A wildlife wanderer's blog, documenting my travels and experiences through some of India's finest forests. I hope to excite the people who read this to travel to our beautiful wildernesses and fall in love with our incredible wildlife. Because you cannot feel for what you do not love. And you cannot love what you have not experienced. So go forth and wander!
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Kanha Tiger Reserve – Hide and seek with tigers
The tigers won, hands down. Apart from a few glimpses, we didn’t see much of Kanha’s legendary
tigers. But they teased us all the way through and showed us enough evidence of
a thriving tiger population, definitely in the tourist zone. Though one tiger
sighting from elephant back wasn’t really what we would have ideally liked, we
heard and saw tracks of several other tigers. And missed a leopard. And saw
some beautiful barasingha up close.
Crested Serpent Eagle
Kanha is a 3 hour drive
up from Pench, through Seoni and the day we set out, the highway was blocked by
protestors agitating against the poor condition of the highway. So our driver
had to take back roads and little village roads, so we saw a lot more of the
villages than we expected. And I was so thrilled to see how beautiful our
villages generally are, clean and neat houses for the most part, neatly painted
in white and blue – almost like a uniform. And the DTH dishes were in evidence,
sometimes even in the smallest of homes. Bharat Shining, anyone?
Anyways, back to Kanha
and it was cold in the mornings! In May, the height of summer. We stayed at the
lovely Tuli Tiger Resort, where we were accompanied into the forest by their chief
naturalist, Mr. Pradeep Wasunkar, a fine gentleman and a really super source of
information on Kanha. Pradeep would get us out of the hotel at 4:10, to be
early in line though the gates only opened at 5:30. The gypsies all queue up
and go in single file, so the laggards usually get a fine dust bath. Hence the
On our first morning, we
headed down to Kanha, and before we hit the meadows, Pradeep saw fresh tigress
tracks. She must have been on the road barely a couple of minutes earlier.And as if to confirm her presence, we heard
her roar, she was in the bush barely 20 feet away.But we never saw her. We didn’t know where
she went. But she was there. And very close!
That afternoon we headed
to Kisli to seek a family of four (tigress with three cubs) who were seen near
a waterhole next to the gate that morning.As soon as we got there, langurs started calling and we all looked
towards the waterhole for any signs of movement. But the langurs were actually
looking towards the hill on the other side of the road. And then we saw them,
two tiger cubs in the shrubs on the hill. And we moved our gypsy to create
space for them to cross. But they never came, probably put off by the endless
stream of impatient vehicles constantly moving back and forth. And just when it
was time to go back, amidst a pall of dust, we saw the mother with a cub, much
further back on the hill. Not a great sighting, but tiger nevertheless.
Munna - Record shot
The next morning, we
went back to Kanha and Pradeep was keen to track Munna, the dominant male, who
has an amazing ‘CAT’ marking above his eyebrows. And while we wandered all
around for him, we saw some beautiful barasingha in lovely light. Then found out that his majesty had walked out in the open meadows. We came there
much later and by then he’s walked to the edge of the meadow, where the safari
elephants had caught up with him. And as our elephant came upto him, we saw he
wasn’t a happy camper, he was snarling as one of the elephants blocked his
path.We got a couple of record pictures
and headed off. I really don’t approve of the Kanha approach of blocking an
animal that desperately wants to move on.So no more elephant safaris in Kanha.
That afternoon we spent
more time in Kisli, explored the interiors of this beautiful part of Kanha.
Beautiful waterbodies and lots of birds. And on the final morning, we were back
at Kanha. Just before we hit the meadows, we saw fresh tracks of a tigress and
two cubs.Then further ahead, pug marks
of another tigress and frantic barking deer alarm calls. Then another set of
langur calls at another place. But no tiger! And when we headed to the meadow,
we saw gypsies lined up in the centre. Munna had arrived, while we were away
and was lying under a tree. At that time, someone told us there was a leopard
on a rock at the edge of the meadow.
Dilemma time – should we
try for Tiger or Leopard?We wallowed in
indecision for a bit then decided on the leopard. By the time we got there, it
had already moved on, disturbed by the safari elephants. Foiled again. We went
back to the meadow, but friend Munna was in no mood to surface. As we headed
out though, we saw a beautiful herd of gaur in brilliant light. And a serpent
eagle just as he was about to take off.
So we headed out of Kanha, having spent a lovely time with Pradeep, wishing that our tiger luck changes at Bandhavgarh!
Brain Fever Bird
Kanha is about 266 kms (5 hours) north-east of
Nagpur. Jabalpur, 160 kms (3 hours) is the nearest big town and rail head. It
has limited air connectivity as well.
Kanha again has the whole gamut
of hotels. We stayed at the excellent Tuli Tiger Resort (www.tulihotels.com) Please so spend some
time there with Mr. Pradeep Wasunkar, he’s a wonderful person and great
company. Vijay, our driver was excellent as well and the manager Mr. Datta was
very attentive and supportive.
As with all MP forests, safari
bookings can be made online (www.mponline.gov.in)
but the site is not always easy to use. Your hotel can also get your bookings
done through the site. The hotel will arrange your gypsies, better to go
through with people from the hotel itself.
Kanha is extremely dusty,
so if you’re allergic, then carry a mask or at least a towel. And unless you’re
going in peak summer, it can get chilly at times, so a jumper might not be a