Blue-throated barbet (Margalla Hills)

Blue-throated barbet observed at Margalla Hills, Trail No. 5 in Islamabad.

 

Blue-throated barbet is a barbet which can be seen in the forests spread throughout from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia. It has a very distinct beautiful bright blue colored face and throat.

 

In Pakistan, Blue-throated barbet can only be seen in the forest around Murree hills.

Photo : Mariko SAWADA Text :Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI
Observation : End of OCT, Margalla Hills National Park – Trail No5, Islamabad
Reference : Helm Field Guide “Birds of Pakistan”

Category : # Islamabad Capital Territory > ** Birds of Pakistan > - Margalla Hills
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Rufous-bellied niltava (Margalla Hills)

This is Rufous-bellied niltava that I encountered at Margalla Hills, Trail No.5.

 

Rufous-bellied niltava is found in temperate forests from South China to Southeast Asia and South Asia.

In Pakistan, it is found in Murree and Kaghan Valley, which are the southern foot of the Himalayas at an altitude of 1,800m to 2,600m . In winter it descends down to a lower place.

 

I went on Saturday at 7 am, before going to Office, but already many people were walking on the trail.

Photo : Mariko SAWADA Text : Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI
Observation : End of OCT, Margalla Hills National Park – Trail.No.5, Islamabad
Reference : Helm Field Guides “Birds of Pakistan”

Category : # Islamabad Capital Territory > ** Birds of Pakistan > - Margalla Hills
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Sunrise at Gorakh Hill Station

Gorakh Hill is a popular tourist destination in Sindh.

Drive to west from N55 (commonly known as the Indus Highway), it is a plateau of 1,700m above sea level in the Kiltar Mountains. View is similar to mountainside of Balochistan and the people who live along the road are Baloch people.

The name of Gorakh is derived from a Hindu devotee who believes in Shiva. Yes, Sindh is the state where 94% of Pakistani Hindus live.

 

The altitude rose from the plains of Sindh and finally we came above the clouds! This is the trail which can be done only by 4WD and it took a lot of time, so we missed the sunset on this day.

 

Despite that bad road, it is a busy place for tourists coming from urban areas such as Karachi on weekends. Since we visited on weekdays, there were only a few groups, but sometimes it could exceed 1000 people. Coming from hot place to a cool plateau, watching sunset and sunrise, campfire at night … such a trip is very popular among young tourists.

 

We went to the Benazir viewpoint to see sunrise.

 

Good Morning, Gorakh hill !

 

A villa-like building was built in a nice view of the plateau. Will it eventually become like Murre in the suburbs of Islamabad? I wanted to leave a magnificent view of the Kirthar Mountains and it’s nature.

 

This is the viewpoint … located edge of plateau.

 

After the sunrise, breakfast was served in a restaurant run by Juman Jamali.
The experience at Gorakh hill …. I couldn’t think that I am in Sindh.

Photo : Mariko SAWADA * Some photos are taken by drone.
Text : Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI
Visit: Nov 2019, Gorakh Hill Station, Dadu, Sindh

 

Category : # Sindh > - Gorakh Hill Station
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Hingol National Park – Mud Volcano World-5

Chandragup mud volcano in Hingol National Park, Balochistan.

A mud volcano is a landform shaped by the outburst of mud, water, and gases. It’s called “volcano” but it is not inevitably related to the distinctive volcanic activity. It only erupts out mud along with methane gas. The Arabian Plate subducts into the Eurasian Plate in the coastal area of Balochistan. In many cases, volcanic activity is active in such places but in the case of Balochistan, huge “mud volcano area” has emerged.

There are three mud volcanoes at Chandragup and there are distinct descriptions of “Chandragup 1”, “Chandragup 2”and “Chandragup 3”, depending on the documents. It seems to be sure, the highest one which is for the sacred Hindu pilgrimage is “Chandragup 1”. However, I don’t know which is 2 or 3 for the other two volcanoes. I comprehend it in the order of height.

 

The crater of second highest mud volcano in Chandragup – “Chandragup 2” . The previous season was dry with no activity, but this year mud erupted from within and began to accumulate in the crater. What an entrancing view of the crater reflecting light of golden hour.

 

“Chandragup 2” is a mud volcano with a gentle steady slope, and has a gorgeous landscape created by the mud flow.

 

“Chandragup mud volcano 2” seen from directly above. The beauty created by mud; truly a remarkable sight.

 

Sunset from “Chandragup mud volcano 2” . Fortunately, it was a blessed day with a beautiful sunset.

 

Photo: Mariko SAWADA * Some photos are drone shots.

Text :Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI

Special Thanks: Yoko Kadonaga for photograph from Crater edge

Visit: Nov 2019, Chandragup Mud Volcano, Hingol National Park, Makran Coast, Balochistan

Category : # Balochistan > - Hingol National Park > - Makran Coast > - Mud Volcano
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Hingol National Park – Mud Volcano World-4

While driving along the Makran Coastal Highway towards Kund Malir, you can see several mud volcanoes in the rugged mountains of Hingol National Park visible from the road. This mud volcano is one of them.

A mud volcano is a landform created by the eruption of mud, water, and gases. It’s called “volcano” but it is not necessarily related to the typical volcanic activity with lava. It only erupts out mud along with methane gas. The Arabian Plate subducts into the Eurasian Plate in the coastal area of Balochistan. In many cases, volcanic activity is active in such places, but in the case of Balochistan, huge “mud volcanic area” has emerged.

>> Other article about Mud Volcanoes in Hingol National Park :   2   3

 

Moreover, there is a large mud volcano next to it. Although it is the same mud volcano, its appearance is quite different.

 

Walk to the base of this mud volcano.

In early November, I walked on the mud volcanic area with the first Balochistan tour of this season. It takes time here because there are soft spots and you have to walk carefully. Nevertheless, the landscape created by the mud is stunning and beguiling.

 

The temperature was high on this day and it was really difficult to walk after 10 o’clock. However, in November, Balochistan is also the turning point of the season, and morning and evening time is pleasant to spend.

 

Photo : Mariko SAWADA * Some photos are drone shots.

Text : Mariko SAWADA  & Sarosh HADI

Visit: Nov 2019, Hingol National Park, Makran Coast, Balochistan

Category : # Balochistan > - Hingol National Park > - Makran Coast > - Mud Volcano
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Kashmir Markhor Mother and Kid just across the river!

In the mountainous and rugged area near Chitral, there are several places where Kashmir Markhor can be observed.

Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan. There are 4 subspecies; Astor Markhor, Kabul Markhor, Kashmir Markhor, and Suleiman Markhor inhabited in Pakistan.
Indeed, Pakistan is surprisingly a country with a plethora of Markhors.

 

In the Tooshi Game Reserve, on the other side of the river along the way to Garam Chashma (hot spring) from Chitral, several groups of Markhor come to drink water from the river in the afternoon.

During this tour we observed a female Markhor and her kid very closely from the river side. But, only female and kid… Where is male?
Males spend most of the year  high on the mountains and they descend to low altitudes for mating in month of  December.

 

Markhor not only comes to drink water, but also to eat the leaves and bushes that grow on the river bank.

Kashmir Markhor climbing a tree!

 

Both mother and kid are standing on hind legs & eating.

 

Yes, you have to eat well before the harsh winters start!

 

During the visit, we did not get information about number of Markhor  in the Tooshi Game Reserve. But at at the Chitral Gol National Park nearby, it is said that the number of Markhor has increased to about 2,500.

In fact, I was able to meet Kashmir Markhor easily both in Tooshi Game Reserve and Chitral Gol National Park. Next time I would like to see “the male Markhor”.

 

Photo: Mariko SAWADA    Text : Mariko SAWADA, Sarosh HADI
Visit : Oct 2019, Tooshi Game Reserve, Chitral , Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : # Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Chitral > - Markhor
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Nani Mandir, Hindu Temple in Pakistan –Hingol National Park

Pakistan, a country created for Muslims in the name of Islam.

However, there are Hindus and other religious minorities living in Pakistan and undoubtedly there are Hindu temples for Hindus to worship.

From the outset, I was confounded when a typical looking Pakistani man wearing shalwar kameez came to me and said, “Yes, I’m Hindu”.

 

Nani Mandir – also known as Hinglaj Mata – a Hindu Temple in Hingol National Park, Balochistan. It is a popular and sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus living in Pakistan.

Moreover, it is said that about 40,000 pilgrims come every year during the April pilgrimage season. A stunning number which can ideally increment if Pakistan India relations show signs of improvement.

 

It was said that 14% of the Pakistani population were Hindus and Sikhs before the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

Numerous Hindus relocated to India during this period and the Hindu populace tumbled to 1.6%.

According to Pakistan-Hindu Council currently, 8 million Hindus live in Pakistan. It is the second-largest religious group in Pakistan, accounting for 4% of Pakistan’s total population of 200 million. Notably, 94% of them live in Sindh.

 

When we visited the hallowed Nani Mandir, the priest briefed us about the Hindu faith, the temple’s history and the great pilgrimage of spring.

Hinduism in Muslim dominating Pakistan … It was a new discovery.

 

Photo: Mariko SAWADA   Text: Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI
Visit: Nov 2018, Nani Mandir / Hinglaj Mata – Hingol National Park, Balochistan

 

 

Category : # Balochistan > - Hingol National Park
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Balkasar Bear Sanctuary, Protect Bears in Pakistan!

This is the story of Balkasar Bear Sanctuary.
An acquaintance working in the hunting tourism sector invited me to visit the Balkasar Bear Sanctuary. At first, I didn’t know the main idea behind this place until I went there and saw the reality.

 

The bears were safeguarded and brought here from the entertainment show businesses like, “Bear Fighting” and “Dancing Bear”.

Most of the bears were owned by landlords in the southern part of Pakistan (South Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan), and their teeth and claws were taken out and sold.

Some individuals even had no limbs. They were cut out by their avaricious owners as a punishment for not obeying.
Seeing a bear with no limbs in front of me, I could not believe how cruel humans are.

 

Himalayan black bear under the training.

An acquaintance brought me here, who is a hunting tour operator involved in the bear conservation project and is responsible for the operations of returning to the wild. For him, knowing real wild animals, abuse of wild bear was not acceptable.

As I mentioned in the previous blog, Pakistan’s hunting situation is somehow contributing to the conservation of wild animals. The officials decide every year quota for each animal and returning profits to the local area. In this way, illegal hunting has halted and simultaneously protecting wild animals. Though it works only for animals which are labeled as “Trophy Hunting” animals, not for all the animals.

 

Time for the evening meal.

Balkasar Bear Sanctuary has 54 bears. The vast majority of them are black bears.

According to the experts, the current population of wild bears in Pakistan is assessed to be between 600 and 650 Himalayan black bears, 200 to 250 Himalayan brown bears. Though there is no official survey.
This means that approximately 6-7% of Pakistani bears are saved and protected in Balkasar Bear Sanctuary.

 

As my curiosity escalated, I asked how these bears are sold in the city.

In many cases, shepherd and locals search for hibernating mother bear and cub, killing the mother bear and bringing cub for sale.

I could not believe all these stories but it is a hard reality.

These bears were dealt badly in show business. When they were rescued and brought to the sanctuary their condition was utterly horrendous. Even the staff had difficulty confronting the truth of what befell these bears.
Pakistani and foreign veterinarians who cooperate with this Bear Sanctuary have helped save many bear’s life.

Unfortunately, these bears can’t go back to the wild anymore. The teeth and claws were taken out by some remorseless and selfish humans.

The purpose of this facility is to provide these bears to spend their remaining lives in a natural condition with other bears.

 

Moreover, this facility is working hard daily to return the bears to the wild who  are able to survive in the wild.
In the early summer 2016, they released three Himalayan black bears, and that success encouraged them to adopt this practice regular.
In the early summer of 2017, they released two Himalayan brown bears (2 and a half years old) who were trained to return to the wild.

As of October 2019, when we visited this sanctuary, two of them have survived in the wild. A microchip was embedded and its movement was monitored.

Some Himalayan black bear cubs are expected to return to the wild in 2020. The cubs will be trained regarding how to catch a fish at the facility in Nathia Gali.
Lobbying to the government has also been made at the same time.

 

It is also surprising that Balkasar Bear Sanctuary is not operating with aid funds such as the government’s or donations, but is working with income from their vegetable garden.

Negotiating with owners of bears such as powerful landlords, saving the bear from them, and returning the cubs to the wild is not an easy task by any means.

Wild animals such as Ibex and other goats’ families are protected under the trophy hunting resume and no doubt the number is increased, but bears are not protected at all and are in danger condition.

I would like to express my sincere respect and gratitude to the people of Balkasar Bear Sanctuary who fight against the cruel humans for the sake of wildlife, bears of Pakistan.

 

Photo : Mariko SAWADA   Text : Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI
Visit : Oct 2019, Balkasar, Punjab, Pakistan

Category : # Punjab > ** Save Nature & Wildlife
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How to apply for Pakistan e-VISA

Pakistan’s VISA is now available online.

We had a report from our foreigner client who traveled on an e-VISA recently. Below is the step by step process of application and precautions required, as of Oct 2019.

Necessary items:
PC, passport, credit card, face photo data, hotel reservation certificate.
Fee: $ 8.18 (as of October 2019)

Application site : https://visa.nadra.gov.pk

Access the above site from your PC.
**Note : Website is not displayed with browsers other than Google Chrome or Firefox.

 

This screen will appear when you access it.
Click “Visit Visa” in the red frame.

 

Then click “Tourist Visa”.

 

Click “Apply Now”.

 

First, you need to create an account.
Click “CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT”.

 

Fill in all the blanks and check the checkbox at the end. Click “SAVE AND CONTINUE”.
* *Note: Password must contain at least 8 characters, including upper and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols.

 


If such a screen is displayed, it is success till this point.

 


An e-mail like above will be sent to the registered email address.
Continue clicking “Continue Registration”.

 


Type in the 4-digit pin code you received via e-mail. Fill in the remaining blanks and activate your account. Click “VERIFY”.

 


Once your account is activated, login again with the email address and password you registered earlier.

 


Check and click “Accept and Continue”.

 

Select “Your Country” from the tab. Click “START E-VISA APPLICATION” … Finally from this step onwards you start applying for e-VISA.
Afterwards, fill the red stars blank space along the flow.

After entering all necessary items, you need to upload 3 documents.
1 Passport copy
2 Face photo
3 Hotel reservation certificate

(If you live in a third country, visa or work certificate of that country)

You can upload files up to 350KB, so adjust the size and upload one by one.

 

The application will finish once the payment through credit card is completed.

 



About 10 days after applying, I received a Visa approval e-mail.
Copy and Print e-Visa from the email link and take it with you.
**Note : You will be asked to submit at immigration and hotel / flight check-in, checkport etc.. . Keep it always with your passport.

 

When you arrive at the airport, first you have to go to the e-Visa counter.
It is necessary to have a sign and stamp like the image above.
After that, you will line up in the immigration counter for foreigners.
Pakistan has made easy access for individual travelers to obtain visa.
Please use it when you travel to Pakistan.

This information is what our foreign client has experienced in November 2019.
The content/condition of obtaining e-visa may change. Be sure to check the website https://visa.nadra.gov.pk by yourself and apply with enough time before traveling to Pakistan.

 

Text :Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI

 

* The article is based on information as of November 28, 2019. It does not guarantee the acquisition of a visa. In the future, e-VISA application sites and acquisition conditions may change. Please be sure to check the latest https://visa.nadra.gov.pk information. In addition, please make an application with enough time before departure.

* I have heard that the above site does not open in India. Please be careful  if you live in India or traveling in India.

Crossing India-Pakistan border and Flag ceremony at Wagha .

Category : # Travel Tips
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Sindh Ibex – Hingol National Park

Sindh Ibex is a mountain goat family that lives in the rugged dry mountainous areas of southern Pakistan. As the name suggests, Kirthar National Park in Sindh is famous for its natural habitat. However, Sindh Ibex also lives in Hingol National Park, Balochistan.

Surprisingly it was easy to meet Sindh Ibex coming to the water in the dry Hingol National Park. It was at the sacred Hinglaj Mata Hindu Temple (also called Nani Mandir) inside the national park. When I approached the shrine, Sindh Ibex was eating grass in quite a close distance.

 

A male Sindh Ibex. There are two types of Ibex in Pakistan. Himalayan Ibex in the Northern Mountains and Sindh Ibex in the mountains of Sindh and Balochistan. The male horn of Sindh Ibex astoundingly grows 1m long.

 

Gorgeous female Sindh Ibex and its baby.

 

Going forward, suddenly I saw a group of Ibex emerging from just above the cliff. Generally, Sindh Ibex seems to move in relatively large groups.

There were a lot of trophy-sized males (ones with large horns permitted to trophy hunting). In Pakistan, Ibex trophy hunting is taking place. However, it is only prohibited inside the national parks and hunting is operated under the rules and regulations by the community forest. For 2019, 50 Himalayan Ibex and 24 Sindh Ibex in Pakistan are allocated for trophy hunting slots.

Hunting?? In this era?? No doubt, I am against hunting, but Pakistan’s hunting situation is likewise identified with conservation and the endurance of the local villagers. Trophy hunting targets only large horned individuals who have no more ability to reproduce. Subsequently, these profits are given to villagers, so villagers crackdown on illegal hunting. Therefore, it is said that the Ibex population has increased in both the northern and southern regions since this system was established.

 

Energetic young males began battling with their horns.

 

It’s like a fighting practice. A male Ibex show dominance by fighting with a horn over females when they reach maturity.

 

Photo : Mariko SAWADA    Text : Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI
Visit : Feb 2019, Hinglaj Mata/Nani Mandir, Balochistan

Category : # Balochistan > ** Wildlife of Pakistan > - Hingol National Park > - Ibex
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