Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Student's Guide for International Travel

Navigation Protocol for International Travel

Buying flight tickets: I suggest look for cheapest flights but not before seeing the review for the airline that you are choosing. Some airlines are known for missing baggage during connecting flights. Some flights may not provide food during travel. Also check for the check-in and cabin luggage weight requirements before booking the tickets.  

Applying for a Visa: VISA application for any international travel must be seen carefully before buying the flight tickets. Apply for VISA at least 2 months before you plan to travel. Beware of fraudulent websites and always check the requirements with the official embassy website of the country you are planning to travel to. 

Some countries have transit visa requirements if you happen to pass through them during layover/stopover flights. Check this website for information on documentation requirements during layovers  -

Time period
One week before
Check air ticket dates, name mentioned, passport + one photocopy, visa + one photocopy, all baggage items, trolley bags, backpacks, lock etc.
One day
Check your air ticket for the information on terminal number where you are supposed to report.
On the day of travel
Report at least 3 hours before flight departure to ensure timely entry and avoid last minute hassles.

Enter the airport – keep your passport ready for inspection by the security (happens in India only I guess)
At the Airline Desk
Go to the counter of the airlines with which you are travelling- get your boarding pass (or multiple passes if you are travelling via some airport/s on the way to final destination)

You may also ask for your preferred seat on the airline (choose aisle if you frequently go to loo :)

Check your boarding pass for correct info before moving ahead

Your checked-in luggage will be taken by the airline staff
Check the gate number mentioned on the boarding pass and proceed there
Security Check

Go through security check – remember that you can take only the hand baggage with you up till here (most airlines allow one laptop bag and one cabin/hand baggage where the total weight of the bags should not exceed 7 kg excluding the laptop weight).

Don’t carry any liquid items in your hand baggage (like perfume, deo, hair oil etc.), drink any water if you have and take the bottle. It’s better to keep your mobile phone, wallet etc. inside the hand baggage before security check. It happens sometime due to heavy rush that these items go missing. You will also be asked to remove your laptop and place it in a tray at the security check.
Immigration Desk
Proceed for immigration desk. Here your passport and visa details will be checked by officials. Remain calm and composed here and do not show any hurriedness to get through this desk. It’s like an international border so behave properly for smooth transition. The one question that you will invariably be asked in a foreign country is “What is the purpose of your visit?” Always state the truth (unless you are a criminal :-p)
Duty Free Area
You are now inside the duty-free area of the airport. Most of these places look exotic with all the international brands selling their products. It’s better to buy things (like wine, chocolates etc.) while on the way back to India.
Boarding Gate
Proceed to boarding gate number mentioned on your pass. Be there at least 45 minutes before the departure as some airlines close boarding half an hour earlier to prepare for departure.
Foreign Airport on transit
Do not waste time at transit airports and go straight to the next boarding gate. You should check for boarding gate for the next flight in the digital screens that display information on flights. If there is any confusion, ask any airport support employee for help. Do not bother other passengers for this information as they may also be as confused as you are. If you have not taken your boarding pass for this flight, then proceed to transit travel desk for getting that.
Destination Airport
Check whether you have taken your passport, boarding passes, laptop, camera, any important item with you + cabin baggage before leaving the airline. Proceed to the immigration desk for entry into the country (follow the guidelines stated above). Check the digital screens which display the information on the belt on which your check-in baggage will arrive. Get a trolley and move to the belt to collect your bag. Make sure that you are collecting your own baggage (better to tie some color ribbon for identification) as most of the baggage look similar.
Look for stalls or shelf which has Tourism related information of the country you are travelling. Pick booklets/maps which are mostly available free of cost.
Move to the transport that you are intending to take from airport to the place of stay.
Happy Travelling J

Checklists for International Travel (for light travellers)

Universal Travel Adapter
Warmer/Pullover/Fleece jacket
Light-weight backpack (for sightseeing purposes)
Pocket camera (mobiles suffice these days)
Water Bottle
Tiffin box for packing food whenever needed
Travel Currency card (available with most banks, can be used at most ATMs)

Multi-plug extension
Swimming trunk (for all waterbabies)

(suggestions are welcome in the comments box)

Chilling out in Venice :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Enthralled on the Shore

Overlooking the picturesque sunset point of National Centre for  Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa, I was soaking in the salt-laden but fresh air flowing south-east, trying to gather my thoughts on the (not very encouraging) events happened earlier in the day. Headland Sada, the place where the NCAOR campus stands, is a gentle hill that rises steeply towards the west of Mormugao port. Sunset point in the campus is located at the western edge of the land which drops sharply into the Arabian Sea, creating several V shaped incisions into the coastline. The steep rolling edge of the sea at the sunset point is also shaped as one such giant V. At the edge of the sea, just below the sunset point, were deep cut rocks, moulded so due to repetitive lashing by the merciless tides.


Monsoons had already arrived in Goa, bringing with them a continuous wind flowing from the west. I looked down to find a small crescent-shaped structure rising up the steep slope on the sea edge, visible from the sunset point. It was well past 6 in the evening; the sun had taken the colour and glow of an enlarged moon obfuscated by the dark rain clouds. The crescent rose up till it came to my eye-level, stayed still for a few moments before rising higher in air. It had red-rusty wings and a pale white head, a Brahminy Kite Haliastur indicus. The kite flew higher and higher till it reached a point from where it slid horizontally towards the northern edge of the coast. I was happy to see a raptor so close and felt a little sense of pride within my ignorant heart, to have seen a high-flying raptor from a position much above it.

The sea waves lashing the NCAOR coast
Still dwelling in the false pride, I saw three more kites of the same gotra, if I may equate it with species, soaring well above me in the south-western direction, as if mocking me of my 2-dimensional existence. The sense of pride was now replaced with awe at the controlled manner of their flight. None of them batted a wing but still manoeuvred easily along the path they wished to take. One of the Brahminy Kites lowered itself into the V, gradually without flapping a wing, scanning over the rocks that held fort against the unrelenting onslaught of the waves. For a moment the time stood still, as the kite inclined the wings to position itself in the middle of the giant V, putting to practice thousands of years of skills, inherited over several generations, to maintain oneself in the turbulent monsoon winds. Suddenly, like an accomplished combat aircraft breaking away from a unidirectional formation flight, the kite rose upwards, effortless as it seemed from where I stood, but with impeccable control over the speed, taking generous help from the gush of wind that was escaping upwards from the V. I glanced up to congratulate the practiced raptor for its magnificent show to find its superior, a White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster  making its way towards the sea in solitary splendour.

Photo taken in Sundarbans.
 At NCAOR, my camera battery died after the record pic of the
 Sunset point that I took after much dilly-dallying :-(

Sea-eagles are masters of flight. Equally famous is their flight displays during courtship when the pair interlocks claws and hurtles down from a considerable height at a perilous speed rolling like a wheel. Sea-eagles inhabit eco-tones, at the convergence of two habitats, like coastlines, along with other species like Brahminy kites and Ospreys. These raptors require large trees or rock faces for nesting and roosting and hunt along the shorelines, large estuaries and inshore waters. To them vegetation plays a lesser role than topography in selection of the feeding areas. During a typical hunt, sea-eagles swoop down rapidly into water for fish, scooping it with their long talons, killing and feeding in mid-air. They have also been seen pursuing rodents, snakes, fruit bats, seagulls, cormorants etc. There is also one report of a White-bellied Sea-eagle preying on the hatchlings of Salt-water Crocodile Crocodylus porosus.
Brahminy Sundarbans (Pic: Deb)

Similar resource requirements and habitat led sea-eagles and kites to share many common features, including fishing, scavenging, pirating of food, courtship displays and breeding habits. Incidentally, Brahminy kite is supposed to be the closest living link of the sea-eagles to their past ancestors. On the west coast of India, these aerial predators spend most of their time searching for the prey along the jagged shoreline. Spectacular flying skills are needed to augment their predatory features to hunt the prey in these windy areas. The utmost concentration with which they scan for probable food along the coast while effortlessly modifying their flight patterns to suit the wind direction and speed is an inspiration in itself. White bellied sea eagle, contrasted against the Sun with the characteristic underbelly suggested in their name, glides incessantly, like an intoxicated Himalayan ascetic wanders along the treacherous tracks of the great mountains, unconcerned with the equally befuddled followers who follow him all along.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Albino Sambar

An Albino Sambar was photographed at Corbett National Park at jamunagawd beat.
Refer: 167:107 (3), Sep-Dec 2010, Journal of Bombay Natural History Society

Oceans calling back....

After spending about 18 months on land , travelling from Elephant country of corbett to mangrove forests of sundarbans, hilly tracts of Satpuda to grasslands of kaziranga, my first love, oceans, is calling me back. I am in a fix , time is flying past , gotta take a decision soon....will be back with another adventure..

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Field training at Rajaji National Park (henceforth RNP)

After a few days of briefing and ecology lectures, we moved to Rishikesh for our field training part. On 19th December, 2009, we left Dehradun for Rishikesh. The journey was short (one and half hours), and all of us, around 28 tiger project fellows, 2 volunteers , Chittu bhai, raju bhai, Dr. Karthikeyan Vasudevan (KV) and Dr. Yadavendradev Jhala (DJ) reached Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam’s (GMVN) hotel “Bharat Bhoomi” at Rishikesh in the afternoon. There we met some other people like Dr.Anil K Singh & Milind (WTI), Dr. Gautam Talukdar and Suniti (RF on elephants). They were there to assist and guide us during the training. After the lunch we made our first trip to RNP.
Rajaji National Park is located at the centre of 3 main cities of Dehradun, Haridwar and Rishikesh. It has about 822 sq km area spread across the plains of Ganga and Yamuna and the hills of Shiwaliks (created from debris of Himalayas formation). The terrain is undulating and the vegetation is mixed deciduous type consisting mainly of Sal, Teak, and other plantations. Rajaji falls in the Shivalik zone of northern India that lies in the sub-himalayan tract. The area is characterized by highly dissected and undulating topography popularly known as Bhabar tract. This tract is drained by numerous rivers and streams running north to south, most of which remain dry in late winter and summer. These dry beds are locally called ‘raus’. Sal forest, with an understory of unpalatable shrub species such as Ardisia solanacea, Clerodendron infortunatum, Colebrookia oppositifolia, Desmodium spp., Flemingia spp. and a sparsity of grass, does not offer much forage to wild ungulates.
The forests of RNP boasts of major carnivores like Tiger, Leopard, Hyaena, Jackal and Sloth Bear. The ungulate population is diverse with Chital, Sambar, Nilgai, Wild boar and Gorals. But the charismatic animal of RNP is Elephant and it has given it an Elephant Reserve status too. There are an estimated 300-350 elephants all over the park. There are about 315 species of birds in the park esp. like Golden Oriole, Oriental-pied Hornbill, Indian Roller, Merganser, Osprey etc. RNP shares its border with Corbett Tiger Reserve and thus serves as a sink of animal movement from Corbett.

Due to closeness to major pilgrimage centres, RNP has a host of problems. There are gujjar settlements on the periphery of the park which gives rise to severe problems like livestock grazing and wood cutting. The construction of a canal in the middle of the area has completely obstructed the natural corridors of elephants except a narrow bridge. Over the years the growing human population and its demand for more forest land for agriculture and various development projects have broken the forest continuity along the west bank of the River Ganges and along the Kathgodam–Haldwani–Lalkuan Highway. The pressures on the remaining forests by the pastoral Gujjars, people in the adjacent towns and villages, and their livestock, grow day by day, severely threatening the wildlife values of this area.

We reached Chilla range of RNP at about 1400 hrs. The whole team was divided into 5 groups by DJ. We were given an intro on GPS units by Gautam sir. Soon the first three (I was in the 1st) teams were sent with Dr. Karthikeyan Vasudevan through the main gate of RNP while the rest with DJ near Ganga Kinare. KV briefed us about pugmark identification, elephants, trees etc as we walked 3-4 km in the jungle. The first walk was all about getting the feel of the jungle.
We spent 5 more days at RNP. We did five transects in triplicates for determining ungulate density, three sign surveys for intensity of use of a beat by carnivores, map reading, transect extensions and other stuff. There were many experiences worth sharing but that should be on another blog. The training ended a day after Christmas and we packed back to Dehradun for data analysis.

Friday, January 1, 2010

first days @ WII

I joined Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun on 14th december as a research personnel in the All India Project on Monitoring tigers, Co-predators, prey and their habitat. There were around 29 more candidates who joined with me on the same day.The day started with lectures on general wildlife and statistics. Our group's PIs ,Dr. Yadavendradev Jhala and Mr. Qamar Qureshi, Large mammal expert Dr. Sankar, Dean Dr. V.B.Mathur and some other wildlife experts gave brief lectures on different topics. We were intoduced to the Tiger census report of 2008 which estimated tiger population in the country to be 1411 (approx; excluding Sunderbans).

On 15th I shifted with others like Manas (Jhunjhunwala,Mumbai), Deb and Sudip (Jadavpur Univ, Kolkata), Gaurang (Garware, Pune) to the Tiger Den at Turner Road, Clement town. This was going to be our residence for the next full month.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A new journey beckons

After successive failures and 6 long months of working in no direction, the road ahead seems a bit open to me now. the decision will either be in favour of mind or heart but that doesnt matter now. I am a pro in taking risks head -on. so soon the blog is going to be flooded by posts of limitless travel and adventure. keep watching......................