Living in the bush gives you a lot of time to wonder and ponder on your work, life and the world in general! It was one of those busy days with a FULL CAMP on the new years week that we had an Eureka moment.
From the SUJÁN Archives.
From the SUJÁN Archives.
Now to bring you up to speed, a FULL CAMP on the outside is surely all bright eyed and bushy tailed, however the internal machinery is pumping vigorously, to ensure consistency with every logistical resource at its disposal, and add the fact that the closest help is 160kms out, in any form or matter.
Coming back to that day, we had a full entourage of chirpy guests, all in a festive mood and many of them staying with us as long as a week. Keeping in mind our usual length of stay of three nights, we abide by the following rules when it comes to Dining –
Rule 1 – No one dines in the same place ever!
Rule 2 – Refer to rule number 1 in doubt!
From the SUJÁN Archives.
Keeping the above rules in mind, as set by our Chief Executive, Mr. Jaisal Singh, who personally takes interest in every guests experience across the properties, my wife and I who co-manage the camp were letting our imagination run wild in terms of creating new Dining Experiences. Leopard and Hyena movement around the periphery of the camp and surrounding areas, had rendered the Boma, Christmas Rock, Jawai Farm, The Plateau and the Cycle Rock off limits!
As always, every problem presents itself with a solution, and in this case, it came from the very top in the form of Alpha Sierra and Alpha1 (fond call signs for Mrs. Anjali Singh and Mr. Jaisal Singh at Camp) themselves. After a brief huddle at the Champagne Pargola, the motley crew made their way towards the Lounge Tent with a pit stop at an area what has come to be known as the “Kraal”; more on the name later. Courtesy the brilliant monsoons over the last two years, the “Wilding” of this section had come along extremely well and had turned into one of the most probable locations (amongst many others) for a campfire!
20 Rabaris, 6 Rangers, 2 Gardeners, 8 bruised knees and one “Melt Down” later, LO BEHOLD, we had our new dining venue ready to host guests!
It then came down to what would this place be called?! A lot of random recommendations later, we relied on Bravo 2’s (Mr. Yusuf Ansari – VP and Director of Wildlife and Experiences) knowledge of the lands history to name the location. Interestingly, the Farmer who owned the land before we came in used this very space as a holding area for his livestock before they would set out every morning! This point onwards, it was quite simple and there was an undisputed winner – “Kraal” (Dutch and Afrikans for a place to hold livestock)
That was one day I always remember, to convince myself that all it takes is some amount of practical thinking and a few hundred lanterns to come up with a great guest experience!!
Sitting on a dark velvet chair, I am surrounded by twinkling, sparkling figments of light. The light refracts off the silver in the ornate lobby, in what once perhaps functioned as the drawing room. I have been here before, but nevertheless cannot contain my curiosity and inspect black and white photographs of the Kennedys, the Mountbattens, and of course His Highness Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur.
The Jaipur welcome. The team wait for the arrival of guests in their Jaipur pink turbans.
The Palace lit by a thousand candles.
A grand entrance. The entrance hall fit for a king.
I pause on the last photograph, for although it is black and white, it is less than a year old. Time stands still in this historic room full of commemoration, yet years are already flashing by as memories continue to be added. It seems like just yesterday that the His Highness, or “Pacho” as his friends call him, turned eighteen and gained sole responsibility of the extensive Jaipur royal family estate – in actuality, it has been nearly two years.
A ray of light bursts into the dark room and snaps me out of my reverie. A head pops in to alert me that guests have started arriving.
I have attended a Suján Rajmahal Palace party in the past, so thought I knew what to expect. No, no – expect the unexpected. If 1,000 candles were lit last year, the number must have been tripled. Candles adorning the lawns, candles shimmering in the pools, candles dangling in the trees, candles seemingly hovering in thin air.
As usual I assume my position ‘gliding’ around the party (that ever paddling swan) making sure that everything is in order. Normally there’s a glass here, a stray plate there, a candle or three has blown out – but this time, at this party – not a single glass nor candle is out of place. I’m at a loss. What on earth am I meant to do when the host team has it all in order?!
Dalad Tantiprasongchai, Vice President and Head of Asia Strategy at Walmart, enjoying dessert in 51 Shades of Pink.
I gaze around in search of a guest in need, a champagne flute to clear, or a crisis to avert. Instead I find a buzzing crowd, tongues quietly being lubricated by French wine and Scotch whisky.
To my left, I see the High Commissioner and his wife, Lady Asquith, discussing the recent British Army polo team victory in Delhi with coach, Col Simon Ledger.
To my right, Indonesian actress Nikita Willy is deep in conversation with none other than the Keeper of the Quaich himself, Peter Prentice. How he managed to get a glass of Royal Salute whisky into her hand in the first five minutes of the party I’ll never know.
Kathy Kendrick, former head counsel for Dreamworks and a great ally of Steven Spielberg, is chatting with the young Maharaja, Pacho, about the stir he and Reese Witherspoon’s daughter, Eva, caused in LA with their opening waltz at Le Bal in Paris last month.
Scanning past the pre-production talks, I see the Vice President of Walmart Asia, Dalad Tantiprasongchai, animatedly arguing over the pros and cons of private aviation travel with Andrew Thomas of VistaJet. Fingers point as they indicate where exactly would be best to land your helicopter on the model of the Chelsea Barracks development.
Mr Jaisal Singh, Chief Executive of SUJÁN and Vice President and Member of the Executive Committee, Relais & Châteaux, and Mr Peter Prentice, Global VIP Relationships Director for Chivas Brothers and Chairman of Keepers of the Quaich.
CEO to CEO, Mr Jaisal Singh exchanges words with Mr Ben Vestey of Britannia Elevation who is just introducing Mr & Mrs Singh to Misan Harriman & Camilla Holmstroem. The quintet immediately vault into the subject of content amplification in the digital age and the effects on the luxury hospitality industry.
Glamorous guests pose for a photo with the party in full swing.
Finally, the young, beautiful, and entrepreneurial round out the mix. The local ladies, fur clad and bejeweled, swap fashion startup tales and compare stones with Lady Violet Manners, London socialite, model, and fashionista. Hot topic of the evening was whether Amrapali Jewels or Gem Palace ruled the night.
Eventually, the music abruptly stopped and the voice of British Polo Day came booming through the speaker:
“Would everyone please make their way to the Maharaja’s Apartment for the after party.”
Guests who had told me they were turning in for the night suddenly found a second wind, interest piqued by the after party location. What is the Maharaja’s Apartment, where is it, how do you get there, will it fit us all?
Lady Violet Manners in the vintage outside the entrance of the palace.
The train of guests soon found themselves parading past elegant and brightly papered walls of 51 Shades of Pink and the turquoise Polo Bar, before wandering down the endless corridor leading to the entrance.
It’s rude to stare and unbecoming to gape, or so my mother taught me. But in this instance, mouths dropped wide open at the sight and expanse of the suite. The entryway leads to the living room, just past the dining room, which leads to the drawing room, which leads eventually to the master bedroom and marble bathroom.
Music is soon pumping from the decks and pouring through the 3,126 square feet of space. Before I know it, my hand has been snatched up and I am being spun like a top into a never-ending twirl. Swing dancing, Argentine tango, the Irish jig and Indian Bollywood – you name it – someone owned those steps in the living room of the suite.
The rest of the evening, well that is history. Who saw the sun rise? Who took the classic car for a spin? Well, that is for me to know and you to find out. Come to Jaipur, throw your dance card to the wind, for at a British Polo Day, you never know who you might meet, but you sure as hell will have a great time. See you next year Suján – I just know that I won’t be able stay away.
A silhouette of two mating leopards. We followed these two leopards for around two and a half hours as they mated and vocalised to each other. I always wanted a photo of a leopard silhouetted by the evening sun and to get two in the picture was extremely satisfying. Photograph by William Asquith.
Male leopards would on average mate with the female once every 10-15 minutes. Here, we had found the two leopards in the morning sun roaming around together. Photograph by Vedant Thite.
Two leopards having a little spat in their mating ritual. We found these two leopards totally focused on each other and seemingly oblivious to me and my guests observing them with awe. Photograph by Vedant Thite.
Courting leopards would on average be seen together for around 5-7 days. We had the luxury of watching these two together for a whole week before they parted ways. Photograph by Vedant Thite.
I found this oriental honey buzzard sitting at the top of a Neem Tree. The characteristic bright honey-yellow eye beautifully contrasts against the light blue background. Photograph by Vedant Thite.
A rabari carries a newly born goat, not even a day old, as he takes his goats out to graze. Rabaris hold a very unique relationship with their livestock as, traditionally, they shepherded them around the whole of India following the rains and water supply and would carry any young kids unable to keep up with the flock. Nowadays, a large community have settled around Jawai and have gifted us with wonderful sights such as this one. Photograph by Vedant Thite.
In the evening light, a woman escorts her cattle to the pen while carrying on her head, fodder for the cows to eat and ruminate on overnight. Often when we go on our wilderness drives, we will see in the evening stunning scenes of village life such as this one. Photograph by Vedant Thite.
Two rabaris offering incense and coconuts to their ancestors. In India, family is hugely important with whole villages considering themselves as one family. Photograph by Vedant Thite.
Into the New Year and Ranthambhore seems to have come alive with promises foretold. Dispersing tigers, ungulates in their dazzling winter morphs and a host of birds – migratory and resident – all go to demonstrate that the forest is flourishing. At Sher Bagh, successive guests, some expert photographers among them, have had an incredible run at capturing this moving feast over the last couple of weeks. In the coming weeks, our guest blogs will feature more of their work, in their own words but for now, we bring you a snippet, a mere taster, of why Ranthambhore truly is the beating heart of India’s wildscape.
Tigers are “burning bright” in Ranthambhore’s dry, deciduous forests (touchwood) and the likelihood of coming across the felines is higher than ever before. This young female, one of Noor’s (T39) sub-adults peers at Sambar deer in the distance, though she eventually decided not to bite of more than she could chew, in this case. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
A group of male Nilgai, or Bluebulls investigate a possible threat. These somewhat incongruous creatures are marvellously photogenic, particularly in the deep winter light when they are at their most handsome. From the SUJÁN Archives.
The Cheetal, or Spotted deer are so numerous and so often seen in Ranthambhore that photographers tend to sometimes overlook them. Yet Ranthambhore in winter offers fantastic opportunities of photographing these keystone prey species in winter morph and new antlers. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
Despite a very healthy, and flourishing population of leopards, this is not a sight you often see in Ranthambhore; a large male leopard walking down the game track, exactly as a tiger would. Luckily for this particular male, there were no tigers waiting on the sidelines, lucky for our guests too! Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
A pair of Golden Jackals catch a snooze and absorb some ground-heat on a cold winter day. As the day wears on, these charismatic scavengers will set out to find food for their young ones, never venturing too far from their den sites. In sections of Ranthambhore, the jackal population is visibly rising. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
An iconic predator and among the largest eagles in our part of the world, a Crested Serpent Eagle demonstrates why it derives that name. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
A group of Cormorants of all ages dry themselves in the dew seeping January sun, early in the morning. Despite temperatures plummeting and the waters of the lakes turning into freezing wetlands, Cormorants and other waterfowl must feed and use branches overlying the water to dry out, in between frequent fishing expeditions. Can you spot the odd bird out in this photograph? Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
Spotted owlets abound and are at their best looking in winter morph. Largely nocturnal, it is a rare sight to come across one in broad daylight, outside of its nesting hole. By night, their distinctive calls bounce through the dark, a sound that is haunting and characteristic of our forests. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
With hours to go before the bonfires of “Holika Dahan” (The Immolation of Holika), light up city squares and village chaupals across India, in celebration of Holi tomorrow, we bring you some snippets about this festival of colours at SUJÁN from years gone by.
Across SUJÁN our friends, teams and guests really enter into the colour of things on Holi. From the SUJÁN Archives.
Holi is a time for our neighbours to spend the day with their families. From the SUJÁN Archives.
More than five years ago, a visiting friend wrote on our blog, “What I experienced in the Indian version of Holi (the real version) was quite superb. I saw an expression of unadulterated happiness and joy, all cumulated from the simple age-old celebration of colour. I felt privileged to watch children run through the streets, playing with water guns and powder; to see brilliant hues and tones splashed about on local clothing. To see three generations sitting together on a wooden bench, faces smeared in vibrant residue.”
Guests catch their breath after a colourful morning in Jaisalmer. From the SUJÁN Archives.
From Jaisalmer last year, we reported, communities living inside the fort such as Brahmins, Hajuris and Rajputs traditionally gather at key focal points and sing and compose music in different groups. Unlike anywhere else in India then, the musical element of a Holi celebration in Jaisalmer has rhythms and melodies drawn from songs of the desert bards, going back a millennium. Some songs are related to the various acts of Lord Krishna.
At JAWAI, the mood was no different, and perhaps even more festive, as On the eve of Holi, guests at JAWAI participated in ‘Holika Dahan’ in Sena village, which involved the lighting of the bonfire and hearing traditional festival music. The next morning, on the day of ‘Holi’ guests set off from JAWAI camp and headed to our neighbouring villages to experience the unique and playful celebrations. Holi is also known as the ‘Spring Festival’B –B it marks the arrival of Spring; the season of hope and joy. The gloom of the winter is left behind as Holi promises brighter summer days, much like the harvest festival celebrated in other parts of the world.B The promise of a good harvest for the farmers arrives and the crops and fields in JAWAI are at their fullest. Holi got its name as the “Festival of Colours” from Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colourful dry paints.
The “Pink City” is famous for its own specific celebration of Holi. One of the Palace ADC’s is smothered by his colleagues at SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace. From the SUJÁN Archives.
Holika Dahan (The Immolation of Holika) marks the beginning of Holi, and Springtime. From the SUJÁN Archives.
After taking part in a temple procession through the village everyone got involved and played Holi with the children of Sena.
And from JAWAI to the jungles of Ranthambhore, which has its own ‘natural’ way of observing Holi. A few years back, we observed, “Ranthambhore is blooming with flowers of the Flame of the Forest, or Dhak trees a critical ingredient for the colours used to play Holi with. No wonder then that the entire Park and its surroundings are painted in blossoms of red and the forest floor carpeted in colourful petals.”
Our guests have frequently joined in the local spirit of festive fun, on Holi day. From the SUJÁN Archives.
The jungle knows when it is Springtime again and at Sher Bagh and Ranthambhore the Flame of the Forest trees, burst into colours coinciding with the spring at the time of Holi. From the SUJÁN Archives.
Tomorrow will bring more colour, more celebration and a day of festivities as SUJÁN observes the coming of Spring and we share the experience with our teams, our local communities and of course, our guests!
Ranthambhore, which literally means, “the place of the pillars of war” may have had a contested history that we are all familiar with, but the battles still rage below the ramparts of the fort. Roaring cannons have gone silent and cavalry charges have ceased, but the present denizens of Ranthambhore – of a longer standing than the fort itself – are preparing for battle in the months to come. As summer approaches and the annual cycle of fewer waterholes ebbs towards a reality, an entirely new generation of tigers is on the move, looking for new territories and preparing to take on presently dominant adults. In this week’s blog we look at just some of the tigers and tiger families which are preparing to either leave the protection of their mothers or waiting for new challengers to appear in their domains.
Noor (T39) is months away from driving away her daughters and who knows how that familial fracas will turn out. With the four of them compacted into one territory, it is likely Noor will have to cede some ground to her young ones. Adjacent to Noor’s turf lies the now divided realm of her former adversary Dussehri (T60), the daughter of the late Mrs. Mango. While Dussehri has already parted ways with her three sub-adults, those tigers are looking for their own patch now. Could Arrowhead (T84), the present “Lady of the Lakes” find herself faced with a pincer movement into her territory? And what of the dominant males? For two of them, the Indala Male (T57) and Mustanda (T64), both separated from each other by the vast swathes of Ranthambhore times could get tough. The Indala Male may find that keeping Ustad’s territory is more difficult than gaining it while for Mustanda, already embattled with frequently fighting his neighbours, the arrival of a new male, in the form of T 41’s young male sub-adult may prove the last straw.
Ranthambhore has always been the Tiger’s realm and like in any other realm, the ruler must fight off intruders. Ranthambhore’s tigers have always sought ways to accommodate each other, but with a surge in the present tiger population, territorial conflict is a reality many dominant tigers will soon have to face. Photograph by Jaisal Singh.
Noor (T39), is almost ready to drive away her daughters and this is probably the last Spring the family will spend together. Still in her prime, the matriarch will perhaps be able to hold on to much of her territory, for now. The bonhomie in this picture (from last Summer) is however, unlikely to last long. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
After a remarkable stint at holding on to the coveted Lake Territories of Ranthambhore and finally reaching motherhood (just days’ ago), Arrowhead (T84) has proven a successful bearer of the mantle that comes with being “The Lady of the Lakes” in Ranthambhore. But there will soon be challengers to her run. To the west, Noor’s (T39) three females are fast outgrowing their mother’s shadow and one of them is particularly feisty. If Noor manages to hold on to her own territories, there is little doubt that at least one of her daughter’s will make her way through the gorges and into the Lake Territories. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
T57, the Indala Male is the father of Noor’s three female cubs and while he had an easy time slipping into the territory vacated by Ustad’s (T24) departure he is unlikely to have it quite so smooth going forward. The soon to be dispersing sub-adults of Dussehri (T60) might make for formidable challengers. One of the latter, also known as ‘The Temple Tiger’, given his frequent visitation of abandoned shrines around his territory, is already making forays into T57’s territory. Whether this is a wake-up call for the Indala Male remains to be seen but the battle-lines are drawing near. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
Beyond the Lake Territories and the gorges around Guda, another young tiger is ready to take his first steps into adulthood. T41’s only sub-adult is unlikely going to stay by his mother’s side for long. On one side he has the fearsome Mustanda (T64) to contend with, on the other the relatively unknown territories of his likely father Tank (T74). Where is this young one likely to go once the summer is past? Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
Never in any mood to give any quarter, Mustanda (T64) is one of Ranthambhore’s most fearsome male tigers. Born of T19’s first litter, the male, now in his prime has seen off some tough competition to create the territory he has. His duels with Tank (T74) continue intermittently but by the looks of it, Mustanda is ready to take on and drive away any would be intruders into his present domain. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
The Temple Tiger is a likely challenger to the Indala Male’s domination, but he is as yet too young. Bold, audacious and unperturbed at the worst of times this young male will soon need a range of his own. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
Water, or the lack of it with the onset of summer is going to be a flashpoint for several of the younger tigers around Ranthambhore. Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
The Farm at SUJÁN The Serai nestles in a corner of the camp, bordering soft hillocks and mellow bui scrubland. The poultry (all local desi species) dashing about in the daytime, from the adjacent coops and the occasional mooing of indigenous Tharparkar cows from their rattan-covered sheds, leaves you in no doubt of the location of this patchwork of green hues, in the middle of what is the Thar desert ecosystem. The lettuce abuts the tomatoes who blithely bend over home-grown spring onions and garlic in the golden light of a sun that can belong only to Jaisalmer.
Photograph by Abhimanyu Singh.
The Farm at The Serai is the source of all that is green on the menu in Camp. Carefully looked after and cultivated by seasoned hands – Chandrapal and Subhash – who will spend several hours each week, weeding and removing any extraneous growth from the carefully plotted beds where their greens grow. The Serai’s Farm is known for its unique produce, such as the desert mushroom or phoombi, which sprouts only once a year and is able to supply SUJÁN’s other camps too. The menu at The Serai is itself designed to make sure that fresh, organically produced greens – ash and manure are the only fertilisers used – are at the source of what goes on to it. This is also the domain of the camp’s Chef who is a daily visitor to these patches; plucking and checking and cutting and gathering the ingredients he needs for his kitchens and his cooking pots.
This week we take you to the heart of The Serai’s secret spot, which is the source of those delicious concoctions…
The sun-kissed Farm at The Serai, Jaisalmer. Photograph by Abhimanyu Singh.
Cabbages grow surprisingly well here. Photograph by Abhimanyu Singh.
Seasoned hands watch over and weigh up everything that goes on at the Farm. Do not miss out the famous Tharparkar cattle breed, indigenous to this region and increasingly difficult to breed. The Serai’s herd is close to almost two dozen animals now. Photograph by Abhimanyu Singh.
Hand plucked garlic, grown at the Farm is a critical ingredient for some of the dishes on the menu. Photograph by Abhimanyu Singh.
Tomatoes and other greens fill up the Chef’s basket every day, on their way to the camp Kitchens. Photograph by Abhimanyu Singh.
Cockerels, hens and chicks play in the farmyard. Photograph by Abhimanyu Singh.
The Jaisalmer sun is clearly a boon for the greens. Photograph by Abhimanyu Singh.
Freshly plucked produce is lined up for breakfast, which some guests at SUJÁN The Serai prefer to have at the Farm itself. Photograph by Abhimanyu Singh.
I embarked on my first India trip with a focus befitting my Africa travel roots: wildlife and wilderness, tribal culture, and music. By the end of my trip, I’d added a number of remarkable experiences to my adventures-of-a-lifetime list:
Photograph by Starla Estrada.
Seeing a tigress and cubs: check.
Witnessing a tiger-leopard kill: check.
Encountering a leopard that thinks it’s a big, brave tiger: check.
Learning tiger protocol (what happens when a tiger comes into camp at dinner time): check!
In Ranthambhore National Park, if you’re lucky as I was, you’ll see tigresses and cubs in their natural jungle ecosystem, prowling among the shadows of the 8th century Ranthambhore Fort, part of an enchanted land scattered with ancient temples, mosques, vine-covered burial tombs, and pavilions in the middle of crocodile-filled lakes.
From the SUJÁN Archives.
From the SUJÁN Archives.
The pioneering, luxury safari camp, Sher Bagh was one highlight; through the camp’s impressive conservation efforts alongside the Park management and a local NGO, the tiger population has more than doubled in the past decade. The rangers and wildlife guides have a combined, deep, field experience and academic knowledge. On a three-night stay, with three safaris, the chances of seeing tigers are very high. The park is divided into zones; properties are assigned a zone in the morning, at the outset of the safari. Alternatively, special permits for a Half Day or Full Day drive can be applied for to the Forest Department, and these allow guests access all the tourism zones of Ranthambhore.
Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
From the SUJÁN Archives.
Our tour interspersed wilderness with cities, which are their very own ecosystem, teeming with humans and history and forts and palaces. Between cities we then ventured back into the wilderness, taking a long train ride and road trip to get to Jawai (the mode of transport is very much part of the adventure in India). On arrival, I instantly felt at home. The beautiful landscapes reminded me of my favourite wilderness spots in Kenya and California, rolling granite kopjes and lakes and shrubby scrub brush, perfect for leopards; we saw a leopardess and cubs, an alpha male, and a young male intruder that was bravely exploring the alpha male’s cave while he was out hunting. We welcomed misty sunrises by sipping chai and celebrated bright orangey-orb sunsets with gin and tonics. As if this were not perfection enough, Rabari shepherds–regal in white garments and red turbans and looking very much like cousins to the Maasai in East Africa–handsomely wandered the region and also served as guards at the camp (guarding us from curious leopards that wanted to get a closer look at us humans).
Photograph by Jaisal Singh.
All of us at GeoEx, and all of our travelers, understand this feeling of being linked to something ancient or wild or modern–history and animals and wilderness and humans and cities–and our love of traveling, exploring, keeps us wide-eyed and learning, always learning.
Photograph by Yusuf Ansari.
Photograph by Adam Bannister.
Starla Estrada is the Managing Director for Africa and oversees GeoEx’s diverse roster of Africa trips (spanning 17 countries). She has been traveling in the region for more than 10 years and her deep connection to the continent and knowledge of Africa’s varied topography, climate, and safari options make it second nature for her to arrange exceptional wildlife experiences and authentic cultural interactions for GeoEx travelers. Make sure to follow Starla on Instagram to keep up with her adventures across the globe! Learn more about all the inspiring destinations that GeoEx offers by visiting GeoEx.com, or contact Starla at 888-570-7108.
A couple of nights ago a rare lunar event called the “super blue blood moon” dazzled us here in Rajasthan and many others around the world. Here in India, this event was scheduled to occur just after sunset which made it all the more vivid and magical to see with the naked eye. Our JAWAI skies are without a doubt pretty mesmerising on a daily basis, however what we were about to see was something truly spellbinding. To our west we had a beautiful red lit sky painting the rising moon in the east in a warm, fire burning red. So what exactly is a Super Blue Blood Moon other than a bit of a wordy wonder?!
The moon sets over the camp just as the guests head out for their morning drive. Photograph by William Asquith.
The super blue blood moon. As the earth moves in between the sun and the moon, the only light that hits the moon is light filtered through out atmosphere, which gives this reddish hue. Photograph by William Asquith.
The last time the super blue blood moon was last seen in 1886, just under 150 years ago. Photograph by Vedant Thite.
Let’s break it down. Firstly, lets start with the super moon. When the moon is joined with the word ‘super’, it doesn’t necessarily mean astronomers believe it to be utterly fabulous at that point in time (although I’m sure they always think the moon is.) It is called ‘super’ because the moon appears particularly large in the sky and it happens when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach to Earth in its orbit. Supermoons make the moon appear a little brighter and much closer to us on earth than normal.
Now for the blue moon. A lunar month takes roughly 29.5 days. Therefore, when a full moon falls early in the month then there is a fairly good chance that there will be a second full moon in the same month. This second full moon in the same month is called a blue moon. You may have heard the expression: “once in a blue moon”, it reflects an event or action that occurs very rarely as blue moons naturally come once in just under 3 years (although atypically the next blue moon is in 2 months time on the 31st March!)
With the earth moving out of the sun’s light path to the moon, the moon starts to appear in its original silver state, one sliver at a time. Photograph by William Asquith.
The earth has totally moved out of the way of the sun’s light path restoring the moon to its full glory. Photograph by William Asquith.
A “Blood Moon” is the name given for a view of the Moon during a total lunar eclipse, when the earth is positioned between the sun and the moon. When this happens the moon appears reddish in colour as it is illuminated by sunlight filtered and refracted by the earth’s atmosphere. Hence it earns its nickname… Blood Moon.. This glow is produced by the same effect that gives us beautiful red sunrises and sunsets. Sunlight is skimming through the Earth’s atmosphere on its way to the Moon and it gets refracted or bent causing more of the higher frequency light waves (green, blue, indigo and violet) to be scattered while the lower frequency light waves (red, yellow and orange) pass through.
The super moon will appear around 14% bigger and about 30% brighter than usual. Photograph by Vedant Thite.
The coinciding of these three magical lunar events is very rare with the last one occurring about 150 years ago (I believe Forbes.com calculated it to occur, on average, once every 265 years) making it all the more special that we were able to enjoy it here at SUJÁN JAWAI.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the next lunar occurrences to hit our skies!
31 March 2018: Blue Moon
27 July 2018: Total Lunar Eclipse (can be seen in Africa, Europe, most parts of Asia and Oceania).
Generally, vultures get a bad rep and perhaps we have Disney to blame for always portraying vultures as the baddies in all our childhood favourites of Jungle Book, Robin Hood and Snow White to name a few.
The vulture poses for us on the rock as it waits for its turn to feed. Photograph by William Asquith.
A Egyptian vulture soars above a basking leopard looking for a carcass to feast upon. Photograph by Varun Kutty.
The Egyptian vultures are the most common of the vultures to be seen on the ground. Here the vulture eyes up a sheep carcass to his left. Photograph by William Asquith.
Vultures however, in the animal kingdom, are essential with many studies showing their importance with regards to cleaning up after all other wildlife. They are coined as the ‘rubbish-men’ of the animal kingdom as they feast in the leftovers of predator. This trait is not something to grimace at but to hail as not only do they prevent illnesses of the area’s wildlife but also in turn by clearing up carcasses, they prevent the spread of disease that can affect the local human population.
Their stomachs contain a high concentration of acid that break down many diseases other scavengers would develop on the same carcass. These carcasses attract feral dogs, which consequently have a higher chance of developing rabies. The current estimated cost that India to control rabies alone is at $23 million, to put in perspective is 27% of the Department of Animal Husbandry in 2012 (information gathered from WHO). Although a larger population of vultures would not eradicate completely rabies from India, it is definitely a long-term solution to decreasing the number of rabid dogs. There was another study showing again that it was economically more beneficial to India to breed and release vultures that to run a “carcass disposal plant” which costs INR 79 million to run for 10 years. A vulture have an average life span of 50 years which would is the equivalent of valuing a single vulture at INR696,000 (IUCN India Country Office).
The vulture’s wing span can be as long as 170cm, the same height as an average male human. Photograph by William Asquith.
From a conservation angle, Egyptian vultures, and many other vultures become a welcome helping hand in anti-poaching. Circling high in the sky in numbers, they become a signpost for carcasses. This in turn could potentially help pointing to any carcass poached by illegal hunters and forest department rangers will always investigate just in case.
Monogamous pairs of Egyptian Vultures often return to the same area to breed. From the SUJÁN Archives.
As most vultures are increasingly threatened worldwide from avoidable causes, such as the types of drugs given to livestock being poisonous to vultures, the Egyptian vulture is no different. Classed as endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2007 and with a global population between 21,000-67,000, you can see that to come close to an Egyptian Vulture is a surreal and humbling appearance.
Jawai is the perfect habitat for these birds as they nest on rocky ledges and cracks with a lot of open country. They tend to also live around human habitation scavenging on the human’s food wastage and their monogamous demeanour means that the same breeding pair may return to the same area for generations.
We had sighted this vulture on the ground and suddenly from behind one of our guests called out “oh, what an odd looking chicken!”…I’ve heard a lot worse and to be fair, my guest wasn’t so far off the point as the vulture’s yellow facial features bears a ‘slight’ resemblance to a chicken’s own red facial features adding to the fact that it is also known as the pharaoh’s chicken.
As we neared, we saw this adult vulture eyeing up a sheep carcass that at that time was being served as dinner for a stray dog and some crows. This vulture however, wasn’t interested in chasing them off the kill and instead sat, posing for us, while he waited patiently to see if the carcass would become free anytime soon. However, his patience began to wear thin, and he decided to move off and look elsewhere and with one big jump he took off into the air.
By witnessing these glorious creatures in the flesh, my guests were able to overcome their stigma of seeing vultures as a creature partnered with disdain and instead see them for the magnificent raptors they are… if only there more of them around to change everyone’s mind.!
Read Full Article
Read for later
Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.