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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 01 – Delhi - Part 1

09:30am. After 14-hours flight from Sao Paulo to Dubai, 5 hours waiting for transfer to Delhi and more 4.5-hours flight from Dubai do Delhi, we finally arrive in Delhi. The long trip and the +08:30 time gap between India and home left us as zombies, but we were very excited the trip was just beginning, so after immigration proceedings we went exchange some money (“some money” indeed is not appropriate since the dollar-rupees rate produced a huge pile of 100 rupees bills) and next were already searching for Mrs. Daljeet, our local agent from India Safaris. We have been in contact for so much time planning the trip that we were truly anxious to meet her personally.

Everything was ready, the driver, Johnson, took us for our hotel in Delhi (The Luthyens Bungalows) – a very simple guesthouse located in the embassies regions, called Imperial City. The place has a country-side style (not so well-conserved to be honest), but fair enough for a couple o nights as the main objective of this trip was not in Delhi.

We have quickly got installed and have been briefed by Daljeet about the plans, trains tickets, vouchers and everything, and after a late-breakfast we have soon departed for the first part of the visit to Delhi. Actually, Delhi has surprised us with a quite green-look (not a vertical city with lots of buildings and no trees) and we headed towards the Red Fort for the first ancient site in the list.

1. Tuc-Tucs
2. Parakeet in the hotel backyard

Delhi IMG_5110

Delhi _MG_0365

The Red Fort is located in Old Delhi (for local people Delhi city is only one, there is no Old Delhi or New Delhi, actually the Old Delhi is newer than most part of New Delhi, because the Old/New reference is far behind in India’s history and Old Delhi has been destroyed and rebuilt after Delhi had been already expanded toward New Delhi’s side). Red Fort built in Delhi by the emperor Shah Jahan, has been inspired in the Agra Fort, so that the same architecture and design has moved from Agra to Delhi after Agra lost its post of Mughal Empire capital to Delhi.

3. Main Gate (Lahore Gate)
4. Diwan-i-Aam courtyard view from the throne balcony

Red Fort _MG_0375

Red Fort _MG_0389

Actually our objective is not to tell the details of the history and architecture (we admit that there is a lot of interesting things we have learned after listening to the guide’s lectures, but we would have to spend dozens of pages just telling the years of stories around the monuments), we would rather share the beautiful pictures taken in these places to give you an idea of them, and let you decide if it is interesting to visit them if you ever get to India.

The Red Fort is all surrounded by a big defense wall and the buildings inside are all made of red sandstone or white marble with all sort of gems inlays. There is a lovely green garden, very pleasant to refrain a bit of the heat of India’s summer.

5. Diwan-i-Aam pavilion columns
6. Lady´s Chamber columns
7. Courtyard with white pavilions in marble

Red Fort IMG_0196

Red Fort IMG_0182

Red Fort _MG_0410

Out of Red Fort, we’ve met Surya waiting with a rickshaw driver to take us to the mosque of Jama Masjid of Delhi, also located in Old Delhi just a few blocks far from the Red Fort. The rickshaw ride is really crazy because the driver find his way through the narrow streets of the Chandni Chowk amongst other rickshaws, tuc-tucs, cows, buses, people, dogs, cars, bikes, scooters, motorbikes, unbelievably without shocking with anybody or anything in the middle of the way. It is a good opportunity to see the alleys where the small businesses dedicated to selling the tissues, saris and brocades for the colorful Indian wedding clothes.

8. Rickshaw ride staring point
9. Chadni Chowk market stores

Rickshaw _MG_0421

Rickshaw _MG_0440

The rickshaw dropped us at the entrance of Jama Masjid mosque (Friday’s Mosque), where we had to leave our shoes by the door and Alessandra had to wear a Muslim’s dress over her clothes before entering. The building is a mosque (what else to say…), it is a huge massive mosque also built mostly on red sandstone – the time of the day was not so good for pictures since we had the sun shining hard at noon time when we were there, but we have selected some interesting angles to give a slight glance of it for you.

10. Jama Masjid main façade
11. Jama Masjid main entrance from inside
12. Jama Masjid ornaments

Jama Masjid _MG_0463

Jama Masjid _MG_0466

Jama Masjid IMG_0203

After this session, we started heading back to New Delhi area again, where we have started to see the second part of the first day in the city.

Note: you can click on the picture to take you to the original size picture in our Flickr album page, being better to see the photographs you like. Or if you may want to go straight to our Flickr page, please access the link Our Flickr Page

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Trip to India

Welcome to India
Welcome to India

Here we start to share with you the best of our first trip to India. For us, who have been many times toAfrica, there was a mixture of high expectations and fear of disappointment because we will have always Africa to compare with.

The objective of this trip has been, as always, the wildlife experience, but as it was our first time there we had also to spend some time to meet some other urban places to have a glance of the people, the culture and the landmarks. And the urban part of the trip has been lovely! We have visited only Delhi and Agra, but just this glimpse of both cities have been enough to surprise us with a beautiful architecture and exquisite food.

Objectives have been accomplished! The Indian jungles are so great! They have a complete different atmosphere than the african savannahs, I should say, unique (it is one of those places were the temperature, the sounds, the light and the smells form together an unmistakable identity.

And of course, the main attraction of all, the tigers! The tiger safari was our target number one and we could not be better blessed in this trip when speaking of tiger sightings! Well, this is just the introduction, so we will let the to tell you the tiger experience in detail on the next chapters.

So, we have spent 2 days in Delhi, then 4.5 days in Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, 4 days in Ramthambhore National Park in Rajastan and 1.5 day in Agra. Then you will find in our next posts our day-by-day experiences and, of course, the photographs. We hope you enjoy and maybe get inspired to pay a visit to the Indian Tigers….!

Keep watching… the adventure is just beginning…
Tiger Eyes

Friday, April 3, 2009

MASAI MARA - DAY 01 - Getting to the Mara

After a dizzy flight through a typical equatorial thunderstorm, we landed on the core of Masai Mara, Olkiombo Airstrip just by the Talek River, where it became our home for the next days. The crew took us to the Mara Intrepids Camp where we will meet our tent-room and join the remaining fellows of our group for a quick game drive before the sun goes down. In the Masai Mara the rules are strict and you cannot drive after sunset. We have been very lucky, the light could not be better and the clouds of the storm we had just flown through gave a heavy dark background to the scenery, and from the other side, the golden glow of the lightbeams of the lowering sun provided the final touch to the beautiful view of the Mara plains – a fantastic warm welcome of Masai Mara.


The first scene we have came across was the Olkiombo pride finishing their afternoon feast. Just before we have got there this pride had chased and killed a blue wildebeest and then they were still working on the carcass.


After Kill

Lionesses and cubs calmly feeding from the wildbeest body, there was no sign of other predators or hyenas nearby, so they had all the time to eat without being disturbed. We could get very close to the site and 400mm for the close-ups was more than enough. The beautiful light filled in the scene also in more wide ranges of view, so we just could frame all the scene with a superb background – and this was just the first encounter!

Hungry cub

We left the happy lion family and continued our quest for more action, now with the comfort sensation of having already our daily dose of excitement. Not far from there, we had a beautiful open view of the plains and luck striked again: three cats moving across the plain. With the full yellish light of sunset just hitting on them , 3 cheetahs have materialized just in front of our path.

Thunderstorm at Mara Plains - Three boys (Honey`s sons)

We had just to observe their movement and position the vehicle for just waiting them to come to us. And they did.



The 3 cheetahs were actually 3 adult males, brothers. They were Honey’s sons, or the 3 Honey Boys as BBC Bigcat staff called them in the latest series (BBC Bigcat Live 2008). They are orphans because their mother, Honey, was accidentally killed by a tranquilizer dart that stung the wrong spot, but now after being rescued in 2007 and reintroduced back into the wild, they became “killing machines”. We were told that they successfully kill prey every day and they are indeed look very strong and in good shape.


They stop and take their time marking the territory by urinating around a tree. Next, they continue the stroll just straight until they reach a small elevation of ground (actually a earth mount produced by the park staff after digging to get stones for paving the main tracks). Cheetahs are very alert cats and, as a technique of surveillance, they like staying higher from the ground to get a better view of the neighbourhood and it is then usual to see them on top of termite mounts, low dead tree branches or small ground elevations like this.


They sit and relax, and they seem to be, like us, just comemorating the end of one more fantastic day. The just stay there for a while waiting for the sun goes down. Time for very special sillouette pictures. It was very tricky to take this picture because the vehicle was also in another small elevation and then we had to keep as low as possible to get the backlight just behind the cheetah and the light vanishes very fast, but we have got it! Thanks to Mark tips.


Cheetah brothers sundown

We have been so luck today. It is amazing how much things we could see in just 1 and a half hours of game drive. The Masai Mara is really wonderful. Time to go back to the camp for a good shower and dinner. What a day we are starving!!!

Sunset with Honey's boys

Safari in Nairobi National Park

Early in the morning we were picked up by the driver for a half-day game drive in Nairobi National Park. The weather was not that great in the morning, after showers in the night. We headed straight out of the city center to take the road around the National Park and then there we were by the gate where the guide would spend some minutes with the paperwork.

Chewing - giraffe (Nairobi National Park)

The Nairobi National Park has many samples of animals and they live wild, but the population of bigcats is very reduced due to poaching in the park vicinities, we could not see one single cat there and the lions that subexist in this system are less than 10, so it would be really a lucky morning if we could have seen one of them. Most of we could see in this park are the antelopes that have breeded without fear of becoming prey of the big cats. But the park still reserved us some good stuff.


The giraffe sillouette marks the begin of this game drive, and then on every corner we find impalas, zebras, waterbucks, coke hartebeests, elands and gazelles.


The Nairobi skyline always recall us that we are close to the city neighbourhood. The ostriches and antelopes graze the field as if they were far in the wilderness.


The weather gets better and we keep following the tracks until we finally find a back rhino. This has been particularly great for us, because before this time we had just spotted a single black rhino but it was so far that we could not even take a picture. And black rhinos are really shy creatures.

Black Rhino surprised by the turists (Nairobi National Park)

They could not bear our presence for any longer than a few seconds and they start to move away, and not far from where we have spotted this black rhino we have found another one. Should I mention it was shy, too? It gave us a hard time to try get closer because we have to go just a little go off-road to see over the hill where it was running from us, but the rocks in the ground prevented us from going any further.

Male Grey Crowned Crane

It was not bad at all, we were lucky to have spotted not one, but two black rhinos, and that was the very first time for us with this animal. The journey continues until we come across with the birds we think are the most beautiful birds of Africa. The crowned crane.

Female Crested Crane

There was a flock of them, not such a generous flock, but we could see males and females individuals. The males are the most colourful while the female keeps restricted to more pale brown feathers than the bright red and yellow patterns we can see in the males.


Big fat croc

We made a stop and got off the vehicle to walk along the border of a small river that separates one of the borders of the park from the common land occupied by maasai villagers. They bring cattle to drink water from the river and that keeps this croc well fed.


The walk is guides by a park ranger and we just can spot croc, hippos, phythons and turtles, but this time we were not so lucky. The hippos had left for a walk far into the bush and no phytons around. But we have seen these huge turtles just over a branch taking a sun bath.


We have to run now, because we have yet to go to another site before we head to the airport and to the Masai Mara.