually open for sanctuary tours. Larger sections of the core area will still be No Entry Zones, because vehicles going into a sanctuary will to some extent invade areas that need to be monitored and regulated. (Because birds and animals are not there put on display – they are in their natural habitat.)
Animals can hear a twig break under your feet from a fair distance, so engine noises will certainly be noise pollution to a large extent. So you need to keep moving (quietly) for other people behind you to witness wildlife inside the forest. (I would freeze and stay still if I spotted a tiger, but I won’t create a road block and halt vehicular movement.)
There is only so much a guide can do. He can brief you on the rules and share guidelines - but how you conduct yourself on the safari is in your hands. So you need to contain your excitement, you need to be responsible and you need to play silent observer. (It’s another matter that most of the time, big cats seem to be oblivious of human intrusions – maybe they’re just ignoring you…)
The existence of tribal communities is quite common at the fringe areas of the park. At the Gir Park for instance, you have the Maldhari tribe living in peace with their surroundings. They have their own tribal dialects, and can barely understand what you could be saying to them.
At other parks, tribal settlements have been relocated outside the forest area – to ensure that wildlife is not disturbed and to also control poaching. But these tribals are still allowed to enter the forest for activities closely linked to their subsistence. (For instance, to collect bheedi leaves, honey, and other forest produce that they would need.)
Some parks are coming up with innovative methods to prevent trespassing. In Kabini for instance, you can see a deep trench that separates the village from the forest area – basically to prevent animals from straying out.
This is Segment Two of the interview with Chittra M – the concluding segment.
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