Oct 23, 2016

Dachigam National Park

J&K complete logs here

Early next morning from Manasbahl, we drove straight to Dachigam National Park that is located about 20kms from Srinagar and home to the critically endangered Hangul (Kashmir stag), Himalayan bears and many others. We met Mr. Nazir Malik, one of the finest naturalists I’ve come across who knows Dachigam in and out and has got tremendous knowledge about everything in Dachigam and we were rewarded with some fine knowledge sharing and tips from him.

The park has got a couple of enclosures where bears and a leopard are housed in huge cages that were either rescued or nurtured in captivity since long. Visitors do come in during weekends for picnicking in the park and are taken on a short nature walk inside the park. The terrain in the national park varies from sloping grasslands to rocky outcrops and cliffs owing to the varied altitude variation (5500 to 14000 ft) of the park.

Hangul or Kashmir stag is the state animal of J&K and is found in the national park but habitat destruction and hunting has reduced it to a state of 'critically endangered' on the IUCN list and might be wiped out completely if suitable measures are not undertaken to protect its habitat. I personally feel tourism is pretty low to the park owing to the lackadaisical management of the park, conflicts in the state, and vulnerability owing to the hilly terrains of the park. Himalayan bears are also found in good numbers and there are many incidents of people getting killed/injured being attacked by them. The main thing to be noted here is neither bears or any other wild animals do not attack unless they are provoked or feel threatened or in a act of defense if their young ones are around.

Nazir bhai guided us on a small hike into the immensely vast national park and in that short period of time, we got to see many bird species in about a couple of hours. Chestnut-eared Bunting, Long-tailed Minivet, Tawny Owl, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, a host of flaura and many species of butterflies kept us enthralled. The afternoon session was a bit downer with a flat tyre and pouring rain but the Tawny Owl seen in fading light brought an end to our wonderful J&K birding trip.

We closed the day, the last of our long trip filled with many moments, experiences, lifers etc watching the football world cup match in Srinagar at Hotel Malik Palace situated overlooking the Dal lake. Next morning I, Kannan and PK were home bound in different flights while Amith had to drive back to drop the car and then catch his flight home a day later.

Closing notes:
First, to thank Amit for detailed planning, shepherding all of us and driving too. Kannan and PK for the awesome company and for many of those moments.
Tips & Notes:
> Have spare days, you never know how the weather can behave especially in the high altitude regions

> Do not rush and exert too much in the high ranges, take it slow and easy
> Manage your bookings only through known contacts or reliable portals, else you may be turned away at the doorstep
> Maggi was the staple diet for us but do try the local food. Keep instant noodles/bread/fruits while traveling to remote places
> Fuel is another precious commodity. Have spare cans on long journey outside of Leh
> Do not under estimate or ignore high altitude sickness. If it strikes, your trip is a complete messy affair. Be aware and take precautions, carry the necessary medications
> Carry sufficient warm wear but do not over stuff; nobody cares if you are wearing the same set daily
> Littering still happens and by all of us. Be sensible and dispose your trash in designated places. Avoid buying unwanted materials
> Help generate local economy – prefer a home stay, hire local guides and cabs, buy local products and help generate revenue