Scrolling through Facebook, I came across a friend's post. A birder by passion, he was exploring the coastal Tamil Nadu and on one such birding session he was documenting his sightings when all of a sudden a plastic bottle came flying out of nowhere and at some birds he was observing from a respectable distance. Reason? The location (I won't disclose for it may attract more such elements) was rich in birdlife/activity, a perfect spot for some photography. So one such photographer, in order to get that one perfect bird-in-action shot, threw the aforementioned bottle at those birds and a series of click-click followed. Did he get his perfect shot or was he already planning to move on to the next destination and while doing so, gather some more plastic bottles? We'll never know. Whatever it was, it sure did leave a bad taste in the mouth. That post not only left me cringing so hard, but also reminded me of my personal experiences.
A birder myself, I have spent many hours, literally doing nothing, just looking at birds. Real fun is when they are with some prey; other times it's just the bobbing of little heads and ruffling of feathers. Don't get me wrong, I am not the one to discriminate on the basis of activity or the lack thereof. Just trying to pass on a message that if you are really interested in all things wild, there are few things you need to keep in mind. Let's start with distance, shall we?
As a wildlife tourist, one must always remember one thing: we came to pay the animals and birds a visit, it's not the other way round. We are in their territory and we should be more than happy to admire them from a distance that is safe for both observed and the observer.
Spotting big cats is always fascinating and on the safari, when you come across a patch with beautiful sunset, great composition, but no wildlife in sight, you still don't insist on getting down the vehicle to shoot that perfect sunset. Not all guides or drivers are comfortable saying a stern NO to a paying customer. But it's a part of the many important rules that the forest department officials read out to you before you head out. Lest you have no problem turning into some big cat's chow. Just follow those smart rules, why take unnecessary risks, isn't it? And while we are still discussing food, should you be carrying (smuggling is more like it) packets of chips and chocolates? There are two reasons why I think one should not: A) You eat; leave the wrappers lying around in the safari jeep; jeep gains speed and off goes the wrapper, out of the jeep. Animals and forest don't need those wrappers. B) Over the crunch of chips how do you expect to hear the beautiful sound of the forest?
And maintain silence.
Keep these simple things in mind, share these with people who you know are planning to take a wildlife vacation. Be a responsible wildlife tourist. Mother Nature gives back beautifully to those who respects her.
Read about the do's and don'ts at National Parks here