Dudhwa National Park & Kishenpur Wildlife Sanctuary

BNHS Camp to Dudhwa

The route from Lucknow to Palia in Lakhimpur Kheri district is a long and  arduous  238 kms. The poor quality of roads remind one that although this is a politically important state, good governance seems to defy this area. However, the scenery is beautiful and suddenly we come across this pair of Sarus  Cranes feeding in the fields. 

It is afternoon when we check into the small Tigerhino resort in Palia and post Luch we take the 12 kms drive to the entry of Dudhwa National Park
The Dudhwa National Park is a national park in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh and covers an area of 490.3 km2 (189.3 sq mi), with a buffer zone of 190 km2 (73 sq mi). It is part of the dudhwa Tiger Reserve and is located on the Indo-Nepal border district of Lakhimpur Kheri.  It has a buffer of reserved forest areas on the northern and southern sides. This pristine area represents one of the few remaining examples of a highly diverse and productive Terai ecosystem that supports  a large number of endangered species, obligate species of tall wet grasslands and species of restricted distribution.
While visiting Dudhwa, how can we forget the legendary Billy Arjun Singh, the avid hunter turned ardent conservationist who single-handedly fought for saving this pristine forest and its amazing wildlife from destruction and disaster. Billy is to Dudhwa what Fatehsingh Rathore is to Ranthanbore or Jim corbett is to the kumaon. These are some of the doyens of the 20th century conservation efforts that have helped save the wild spaces of Northern India. This blog post is a tribute to late Col. Billy Arjun Singh.

In the very first safari, some mild form of adventure is in store for our jeep as it stalls right in the middle of the forest and it is about 45 minutes before a a replacement arrives and we join the other jeeps at the water body.

above & below - Wooly-necked Stork at the Waterbody

Large Cormorant

We are informed that the elephant ride is on and we rush to meet our pachyderm. it is a long wait as all the elephants have already been assigned and we move around taking photos of the small birds in the trees

Verditer Flycatcher hiding in the canopy

Oriental White Eye

Crested Serpent Eagle
And finally after an hour, our elephant Roopkali arrives with her human load. Tired after her first round she patiently accommodates us on her back with her mahout Iqbal yelling "mahla' & prodding her on. We enter the Rhino enclosure. an interesting ride through tall elephant grass in the hope of seeing  the Swamp Francolin. But alas it is too late & we are content with seeing the Rhinocerous at close quarters

above & below - Indian One-horned Rhinocerous

Kishenpur is a 30 km drive from Palia. This is a good place to watch large herds of the Northern race of the Swamp Deer - Cervus duvauceli duvauceli locally known as Barasingha. Although the name barasingha means 12 horns, the actual tines may vary and can reach 20 or more. While much focus have been placed on the tiger and big cats in our country, there are many species as the
Rhinocerous and the Swamp Deer which are classic stories of how effective wildlife conservation can save a species from the brink of extinction.

There are 3 sub-species of the Swamp Deer in India. The northern race mentioned above found in Uttar Pradesh & Nepal, the eastern race C.d. ranjitsinhii found in Assam especially Kaziranga and the hard-ground Swamp deer C.d. branderii found in Central India most notably Kanha National Park.
For those of you who are not familiar with the nomenclature of the Latin/scientific names, here is a brief explanation taking the Swamp deer as an example. The first name - Cervus is the genus name; the second - duvauceli is the species name; and in case there is a third name in this case again duvauceli or branderii or ranjitsinhii it indicates the sub-species. The latin or scientific names are always written in italics with only the first alphabet of the genus written in capital letters.
Hope this was not too heavy, so here are the photos of the herd of Swamp Deer taken from a considerable distance

Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary

A 3 1/2 hour ride over a bumpy 100 km route from Palia brings us to the Katerniaghat wildlife Sanctuary. The GPS shows that we are just 3 kms from the Nepal Border. Katernaighat is situated in the upper Gangetic Plain in Bahraich district of UP & is part of the Dudhwa Tiger reserve.  It covers an area of 400.6 km2 (154.7 sq mi) in the Terai grasslands. This is the place to see the Snout Crocodile (Gharial) & the endangered endemic - Indian Skimmers. Two species that i saw a month earlier at Chambal.

The Katerniaghat Forest provides strategic connectivity between the tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and the Bardia National Park in Nepal. Its fragile Terai ecosystem comprises a mosaic of Sal and Teak forests, lush grasslands, numerous swamps and wetlands. It is home to a number of endangered species including the Gharial, Tiger, Indian One-horned Rhinocerous, Gangetic Dolphin, Swamp Deer, Hispid hare, Bengal Florican as well as the white-backed and Long-billed Vultures.  

A one hour boat ride on the river Girwa is an interesting experience and so is the safari in the park. The title photo of this blog shows a small village across the river that leads to Nepal. See more of this lovely forest in the pictures below

A surprise sighting of the endangered Indian Skimmers

Pair of Ruddy Shelducks

Snout Crocodiles (Gharials) having a face-off

And the winner keeps the land!

River Tern

Large Cormorant

Red-headed Vulture

More Indian Skimmers on the shore
the boat that ferries us on the Girwa river

no prizes for identifying this species! ha ha

Lucknow - enjoying the ambience of the Nawabs of Oudh

I have arrived in Lucknow - the capital city of the populous North-Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on my way to Dudhwa National Park. A visual treat to land at 6.30 am at the imposing Charbagh Railway Station built in 1914 that blends the best in Mughal & Rajput architecture.  The city lies on the banks of the River Gomti that lends it an additional charm that only a water-body can add to the landscape. With just a day in hand, I check out some of the the well known monuments of the old city. Truly an interesting insight into the grandeur of days gone by.

Lucknow is best experienced through the medium of cycle rickshaws. First on the itinerary is the Shah Najaf Imambara built by Nawab Ghazi-ud-din Haider as a burial ground for himself & his 3 wives. It is a replica of Hazrat Ali's burial in Najaf in Iraq
entrance to the Shah Najaf Imambara

the interior corridors

an ornate door

the mausoleums

An interesting old building used as an office

An old Church probably the St. Joseph's Cathedral

More old structures

above & below: Mausoleum of Nawab Saadat Ali Khan & his Begum Khurshid zadi near the begum Hazrat Mahal Park

And amidst all the old structures, a swanky new building!

A Sunni Mosque close to the Bada Imambara
And finally, after winding my way through structures old & new, I get my sighting of the Asafi (Bada) Imambara. It was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784 and is one of the architectural wonders of that era. Its central hall is said to be the largest vaulted chamber in the world. Except for the galleries in the interior, there is no woodwork in the entire structure. It has large underground passages which have been blocked up. A staircase from outside leads to a series of labyrinths known as Bhool-Bhulaiyan which is a complicated entanglement of zig-zag pass.
View of the bada Imambara

Above & below: Before entering the gate of the Bada Imambara, I am enchanted by this beautiful view of the imposing Rumi Darwaza  50 ft high (Turkish gate)

Above & following pictures :The magnificent Bada Imambara

Below: The construction of Jama Masjid, to the north-west of Bada  Imambara, was started in 1832 AD during the reign of Mohammad Ali Shah but was completed after his death by his begum, Nawab Malika Janah. It is entirely free from the pseudo-Italian art then in vogue in Lucknow and reflects the Mughal style of architecture.

Above & below: interior views of the Bara Iambara including the ornate Tazias

View from the Bara Imambara

Bhoo Bulaya is part of the Bara Imambara consisting a series of narrow passages that are intertwined so well that it can confuse anyone & hence the name of Bhool Bulaya. very Interesting architecture! You need a guide if you do not wish to get lost!!!

More views from the bada Imambara - view of the King George's Hospital