Monday, April 18, 2016

Doyang- Great Migration Of Amur Falcons


If solitude is your cup of tea and you want to enjoy Nature at it's best without any disturbance then Doyang is the perfect place. This beautiful village in remote parts of Nagaland is a bird watchers paradise and is visited by lakhs of Amur Falcons during the winter months. These incredible migratory birds have chosen this fertile land for roosting, embarking on a marathon flight from East Asia to Siberia via North East India covering thousands of kilometers. Only a handful of homes are dotted across the hill and this is one of those rare places to enjoy wilderness. The star lit sky and massive reservoir built over Chubi river on which the Doyang hydro power project sits is a picturesque destination.


An early morning walk on deserted roads with a foggy view of the lake, mist on the leaves and the melodious chirping of birds soothing our ears, we could not have asked for a more blissful morning. It was an awesome experience to hear callings of various birds and the one that grabbed our attention was the call of a racket-tailed Drongo. For the next three hours, all that we could hear was out and out bird calls and we had fun identifying as many birds as possible. The best sight that unfolded that day was a massive flock of juvenile Falcons whistling past us. They were flying really low and at great speed that in a split second they vanished. This region is not only good for bird watching but there are also plenty of colorful butterflies.


We went about exploring the place on foot and it made us feel like we were marooned on an island and left to fend for ourselves. We sat by the longest bailey bridge in India, Chubi Bridge, hours went by and no words were spoken and in this state of peace we could very clearly hear the oars of a boat slapping Chubi river and then slowly fade away.



After a long walk, we headed to an ordinary tea shop with an extraordinary view. Silence is truly golden and it being such a rare occurrence in our busy city life, we were truly able to appreciate and realize how valuable, serene and enjoyable it could be. It was a perfect setup for relaxation of the mind, body and soul- enjoying views of placid river, mountain vistas and sipping hot cup of tea. In the entire stretch of 5 kilometers, we came across only 2 other homes and 1 tea shop, this speaks a lot about how remote this place is.



The roosting site of the falcons is very close to the next village after Doyang. On the way to the roosting site is the watch tower which is entirely built with natural resources and is a lovely little spot to spend hours early morning and evening to watch these magnificent birds fill the sky and prey on dragon fly and other insects. It is a pretty sight to see hundreds of them sit on high tension wires. It seems as though they have completely taken over the village.



After much struggle we made it up to the roosting site and it was an experience like none other. Doyang is India's own Masai Mara as we got to experience the Great Migration Of Falcons. We were amazed to see millions of Amur Falcons turn the deep blue sky grey. It appeared like we were witnessing a scene from fantasy movie 'The Mummy' live. Any direction that our heads turned to, we saw several millions of these birds hovering in circles. Like the sky is lit by stars in the night, during evening the sky was lit by amur falcons. It was such a majestic and overwhelming experience.


These amazing little raptors take one of the longest migration routes of all birds (The Marathon Migration) traveling a total of 22,000 km a year from East Asia to Southern Africa and back. These birds migrate over sea even during night. It is during this migration that they halt in North East India to replenish their energy levels. During this brief stay of 3 months they help the North East farmers by acrobatically feeding midair on swarming insects that destroy crops. These birds fly over the Indian Ocean en-route Africa and cover a whopping distance of 4000 km in 3 to 4 days. It is still unclear as to what route they take on their way back.


Doyang, home to the largest congregation of Amur Falcons, until recently was more known for hunting these birds for their meat and for selling them in the market. While these tiny little creatures do their best to help humans we show our gratitude by mercilessly hunting them in the thousands for their meat but now these same birds are considered as the pride of the state thanks to the conservation efforts.


We reached the roosting site where a group of self proclaimed conservationists act as the governing body and care takers welcome you. These unemployed bunch of youth run a big con here. A big warning to any wild life enthusiast who plans to visit this place to see this incredible feat is that there is absolutely no administrative body here or any set of rules or regulations. They reminded us of the local colony goons who come to your doorstep to collect chanda during festivals. In the name of conservation and volunteering for a noble cause, they gain your trust and claim there are no fees or charges but only a voluntary donation of any amount of your choice. After making the donation we explicitly asked if there was a guide fee? For which the answer was "No, We Only Collect Donations." They gain your respect but beware this is nothing but a big trap.

When we were done with our tour and on our way back to exit point, out of the blue we were informed about a "Mandatory Guide Charge" of Rs.400. We were taken aback and started questioning the difference in statement before and after the tour. No where did it mention that visitors are charged any fee and they themselves explicitly mentioned the same. On reaching the exit point 7 guys ganged up and demanded that we pay these charges and if this was not enough, they had the audacity to ask Rs.200 more for "Camera Charges." This lawlessness and fraud ruined an amazing experience! After too many questions, the "Camera Charges" disappeared all of a sudden but guide fee remained. Since it was very dark and we were a lone couple we had no other option but to pay the ransom. The point here is not about Rs.400 but the fact that we traveled over 3000 km to have this experience and if the hooligans get used to this who knows what they might do next?

We agree that any wildlife park or sanctuary are entitled to collect Park, guide and camera fee plus the usual other charges. However, the tourist is always made aware and provided receipts for the same. And later on there are no hidden charges. In this instance we were welcomed grandly and they projected a 'No fee' picture explicitly and later on we were asked to shell out for charges that suddenly appeared without any receipt. This is a sure shot example of swindling money from unsuspecting travelers and for this reason alone we had an issue. These lovely folks also provide food and lodging at the roosting site, do try out at your own risk! This instance is no exaggeration and this is exactly how it happened.


The best time to visit the roosting site is early morning 5 to 8 am or evening 3:30 to 5 pm. It is a solid 15 to 18 km distance between Doyang and the roosting point. It is impossible to walk this path as it would be pitch dark and very cold both early in the morning and post sunset. Also, note it is thick jungle area and populated by wild animals especially elephants. So one has no other option other than to hire a taxi. The availability of these taxis are scarce and way too expensive. We coughed out Rs.2000 for the 20 km journey.

In spite of being just 30 km from Wokha, reaching the beautiful village of Doyang in itself could be a big challenge due to bumpy roads and no tarmac just gravel and sand. Still it is well worth a visit as we were greeted by absolute pristine and pollution free environment. Maybe the challenges in reaching this remote place is a blessing a disguise as  the pristine beauty of the place remains intact. Commercialization would ruin the natural surroundings and it would not take much time for it to completely get polluted ripping away the natural habitat.


For a traveler who depends on public transport, shared taxis ply in this route but are packed to full capacity. It is highly unlikely that one might find empty seats. There is a lone bus that plies in this route which leaves from Pangti village to Wokha at 5 am and returns anywhere between 2 to 3 pm. Nonetheless, the experience of travelling like a local is much better than the comforts of a luxury car or hired taxi. The connect that you feel with the locals makes you instantly a part of the place and of course you meet more people, make some amazing friends and learn more about their lives, the challenges they face. The simple task of traveling like the locals teaches us a lot and the most significant being that it makes you a much more humble person.

There are literally only a handful of very basic stay options here as fortunately, commercial tourism has still not caught up here. We stayed in 'The Falcon Pass' homestay. They have two basic rooms with 3 beds each and a common bath. Each bed is let out at Rs.400 per night, lunch and dinner is also arranged from their kitchen and is priced at a very reasonable Rs.150 per person per meal. During our stay here we got to taste awesome fresh water fish and country chicken. When you stay at falcon pass do ask the host to prepare omelette which was yummy and more like their signature dish. The best part about the place is that it has a very charming sit out over looking the reservoir. It is an off beat destination in the middle of nowhere and ideal for unwinding. They can be reached at 9612888376.


Spot Our Homestay Right In Between The Two Hills

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