India Tiger Population Increasing Says Ecotourism Guide

bengal tiger populationIndia’s threatened tiger population, once on the verge of extinction, has increased by 20 percent in the last four years. As the Albany Times Union reports, wildlife officials and naturalists report most tigresses in the central India reserves either have or will have their cubs soon. This information makes 2012 a good year for eco-travel to India.

“These days in the course of a 10-day tiger safari people may see five, 10 or more tigers, and often with close-up views,” says Dr. Will Weber of Journey’s International. “This is partially due to increasing skill and knowledge of the guides, but there are more tigers.”

In the past, viewing a tiger was rare. In 2010, India’s Bengal tiger was classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Now, the total population of Bengal tigers is probably still under 2,000. A nationwide census carried out in 2011 estimated a total of 1,706 up from 1,411 from the previous count in 2007.

“If you know where, how and when to look, you will certainly find pleasant surprises,” says Avi Sakhrel, noted Indian birder, naturalist and wildlife guide who leads India wildlife tours. Sakhrel notes, “The Indian conservation community is very pleased to see positive results of efforts to save our wildlife. Even some of the lesser known parks now offer regular big cat sightings.”Thinking of travel to India for tiger viewing?

Journeys International
of Ann Arbor, Michigan offers some unique travel options for small groups that travelers can join or they can “request a private journey or custom plan for yourself, your family, your student travel group or your organization. Journeys promises immediate, enthusiastic and meticulous attention to your international adventure travel needs,” says Journeys on their website.

We like Journeys International because the company was born out of the experiences of its founders in the Peace Corps as teachers, conservation workers and travelers in Nepal in the early 1970′s. They learned how inspirational and satisfying that environmentally-sensitive travel can be. Today, Journeys International is the longest standing family-owned global ecotourism company in the United States offering full-service exotic, guided cross-cultural explorations, nature safaris, treks and eco-tours in remote corners of Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific.




Looking for more information on travel to India? Check Gadling’s three-time India visitor Sean McLachlan’s recent posts on the topic

Flickr photo by Graybeard763

Racing the wind on a frozen Michigan lake

Racing across a frozen Michigan lakeA frozen lake on Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula seems an unlikely place to hold a world championship event – particularly in February. Yet that is exactly where I found myself this past weekend as I watched more than 40 competitors from around the globe zip to and fro across the ice propelled by nothing more than the wind.

I made the trip to St. Ignace, a small town located on the banks of Lake Huron, to attend the annual World Ice and Snow Sailing Association (WISSA) Championship. The weeklong event pits competitors against one another in a variety of wind-powered races that mix grace, skill, and speed in equal measures.

The field of competitors came from across the planet just to take part in the event. The U.S., Canada, Finland, and Russia were all very well represented, as were numerous other countries including Cuba. The lone entrant from that nation acquitted himself quite nicely, finishing tenth in his division despite the fact that his homeland hasn’t seen ice or snow in quite some time. The male and female racers ranged in age from as young as 17 to well into their 50s, although they all shared a youthful exuberance and love for their sport.

The WISSA Championship features three divisions based on the type of apparatus that the racers use to capture the wind. Some competitors prefer the quick and agile wing, which resembles a small hang glider and is usually paired with a set of ice skates or skis to propel them across the ice. Raising the wing above their heads and turning it to catch the wind, they are able to generate quite a bit of speed, while still remaining very nimble. Steering is accomplished by constantly adjusting the glider in subtle ways to meet the changing breezes.The second division pits competitors against one another on sailboards that are not unlike something you’d find on water that hasn’t entered a solid state. Many of the entrants in this category have built their own sleds, merging a snow or wake board with a specially designed sail that is capable of harnessing the wind to generate impressive speeds. Sailboards are not nearly as nimble as the wings but they are still a lot of fun to ride and are probably the easiest of the three types of WISSA vehicles to learn how to control.

Racing across a frozen Michigan lakeThe third and final category actually uses large kites to pull the racers, who are typically strapped onto a snowboard or skis, across the ice. These kites are attached to the end of long cables and use a unique steering system to allow competitors to adjust direction on the fly. What they lack in agility, the kites more than make up for with pure speed, although they do require more skill to control than it would seem at first glance.

Each of the three divisions holds their own appeal of course, although the one that fascinated me the most were the kites. One of the racers let me control his kite while it was in flight and I was amazed at the amount of force it could generate. On more than one occasion an errant gust threatened to rip the handle from my grasp and at times it was all I could do just to hang on. That same racer confessed that he was able to hit speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour on larger, wide-open lakes, although all of that speed wasn’t exactly translating into wins for him in Michigan.

While the graceful wings and speedy kites were a lot of fun to watch, it was the competitors themselves that left me the most impressed. After spending the better part of two days watching them race – and interact – with one another, I was amazed at the level of camaraderie that was on display. While it was clear that they all enjoyed the spirit of the competition, it was even more evident that they simply enjoyed hanging out with one another. Many of them were old friends who had raced against one another in the past, and in between heats they were often seen sharing gear, testing out each other’s rigs, and sharing tips to improve their performance. There was a lot of laughter and good-natured ribbing as well and it was abundantly clear that for many of them the WISSA Championship was simply a great excuse to get together with acquaintances both old and new.

The St. Ignace edition of the WISSA Championship was the first to be held in the States. Next year it will return to Finland, which has been a frequent host in the past. But organizers of the event in Michigan plan to set up a North American competition, which will return to the region on an annual basis. They also hope to continue to grow interest in the sport, which has the potential to be a popular alternative to traditional winter sports.

Visit Michigan.org for more ideas on what to do in Michigan during the winter.

Michigan hotel manager will face judge today in Days Inn assault case

The manager of a Days Inn in Albion, Michigan is facing charges of sexual assault this morning. Rajeshkuma Tiwari, 38, will face a judge today, local affiliate WMMT is reporting.

A young female employee went straight to the police after she claims she was assaulted in Tiwari’s office on her first day of work as a housekeeper. Since then, three other employees and an additional woman have come forward with similar claims.

WMMT states that “sheriff’s deputies confiscated surveillance equipment from the hotel. The Days Inn Hotel Coordinator tells News Channel 3 the camera in Tiwari’s office was not working the day the 19-year-old claims she was assaulted.”


REI Adventures offers winter weekend getaways

Rei Adventures offers up some great winter escapesLooking to add a little activity and adventure back into your weekends now that the football season is officially over? Then REI Adventures may have exactly what you need. The company, which is the travel arm of the REI gear stores, has introduced several new winter weekend getaways that will get you out playing in the snow this February and March.

These excursions are short – most are just three or four days in length – but pack plenty of activity into the itinerary. Local guides lead groups of active outdoor enthusiasts into some of the more remote, and beautiful winter playgrounds in the U.S., giving them the opportunity to visit those locations at a time when crowds are non-existent.

Amongst the new trips for 2012 is a three day snowshoeing excursion into the Adirondack Mountains, where travelers will stay in a rustic log-cabin while spending a long weekend hiking some of the more scenic trails in the region. Similarly, REI offers a four day snowshoeing trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during which visitors will trek past frozen waterfalls and visit caves along the shores of Lake Superior. And for those looking for something even more adventurous and active, there is a three day escape to the Catskills to do some ice climbing.

These short, but active trips are proof positive that we don’t have to stay inside all winter waiting for the warm weather to arrive. REI Adventures will give you a reason to dig out your warm clothes and boots and head outside for some much-needed winter fun.

Henry Ford Museum to unveil new exhibition of classic cars

Henry Ford Museum
Workers at the Henry Ford Museum are busy setting up a major new exhibition of 130 historically significant cars and trucks.

Driving America opens on January 29 and focuses on the effect of the automobile on American culture through interactive touchscreen displays, artifacts, and personal accounts. There’s even a mobile diner from 1946 that will be serving classic American diner food.

Of course it’s the cars that are the main attraction. Ranging from the 1890s to the early 2000s, they include numerous innovative designs such as the Model T, the 1907 Rocket Stanley Steamer, and the 1973 Chrysler Newport, which at 19 feet long makes it look like a tank next to some of the miniature cars of today. Driving America doesn’t just look at Ford products; several cars are on loan from other collections and include rival companies such as Honda.

For more on the Henry Ford Museum, check out this article by Gadling’s very own Paul Brady.

Steamer photo courtesy Richard H. LeSesne.