Walk through the woods: Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary
November 16, 2017
It was a misty morning when we started for Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary. It was strange to walk with an armed forest guard for company. We had hoped that by the time we started walking through the woods, the rays of the sun would shine through and wake the gibbons into activity. However, the Sun God decided to be lazier than we anticipated, and we were awestruck by the eerie silences of the dense jungle.
As we walked around 4 km through the dense foliage, the dry leaves crackling under our feet and the occasional rustle of the giant Himalayan squirrels were the only sign of activity. It was too dark to get good pictures. In the quiet of the forest, we gently made our way through the webs of the giant wood spiders, admiring the ferns, wild mushrooms, vines and creepers, and avoiding the leeches.
But the best moment was yet to come. When a group of cicadas in their fervour unleashed their instrumentation. It was like a loud orchestra playing in the forest demolishing the silences. Whoever would have imagined that an 8 inch long insect could be so loud! And then of course, there were the metallic calls of a flock of racquet-tailed drongos and the repeated knocks of a woodpecker. Blue butterflies on the forest floor made us suddenly stop in our tracks.
The walk was ruined by a group of boisterous tourists who spoke loudly and heckled the birds, and worse, spoke on their mobiles as if their voices would reach the recipient without any need for the instrument. Wish people would learn to respect the silences of the forests.
I had almost given up on the gibbons, but we did spot a family of Hoolock gibbons towards the end of the walk. The hoolock gibbons are India’s only apes. The rest are either langurs or monkeys. The sanctuary is home to: the western hoolock gibbon, the Bengal slow loris, the stump-tailed macaque, the northern pig-tailed macaque, the eastern Assamese macaque, the rhesus macaque and the capped langur.