#23# Pumba Private Game Reserve

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The last leg of our trip to South Africa was Pumba Game Reserve, near Grahamstown, where we stayed from 14th to 16th June. Does the word ‘Pumba’ ring a bell? Well, if you’re wondering why, it’s because Pumbaa was the name of the warthog in Lion King. Anyway, it was mine and Nabhith’s ‘birthday gift’ and was by far my favourite experience in the entire South Africa trip. It was a 7000-hectacre reserve and was filled with different animals. In just 2 days, we saw 3 of the Big 5. (The Big Five are lions, rhinoceroses, African bush elephants, cape buffaloes and leopards) We saw both white and yellow lions, an entire herd of elephants and three big rhinos.

In Pumba, we stayed at the bush lodge, which, as its name suggests, is located in the middle of lots of bushes and trees. From our cottage, we had a wonderful view of a watering hole which was surrounded by a natural clearing. We could see lots of warthogs, zebras and impalas each day. (Once, I was browsing through a booklet provided to me at Pumba and came across a picture of an elephant drinking water from the pool of an occupied cottage. I wished we would experience the same thing!)

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We had two game drives every day; one in the morning and the other in the evening. In the drives, we went in the big jeep and looked for animals. South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere, so it was winters over there and the morning game drive was simply freezing. Nevertheless, the rangers at Pumba kept us warm by providing us with hot-water bottles and cloaks. There were also some extra activities like archery, fishing, bush walks, etc.

All the game drives were simply amazing. We followed lions, looked for rhinos, saw elephants drinking water and play-fighting, and did many other things which will probably make you want to leave for a game reserve right now. The lions were totally fearless, walking right up to the jeep. The cubs were carefree, but the two lionesses accompanying them kept a close watch on all of us. There were five cubs; three yellow and two white. Once, they sat down in such a way that it looked like the cub in the middle was their king. Why? Well, a yellow one sat in the middle, which was surrounded by the two white ones. The white cubs were further surrounded by the two other yellow ones. The lions were a welcome sight each time, except once. That was when we were exploring the southern part of the reserve, looking for leopards and cheetahs. Instead, we saw two fully grown lions. Our ranger, Dean, told us that the leopards and cheetahs were scared of the lions , hence we would not be able to see them. I felt rather annoyed with the lions at that time.

A rather frightening moment was when we were face to face with the matriarch of the herd of elephants at Pumba. We were just passing along when she and a young elephant calf appeared out of nowhere. Our ranger immediately stopped the vehicle and backed away, yet the matriarch approached us with an attitude of ‘Let me show you who’s boss’. It actually looked as if she was getting ready to lift the jeep and toss it away. (Luckily, Dean knew just how to prevent that.)

From a point of interest, I asked one of the rangers which animal has he seen on each and every game drive he has ever gone on. He said impalas, and I couldn’t agree more. Although I went on 4 game drives only, I saw more than a hundred impalas on each of them. And that’s a lot, considering there are only 17 predators in all. (12 lions, 3 cheetahs and 2 leopards) Compare that to more than one thousand five hundred impala.

We signed up for bass fishing, but the wind was so violent that there was a risk of hitting other people with the line. In fact, Nabhith nearly hit my mother’s face. To my great disappointment, fishing was then called off.

As the last day approached, we left Pumba with a heavy heart. I had had a lot of fun over there and made good friends with some of the rangers. I really didn’t want to come back home.

In all, it was an awesome experience, and I’ve never done anything like it before. I would love to go there again.

After Pumba Game Reserve, I realised that there was no point visiting a zoo. If you go there just to look at the animals, you can look at them from the internet as well. A game reserve is what you should be looking for, because an animal’s behavior whilst in its natural habitat is really worth experiencing. It makes you realize how different each individual animal is, just like humans.

Rayansh Gupta

17 July, 2018

#22# Shark Cage Diving

Shark diving

#TheseSharkPicturesAreNotFromTheWeb

One of my favourite parts of my trip to South Africa was diving with the Great White Sharks in Gansbaai. Before anything else, I have a question for you: Are sharks more dangerous than mosquitoes? Answer: NO. Yep, you read it right, mosquitoes are nearly 1,90,000 times more dangerous than sharks! The average fatalities caused by sharks each year is a tiny 5, while mosquitoes, the most dangerous animal known to us, kill nearly 1 million people annually. Now isn’t that a surprising fact!

Anyway, shark diving has been on my father’s bucket list for quite a long time, and the entire trip was planned because of it. We went shark diving on quite a big boat (the operating company was ‘Marine Dynamics’), with a seating capacity of 40 people. We anchored a little away from Shark Alley, which was a strip of water between two islands, one home to lots of penguins and the other home to 60,000 cape fur seals. We had been asked to wear our swimming costumes underneath our clothes as we had to change to our wetsuit on-board. (Those minutes really were cold!)

As soon as our boat, Slashfin, undocked, our photographer asked us to put our thumb on our forehead, open our fingers, and shake them. The idea was to imitate the fin of a shark.

The first hour was relatively boring with no shark sightings at all. Just as we were starting to lose interest, a huge, 2.5-metre great white popped out of nowhere. (It was probably attracted by that smelly bait) There was a lot of hustle and bustle to get in the cage, which could accommodate 10 people comfortably. We all thought the sharks would be aggressive (as in snatching the bait, trying to chew on the seal decoy, and hoping to bite our heads off) but they were surprisingly calm and graceful. They first cautiously sniffed the bait and followed it before suddenly pouncing on it.

Anyway, I went with my father in the cage in the second round. Before going in the cage, a crew member gave us a belt with weights on it and asked us to wear it. My initial thought was, ‘Now, they don’t intend to drown us, do they?’ That thought was immediately changed when I entered the water. I realized that the high density of salt made you float on the water; hence the weights were there so that we could spend some time underwater as well.

While in the cage, the 2 annoying things were:

  1. The sharks only lingered around for a few seconds
  2. My father and I were at the side of the cage that the sharks didn’t like, so they restricted their movement to the other side and we both couldn’t even get a glimpse of them underwater, but otherwise it’s been a thrilling experience –being so close to sharks..

You can very well imagine how frustrating it was to be so near them and yet not be able to see them, can’t you?

Here’s an interesting fact: I, my brother and my father were all in for shark diving from the very first moment, but my mother had made up her mind that she wouldn’t do it. Somehow, my father managed to convince her at the last moment, and, ironically enough, she was the only one of us who saw the shark from below the water.

After all this shark diving, while we were heading back to the harbor, although we were not supposed to stand up, I sneaked to the part directly above the cabin and managed to get a glimpse of our current speed (50 km p/h) and a few other interesting buttons and switches.

In all, it was a fabulous experience, and I’m definitely willing to try it again.

Rayansh

30 June, 2018

#21# Unfortunate Events

Hello everyone! Does this picture above strike you in any way? Well, it did to me, and that’s what motivated me to write this blog.

On our vacation to South Africa, the first city we stayed in was Cape Town, where we mostly walked around. While passing the Parliament House on another one of our walks, two old-fashioned benches caught my eye. Nothing different about that. But what was written on the benches was very different. One of them said “Whites only” and the other said “Non-Whites Only”. This was an example of racial discrimination (apartheid) in South Africa, which occurred between 1948 and 1994, when fair-skinned people were considered superior to dark-skinned ones. This practice was started by the British settlers, who couldn’t bear to coexist with people of another race. The privileges of non-whites decreased at a rapid pace from 1948, when the discrimination era started. They were forced to use different restrooms, work separately and there were other ways of isolating them as well. A major example was in the gold mining industry, where, in order to keep the cost of labor low, non-whites were paid only 1/9 compared to the earning of a white miner. This was due to a claim that they were ‘unskilled’.

Racial discrimination is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the human race. How can we judge people on the basis of their gender or nationality or skin colour when God has made us all alike? How can we snatch away the rights of fellow humans based on their skin colour? How can we isolate them and treat them as “inferior” just because they have a different pigmentation? In fact, the people who made this as a law were probably the ones committing a crime. You can’t just make someone’s life difficult because their skin colour is darker. It’s all totally wrong.

There have been many different kinds of discrimination: against gender, against religion and against race. Although all types of discrimination are bad and are a tremendous blow to the society, I personally detest the discrimination against Jews started by Hitler the most. This is because it was the only discrimination where 6 million people were killed because of their religion. This is proof of how cruel some people, dictators and governments can become.

The human race has had many unfortunate events throughout its existence. We should all try to make sure that atrocities like these never repeat themselves.

Rayansh

29 June 2018

#20# Sustainable Tourism

Recently, I went on a trip to South Africa, which was laden with something very important; Sustainable Tourism. Sustainable Tourism basically means when something is preserved and put to display to the public without harming the plant and animal life, beauty or the local culture in the region. Now, when I said South Africa was loaded with it, I really meant it.

In Cape Town alone, there were many places that were beautiful, yet they did not harm the environment or culture. Boulders Beach, for example, which is home to hundreds of African Penguins, is a tourist-friendly spot. The government managed to make this so by constructing a pier that ran along for about 100-200 meters. Another example is Cape of Good Hope, the point where two oceans, Indian and Atlantic, meet. All the plants and animals are still there, and the only difference is probably the construction of a one-lane road.

I mentioned that sustainable tourism is a very important thing, but why? Because it allows us to preserve things with natural beauty for generations to come and yet see them in their full, just as nature made them. Practicing sustainable tourism gives coming generations a better chance to see all these wonders of nature that we have been privileged to see. Animals behaving as they would in their natural habitat, without any humans interfering. Hundreds of thousands of species of plants all together. Old cultural buildings preserved with modern techniques so that it looks as if they were built yesterday.

Now, you know what Sustainable Tourism means, so why don’t you try to think of a place that you visited and had that kind of tourism. You might not remember it, but I’m sure you have.

South Africa’s government is truly remarkable, from handling a massive 3-year drought to sustainable tourism – that’s the kind of diversity they have managed to achieve… we should all learn from it.

19 June 2018

Rayansh

Cleaner, Greener and a More Peaceful Society

Today, everyone on Earth is facing the problem of a dirtier and more polluted environment. There are more cars on the road than ever before, and factories are fast becoming vast and thus producing more harmful gasses. We all can see the devastating effects of this: global warming, breathing issues, decreased animal life and many more. Sometimes, don’t you hear your mother tell you not to go out to play because it is smoky? Why does she say so? She doesn’t want you to fall ill because of breathing in polluted air. Air pollution can also affect the natural vegetation around you. The trees cannot breathe in air that has been polluted with harmful and unnatural substances as that was not how they were designed, by GOD.

Many big companies and organizations have understood this problem and are taking initiatives to reduce it. Tesla, for example, is creating fully electronic cars that produce neither sound nor air pollution. Another example is IKEA, a company whose factories and stores are powered by nearly 100% solar energy, which is renewable. Now you must be thinking that all this needs big companies and a lot of money, but what can we, as normal people, do to make our environment cleaner, greener and more peaceful. We can do many things, all of which might seem small, but can make a difference.

  1. Plant a sapling. All you need to do is dig a hole in the ground, put the sapling in, cover it with mud again and take care of it. It’s that simple.
  2. Avoid using non-degradable solid waste, like plastic bags. These wastes take hundreds of years to decompose and can be harmful for the environment.
  3. If you and your friend are travelling or going to the same place on the same day, prefer to go together.

If I were a superhero, I would encourage people to make their environment a better place to live in and follow the steps mentioned above. I would fly down from the sky to people whom I see littering and explain the importance of keeping our environment clean and green. I would tell them about this wise man in the 20th century who once said:

“The Earth is our mother … Whatever happens to the Earth happens to the children of the Earth … All things are connected”

-Rayansh Gupta

1st June, 2018

#18# What if There Were Harry Potter Exams

Hello everyone and welcome back to Rayansh the Blog Buster! Today, as the title suggests, I’m going to talk about what if there were admission exams on Harry Potter.

Now, you all must be knowing that I’m a great fan of Harry Potter, don’t you? Now, what if instead of admission exams, we have Harry Potter exams? Let’s talk about it.

First, let’s see the differences:

  1. The main difference, of course, would be that we will be reading Harry Potter instead of textbooks.
  2. We wouldn’t memorize it (as we can’t learn all of it!), like we memorize textbooks; we will try to understand the books.
  3. We can even watch movies and prepare for the exams. (Whoa! That’ll be fun!!!)

Now, a look at how they’re same:

  1. Both are exams.
  2. We’ll have to study for both.
  3. We’ll get marks for both.

Let’s see a list of possibilities for what I can do:

  1. Firstly, I know Harry Potter by heart so I would barely need to prepare for the exams. (If you don’t believe me, ask me any question about Harry Potter in the comments section below.)
  2. Secondly, I am pretty sure that I’ll be able to get into Harvard or other good universities without great difficulty (not right now, obviously, that is if there are Harry Potter exams).
  3. Thirdly, I might even receive a PhD in Harry Potter!

Now that I look at it, I realize that each concept has 3 points to it. And my lucky number is 3 as well!!!

Even though there are no official Harry Potter schools yet, who knows, maybe one will open in a few years’ time…………………

P.S-IF YOU’RE A HARRY POTTER FAN, TELL ME WHY HARRY SHOULD BE ABLE TO SEE THESTRALS FROM HIS FIRST DAY AT HOGWARTS. (Answer in the comments section)

World War III / Nuclear War I

Hello everyone! I might have taken a break but now I’m back. Oh! If you were thinking, ‘why such a long break?’ the answer is that I was on vacation for two months straight! Really?! Nah, I’m just kidding!

Anyway, the topic for this blog is, as the title suggests, what would happen if there is World War III or Nuclear War I.

First of all, why would it be a nuclear war? Well, we all know how World War II ended, don’t we? Yes, it ended with the use of nuclear weapons. Now, if another world war happens, it’s kind of obvious that all the countries will use nuclear weapons to destroy the enemy countries. And, as nuclear weapons are very destructive, they will wipe out about 99% of the entire population in the surroundings states as well. Although no place could guarantee safety, most people will take refuge in either very small islands or in the country that will be winning the war. But, according to me, the safest place to take shelter in would be Antarctica (Given that it doesn’t melt till then and given that you don’t feel very cold!). Also, the country that’ll win the war, it is likely that it would be like the British during the 19th century, which means most countries will be under its rule. Survival will, obviously, be very difficult unless you decide to live underwater!

Now, you must be asking what would happen if you manage to survive the war. So, here’s a list of what might happen if you are in a country:

  1. You’ll have about 5% chances to become the Prime Minister, President or Vice-President of your country (unless you don’t want to be).
  2. You will have 50% chances to be in the Parliament of your country (unless you don’t want to be).
  3. You may own many acres of land for a very little price.

I hope you liked my blog, and if yes, please like it. Happy New Year!

Rayansh Gupta

31 December, 2017