This was my first experience of visiting a national park. Marked by a peculiarly mixed feeling of anticipation, anxiety and eagerness I was all set to explore the flora and fauna in pristine wilderness of Kanha with my family members. We entered the park from Kisli and booked our stay at Bagheera log huts from MPTC. Kisli is about 270 kms from Nagpur, the drive was arranged by tourism dept as a part of the 'Tiger Tracks' package. The roads are pretty smooth except for a short stretch after you across (Pench Tiger Reserve) Seoni. http://www.mptourism.com/dest/kanha_accomm.html
The park tours
Since this was a 3-day, 2-night package we were entitled to 3 rounds of the park. Each drive through the park is approx. 60 kms. The driver and the guide are quite knowledgable about the details of the forest. The guide and the route of the drive are randomly selected by the computer. It was exciting to get into an open jeep and keep standing to get the best view of the inhabitants of the forest. There are 44 tracks in Kanha and I'm sure each track lends itself to unique discoveries en route. Total forest area of Kanha is 940 square kms of which only one-third is let out for public entry. If you are lucky you can spot the tiger in any of these forest trails comprising several sal, bamboo and tendu trees. In case you can't, there's nothing to feel disappointed about; there are several wild animals and various avaian species to adequately satisfy your quest in wilderness. The untamed luxuriant trees, meandering tracks, the occasional chirps from the branches of sal and tendu trees- all these are enough to make us feel gratified that we made it to Kanha from the concrete jungle that we inhabit.
Sighting the wild species
In our first ride itself we spotted some Sambhar deers, standing majestically in the bushes, only to briskly vanish into the thickets at the sound of the wheels creeking to a slow halt. Spotted Deers, Langoors and Peacocks are commonly sighted as you drive, in fact after a while you begin to 'ignore' them as your eyes are busy scanning for that dreaded but delightful sight of coming face-to-face with the Sher Khan - the Royal Bengal Tiger. Here's when you learn, it's not that easy to spot them. In the absence of good binoculars, I felt my eyes aching when we distantly sighted some sloth bears as they were moving on the grasslands. As we were making our way through we spotted a bison and a calf crossing the lane. Parekeets, eagles, owls, woodpeckers and egrets are among the several birds that we managed to see and hear.
About the tracks
All the tracks are narrow and uneven and sometimes you frequently use reverse gears to move back to catch a better glimpse of the animals. If you are lucky the wild species wait for you or they simply vanish behind the bushes presenting a picture in perfect camouflage. Kudos to MP tourism of neat maintenance of the forest area, not a single instance non-biodgradable waste was found anywhere in the environs. The often bumpy and rocking ride could be a problem in early mornings and evenings as it starts getting cold, and the chill breeze cuts through your warm clothing. We braved it all when it was 4 - 5 degrees in the night.
Sunrise and sunset
More than the fauna of the jungle I enjoyed viewing the sunset and sunrise as the sun rays were piercing through the leaves of those tall trees. The morning sun was mild and tepid, as if it's just woken up and is yet to re-charge. The hues and gradients of orange and bright yellow from its rays form an abstract landscape that diffcult to put in words...one can only enxperience it in the early hours of morning in an absolutely fresh, green and calm ambience. I'm perpetually fascinated by sunrise and sunset in lush green and peaceful settings.
Most memorable event on this trip was the sight of a peacock dancing amidst other animals and birds. My excitement knew no bounds as it began to spread its plumage and form a royal cresent. How true! peacocks are never known to shy away from other species. The flamboyance was amply evident from the pompous display of multi-hued feathers swaying away to imaginary music of the forest. Sadly we had to move on as this wonderful spectacle was still unfolding and was yet to reach its crescendo.
Sighting the tiger
Everyone here feels that your visit is not complete if you haven't sighted the tiger. In fact, right from the moment we started our ride the driver and guide dedicated themselves to the search, sometimes by 'hearing the call' (which often turned out to be a false call) or sometimes by tracing the pugmarks. Often we slowed down completely and waited patiently to 'locate' the tiger. But the wait could not be endless, and we were not sure if we will really spot it at that juncture, so we moved on. At the end of the day you may feel that your ride was 'futile' as you were not successful in seeing the main attraction as it were. But, don't lose your heart, there are elephants that can take you on their back if their mahouts were lucky enough in spotting them resting, moving or going for a kill. We were not fortunate enough to ride on an elephant as this sighting was cancelled after their failed attempt to trackthe tigers. The only sighting we had was when the tigers were resting on the lower left side of the tracks and there were several jeeps huddled there to catch a closer glimpse. Such a desperate crowd did not present a pleasant picture of humans to the wild...wonder what our wild friends thought of us!!!Given a chance some of them would have got down from the jeeps and ran down towards the tigers in their inability to control the curiosity...if only, tigers were not dubbed as man-eaters!
This blog cannot be wrapped up without a word of thanks for MP tourism. We simply enjoyed our drive and stay throughout the trip. The food in the canteen was sumptuous. The menu was too delectable with items like hot rotis, rice, dal, vegetable and non-veg curries, desserts etc. Add to this the tea and evening snacks and packed breakfast of sandwiches for morning rides. The BLH rooms were neat and clean. The punctuality of drivers and guides is commendable too.
Hats off to
All the forest guards and officials who live a real tough life braving the wild and endure all the vagaries of nature to save our natural wealth!!!