Monday, May 23, 2016

The Only Floating National Park In the World- Keibul Lamjao

The only floating National Park in the world, Keibul Lamjao is the last abode for the endangered species Sangai or dancing deer. Once threatened to near extinction, re-appeared a couple of years later and now one of the most endangered species. This Park is a part of the Loktak lake and though the lake has phumdis all over, the phumdis in the National Park are the ones that are best suited for the survival of the dancing deer. The reeds and grasses that grow on the phumdis serve as food for the sangai.

The Park is also home to rare species marbled cat and Himalayan black bear. Also it is a birders paradise and you can spot black kites, mynas, and hornbills in the vicinity.

Entering the park was one of the best moments of our travel lives. Walking on the trek path en-route the watch tower, we felt like we had the whole Keibul Lamjao National Park to ourselves. Though you can take a vehicle inside the park and halt directly at the watch tower, we would strongly recommend not doing so. The entire walk to the watch tower is a pleasant one with so much of natural beauty around. You never know what surprise might await you on the way. The best part being the numerous bird calls echoing all around giving you company and tempting you to look around to figure out which bird call it was.

On our path en-route the watch tower, we came across a water way and we hopped on a canoe and ventured into a narrow channel of water experiencing and enjoying the beauty of the floating paradise and occasionally looking out for the shy Sangai deer and aquatic birds.

We had once in a life time experience of setting foot on the phumdis and it was unbelievable to walk on the vegetation. If this was not enough our boatman put his 11 foot long bamboo pole and proved to us that there was no solid ground beneath our feet.

After the amazing canoe ride we headed to the watch tower. It is built high up on a hillock offering excellent panoramic views of the National Park. Some awesome perks of being an early birder is that we had the whole park to ourselves. It is from here that the chances of sighting a sangai deer are bright. The park opens early in the morning at 6 am but during winter the fog hinders visibility so it would be a good idea to reach the park by 8:30 or 9 am.

We were very fortunate to catch a glimpse of 4 sangai deers. It is a challenge to spot them amidst the high grass and the camouflage. This endangered species is the State animal of Manipur and conservation efforts are in full swing to ensure that they don't lose their State emblem. From a dwindling 14 in 1977 the numbers have increased to 204 in 2013. It would be a good idea to park aside at least half a day for this experience.

The National Park is facing many threats and this is hampering the survival of Sangai. Due to the construction of a barrage to aid the Hydro Electricity Power Project, the vegetation and ecology is changing drastically. Earlier the water level of the lake used to depend on the season. During dry season, phumdis would settle on the ground absorb nutrients from the soil and on the onset of monsoons float on water. Now, the phumdis are floating continuously and are therefore thinning over time. The barrage has also stopped the flow of old phumdis from the lake to the rivers.

The other threats being farming in the vicinity, lack of boundaries around the park have led to encroachment, poaching and illegal fishing. The park has already witnessed the disappearance of 16 indigenous species of fish and 20 species of plants. Waterfowls that were regular water migrants are now decreasing in number due to lack of open water surfaces. The state has to action out on the conservation efforts as the survival of phumdis is essential for the survival of Sangai.

Keibul Lamjao National Park is 10 km away from Sendra Resort, the only good option to stay in vicinity. We had a fun and adventurous experience of foot boarding in a packed share auto to the National Park. These are lively and precious moments that one can experience while backpacking rural India.

Entry tickets to the park are priced at Rs.30 per person and camera charges are Rs.50.  The half an hour canoe ride is charged at Rs.50 per person.