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Pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, orangutans, long tailed macaques, pig tailed macaques, western tarsier, silver langurs, about 8 types of hornbills including the magnificent rhinoceros hornbill, gorgeously colorful butterflies, crocodiles, frogs and so many other beautiful animal, bird and insect species can be spotted in this piece of wild paradise. This is that kind of place where you will kick yourself for not carrying a pair of binoculars or zoom lenses as there is so much amazing nature to see here. And that is precisely what I did for carrying just my landscape lens during my holiday to Borneo.



The rainforests of Borneo hold a fifth of the world’s green cover and hence it should be of no surprise that it houses so many unique species. This place that I am talking about is the Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary and it is located in the Sabah state of Malaysian Borneo. And all its action is packed around the Kinabatangan river that lends its name to this pristine forest.



Traversing for over 500 kilometers through the Sabah lowlands, Kinabatangan river is a mosaic of equatorial rainforests, riverine forests, forest islands, limestone caves, mangroves, swamps and lakes. And it is close to this water body where all the action unfolds.



The only way in and out of this forest is by boat and the best way to sight wildlife here is also on boat. The only things you need during such a boat ride are a life jacket, a pair of binoculars and a keen sense of sight and smell. And when used well, you can see some of the rarest wildlife species of the world.

Stay is usually in the middle of the forest in a forest guest house that is located on a riparian forest stretch or on an island. Like with any wildlife sanctuary, the day starts before sunrise and as your boat starts chugging along the river, the dense mist that had settled on the river overnight disappears to present some of the densest forest you would have ever laid your eyes on. And as your eyes get adjusted to this beautiful sight, your ears are treated to a cacophony of primate and bird sounds.



From the middle of the river, you might not be able to see a lot of wild action, but as you head closer to the river banks, you are treated to some mind blowing primate action. After all, the Kinabatngan wildlife sanctuary is one of only two areas in the world inhabited by ten species of primate, four of which are endemic to Borneo. The first ones you usually see are the Proboscis monkeys that are famous for their pot bellies and large noses. They usually stay in groups and mornings are a heightened feeding frenzy for them. Their leaps between trees are also quite a sight. You also see pig tailed and long tailed macaques, though orangutans and other primates need much patience and luck when it comes to spotting them.



Mornings are also a great time to see the crocodiles as they come out of the water to bask in the morning sun. So are the hornbills that jump from tree to tree in search of fruits. Hornbills are fruit eating birds that act as seed dispersers and thus protect the ecology of the forest. All 8 of the hornbill species seen in Borneo are seen in this forest. The sight of the great rhinoceros hornbill flying over the Kinabatangan river with its massive wings was a special highlight for me. As most of the forest is tall here, do ensure to carry a good pair of binoculars or big prime lenses if you wish to appreciate the beauty of the hornbills as they usually stick to the top tier of the forests, especially the fig trees.



The pygmy elephants were also a highlight for me, though it took many attempts and the sighting was short due to the thick forest cover. There are other species such as the Sumatran Rhino, Bornean clouded leopard, marbled cat, leopard cat, , Malay Sun Bear, Monitor Lizard, Otter, Freshwater Terrapin and Slow Loris, though they are not easily spotted and one has to go deep inside the forest and spend longer amounts of time to get lucky.



In addition to the boat safari, Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary is famous for its night walks, where you get to see a different side of its wild nature. It is during this night walk that you get to see the Western Tarsier, a cute looking tree hugging animal with big eyes and that can rotate its head nearly 360 degrees. If lucky, you can see the slow loris too on such night walks. These night walks are also a great time to see the rich insect and amphibian life. Do ensure that you carry your macro lens with you in case you are interested in these subjects. You can also spot birds such as the stork billed kingfisher that roosts on tree branches. You will find mosquitoes, leeches and other bugs in plenty. So go prepared for that.



You can also go on day walks during the morning and evening boat safari rides. Usually, it is hard to spot any animals and birds due to the heat, but it is a good way to see the riverine forest system up close.



Whether you go on boat rides, night walks or day walks, you are bound to fall in love with this forest. Every aspect of its wild riches are bound to astound you. This ecosystem is perfect for wildlife enthusiasts, nature lovers, wildlife photographers, bird watchers and just regular travelers. Do remember to pack your sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellant, walking shoes, hat, binoculars, etc. for the near perfect experience. And do plan to stay for longer durations to allow yourself enough time to soak in the real beauty of this place.



After all, it is not often that WWF refers to a place as “Gift to the Earth’. And this is in spite of the all the illegal tree logging, cash crop agriculture and hunting that has usurped Borneo in the recent past. Such is the aura of arguably the last forest alluvial floodplain of Asia.



Best season to visit:

Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary is open throughout the year, though the river gets swollen during the rainy months of December and January. Personally, I think each season allows you to see the forest in new light.



How to get there:

Kota Kinabalu in the Sabah state of Malaysia would be your nearest international airport, though Sandakan and Tawau are good domestic airport options. If you are flying into Kota Kinabalu, you can drive from Kota Kinabalu to Sukau. If you are traveling by bus, you will first have to go to Sandakan and then head to Sukau. From Sukau, a boat will take you to your place of stay.



Where to stay:

You can either stay at the lodges in Sukau or in the basic lodges or homestays run by the local Orang Sungai people in the villages deep inside the forest. Bookings for these homestays Miso Walai website or through the Sabah tourism website.



Nearby tourist attractions:

1) Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak of Sabah. This is a fabulous trek.

2) The Orangutan rehabilitation center at Sepilok.

3) El Nido, Puerto Princesa underground river and other attractions of Philippines’s Palawan island that shares a similar environment.

4) Pulau Sipadan, a great place for scuba diving and one of the most beautiful islands of Malaysia.

5) Rock Pinnacles at Gunung Mulu, one of the top adventure experiences of Malaysian Borneo.

6) Danum valley conservation area for a luxurious rainforest holiday experience.
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Simple crispy dosa with an unique potato masala inside served with a dollop of white butter and fresh coconut chutney. It looks simple, but it tastes amazing and it is easy on your wallet! This is the Mylari Dosa, one of the food icons of Mysore. Some people call it the original Mysore masala dosa. I don’t know if this statement is true, but I can certainly vouch for its lip smacking taste and rich gastronomical experience.

The authentic place to have a Mylari dosa is Hotel Original Vinayaka Mylari, where this preparation was created many decades ago. Apparently, there are many hotels and restaurants that go by the same or similar names and hence you have to be careful if you wish to have the true Mylari Dosa. Tucked away amidst small by lanes in the Nazarbad neighbourhood of Mysore is this tiny hotel with a green board. You can find the place easily on Google Maps, Zomato, etc. and once you are there, you will notice signs saying old and original Vinayaka Mylari Dosa.



The entrance is simple and the place is even simpler with seating for about 10 people, a cashier section, a wash section and a kitchen. Usually, everyone goes here for the Mylari Dosa, but the hotel also serves plain dosa, idlis and piping hot filter coffee. Service is a bit slow, but all that wait turns into a big smile when you see the hotel staff carry a mammoth number of Mylari dosa plates neatly stacked one on top of the other. Since this is the most popular order, the hotel will keep on serving these to you till you say enough. And after all that crispy buttery dosas and a glass of filter coffee and you can make your way to one of the many attractions of Mysore city.

Do remember that a trip to Mysore is not complete without indulging in its iconic Mylari Dosa!

Note: Go early if you don’t wish to wait for seating and remember to carry cash.
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Royal Enfield, India’s iconic motorcycle brand and the world’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer makes some beautiful classic motorcycles at a really affordable price point. While these motorcycles are definitely a must have in your garage, Royal Enfield lacks the oomph factor when it comes to design, performance and refinement. I do like naked motorcycles, but I hate the fact that I am unable to use the motorcycles to their fullest potential.



When it comes to our Royal Enfield motorcycles (be it the UCE 350 or 500 Engine or the old CI engine), there is so much scope to improve its performance and looks. Below is a detailed list. Each one of them have been personally tried and tested in different environment conditions by me. And I have seen some serious and jaw dropping improvement where the motorcycle ends up being a much superior version of the one manufactured and sold by the Royal Enfield brand. I hope Royal Enfield takes note of these and makes these changes to their stock versions. Till then, you can get your local mechanic to make the modifications on your motorcycle.



Note:
As per Indian law, any modification to a vehicle needs to be endorsed in the RC book. Please use your discretion before making the modifications on your Royal Enfield motorcycle.    
    
P E R F O R M A N C E   
    
Install Carberry Vibration Reduction Plate



One of the iconic things we like about our Royal Enfield motorcycles has to be its signature vibrations. While these vibrations give it a true motorcycle vibe, these vibrations increase the maintenance bills on the motorcycle and definitely our fitness levels over long hours of riding. Personally, I like these vibrations on my motorcycle as they keep me awake and sort of act as my own fully body massager. But, it sure does tire me out during those longer rides, especially when I am riding at 80 kmph or more. For a long while, I found no solution, until recently I came across Carberry’s vibration reduction plate that gets fitted next to your cam gears and sort of acts like a counter balancer. The end result is a 30% reduction in vibration at speeds of 80 kmph and below and about 10% reduction at speeds between 80 kmph and 120 kmph.  This Carberry vibration reduction plate costs about INR 3000. You can buy them directly on Carberry’s website or on Amazon India. A detailed set of instructions come with the product and your local Royal Enfield mechanic can fit it for you. Fitting costs can vary between INR 500 to INR 1000. 
       
Change engine oil to Motul 7100
   


Most Royal Enfield motorcycles use Motul 5100 semi synthetic oil as standard. While this oil does its job admirably, the fully synthetic Motul 7100 engine oil does much better. Motul 7100 oil has allowed me to rev my engine more without any negative effects, the heating has reduced marginally and the engine certainly feels more refined and smooth. I also feel my overall riding feel has improved. There is another Motul V300 double esther fully synthetic oil that is even better, but I found to be useful only for short rides and do not recommend it at all for long rides. The Motul 7100 oil holds pretty good for a 4000 km service interval without affecting any other parameters.

In terms of price, Motul 5100 costs about INR 1200, Motul 7100 costs about INR 1800 and Motul v300 costs about INR 2700 for 2.75 liters of 15W50 quality oil.
    
K and N performance air filters



Most standard air filters in Royal Enfield motorcycles get clogged with dust and dirt and hence do not allow optimum amount of air into the engine, thus affecting performance. I would recommend upgrading to performance air filters by K&N. While they cost about INR 5000, which is pretty high, they don’t require replacements at every service interval like the standard ones. And they certainly improve throttle response and acceleration.

There are two types of performance air filters that can be fitted on to Royal Enfield motorcycles. One is the regular round one and the other one, which I use is the conical air filter. There are a lot of users who are against conical air filters, but if installed properly, it can lead to some serious acceleration and throttle response. After changing to K&N conical style performance air filter, my performance has shot over the roof. No more does the motorcycle feel like an elephant. Instead, it feels very nimble and much like a sports motorcycle. Of course, mileage drops a bit, but when you are looking at performance, mileage has to take a backseat. In case you wish to know, I get 30 kmpl in the city and about 32-33 kmpl on the open highways.

Better quality fuel like Shell premium
   


In India, most fuel stations sell low quality petrol (due to impurities and wrong additives in the fuel) and this affects the day to day running of the engine. Not only does this affect the mileage of the motorcycle, but it affects the longevity of the engine and other movable parts. Hence, I recommend shifting to cleaner fuels offered by Shell petroleum. This high quality petrol is mixed with essential minerals and additives that work towards cleaning the engine and other internal parts of the motorcycle.

As a best practice, for every 5 tank full of petrol, I opt for one tank full of V Power petrol and the other 4 times as Shell regular petrol. This allows me to enjoy the cost benefits as well as clean my motorcycle internally from time to time. While you cannot find Shell Petrol always, this healthy practice prevents knocking, leads to better longevity of engine parts, improves performance and certainly increases mileage.

500cc carburettor for a 350cc engine
   


If your 350 cc Royal Enfield motorcycle comes with a standard carburettor, replace it with the carburettor of a 500 cc Royal Enfield motorcycle for much better throttle response, acceleration and torque. This will require some tuning, which your Royal Enfield mechanic can do for you. A 500 cc carburettor costs about INR 5000 and the mechanic might charge you INR 1000 or thereabouts.

Remove EFI and change to carb
   


Most of the modern Royal Enfield motorcycles these days come with the Electronic Fuel Injection system. While, this is a step in the right direction, I feel the EFI system of Royal Enfield motorcycles are basic when compared to other motorcycles. The throttle response gets very poor on mountain roads and where the air is rarefied. Plus, since all fuel inlets are pre-loaded for best mileage, the overall performance is compromised, which I personally do not enjoy. If you are one such rider, I would recommend removing your EFI system and replacing it with a 500 cc carburettor.

500 clutch assembly for a 350 engine
   


This is another of those changes that I did on my motorcycle and am super happy with the results. Along with upgrading the carburettor from 350 cc to 500 cc, I changed my entire clutch assembly to that of a 500 cc Royal Enfield motorcycle. The result is unbelievable acceleration and my good old Royal Enfield thunderbird feels so nimble and agile like a KTM. A word of caution though. Do go to a Royal Enfield mechanic who has done this customization before as this requires a lot of subtle changes and adjustments.

Free flow silencers
   
Now, this is something that all Royal Enfield motorcycle lovers would know. Free flow silencers offer a better thump or beat and provide significant increase in acceleration, power and top speed. While there are a lot of exhaust options in the market, you can easily put them into two categories. One such category is made up of silencers that use glass wool for the muffling. These are cheaper, but glass wool needs to be replaced every 3000 kms or so and they are also prone to knocking and misfiring, which can lead to long term engine damage. Popular ones are Indore Dholki, Goldys, Wild Boar, Fish and Gun. The second category is made up of silencers that use ceramic wool for the muffling. These are much more expensive, but it doesn’t need any ongoing maintenance.



I opted for the latter and my choice of free flow silencer is the Red Rooster Racing Silencer, which costs about INR 9500. This silencer is slightly lighter, looks sleek and offers loud and smooth beat that does not have any knocking or misfiring.

Non- maintenance battery



Most of the older Royal Enfield motorcycles come with batteries that need periodic maintenance where you check the electrolyte level and charge it often. While this is not that big of a headache, there are options of non-maintenance batteries available in the market that solve this problem too. The newer Royal Enfield motorcycles come fitted with these. While these don’t enhance the motorcycle performance, they sure do prevent ugly acid leakages and offer reliability during long rides. Both Amaron and Exide come with such non-maintenance battery options.

Bosch Iridium and Platinum spark plugs



The standard spark plugs of the Royal Enfield motorcycle are good, but if you want smoother ignition, longer life and much better firing, then opt for Bosch’s Iridium and Platinum spark plugs. In my motorcycle, I have one platinum and one iridium spark plug. The starting is way smoother and I haven’t had any misfires till date.
       
    
L O O K S   
    
Alloy wheels
   


Alloy wheels offer two important benefits to owners of Royal Enfield motorcycles. One, they increase the glamour quotient of the motorcycle by many notches and second, they allow you to leverage tubeless tyres, which means that you don’t have to worry about those punctures (flats) during your city or highway rides. But, they do cost you a good sum up front and you need to keep a close watch on its quality. I use the Parado India intensive ultimate 36 spoke allow rims for my motorcycle. The pair cost me about INR 10,000 and they are really heavy duty and I have used them in many off-road and dirt trails and they have held up very well. And if maintained well (like a good wash and rub down), they are certain to turn heads wherever you ride.



These days, Royal Enfield themselves have woken up to this mass market need of having alloy rims and tubeless tyres and hence have started including them in their own approved accessory list. If you wish, you could opt for those too.
    
LED headlights
   


The stock headlights of Royal Enfield motorcycles do not inspire confidence to ride in the night, especially on our Indian highways. They lack the throw, luminescence and put a whole lot of load on the battery. Now, there are two options. Either you fit a powerful bulb with better quality reflector or you opt for a new age LED headlight set. While the powerful bulb and reflector will do the job, they will add more load to the battery and which is why I opted for the LED headlight set.

Not only do these LED headlight sets look stylish, they give good luminescence and throw and they don’t drain the battery as much. However, it is important to select the right LED headlight as there are a lot of good and bad options available in the market. I opted for the LED headlights of Mad Dog. They are a bit pricey at INR 6000 to 7000, but once you start using them, you will absolutely fall in love with them.

Fog lamps    



If you have a good set of headlights, you usually don’t need fog lamps, but if you are one of those who go on off-roading trips and ride on dangerous roads, it is better to pack on a good pair of fog lamps on your motorcycle. I use the Mad Dog Fog Lamps. At 40W each, 2 of them cost you INR 9500. And in terms of quality, they feel like Denali and Clearwater, that are usually fitted on superbikes and other international motorcycles like Triumph, Ducati and Harley Davidson. You can either connect them to the high beam of your headlight or keep them separate. Either ways, you will totally enjoy their luminescence, hybrid beams and wide throws during your night rides.  
    
Custom paint job
   


Royal Enfield motorcycles may have a good engine, but they certainly lack when it comes to good design and aesthetics. Yes, they do have stealth black and military green, but apart from that, I don’t like their color options and finishing. If you are one of those who wish for something more when it comes to design, you should definitely opt for a custom paint job. You can choose your own color palette, you can choose matt versus glossy. You can also choose color and finishing of all metal parts, like bolts, nuts, etc. In simple words, if you plan well, you can change your Royal Enfield motorcycle into the bike of your dreams. One word of advice…do choose a good paint shop to do the custom paint job and don’t be in a hurry as custom painting entails removing the entire motorcycle piece by piece, painting, drying and then re-assembling.

Off Road knobbly tyres
   


If you want your motorcycle to have a persona, you have got to fix those off road knobbly tyres. Not only do they allow you to handle bad roads and off-road trails with ease, they give the motorcycle a menacing stance. And if you have alloy wheels, you can opt for the tubeless version. Some brands that specialize in good off road knobbies are Ralco, Timsun and Michelin. Ralco is the cheapest and Michelin is the most pricey. Timsun falls somewhere in the middle in terms of cost.



Personally, I use the Ralco Speed blaster and they sit perfectly on my 19 inch front rim (90x90x19) and 18 inch rear rim (120x80x18). I have tried them in/on rain, slush, mountain roads, landslide zones, off-road trails, forest roads, highways, city roads and others and they have handled all conditions admirably well and I have felt very comfortable and secure traversing such terrain on these tyres.
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One of the oldest dams and hydroelectric projects of Tamil Nadu, Karaiyar Dam, located near Papanasam in the Tirunelveli district is located right in the middle of gorgeously green, dense and remote Western Ghats. Surrounded by tall mountains, this massive water body is located inside Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve, a lesser known tiger paradise of India.



A day trip to Karaiyar Dam will take you through winding roads that cut through dense tropical forests, many mountain streams and waterfalls, give you an unparalleled view of the Agastyar mountain range of the Western Ghats and give you a fleeting glimpse of this national park’s rich wildlife. And while you are at it, you can jump under the perennial Agastyar waterfalls, bathe in the Thamarabharani river at Papanasam and offer your prayers at the 1000 year old Papanasanathar temple. You can also indulge yourself in a local massage, a good traditional local fish or vegetarian meal and a refreshing glass of chukku kaapi. All in all, Karaiyar Dam packs all the ingredients for a great day trip. Do try to avoid weekends and holidays as this place is frequented by a lot of locals who come to the waterfall for a bath.



If you have time at your hand, it is recommended that you stay overnight inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. Either you stay at the forest guest houses just below the Karaiyar Dam or you can stay at the glass house located in the middle of the tea estates. Both these places require advance bookings and access to your own vehicles. Staying at these places allows you to embrace the full forest atmosphere and become one with the wild. Late evenings and early mornings are best times for wildlife sightings. The Asian elephant, Nilgiri Langur, Grey Langur, Indian Gaur, Spotted Deer, Rhesus Macaque, Bonnet Macaque, Sambar Deer, Indian Mongoose, Leopard and Tiger are some of the animals that you can spot here. There is no wildlife safari as such, but you can go on guided walks to experience this wilderness. And if you are an avid bird lover, you will be spoilt for choice as Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in India’s deep South is a haven for a wide variety of birds, most of which are endemic to the Western Ghats.

Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve is one of those hidden wildlife gems of India and Karaiyar Dam ecosystem happens to be an important part of it!



Nearby tourist attractions:

1) 1000 year old Papansanathar Temple at Papanasam

2) Agastyar Falls

How to get here:

The nearest railway station is Ambasamudram, from where Karaiyar Dam is about 27 kms away. The nearest airport is Tuticorin, about 90 kms away. And the nearest large railway and bus hub will be Tirunelveli, about 65 kms away.

How to get forest permissions:

For day visits, you can simply get your permits at the forest check post after paying the prescribed fee. For stays inside the forest, you can either book at the office of the deputy director in Ambasamudram or book online at KMTR Eco Tourism website.
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Africa is the place to go for that ultimate wildlife experience. While Maasai Mara, Kruger National Park, Okavango Delta, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Etosha National Park and Serengeti National Park are considered the best safari parks in Africa, there are so many lesser known places where one can have an absolutely amazing wildlife holiday.

Samburu National Reserve, located in the northern part of Kenya is one such mesmerizing and rich wildlife zone in Eastern Africa. Not only does this place allow you to see amazing African wildlife, but it also allows you to experience one of Kenya’s colorful tribes. Usually, visitors to Kenya explore Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru, Maasai Mara, Amboseli National Park and the country’s East Coast, but if you have some time on hand, head north towards Lake Turkana (near the Somalia border) and enroute visit Samburu National Reserve for a landscape full of wild riches.

From the big five to muscular antelopes and from colorful birds to dazzling primates, Samburu has it all. Here is a photo story of the wild riches of this place from my last visit there. I hope these pictures give you ideas for a surreal wildlife holiday to Kenya.

Above photo: The gorgeous Beisa Oryx, a large antelope, is big, has beautiful stripes and has eye catching horns.



Above photo: A Eastern yellow billed hornbill sitting on a fruit tree. These birds love their fruits and are an essential cog in maintaining the health of the forests.



Above photo: The gerenuk, another large and muscular antelope loves to stand on its hind legs to reach the juicy shoots on small desert shrubs and trees.



Above photo: The cobalt blue Vulturine guineafowl is in my opinion one of the prettiest large birds of Africa.



Above photo: A small herd of African elephants in monochrome. Both the male and the female elephants have tusks unlike the Asian elephants where only the males have tusks.



Above photo: The D’Arnaud’s barbet is a very pretty bird that can be seen in shrubs and bushes, especially close to human civilization.



Above photo: The Kirk’s Dik Dik is one of the smallest antelopes of Africa.



Above photo: The beautifully patterned crested francolin on the floor of the Samburu forest.



Above photo: The spotted leopard is may be keeping an eye on its prey.



Above photo: The reticulated giraffe (one of the 3 types of giraffe found in Kenya) crosses the jeep track.



Above photo: The crested bustard, a flightless bird found in drier regions of Kenya.



Above photo: The antics of the usually rowdy and rough olive baboon.



Above photo: The vividly colorful yellow necked spurfowl on top of a small plant.



Above photo: A female African elephant and her young one.



Above photo: The metallic blue Superb Starling is superb indeed!



Above photo: The black faced velvet monkey chomping on some grass from the floor of the Samburu forest.



Above photo: The grey headed kingfisher found close to the Ewaso Ngiro river inside Samburu National Reserve.



Above photo: The pretty Impala antelope looking out for danger.



Above photo: You definitely want to stay far away from the sharp horns of the Beisa Oryx antelope.



Above photo: The Grant’s gazelle, one of the many types of antelopes seen at Samburu National Reserve.



Above photo: The grey crowned crane, another beautiful bird found in Kenya.



Above photo: The grey headed kingfisher stays steady in spite of the elephant trunk disturbing the branches it is sitting on.



Above photo: The African elephant raises a trumpet warning call upon approach of a jeep.



Above photo: A Cheetah lazily looks up from under a tree, where it is taking its afternoon nap.



Above photo: A lioness resting in the shade during mid day.



Above photo:
The Martian Eagle, a beautiful raptor seen at Samburu National Reserve.
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Some people love the mountains. Some love beaches. I love forests and waterfalls. Like the Himalayas in the north, the Western Ghats in peninsular India is full of absolutely amazing forest and wildlife trails. And I have a deep penchant for exploring these beautiful green trails that are full of nature’s wild action.

There is one such trail that I happened to discover recently. It is located inside Peppara wildlife sanctuary in Southern Kerala. And this trail meanders through tropical evergreen forests leading you to a gorgeous forest waterfall called Meenmutty waterfall (there is another waterfall in Wayanad that goes by the same name. Do not get confused with it).



This Meenmutty waterfall is on the Kallar river that starts deep in the Peppara wildlife sanctuary. You get a glimpse of this beautiful mountain river right before you pull into the forest check post. Behind you are the majestic mountains of the Western Ghats and in front of you lies the dense jungle canopy. The jungle trek begins right after you complete the entry formalities at the forest check post. You walk under a dense forest canopy with the Kallar river to your left. The trail climbs slowly crossing overgrown tree roots and caves. Somewhere in between, forest officials check your bags and take away all plastic items from you. Plastic water bottles are allowed against a refundable deposit which can be claimed when you show that you have brought the bottle back (A very cool concept to protect this fragile ecosystem from the plastic menace). As the trek gets steeper, the forest gets denser and the air gets steamier. Pretty soon, you come across a river crossing. Here, you have to cross this wild river while hanging on to thick sets of ropes tied to either river bank. You will invariably get wet while crossing the river. This is good as by now you would have worked up quite a sweat, though it might be prudent to take care of your mobile phones and wallets. By now, you can hear the thunderous applause of the waterfall, but you can’t see it as yet. A couple of forest bends later, you can see as well as hear this lovely waterfall that is surrounded by dense forests. If the water levels are low, you can take a swim in the pool under it. But, if the water levels are high, all you can do is simply enjoy the view. And if you do wish to get wet, there are many spots downstream where you can get wet and play in the river.



This beautiful jungle trail and waterfall can be combined with a scenic ride or drive to the offbeat Ponmudi hill station, which is located about 20 kms away. While the trek allows you to get deep into the steamy jungle, Ponmudi allows you to experience a 360 degree panorama of the Western Ghats. In essence, they make for a great forest / waterfall / hill station / road trip idea in India’s deep south. This is an experience that I recommend with many thumbs up, especially for all you nature lovers!



How to get here:

Trivandrum is your nearest airport and railway station. While Peppara wildlife sanctuary check post is about 30 kms from Trivandrum, Ponmudi hill station is about 55 kms away by road. It is best to have your own mode of transportation here.

Some points to remember:

1) Wear comfortable walking shoes

2) Carry a dry bag for your gadgets and valuables

3) Carry a towel and spare change of clothes in case you wish to get into the water

4) Please refrain from any form of pollution inside the forest (plastic, cigarette buds, soaps, shampoos, food items, etc.)
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Some of India’s richest art, culture and history is depicted in its gorgeous temples. These temples, which have weathered the test of time, speak of amazing stories from our glorious past. One such group of temples that speak beautiful stories are the temples from the Kalinga empire that are located in Bhubaneshwar, the capital city of Odisha.



These temples, which are part of a cultural and heritage trail in Odisha are best explored by foot and that too early in the morning. On my recent cultural holiday to Odisha, I ended up going on one such morning heritage walk with Ekamra Walks (run by the government of Odisha) and boy was it an enlightening experience.

Iconic Lingaraj Temple seen from the viewing platform during Bhubaneshwar Heritage Walk - YouTube


When  you enter this part of Bhubaneshwar old town just before sunrise, most of these temples are shrouded in mist. And as the sun rises up, these temples make a grand appearance from under the mist and a diverse set of people go about their yoga, walking, jogging, morning shopping at the street food markets and offer their prayers to the lord.



And then there are some like us who are in the old town with a spring in our steps, a sparkle in our eyes and a camera in our hand, eager to explore the art, history and culture of these utterly beautiful temples.



This two hour long Bhubaneshwar heritage walk begins at 10th century Mukteswar temple that is considered the gem of Odishan architecture and from there meanders its way through narrow lanes lined with trees and old structures to the 7th century Parasurameswar temple, Kotitirtheswar temple, Bindusagar lake, the busy kitchen at Ananta Basudev temple, the British era Dharamshala, the colorful street market called Ratha Danda, the elevated platform offering a panoramic view of the Lingaraj temple campus, 13th century Sari Deul temple and matha before finishing the walk at Vaital temple and the herbal medicinal garden called Ekamravan.

Early morning divine music at Mukteshwar Temple during Bhubaneshwar heritage walk - YouTube


While the entire heritage walk offers a splendid experience, there are some highlights that you should not miss. And more so, you should keep your ears open and listen to your Ekamra guide when you are at these spots.



These highlights are:
1) The stunning archway, intricate carvings, sculpting and filigree designs at Mukteswar temple

2) The preparation of the morning bhog in the temple kitchen of Ananta Basudev temple

3) The view of the Lingaraj temple from the elevated platform

4) And the fact that most of this Bhubaneshwar old town was a prototyping ground for the temple architects of that era, which you can see through the many small temples built in such a small area



While you will spend most of your time at Mukteswar temple as this is the most beautiful and well preserved temple, I loved every bit of the Bhubaneshwar heritage walk and hoped to spend quality time almost at all pit stops.



The mythological stories of the formation of Bindu Sagar lake, the sheer early morning cooking action at Ananta Basudev temple, the simple charm of the dharamshala for the pilgrims, the colorful vegetable sellers and the locals haggling for the prices, the sheer divinity at Lingaraj temple, the tantrik practices of Vaital temple and so many other rich experiences can be made while walking though this paragon of beautiful history.



This heritage walk run by Ekamra and their very knowledgeable guides make the overall cultural and heritage experience so much richer. Not only can you stare at the beautiful pieces of stone, but you can even listen to their astounding meanings and stories when explained by the Ekamra guides. And some of these stories will really blow your mind and certainly captivate everyone’s imagination.



And once you get a good lay of the land and get to understand its hidden riches, you can make many other morning trips just to amble around 1400 years of heritage and may be even indulge in some quality photography and videography.



You can either go on this temple walk at the beginning of your trip or at the end after exploring Puri, Konark, Cuttack, Chilika lake and other hotspots. Or you can even do it on a short weekend trip to Bhubaneshwar. But, whatever you do, do not miss out on experiencing this rich temple heritage from India’s glorious past. It is a must experience for all temple, art, culture, heritage and travel lovers!



Key points to remember:

1) Bhubaneshwar can get quite hot during the non winter months. Hence, it is recommend to carry a hat, umbrella, a small bottle of water and sunglasses to protect yourself from the elements.

2) Wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking about 3 kms in total.

3) Wear decent clothing as most of these places on the heritage trail are still working temples.

4) No mobile phones, cameras, leather goods and bags are allowed inside Lingaraj temple. There are lockers where you can keep your belongings for safekeeping.

5) Non Hindus are not allowed inside Lingaraj temple.



Timings for the Bhubaneshwar Heritage Walk organized by Ekamra

The temple walk is organized every Sunday at 6:30 AM. The walk is free of cost, but one has to register online at Ekamra Walks website.

Their other heritage walks:

The Khandagiri and Udayagiri cave walk is organized every Saturday at 6:30 AM.

The Musueum walk at Kalabhoomi is organized every Sunday at 3:30 PM.



How to get here:

Bhubaneshwar is well connected by air, rail and road with all of India and thus reaching this city isn’t a problem. The Bhubaneshwar old town is just a 10 minute drive from the airport and easily accessible from most places in the city.



Best time to go on this heritage walk:

It is best to start this walk just before sunrise to make the best use of lack of crowds, good weather and for street market action. One can also go around sunset time for a different experience.

Summers in Bhubaneshwar can get seriously hot, so it might be prudent to plan your trip during non summer months. The heritage walk is a joy during the rains and the cold winter months.



Where to stay:

Bhubaneshwar has plenty of stay options – from luxury hotels to traditional homestays and budget guest houses. If you wish to visit the temples often, it is advised to stay closer to the old town.



Nearby Tourist Attractions:

1) The ancient cave temples of Udayagiri and Khandagiri

2) The coastal temple town of Puri



3) The Sun temple of Konark

4) The chandua artisans of Pipili

5) The heritage village of Raghurajpur



6) The sound and light show at Dhauli Stupa

7) The authentic Odisha Rasgula experience at Pahala
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Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

This great animator gave the world an alternate world characterised by fun and fantasy. He created a dream world that your kids and maybe even you want to experience, at least once in your lifetime.

While most dreams require you to sweat it out, a desire to experience the thrill of dancing with your favourite Disney character and walking into magical castles is not that tough. Just buy your tickets for Disneyland and live your dream!

From adventurous rides to fascinating attractions, there are many things in Disneyland that will delight your kids and you. Below are a few highlights:

Attractions at Disneyland

1) Sleeping Beauty Castle

It’s a fairy tale castle right at the centre of Disneyland park, that will take your kids into the magical world of fantasy. With mesmerising interiors, the place will cast a spell on you too. This castle is the most recognisable landmark in Disneyland, so don’t forget to click a picture with it in the background.

2) Fantasyland

This is one place your kids are sure to fall in love with. Filled with characters from their storybooks, this place has many exciting segments inside it. From Mad tea Party to Mickey’s Toonhouse, this place will leave you delighted like nothing else.

3) Adventureland

With its jungle theme, this place has many attractions like Tarzan’s Treehouse, Enchanted Tiki Room, Indiana Jones Adventure, etc. This place will take you on an adventure ride with all that it has to offer.

4) It’s A Small World

An iconic attraction in this fascinating world, where a boat ride will take your kids past different Disney characters all singing and waving at them. This activity will leave your kids giggling and smiling all the way!

5) Hyperspace Mountain

Found in Tomorrowland area of the park, this signature attraction is USA’s best roller coaster ride. With a Star Wars theme, this is more exciting for adults as the rides have frightening speed.

6) Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh

In this four-minute ride in a beehive, you and your kids will see the life of Pooh and his dear friends in the hundred-acre woods.

7) Mickey’s Toonhouse



In a cutely designed mini-metropolis, here your kids can walk into Mickey and Minnie’s house, stores with exciting activities and meet and greet life-size characters.

Many other exciting places like Autopia (little car tracks), Star Tours, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad also add to the fun quotient here for kids and adults alike. There are many adventure rides here too that can give anyone a great adrenaline rush.

However, as kids are prone to injuries, it is vital that you tell them to be careful while taking such rides. Moreover, you can even buy overseas travel insurance to cover your family and yourself against any contingency, whether medical or otherwise. Tata AIG offers reimbursement of emergency expenses incurred on account of hospitals and medication incurred while travelling.

Disneyland around the world

Owing to the craze and yearning of the people to visit Disneyland, Walt Disney’s company opened Disneyland is in more than one place. So, now there are six Disneyland parks in the world. So, you can decide to visit any one of these according to your budget and plan.

To help you plan, we’ve listed below all the places where this fun-filled and exciting land of dreams can be found:

Disneyland Anaheim, California

Walt Disney’s original Disneyland, this one has been divided into eight themed lands. Part of the whimsical Disneyland resort, here you can also experience fine dining, character dining, character experiences, spa and many other things along with the adventure at the park.

Walt Disney World, Orlando

Just like the Disneyland in Anaheim, this one in Orlando is also a part of Disney resort. This too offers just the same kind of additional fun and recreational activities. This one too promises you a wholesome Disney world experience.

Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea, Japan

A 115-acre theme park, this one is owned by Oriental Land Company which took a license from Walt Disney’s company. Here, you are likely to find certain changes and addition to what is there in other Disney Parks.

Disneyland Paris, France

This was the second Disneyland that opened outside of the U.S, following the Tokyo Disney resort. It completed 25 years in 2017, and about 320 million people have visited this one so far.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Located on Penny’s Bay, Lantau Island, this one is the largest theme park in Hong Kong. Here too, certain changes have been made according to local culture, but still, mostly, it offers just the same fun and frolic as other Disneyland.

Insure your travel and roam stress free



Make your kids experience the thrill and adventure that the Disneyland has in store for them, by planning your next trip to one of these places only. Not only are they going to love it, but the kid in you too will get ecstatic.

However, with all the adventure in mind, don’t go easy on the safety matters. Whenever you plan your trip here, safeguard yourself well in advance against injuries or another type of travel-related contingencies by buying overseas travel insurance. Travel insurance plans from insurers like Tata AIG can reimburse your emergency medical expenses, flight delays, loss of luggage etc. anytime during the planned trip.

So, book your tickets and let your kids and you enjoy the Disneyland dream in real!

Photo Courtesy: All the 3 photographs in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the creative commons license. Each photo has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.
This post is the copyright of www.beontheroad.com. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. All Rights Reserved. If you are seeing this post on a site other than beontheroad.com, please bring it to the notice of Sankara, the owner of beontheroad.com at sankaracs at beontheroad dot com.
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The United Arab Emirates have become a prominent destination for luxury lifestyle and superlative tourist attractions over the last two decades. However, behind this sophisticated world, lies a humble and deeply rooted culture that are still meticulously preserved and cherished. Discover the rustic charms of the UAE and take a trip to an era that existed long before the country got swarmed with rising skyscrapers and luxury malls. Here’s a peek into the best historical places of UAE one should definitely visit on their UAE trip.

Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai



The Al Fahidi Fort in Dubai is said to be the oldest existing building in Dubai. It was built to stock artillery and weapons and as a prison for defaulters. Located at the south of Dubai Creek, the fort now houses the Dubai museum that offers a glimpse into the bygone eras of Dubai’s traditional lifestyle. A visit to the fort offers visitors a chance to get acquainted with Dubai’s heritage as it is now home to some of the unique collection of authentic paintings, dioramas and antique assortments of pottery, weapons and other tools. The attraction lets you comprehend Dubai’s extraordinary progress from a modest settlement to a pioneering modern city.

Hatta Heritage Village, Hatta Mountains



Get a gist of an Emirati village at the Hatta Heritage Village. Sprawling at the foothills of Hatta mountainous region, this restored settlement is one of the oldest traditional mountain village sites of UAE. The entire village, right from the architecture to the interiors is made out of locally used materials of Bedouin era. Located at the outskirts of Dubai, this also happens to be a popular offbeat excursion for Dubai visitors.

Al Bidya Mosque, Fujairah



Known as the oldest mosque of UAE, Al Bidya Mosque or the Ottoman Mosque is a simple mud and brick structure consisting of the main hall and four domes made in simple geometrical patterns. The exact date of the mosque’s construction is unknown but it is still a functional place to offer prayers. Located at Dibba village in Fujairah, a visit lets you appreciate its simplicity as well as enjoy the sweeping panoramas of the Hajar Mountains and the nearby Persian Gulf.

Al Bastakiya, Dubai



Sometimes, it is quite hard to fathom that Dubai was once a simple village settlement that consisted of trade merchants, pearl divers, and fishermen. However, if you visit the Al Bastakiya neighbourhood in Dubai, you will get the exact idea of Dubai’s humble settlements. Away from glitz and chaos of the modern city, this sleepy township filled with earthy toned buildings, serene Arabian courtyards and winding alleys are a soothing retreat to visit. A stroll through these narrow lanes reminds you of the simple lifestyle of Dubai locals before its surge to be a global metropolitan. Al Bastakiya is one of the historical places to visit in UAE that should be on your Dubai travel bucket list.

Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization



Here’s a UAE attraction that offers you everything you need to know about Islam. This stunning museum located at Sharjah’s scenic Corniche Street flanked by the on the Majarrah Waterfront offers you an insight into the Arabian culture and has over 5000 Islamic artefacts from all over the world which includes scriptures, calligraphy, carvings, handiworks, paintings to name a few. One of the main attractions not to be missed is the zodiac mosaic in the huge central dome.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi



An iconic landmark in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an absolute beauty to watch and a popular attraction to visit in Abu Dhabi. The grandeur and splendour of the architecture will leave you awe-struck. This majestic mosque sprawling 1,380 feet is the largest mosque in UAE and can accommodate over 40,000 worshippers. This white pure white marble structure accentuated with touches of gleaming golden designs will catch your attention with its sheer simple beauty. Inside the mosque, you will be surrounded with grand crystal chandeliers, intricately woven carpets, intricate designs with semi-precious stones and marble mosaics. The courtyard leading to the mosque is considered to be etched with the largest marble mosaic in the world. The mosque is a beautiful blend of traditional and modern Islamic architecture and looks mesmerizingly beautiful when illuminated during the night.

Qasr Al Hosn Fort, Abu Dhabi


This fort is a popular and one of the oldest landmarks of Abu Dhabi. Known as the White Fort, this structure with conical towers was first built as a watchtower to protect Abu Dhabi’s one and only fresh water well. Later, it became the abode of the ruling family. Today, it is a national monument and is a place for cultural discovery. The fort lets you journey through the life of Arabian artisans and the rich history of the country. Qasr Al Hosn Festival is an 11-day festival held annually where you can enjoy art, music and live performances showcasing UAE’s heritage.

Hili Archaeological Park, Abu Dhabi



Located in Al Ain in Abu Dhabi, Hili Archaeological Park takes you back into the bronze age. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this archaeological site dates back to Umm an-Nar period (about 2500 BCE to 2000 BCE) is the largest bronze age site in UAE. The exhibits comprise of early settlements, tombs, and underground water canals. All these archaeological sites have been integrated into a verdant, well-manicured landscaped garden dotted with fountains and green plants which makes it an ideal spot to enjoy a quiet time amid nature and history.



These attractions are a great way to understand that UAE is more than just sophisticated cities and opens up a new window of new experiences and knowledge for UAE visitors. So next time you apply for Dubai visa online and plan your Dubai tip, expand your vision to its neighbouring emirates as well and journey through its cultural experiences. The seamless blend of modernity with traditional heritage will make your UAE travel experience worth cherishing a lifetime.
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The west coast of India is home to some sensational beach holiday destinations that are full of beautiful blue waters, gorgeous sands, coconut palms and relaxed settings. Some of them are special because of their backwaters, some are known for their estuaries and some are famous for their turtle nesting. Kerala’s iconic Varkala beach is known for its cliffs and for its 2000 year old temple.



Varkala beach or Papanasam beach is one of those gorgeous locations where you can not only enjoy a relaxed beach holiday, but also wash away all your sins by taking a dip in its waters. Located about 50 kms away from Thiruvanthapuram, the capital of Kerala, this beach of Southern Kerala has multiple facets to its story. First and foremost are its cliffs that tower right by the beach. Varkala is the only location in Southern Kerala where you can find such cliff formations. Second, this beach is located super close to the 2000 year old Janardana Swami temple. May be, it is due to this proximity that you see brahmin pandits sitting under an umbrella on the beach offering to appease your ancestors and to help you absolve of all your sins. And a bath in the Arabian Sea here after such offerings are set to wash away all your sins. This is kind of similar to Papanasam temple in Tamil Nadu, but there it is the Thamarabharani river and here it is the Arabian Sea. And third, this beach owing to its cliff edge allows two kind of perspectives – one from the beach floor and the other from the top of the cliff for a bird’s eye view of the beach.



The highlight of Varkala beach is its cliff edge walkway that is lined with Ayurveda centers, spas, tattoo studios, restaurants, cafes, hotels, guest houses, villas, resorts, souvenir shops, clothing shops and many more. While one can enjoy the beach and the water during the cooler times during the morning and evening, this cliff walkway is the perfect place to hang out during the mid day heat and during the night when this walkway comes alive with live music and lights.



If you are looking at your next beach holiday destination in India, I would recommend taking a look at Varkala beach. Apart from its amazing cliff beach and views, one can also experience the off beat locations of Southern Kerala and while at that can wash all your sins away. A win-win-win in my opinion!



How to reach here:

Varkala is located somewhere between Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. The nearest airport (domestic and international) would be Thiruvananthapuram, about 50 kms away. The nearest railway is Varkala, which is located about 3 kms away. Excellent roads connect it with most other popular places in Kerala.



Where to stay:

If you want close proximity to the beach while enjoying the best views, stay at one of the properties near the cliff walkway. If you wish to be a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the beach, then stay in any of the village homestays close by. For uber luxury accommodation, either opt for the 5 star hotels in Thiruvanthapuram or any of the luxury villas near Varkala.



Nearby tourist attractions:

1) Kappil beach, where the beach is sandwiched between backwaters and the Arabian Sea (about 10 kms to the north)

2) Ponmudi hill station for fantastic panoramas of the Western Ghats (about 85 kms towards South East) and one of the most beautiful locations in India’s Deep South

3) Mountain railways of Kerala for one of South India’s oldest railways that pass right through dense forests (about 60 kms towards the North East)

4) Thenmala forest for waterfalls, wildlife and birding and for a truly offbeat location in Kerala (about 70 kms away)

5) Kerala’s oldest motorable suspension bridge at Punalur (about 50 kms away)

6) Ashtamudi Lake, that massive mountain of water near Kollam (about 50 kms to the north)

7) Kovalam beach (about 60 kms to the South)
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