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Trip Report Halduparao FRH.

Having been a regular visitor at the Corbett Park, for over a quarter of a century, in the much sought after Dhikala zone; we were in search of a destination which is remote, has a lot of character, an area much less travelled, full of flora and fauna. An old friend recommended Halduparao FRH, in the heart of Sona Nadi Wildlife sanctuary.
The trunk road which passes through Haridwar, Najibabad, Kotdwar and finally connects Pauri Garhwal, bifurcates at Dogadda; Halduparao lies about 30 miles due east, being altogether about 165miles from Delhi. The entry to the Sonanadi sanctuary is at Vatan Vasa Gate. The subsequent part of the road passes through pristine terrain, with dense forests of Sal, Haldu, Runi, Tuun, Karphal, Ficus and Jamun trees. The landscape, overgrown with tall trees & scrub jungle everywhere, is criss-crossed by seasonal river beds and the perennial Palaine and Mandal rivers. We had to ford the river thrice to arrive at the FRH, which locates on a high cliff, a hundred feet or so above the river, commanding almost a mile of the riverine expanse. It was about 1:30PM.
The FRH consists of two rest houses, the older of the two being c1892 vintage and reserved for the forest department. The new FRH has two large rooms on the first floor, en-suite bathrooms, surprisingly clean, though, we disinfected the wc/buckets. The bed sheets were clean but again we used our own linen. One needs to carry rations, for there is no canteen/restaurant. The old forest guard serves as a cook and will dish out great meals for a small gratuity. The hospitality was old-world charm!
The first floor rooms have a spacious verandah for the traveller to sit on and enjoy the fabulous views all around! The supply of solar electricity, from sunset to sunrise, keeps the FRH and the grounds below, a light. The FRH is fenced to keep the marauding elephants at bay. The solar power lines give these animals a gentle reminder to keep off human dwellings!
There is a watch tower for the enthusiast to keep an eye on the game that emerged from the jungles to slake thirst.
It was quite warm at about 30+c when we arrived on the 19th April, but by 5:00PM, a cool breeze started blowing from the north rendering our stay very pleasant, for there are no fans to keep the rooms cool. The windows have a wire gauge that excluded the mosquitoes & bugs.
There are several trails inside the sanctuary for viewing wildlife, some motor able and some only jeep able. We kept to the motor able and saw a lot of game which included the Cheetal, Sambhar, Barking deer, Langoor monkeys etc. in fairly large numbers, though not as much as one finds in the grasslands of Dhikala. We saw pugmarks of the tigers and elephant dung, everywhere. The elephants were nowhere in sight and my assumption is that they may have migrated towards the close-by Kalagarh reservoir, to keep themselves cool from the hot weather, for Sona Nadi has long been known to be elephant country.
That evening after partaking of dinners, we went off to sleep, listening to the Cheetal deer announcing the presence of a tiger, beyond the river. I was woken up in the small hours of the morning by sharp Sambhar calls that emanated from immediately behind the FRH.
The Birdlife at Halduparao is truly amazing. I have never seen or heard such a multitude of colouful birds, I saw that early morning, 5:15AM. The trees & the sky was full of birds, the chirping reminiscent of the old cine documentaries of life in the Indian jungles! Sadly, I am not a birder and therefore regret my inability to identify all the birds we saw at Halduparao. Nonetheless, some of the easily recognizable were Kaleej pheasants, Red jungle fowl, Green pigeons, Toucans??, Himalayan magpie, White necked stork, Paradise fly catcher, Crested serpent eagles, Shikras, Golden orioles, Green barbets, Bee-eaters; Doves, Kingfishers & parakeets of several varieties.
Anyone initiated in this art will be stunned by the experience!
In all we had one safari each for the evening & morning. The second evening we spent on the watch-tower and were amply rewarded by sighting of several animals and a civet cat that found its way from the bank to the foot of the watch tower, quickly disappearing into the jungle on our left, after noticing our presence a few feet above. The second night was less eventful except for the calls of jackals and a lone nightjar, calling to its mate further up the hill.
It is my belief that the best time to visit the sanctuary should be mid February to early April. Late November / December may not be good time, for the monsoons could render the rivers un-fordable.
Halduparao was sort of an exclusive experience!
Happy Hunting!!

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