My top 10 wildlife experiences in 2016

Continuing from my nostalgia trip about travels in 2016, here is a photo summary of my close encounters with wildlife across the world. The husband and I are both wildlife enthusiasts (with a recently discovered interest in birding), and try to head to the forest whenever we get a chance. But as it happened, I got many unexpected chances to see animals and birds, all the way from Canada to Australia, of course, via the Indian jungles…

One of the wildlife highlights of the year – a long and leisurely sighting of Maya and her three cubs at Tadoba

Competing closely for first spot, the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island in Australia – the sight of hundreds of Little Penguins waddling on to the beach from the sea.

And as a bonus, fabulous sightings of koalas, this one giving us an audience during those precious moments between naps…

This shark safari at The Atlantis in Dubai was particularly special, not just because I got so close to the fish, but because it was a major step in overcoming ignoring my fear of water to do this

On a recent trip to Ahmedabad, I went on a freezing December morning to Nalsarovar Lake to see the flamingos

After planning for several years, we finally managed to head to Kaziranga to see the one-horned rhino in November

While Bandipur gave absolutely no joy, Kabini, also in the beginning of the year gave us excellent birding opportunities

Apart from these planned trips, the most delightful experiences were in placed where I had no expectations of any wildlife sightings…

The Ballestas Islands in Peru, where thousands of pelicans, cormorants, seals (and luckily for me, a dozen HUmboldt penguins) stay – who knew anything beyond Machu Picchu?

Coming face to face with the ancient Aldabra turtle in Seychelles, where I had gone for the Victoria Carnaval

Bison sighting at the Elk Island National Park in Edmonton, Canada

And finally, going in search of the endangered Green Turtle at the Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve in Oman – and seeing this newborn turtle stumbling towards the sea

My world from up above

2016 has been a spectacular year for me as a traveller (a detailed round-up post coming up next) – but one of the highlights was the bird’s eye view I got of some stunning natural and man-made wonders on chopper rides.

From the Grand Canyon in the USA to twice in Canada, over the Niagara Falls and over the Rockies, recently the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road in Australia from the vantage point of a helicopter.

Then the familiar landmarks of Dubai from a seaplane, and the very intriguing Nazca Lines in Peru from a light aircraft, it has been an amazing ride.

Here, a few of my favourite memories of the world I saw from above:

The dozen brown hues of the Grand Canyon

The magnificence of Niagara from the Canadian side

Up above the snowy Rockies

The mystery of the outstretched hands over Nazca

Fringes of the Palm and soaring tower of Burj

The 12 Apostles, shipwreck magnets from the past

Friendly faces from Oman

Oman was an absolutely delightful discovery – a heady mix lush greens, aquamarine blues and sandy browns, interesting history and architecture, and above all, friendly people. Every one of these aspects was a revelation to me, since I went to Oman not knowing what to expect.

Our guide-drive Fahad, with his soft voice and gentle smile, turned out to be a mine of information about local culture and way of life. He was also happy enough to pose for my camera in places where I needed a human element to break the stark brown hues. Fahad will always remain one of my all-time favourite fashion models!

People were usually happy to be photographed, as long as I asked them first – of course, it was tricky with women, so I didn’t push it except for places where I knew they did not object. Of course, I couldn’t resist a few stolen moments, but these were rare.

Here then, a few of my favourite faces from my recent trip to Oman:

Scenes from a street parade

The sixth edition of the Seychelles Carnival, known locally as Carnaval, took place in the tiny capital of Victoria last week. And I was lucky enough to have a ringside seat to watch this parade. Apart from the cheerful and friendly Seychellois, artists and performers from all over the world – from Indonesia to Germany (and India too) – sashayed their way through the parade.

It was a riot of music, dance and colour on the streets of Victoria. I want to share a few standout images from the Carnaval, to show the impressive variety on display that evening.

Starting with one of my favourite performances of the evening, this Chinese masked dancer who changed masks with just facial movements…

Chinese

As a bonus (and because I was so fascinated with this), here is a short video…

And then this pretty dancer from Indonesia, wearing clothes and accessories that must have weighed a ton, through the sweltering afternoon, with a smile…

Indonesia

Colour was the leitmotif of the parade, with stunning, sometimes starling hues on display…

Blues

Multicolour

Not surprisingly, Africa was well represented, with artists from Mauritius, South Africa and several other neighbours showing off their skills…

Clown

Stilts

Dancer

But the undisputed stars of the evening were the Brazilians, with their costumes and chutzpah – it is no wonder that the word carnival brings to mind (atleast mine) images of these sassy dancers…

Brazil1

Brazil2

I hope you enjoyed this short photoessay on the Seychelles Carnaval – do stay tuned for more stories from this beautiful island.

6 reasons to love Ladakh

You cannot visit Ladakh just once – the pull is so strong that if you have been once, you will want to go again. And again. perhaps every year.

I have been to Ladakh twice, and every year in season, I think about going again.

Ladakh is remote, bleak, for sure – but there is also a stunning beauty, an otherworldliness about it.

There are a million reasons to love this land and people find their own – culture and festivals, gorgeous homestays and guesthouses, trekking and rafting, local food…

These are mine, presented as a photoessay, since images do speak better than words in case of Ladakh.

1. The landscapes

I don’t think I have seen any land with more diverse landscapes, with all the stunning colours and dramatic settings to go with it. Mountains are a constant presence, menacing and protective at the same time.

sangam

I call this image chocolate chip ice cream…

chocolate

green

2. The journey

Although I have heard that the drive from Manali to Leh is one one of the best road journeys in the world, I have never gone that route, flying into Leh both times.

It has its own charm, an unmatched view of these mountains from the top. Some times you see blue skies and pristine snow, and sometimes only swirling clouds and grey mountaintops…

snow

clouds

3. The people

Ladakhis are some of the most cheerful, friendliest people I have seen, always ready with a smile and a Juley! The children are especially a delight to photograph, as are sometimes the shy women who open up slowly to the camera.

mother

grandfather

shy

4. The lakes

Less famous than Pangong lake, but Tso Moriri is still a marvel, stretching on for ever and ever, in the deepest shades of blue known to mankind.

Moriri

What can I say about Pangong that has not already been said a thousand times – inviting; blue, bluer, bluest; 3 idiots; tents.

Pangong

And the road to Pangong, that passes through the high and mighty (in a good way) Khardungla pass…

Changla

5. The monasteries

After the friendliness of the people, it is the allure of these monasteries that makes Ladakh so special to me. Some of the more popular ones are easily accessible from Leh, while others are well hidden – and some like Lamayuru here are set in dramatic backdrops.

Lamayuru

These wall murals featuring Buddhist themes are a common feature of Ladakh monasteries – I usually have a local guide to explain these motifs, which seem so startling at first sight.

mural

A visit to any of these monasteries is always a soothing experience, especially during prayer time, like here in Thiksey – or when the monks are engaged in other spiritual activities, like the time we came across four of them silently making a mandala, working at it for hours without losing focus.

prayer

mandala

Above all, they are home to some of the most delightful little monks, who live up to the fact that they are in fact, onlylittle boys, despite the severity of their robes and surroundings.

monks

6. The art of zen

And not being the adventure seeking types, I am happy to just practise the art of chilling when I travel, and there is no better place for this than Ladakh. Walking up and the down the Leh market road, sitting for hours at German Bakery chatting with other travellers, people watching at the village squares…

market

Buddhist

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