It was supposed to be in April, then May, but June clicked and we were on our way.
We reached Nagpur in the morning on 17th June and then proceeded to Kanha by road. The journey was about 260 kms, but the road was quite good and our driver quick.
The sky was overcast and it has rained quite a bit in the last 24 hours.
I was cursing myself for choosing June because of the probable rains. They could spoil the whole wildlife sojourn.
Praying, we started from Nagpur, but the prayers were going unanswered. It started raining hard. The speed of our vehicle went drastically down, this kept happening on and off till we were in Maharashtra.
On the way, we stopped at MPTDC resort at Rookhad, pretty ordinary stuff. If you have had nothing for breakfast/lunch, then probably you can halt there, but don’t expect something extraordinary.
When we cleared the Maharashtra border, the skies started clearing, by the time we reached the Khatia gate of Kanha national park, the sun was shining on us, though very softly.
Finished the formalities of signing the registers, asked the man at the gate if the evening safari was available, he said it was.
He also said that it had been closed for the last 2 and half days due to heavy rains. I thanked heavens and stepped back into my car.
Then we checked into Baghira log huts, the resort maintained by MPTDC.
The best thing is that there are AC rooms available.
The good thing is that the view isn’t bad (though the view is strictly not comparable to the Old FRH at Corbett)
The things I was unhappy about include quite a few.. the resort is just technically inside the jungle, so you don’t get the real wild feeling, there is a petrol pump bang opposite the resort.
Nevertheless, it has lots of Sal trees around.
The food is decent, not much in terms of variety, but decent in terms of quality, don’t expect exotic dishes, its daily Indian fare.
If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you would anyway be hardly bothered about food.
Day 1 – Evening Safari :
We managed to catch the safari on Day 1 at 330 pm, despite the rains on the way from Nagpur.
The jeeps (maruti gypsies) line up outside the gate before entry to the park.
One thing that sucked : because of the heavy rains in the prior days, the gypsies took a single route inside the park, so for a long time, you will find gypsies travelling in a line and this in a word is ‘D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R’ for tiger sighting.
And as expected, we did not see any tigers that day.
But I was pretty happy, that I managed to capture a lot of other fauna on my camera. That, as much as tigers is important to me.
Lots of times, most people do not give an animal its worth.
For example, the deer, which is the main meal for a tiger, is just not noticed by people.
Just try and get close to one of them, they will give you some of the best poses to click. Their jerky movement, the big, expressive eyes, make them a sight to behold.
The Barasingha (unique only to Kanha) is now on the endangered list with just 350 of them remaining.
The park officials have made a separate enclosure for breeding them.
We spotted the Gaur (Indian bison), lots of peacocks, spotted deer, barking deer and the Barasingha.
The peacocks were kind enough to give some royal poses.
Day2 – Morning Safari :
One thing which I mentioned earlier as irritating, continued. The single route which all gypsies followed.
Most animals stay in a particular area for a few days at least, so but obviously we were constantly being deprived of the chance to watch the other diverse life of the park.
Most of the times, it was the same places we saw the same animals.
Me, my wife and my sister-in-law were having more fun today though. The mood was relaxed, we were passing through the same routes and we were chit-chatting.
All this ended suddenly, the other jeep with our friends in it, came hurtling towards us at break neck speed.
He indicated, we turned back and sped. We knew it was the tiger.
No other animal in the country commands such attention, our driver drove at amazing speeds, his old gypsy, though a little creaky, revved up pretty well.
Ina few seconds we were at the spot, I couldn’t see anything.
Me : “Where is it?”
My Wife : “I am able to see it, woooooww!! Give me the camera.”
SIL : “Where is it ?”
Perplexed, me and my SIL looked at each other, making faces.
Then the driver, pointed, “look carefully behind the grass, can you see now??”
Then I noticed, the amazing sight of nature’s wonder.
A small, about an year old tiger, maybe 3-4 feet in length was sitting calmly.
The colour of his skin was magnificent, it hadn’t turned yellow yet, it was kind of deep yellow tending to orange with black stripes.
I was so lost and engrossed, my wifey said : Click man… what’s wrong with you?
Then I realized and brought my camera.
But the damn auto focus mode, it was focussing on the grass rather than the camouflaged tiger.
In the meanwhile, the word spread, about 20 gypsies zeroed in on the spot where we were standing.
The din was too much for the barely mature tiger.
He just quietly stood up, turned back, gave us a good view and disappeared into the bushes.
A few minutes later, we could hear the growls of the kid, they sounded a little weird, but the guide told us that he was calling out for his mother.
There was still a bit of disappointment that none of us could capture it on cam because of the bushes, the camouflage and the failing light, but the glint in our eyes made up for the lost light.
We had just meandered a little ahead when our guide signalled the driver to stop.
The langoors were calling, he said that there is a cat around, but we did not know which one.
He said it could be the tigress mother. The hearts started pounding again in anticipation.
Looking at our gypsy, many others too stopped.
We got our binoculars out, and I got my telephoto lens out. This time, I did not want to miss it.
Then the guide pointed to a tree, we saw 2 leopards perched comfortably there.
One went into hiding in the thick foliage.
But the second one, like God, gave us a very good darshan, it moved around on the tree, showed us its back ( :P ), then looked through the eyes, then gave the side view, scratched itself on the bark of the tree. All this was a good 100 feet away from us, but since it was on a tree, we had a feast!
I clicked to my heart’s content.
The smile on my wife’s and sil’s face was something which I cherish even now!
I am a wildlife enthusiast, but for their sake, I wanted them to sight something in reality. They got really fascinated.
We stopped at a small eatery in the Kanha range, there was a museum as well.
It was a safari well spent!
The ‘tiger-on-cam’ disappointment was lingering, but the other events made sure we had a happy lunch!
Day – 2 : Afternoon safari :
After spotting the first tiger, we were anticipating a little too much.
But this was a real stress buster safari!
This time we were relaxed a little more, more observant to the sounds of the jungle.
The breeze cooled as the clouds drew in again. We feared another shower, but it remained just good.
The fauna in the jungle was also relaxed, this was a ‘feel-good’ safari.
It ended like that.
Had a nice dinner and then a game of cards and dumb charades at the room.
We were waiting for the last safari the next morning.
Day – 3 : Morning Safari :
We were up at 4 am, the driver was punctual, he landed at our door at 430 AM.
We were at the Kisli gate by 445 AM, ours were the first 2 jeeps.
This day, we told the driver, take the route not frequented by anyone. We just wanted to enjoy the nature in our last trip.
We had barely travelled 10 minutes when a familiar din surrounded us.
Our guide said, it can only be a tiger, there cannot be such a crowd for anything else.
Excited, we drew closer.
It was a full blooded full grown adult male tiger sleeping.
We were a little perplexed, it looked dead because of the posture.
The legs were folded, facing the sky, lying on the back, face to the sky.
Then we saw its belly furiously breathing away.. and we heaved a sigh of relief!
The guide told us that there this tiger wont wake up because its immensely tired and only then do they sleep like this.
This is when they are least bothered. We were too close for comfort, at the maximum about 5 feet away. We were clicking incessantly.
But here, I was hugely disappointed because people were using flashes. I really don’t understand why they do this.
Probably they don’t know how to turn it off
Anyways I had my fill of close up shots! About 50 pics and a few HD videos.
Then he turned, looked at us .. I froze, and then he dozed off again.
All this on HD video!! I was thrilled!
Then the rest of the safari, everything looked beautiful, the gaurs, deer, jackals and peacocks all had their magic!
We had a final lunch in Baghira log huts, and bid farewell to this wonderful place with a lot of fond memories and a treasure of pics and videos!
This trip did not disappoint us at all.
Some pics below :