Sunday, 28 December 2014

Suryalanka Where you encounter the Sand Galaxies

After the Pelican Paradise at Kolleru Wild life Sanctuary ( Click here if you missed browsing it), our next stop was Suryalanka Beach. The 170 kms drive from Kolleru through NH-5 goes via Vijayawada, Mangalagiri (known for the famous Mangalagiri sarees and dress material), Ponnur- off NH5 and Bapatla. See map below.

There are huge monolith rocks that jut out of the horizon. See the picture below taken while driving on NH-5 between Vijayawada and Guntur.  

Highway or no highway, local transportation is a rich assortment in India. See this double-decker improvisation in a lorry!

This giant statue of Lord Hanuman towers above the trees and houses along the highway.

Krishna basin is very fertile. The drive from Guntur Junction on NH-5 to Bapatla goes through paddy fields. December is harvesting time. You can see the paddy in various stages of readiness for harvesting.

Time for a photo-break, 6 kms from Bapatla. See the milestone in Telugu along with our car Tata Zest.
The beach road to Suryalanka from Bapatla sees lot of traffic. This tender-coconut vendor makes a killing. Even though located in the heart of coconut growing fields, each coconut costs Rs 35/- (same as in cities like Hyderabad or Chennai). See inset below.

 We stayed with the Air Force. The guest rooms at Surya Kutir are very well furnished and maintained. Here is the view from our room.
The beach sit-outs offer complete relaxation.

Like all beaches, the attractions are the surf, sunrise (or sunset depending on the location) and the solitude. Beaches also help you understand the meaning of horizon. We could experience all of it.

However, being a cloudy and dull day, we were not so lucky to catch the rising sun. Yet we were well rewarded with the magical hues of dawn skies. This is pre-dawn shot.
As the day dawns on the beach, it shows its colours.
 Being a cloudy morning, we could see the Sun only after it came high up!
A stroll on the beach is always most refreshing. That is Neeta and me on the beach. 

And how can it be without a selfie?

While on the beach, we observed some intricate flowery patterns on sand. Close observation revealed that these patters were made up of tiny sand balls. To give you an idea of the size of these patterns, the toe of my shoe is included in the frame at bottom left! Take a look.

Time for a close up shot.

Later research revealed that these sand flowers and sand galaxies are created by tiny sand bubbler crabs.

Sand bubbler crabs (or sand-bubblers) are small crabs, around 1 cm (0.4 in). They look like scorpions and live on sandy beaches in the tropical Indo-Pacific. The picture below is courtesy Shravan Khare from the Net.

Sand bubbler crabs live in burrows in the sand, where they remain during high tide. When the tide is out, they emerge on to the surface of the sand, and scour the sand for food, forming it into inflated pellets, which cover the sand. 

The crabs work radially from the entrance to their burrow, which they re-enter as the tide rises and disintegrates the pellets. (Courtesy Wikipedia).

See some more pictures of sand galaxies created by these tiny marvels of Nature. The intricate patterns form when the tiny crustaceans sift through the sand in search of microscopic food before gathering what's left into a sphere and throwing it behind its legs. 

Here is another sand galaxy

During low tide, the whole beach was covered with thousands of sand galaxies. See the 'dark' picture below with an inset of the sea.

Another eye-catching pattern

You can see these tiny crabs at work  in this video: 

We also saw two dead star fish on the beach. Felt sorry. But couldn't help admiring the symmetry in their design.  Nature's marvel indeed. 

After another selfie on the beach, it was time to bid good bye to Suryalanka. 

 Christmas festivities were in full swing. We saw many large size stars put up on the road side as in the picture below.
 On the return log, we wanted to stopover at Vijayawada for a darshan of Kanaka Durga Temple atop the hill. But the traffic snarl and a special darshan day earmarked for devotees by the thousands, dissuaded us from doing so. See the white gopuram of the temple in right half of the next picture. 

We end this travelogue of Suryalanka with a quote from Picasso who had once said, "Without great solitude, no serious work is possible".

Bye till the next travelogue.
Enjoy the holiday season and see you again in the New Year.

Do drop in your comments/feedback.

   - Harsh-the Ghumakkad/ 28th Dec 2014

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Kolleru The Pelican Paradise

Kolleru Lake Wildlife Sanctuary- The Pelican Paradise

Winter months herald the arrival of migrant birds like Pelicans, Ducks, Cranes etc from far away places like Siberia. Indian peninsula sees plenty of activity by these winged visitors. Large lakes and sanctuaries become their nesting sites. One such place in Andhra Pradesh is called Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS). 

Neeta and I drove 350 kms from Hyderabad to Eluru in our Tata Zest. (see the map below)

One has to cross the lake (or the remains of the lake!) and drive to Kaikulur. Enroute comes a display hut with a view tower maintained by the Forest Department.  A ceiling high signage proclaims Kolleru WLS to be India's 'Largest Fresh Water Wet Land'. See the picture below.
The view from the Viewing Tower enroute Kaikaluru.

Kolleru lake is nature's reservoir to balance the floods between Krishna and Godavari river basins. Average depth is 4 feet. The lake which was once close to 900 sq kms has shrunk to less than half its size-- thanks to encroachments by the fish tanks. Fish tanks are all over! See the two maps-- 30 years apart-- courtesy The before and after views depict human greed and disrespect for Nature!

After negotiating through the village bye lanes, we reached the 'Pelican Paradise'. It truly is a paradise for bird watchers and Nature lovers. It was a cloudy day with haze-- not a perfect day for photography. But that is not in our control.

The Kaikaluru lake has facilities for hiring  4 or 8-seater boats with life vests during 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. A 20 minute boat ride costs Rs 200 + 100 bucks for the camera. It has a boarding point which can be slippery and dangerous during rains. The boats are powered by an OBM, which does make some noise. But the birds seem to have got accustomed to it! You can get quite close to the birds. The boatman however, has instructions not to cut the engine!
While we were there, we saw a group of young doctors from Ashram Medical College Eluru. See the pictures below. 

The lake has numerous small islands with 'Keekar' trees which are ideal nesting sites for Pelicans and Painted Storks. This spot-billed pelican posed for us.

Why this name 'spot billed'? Because this species of Pelican has spots on upper mandible of their beaks. See the picture below.
As we mentioned, the lake has been badly encroached upon with loss of nesting sites. Therefore man made nesting sites have been created. Basically these are iron stands erected on small bunds in the lake. See the pictures below.
The pelicans have accepted these nesting 'grounds'. See a pelican family perched atop this iron nest!
In contrast, here is a pelican in its natural nest with grass!
Chicks like human babies, are always hungry. You can see a pelican landing on the nest and the beaks of pelican chicks are wide open asking for fish or whatever catch the 'mother' has brought!

Another picture where you can see the spots on this 'Spot-billed Pelican' also called the 'Grey pelican'.

Like all feathered friends, pelicans preen themselves. 
And this pelican flew past showing its majestic wings-- like the fly past during the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.

Here is Neeta in action taking a video shot  with the iron stands for nesting in the background.
For previous pictures of the pelicans and other birds taken at Ranganathittu Karnataka, please click here.

After the Pelicans, it was the turn of Painted Storks. These tall birds with long beaks nest along with the pelicans.
Painted Storks nest in colonies as in the pictures below.

It is feeding time!
An eye level shot of a painted stork taken from our moving boat.
A stork in flight with a village in the background on lake shore.
Yes, a mud road connects a village in middle of the lake. The path is wide enough for cattle, school children, cyclists and auto rickshaws to ply. See the collage below.

We only hope the lake retains its natural habitat and the pristine beauty for our grand children to enjoy.
Neeta turned around to say good bye to Kolleru Lake .
Hope you enjoyed Kolleru Lake and its surroundings.
Do share your experiences/observations.

Bye till then,
     - Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 17th Dec 2014