May 21st, on our way to Kanha National Park, we also saw a rare celestial event, occlusion of Venus by the moon, Aasim was the first to notice and pointed it out to us and we saw the entire phenomenon – moon coming closer and closer to Venus, and nearly eclipsing it, Venus appeared as a bright white dot just below moon, as if the moon developed a wart!!. I wish we weren’t so much in a hurry…. we did not take any pictures
We got out of the vehicle that took us to Village mocha, 16 kms from Kanha which was to be our abode during our stay there, we were greeted by Mr. Denzil A.G Stephens, Resort Manager, Tigerland Resort. Uncle Stephens was introduced to us by our tour guide, Mr. Arjun Dhanwate, as an expert in Wild life and a naturalist with keen interest in Tigers.
A thorough gentleman, Uncle Stephens had many stories to tell us, we sat and listened in awe as he spoke and just as he was speaking, he whispered to us, turn back slowly and don’t make any noise, he pointed his torch light and there was a wild spotted deer (axis axis), right inside the resort garden. It galloped back as we shrieked in excitement.
Spotted deers and leopards are a pretty common sight, Uncle Stephens went on to tell, a leopard regularly comes to sit on the rocks adjoining the resort. The resort had no brick wall to guard it from the jungle, just a small bamboo fence, that even a deer can break, we stayed in the midst of jungle, woke up every morning before sunrise to the chirping of hundreds of birds and for the first time witnessed the expanse of milky way which gets so lost in the hustle bustle and lights of city life.
The crisp and cool morning air was refreshing as we sipped our morning tea sitting out in the open, looking at the jungle corridor that joins Kanha (located in the Malkal hills of the Satpura hill range in mandla district of Madhya Pradesh) to the other forest belts. Animals, specially the herbivores, we were told by Uncle Stephens, keep migrating from one place to another from Bandhavgarh which is 250 kms north to Kanha to Kanha and Pench which is about 200 Kms south of Kanha.
With herbivores, even carnivores move, forever extending their territories. It is a good thing that their numbers are rising. In Kanha itself, there are about 40,000 spotted deers and 128 tigers, about 35 Indian sloth bears, several leopards and jungle cats which co-exist with about 250 varities of birds and hoards of Jackals, wild boars, Bisons, Barasinga (the only surviving species of barasingha is in Kanha) wild dogs, langurs… and so many more animal species. A place to witness the biodiversity in fullest, it only takes a second to be surrounded by hundreds of butterflies. We were absolutely awestruck when our elephant stepped into the indri river bed – I have never seen so many varieties of butterflies, each one more beautiful than the other and I was told this is not the butterfly season. To see them in resplendent colours and even greater numbers one should visit in the spring time during the months of February – March
Animals blend so beautifully in sal and bamboo forest of Kanha, it takes and expert eye to spot the tiger sitting on the road side under a bamboo bush. almost missed spotting a leopard even though it was very close to their jeep.
We enter the jungle at sunrise and see few Bisons peacefully grazing, deers grazing, galloping, and keeping a watchful eye a couple of jackals playing with each other in distance. Lets turn left, our guide tells us, and we find out that a sloth bear has just crossed, the tell tale signs of its foot prints on soft sand.
Each animal has a tale to tell, and we heard the jungle whispering tales – birds giving alarm calls, male deer tapping their foot and grunting giving rattling calls to their would be mates, peacocks meaou meaou filling the jungle and suddenly a hare lept across the road. We spotted a tigresses pug marks -she is on a kill. Looking up we saw vultures sitting waiting for the tiger to hunt and finish eating so that they can come down and feast on crumbs..
We weren’t really looking for the tiger, we went upto the river bed and returned to take another route. When we came back to the resort, Uncle Stephens told us, he was there in another jeep ahead of us by about 10 minutes he had decided to cross the river bed, to look for more fauna when a tigress was spotted, perhaps the same one which was on the kill and the we had heard the entire jungle taking.. She was there on the road side, she waited and with a calculated gait circled the jeep in which Uncle Stephens was with some other tourist, after a few minutes of inspection she walked on the mud pathway and the jeep followed her for about 45 minutes. We missed out this opportunity…. it happens very often uncle told us, each tigers has a character, some are playful, some shy, some grumpy and some flaunt themselves, just like people do.
He spoke of one tiger named Charger, in Bandhavgarh forest, Charger, he was a naughty one and was named so because he loved chasing jeeps full of people and scaring them. He was huge but one could almost see him smiling after his little game said Uncle Stephens.
He has many more tales and those are an experience in themselves, we intend to keep going back to Kanha and other forest reserves -its addictive!!! took many interesting pictures which he will post in his journal, will do the same.
The first picture is up and can be seen here