Hingol National Park
Hingol National park, situated almost 200km west of Karachi, is Pakistan’s largest National Park. It is easily accessible from the Makran Coastal Highway, but to enter its surroundings, you will need a 4x4 and a guide. Usually the local people living in the small villages around Hingol serve as guides.
Hingol reserve covers approx 600,000+ hectares. The park is renowned for its beautiful terrains, vegetation, and wild life. In addition there is also an old Hindu temple, Nani Mandir situated deep inside the National Park.
On the outer edge of Hingol, there are various active mud volcanoes which are visible from the main road. But you need 4x4 :-( The Hingol river is infested with Crocodiles. And because the terrain is uncharted/untouched, its gorges can become dangerous during rainy seasons due to flash floods.
In addition to 4x4, you need to bring all provisions for boarding and lodging, as there is absolutely none. This includes food, medicines, shelter, petrol/diesel, etc.
The sad fact is that our armed forces after this piece of land. They want to grab it for their own use…test various aircraft armament.
We did a mad rush on the Makran Coastal Highway till Hingol in our sedans, and were amazed by its surrounding and natural beauty. The road was excellent (able to do 110+ kmh), and took us 4 hours to reach Hingol.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Road Trip
Gadani Beach - White Sand & Clean Water
As I wrote in my Sea View Tip that beaches within Karachi are polluted. So if you really want a clean beach then go to Gadani Beach. Gadani is a little away from Karachi city at about 1-2 hours drive. It lies in Balochistan Province. Way to Gadani passes from Hab Chawky.
Water is clean & pure blue. Beach is sandy. Sand is white. There are no hard stones/gravel/pabbles on the beach which may harm your feet. You can swim/relax in water for whole day. View of sea & beach from nearby rocks is great. It is best for group of friends or families to come here, Swim, relax or climb the rocks & enjoy.Related to:
60 km, about 1.25 hrs drive from city center past a small town called Hub, exists a beautiful beach near the fishing village Gadiani. Its beautiful coast line has somewhat being destroyed by the ship breaking industry (read "beached whales" below). However due to reduced steel prices, this operation has become expensive and now very few ships are docked there.
It is a nice drive on the road going towards Balochistan. Avoid weekends or holidays as this is a prime picnic spots for revelers from Karachi. Because of rocky shoreline, and cliffs, it is also dangerous during rough tide seasons as some picnickers have dared to climb down the shores, only to be washed away.
If you go further down the shipbreaking spot, the beaches are littered with sea shells, and a good opportunity to take your family for this short outing.
It is also a great place to watch the sun go down.Related to:
Mangroves are fast disappearing from Karachi scene. Once they covered a large area round Karachi, but construction and reclamation of land is speeding the decline of these forests. Mangroves are natural habitat and breeding sanctuaries of shrimps, crabs, fish and other sea creatures. Also various birds visit these sanctuaries during their migratory seasons (Nov-Mar).
WWF can arrange an outing on the mangroves, and they will arrange with the local fishermen for small boats. Large boats will not traverse in these waters as in some areas the water is only 1-2 ft deep. The local fishermen have been employed in this business to cater to this eco-tourism, thus save the mangroves from being chopped down for timber.
Please note once you arrange these boats, you will have to pay, either you go or not. The fishermen usually do not go fishing, but bring their boats for you. Cost is around Rs. 1,000 per boat. And one can only go in this area when its high tide. Check with WWF or the fisherman what is the best time. We were told to be there by 0100 pm but we had to wait till 0300 pm when it was high tide.
Get in touch with WWF-Karachi who will arrange the boats or you can call the fisherman, Mr. Abdullah on his mobile and organize it yourself – 0301 270 5779.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
Green Turtle watching is an activity organized by the WWF during the nesting season from September to December. The visit takes place preferably when it is high tide and always at night (around 0900 pm). This activity lasts about 2-3 hours.
Visitors are able to see the whole process: Green turtle coming out, digging 2-3 foot pits, laying eggs, closing the pit, and sliding back to the sea. During the digging and egg laying process, visitors have to be very quite, no lights, no photography. Once the process is over, the guides may allow you to take flash photos, depending there are no other turtles nearby. Once the egg laying and closing the pits have finished, Sind Wildlife Department tags the turtle, and once the turtle slides out, immediately digs the eggs out and replant them in protective hatchery nearby.
The trip starts at WWF wetland center (a bit difficult to find at night as there are no lights), where one is debriefed about the turtles, shown a small documentary, what no to do when near them, and than taken to the field. The participants are able to see the whole nesting process - digging pits, making egg chambers, laying eggs, closing the chamber and sliding back into the sea. The whole process takes about 2 - 3 hours.
It was a lucky day for us as that night it was a joint operation between WWF and SWD for recovery of eggs. And we saw the whole life cycle: nesting, recovery, hatching of new eggs, and release of hatchlings into the sea.
We were told that these green turtles exists in only 11 countries, with Pakistan being one of them, The migration of these turtles are to India and Africa. And they return to this 5 km stretch of Sandspit, where they first walked.
Note: We asked Dr. Fehmida why they didn’t release the turtles straight in the water? Her answer was that they need to smell, feel, and touch the ground so they can return to the same spot; 20-30 years later to lay their eggs.Related to:
Kotri Barrage at Jamshoro
155 km and approx. 2 hours from Karachi on Super Highway lies the Kotri Barrage on the mighty Indus. A rare fish, Palla, breeds near the barrage, and is a rare delicacy for one to taste. This fish is very skeletal on the inside, and is considered a treat. Well at Rs. 800-Rs 900, (~USD 14.00), this is a treat.
The place is not well known to most travelers, but for the local, especially people living in Hyderabad, this is a good picnic spot. Boat rides are also available for anyone who would like to venture out on the river.
In addition to a barrage, there is a small restaurant specializing in this delicacy.
From Karachi, you head towards Hyderabad on the Super highway. Few kilometers after you exit the second toll booth, take the interchange going towards Dadu/Jamshoro. This interchange will take you off the Super highway, taking you past Mehran University and some small villages. As soon as you hit Jamshoro, there is a road leading right. Keep going straight till you reach the river.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
User Friendly Crocs at Manghopir
The most user friendly crocs I have ever seen are in Mangopir, living here for nine generations. Only eats unless they are spoon fed by their Sidi attendants.
The folklore holds that a bandit, Mandhu Ram, harassed people in this deserted area in Karachi until one day he came across Baba Farid Ganj Shakkar. Baba was busy with his prayers when Manghu stole his luggage. No sooner had he done this he turned blind & in despair ran back to the Baba for forgiveness.
Baba shook out the bags & all that came out were lice. These lice are believed to have turned into the legendary crocodiles that have inhabited this place for more than 900 years. They are considered the holy pets of St. Manghopir who changed his profession from thief to pir (saint). Soon after his death, he was laid to rest here and his followers have guarded the tomb and the crocodiles.
There were over 40 crocs inhabiting this sulfur pond, with 1 croc the king (painted head). When a crocodile dies, it is wrapped in one of the chadars from the mazaar and buried. Legend holds that after burial, if you open the grave after 3 weeks, there is no traces of a burial ever taking place – no skeletal remains, or even the smell of decomposition. Hmm, sounds crocy! Transformed into shoes, wallets and baggage?
Every year the Shidi gathers and holds Urs (anniversary) in honor of Manghopir, singing homage songs in Swahili & Urdu. It begins by laying the Chaddar (sheet) by an elderly lady of the community, plus folk dances to the ceremonial African drum in tune with Swahili songs mixed with Arabic and Urdu. Then the procession goes to the pond to feed the king sacrificed goat, & afterwards congratulate each other and lay a new chaddar on the mazar.
I asked the attendant why the croc do not bite him; “sahib, I have raised these crocs since they were wee bit (hatchlings), and they only eat when we feed them.”
Even my brother and cousin ventured inside the pen and touched some. Not reccomended. What would the great Crocodile Hunter (late) Steve Irwin said about this?Related to:
- Road Trip
Hindu Temple near Manora beach
The issue that divided the sub-continent fortunately did not divide the rich heritage left in both countries (i.e. Muslim, Hindu, Christian, etc architect, monuments, etc).
There is a small Hindu temple Shri Varun Dev Mandir (? exact name to be verified), overlooking westerly the Arabian sea, and sadly and shamefully, it is in complete neglect. Its walls, rooms, etc have become a ‘toilet’ for revelers visiting Manora’s sandy beaches. In addition sea breeze is eating away the structure from whatever is left, and the rich carvings on the mandir are slowly eroding into oblivion.
The mandir is situated in the middle of Manora, easily visible from the main road. One can not miss it. It is claimed that this temple is more than 1,000 year old. Tales abound that the temple of Kali Mata (the goddess of evil), is located somewhere on an island near Karachi. However our Hindu community is reluctant to discuss this (see DAWN article).
Do not know if this is till functional, there was a padlock on its entrance.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
St. Paul Church at Manora Island
Just across the KPT lighthouse is a small gem of a Church, St Paul. This church is even older than the light house and was constructed in 1868.
It is built in a simple yet traditional manner with tall cathedral like roof, and a small assembly hall that must have catered to the old Christian inhabitant of Manora (some still exisits). Services are offered each Sunday at 0900 am by Rev. Saleem Dawood.
However it is in bad shape with its original work completed cemented over, however inside its old wooden trusses are still intact, but in ill health. I hope that the exterior is someday restored to its original form.Related to:
- Road Trip
Lighthouse at Manora
On the Manora Island (now can be called a peninsula as a road leads there from the main land over sand banks) exists a traditional lighthouse, which is still operational. Manora is now connected via 12 km cause way from sandspit.
We visited this light house on April 1, 2007, and it turned out that in 1889 on the same date, this lighthouse was inaugurated. So it was a nostalgic visit as well.
The first lighthouse on this Island was built in 1851, which was 50ft high (focal plane 120 ft high). This was replaced by the current light house which is almost 91 ft (focal plane 148 ft high) and is made up of sand stone. Only have side is painted in red and white strip (courtesy of Mobilink who used a view of this tower in the commercialized song), and the other half is its original form.
According to Ken Trethewey, this is the second oldest light station in the former British Indian Empire. It is in the restricted zone as Pakistan Navy has its bases around. Karachi Port Trusts is the keeper of this lighthouse, and you are not allowed to go inside and climb it (now that was a shame as it could be an attraction made to cater tourists).
However I got a sneak photo of the winding stairs going up:) As Pakistan is land of connection, you will need to get KPT’s higher officials permission to climb it.
It is said that PHOTOGRAPHY is strictly forbidden on this Island due to proximity to the port, harboring Naval ships and other installation. However I read somewhere that Navy and KPT are going to abandon this Island and hand it over to some UAE construction company to build a resort here. I pray profusely that they do not touch the old monuments and natural beauty of this Island.Related to:
- Road Trip
Thatta - El Dorado of the east
All you can see in one go.
Thatta is situated about 98 km (60 miles) East of Karachi on the National Highway, just west of the Indus River and the Arabian Sea coast. Thatta has a very rich heritage of Muslim architecture during the era of the 16th and 17th century. The remains in and around Thatta include the tombs, mausoleums and mosques. Some of them are in very good conditions, well preserved and shows Thatta’s stylish sense.
The surrounding region includes the barren and rocky area and the swampy Indus delta. Sugarcane is the chief crop and camel breeding is significant. A day trip to Thatta, easily arranged in Karachi, lets you see ancient archeological sites, mix of barren and fertile land, Moghul architecture, eco-tourism in the form of bird watching at Haleji and Kinjhar lakes, and a taste of interior Sindh – rarely seen by any visitor to Pakistan.
For more info, see my Thatta pages.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Arts and Culture
Totally Moghul - Shah Jahan Mosque
Built in 1644 and 1647, was a gift from Shah Jahan to show his recognition of hospitality he received whilst seeking refuge from his dad, Jahangir.
Shah Jehan mosque is a superb example of crafty tile work. Its 93 domes and 33 arches with varying sizes add to their architectural beauty. The domes have been exquisitely laid in a mosaic of radiating blue and white tiles. It is said that these domes were also natural amplifiers, where the Imam reciting on one end could be heard in the back.
For more info, see my Thatta pages
Makli - World's largest Nacropolis
Situated 2 km before you reach Thatta, on national highway. One of world's largest necropolis with over 100K graves dating back 600-700 years+. Although I feel it is impossible to see all, but the best-preserved and attractive tombs are as you enter.
For more info, see my Thatta pagesRelated to:
- Historical Travel
Just few minutes drive from Karachi toll plaza on main Super Highway there is a new water park which was opened on 29 July 2006.There is one more water park on same superhighway road at about half hour drive from karachi toll plaza.
Only families are allowed in both above mentioned water park. So if you in karahci with family must enjoy water world entertainment and new slides.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
- Adventure Travel
- Family Travel
A symbol of engineering genius of British Empire
Some 9 miles on the Highway past the turn for Keenjhar Lake, there is another graveyard of historic importance named Sonda. All the graves are decorated with carvings of horse and rider or jewellert.
The stretch of road between Thatta and Hyderabad is least traveled. One hardly encounters any traffic.
There are some good restaurants in the heart of the city of Hyderabad for lunch. Shopping specialties include bangles and confectioneries from the famous Bombay Bakery.
Just outside of the city, there is Kotri Barrage on mighty River Indus that flows through the entire length of Pakistan. The barrage was built by the British in 1880's and is worth exploring on both upstream and downstream sides of River Indus. Many canals emerge out from here and the embankments offer good places for family picnics.
The downstream side of River Indus does paint a gory picture in that it is much more a drying river than it used to be. River boats ply and can be hired for boating in the river.
Families tend to play and build sand castles on the sand flats.Related to:
- Road Trip
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