I got up at 5:15 in the early morning. During the night I heard the sounds of wild animals many times. This was common in these parts of the jungle but is an exciting experience for people living in the urban world. We had to leave at 6 for our jungle safari. I didn’t take a shower or brush my teeth. I had learnt in my earlier safari experience at Tadoba in Nagpur, Maharashtra in the year 2012, that one is not supposed to take a bath or brush teeth before going for safari. The wild animals can sense the smell of soap or toothpaste and will keep distance from you. This was certainly what I didn’t want to happen.
Me, Deep and Sarthak drove to the gate of the jungle. There are many gates to enter the jungle but the gate we went to was called ‘Khapa gate’. Prem Bhaiyya had made hot tea and breakfast for us which was tucked inside a basket which we carried with us and kept in the safari vehicle. At the Khapa gate which falls into the buffer zone of the Kanha jungle, we were greeted by our guide for the day. The safari was going to be around 4-5 hours of pure jungle bliss. After getting introduced to our guide we sat in the Maruti Gypsy 4×4, which is mostly the only car used in the jungle safari.
As soon as we entered the jungle the world around me transformed. The signs of human civilization drowned away in the darkness of the ending night. The silence and tranquility of the place were tickling my senses. And not just the five senses, in places like these you come face to face with many more senses of your own physical being. The jungle was beautiful. The trees and bushes on both sides of the road were welcoming the passersby. The blue haze of the morning mixed with the green flora in the vicinity. I only wished I could walk here in silence instead of hearing the muffled silence due to the roaring car engine. I wish all safari vehicles could be converted into electric ones. We would often hear some sounds of wild animals or rustlings of bushes as we made our way deeper into the jungle. The sun was making its way in the morning sky and the jungle was getting brighter and more vibrant with every passing moment.
Rustling of the leaves very close to our vehicle grabbed my attention. I saw a small deer walking through the bushes and soon disappeared. I managed to click a snap. A little further ahead I was greeted with a delightful view. A water stream crossed the jungle and between the trees and the stream there was sand on either side. Our driver killed the engine. The driver and the guide stood up to carefully listen to the calls of the wild animals to mark the presence of tigers while I was completely immersed in the beauty of the jungle. I was trying to spot any and every presence wildlife even far away in distance through my binoculars. I saw some birds, a deer trying to cross the stream that was afraid due to our presence, a baby deer with its mother. The driver started the car again as he could not hear any calls of the animals and hence decided to continue in the jungle and try our luck to spot the tigers. A group of birds were chirping and flying from branch to branch. Deep told me that these birds were called ‘Jungle Babblers’ (सातभाई). Right in the water stream we saw a teeny tiny bird which was continuously bobbing its tail as if it was dancing. It was Grey Wagtail (कर्डा धोबी). I must mention here that even though I’m a nature lover, the names of the flora or fauna is not my expertise. For that I completely relied on Deep as he had a deep (ya, I know, just like his name right) knowledge on the subject. All the names of the animals, and birds I have mentioned in this blog have been acquired by Deep and I’m very grateful to him for that.
As we moved further, our gypsy slowed down when our guide saw a group of spotted deers. As soon as we arrived all the deers turned their heads to look at us and I grabbed the opportunity to capture the moment in my camera. We spent a long time staring at those deers and they returned the courtesy. After that we didn’t see much wildlife except for some Grey langoors or othrewise known as hanuman langoors (काळ्या तोंडाचा माकड). We came to a halt near a small one room sized concrete house which had it’s door locked. I believe it was a resting facility for forest officers. Other gypsys were parked there and the people were enjoying their breakfast and tea. I felt the sense I had been completely oblivious to for last couple of hours – hunger. After little refreshments and attending nature calls we had breakfast made by Prem Bhaiyya, followed with hot tea. The driver had laid out a custom fitted cloth on the cars hood and the the breakfast was laid on it. The warmth of the hood helped keeping our breakfast warm in a cold morning. It was quite an experience having food and tea in the jungle surrounded in all the direction with pure wilderness.
After about half an hour of break, our journey continued. We were startled to see a huge bison (रान गव्हा). This beast was a pure muscle. If it were to, it could have easily topple our car over, but it appeared to be a peace loving animal. We saw many other bisons as we moved further ahead. The first bison that we came across was the biggest one of the lot. It was taller than me and I’m around 6 ft tall.
That’s all the wildlife we got to see that day. We came out of the jungle somewhere by 11 to 11:30 am. We went straight to our homestay and took a hot shower. The fragrance of lunch being made in the kitchen hit my nose I went hungry. In the afternoon, Deep asked me if I wanted to spend some time on the machaan – watch tower. I agreed and went to sit on the machaan. Since the machaan was beyond the protective fencing walls of the homestay, a concerned employee of the homestay named RoopSingh Rathod came with me at the watch water. He belonged to the adivasi tribe (aboriginal tribe) and lived in a nearby village. We both had a good conversations. He narrated the encounters he has had with tigers in these jungles since his childhood.
After about an hour or so Deep and Sarthak came at the machaan and asked me if I’d like a walk around the place to get more familar with the jungle. We walked through the dense forest. Observed different footmarks of wild animals, even saw a pugmark of male tiger, saw the nearby farms and ponds and came back to the homestay. Most of the remaining evening was spent in conversations. I was so not missing my urban life. We called it a day and looked forward to our safari the next day.
To be continued…