February 2012 was indeed a special month to me. As I got chance to spend three weekends to three different Tiger Reserves. First it was Panna, then Kanha and finally Sariska (my 4th visit). Thanks to my dear friend Nitin Tripathi who is native of Chattarpur district of Madhya-Pradesh and decided to get married on the day of Valentine in Jabalpur. The first part of marriage ceremony was going to held at his home town which was near to Khajuraho and Panna Tiger Reserve and then the marriage was at Jabalpur which is near to Kanha. I guess I was more excited than him to visit Kanha & Panna.
Kanha is one of the finest and best administered National Park in Asia. The flora and fauna of Kanha has made it an irresistible attraction for wild life lovers and a true heaven for its animal and avian population. Kanha’s sal and bamboo forests and vast grasslands have stretched over 940 sq km of natural splendor. Kanha Tiger Reserve created in 1947 under Project Tiger. Due to depletion in Tiger population this area was made into absolute sanctuary in 1952 and by a special statute in 1955, Kanha National Park came into its present existence.
Khatia (Near to Kisli gate) and Mukki are the two main entry points to the Kanha National Park. Khatia is around 175 km and Mukki is around 210 km from Jabalpur.
This unforgettable journey was started on Saturday (11.02.12) through MP Sampark Kranti Exp which is a best option to reach Jabalpur from Delhi. The 15 hour long journey was eloped in my excitement to reach the forest. From Jabalpur station either one can go to ISBT Jabalpur to catch the bus up to ‘Mandla’ as the first direct bus to Kanha is at 12:30 or just take a rickshaw that will charge 15 Rs to Empire talkies. The theater is not functioning, but it is a well known point to catch the bus for excursion from Jabalpur. Mandla is 95 km from Jabalpur, almost halfway to Kanha and Buses are plying at a regular interval of 10 minutes. The beautiful journey took me through the Satpura range of forest and low hills. It took around 3 and a half hour to Mandla. The bus to Kanha was scheduled at 2:30 so it gives me little time to explore this small town and to meet the local reporter of the channel I work for. The guy was very helpful and he made some special arrangement for me at Kanha that included a stay and Safari inside the park.
Mandla to Kanha was 75 km and this part of journey was mainly through tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh. The difference between have and have not was visible in every aspect of their life. People were arguing with bus conductor for as low as 2-5 Rs and they were ready to walk for few km if their demand was not accepted. The landscape was beautiful but sometime I could hardly able to locate a house, didn’t know how much these tribes were compelled to walk to catch a bus.
I reached Kanha by 5; my arrangement was made in a resort called ‘Vanya’. The resort was beautiful and I’ll write about it in a separate post. I roamed around few hours, had dinner and slept tight for a beautiful day that was supposed to reveal another part of heaven, as forest is known in my dictionary.
The safari starts at 6:30 in the morning and goes till 12. The evening safari starts at 3:30 and ends at 6, which means less time for same charges. Luckily the guide in morning safari was very enthusiastic, and knowledgeable that means chances of tiger show gets doubled, and that is what proved at end.
Our first encounter was with a male Indian-Bison. It was very interesting to know that if a male Bison is roaming alone that means he was forced to leave the group by females and now he has to regain his power to fight back and win his female again. Otherwise this could be his punishment to live and die alone.
This is a part of soil which is created by Termites through their larva. It is as much inside the ground as it is outside. It mainly contains the egg of termites which is favorite brunch of bear.
The safari usually halts at this point where one can have breakfast and enjoy the museum. The rates are very reasonable and one can also buy some souvenirs from here.
Kanha National Park is the only habitat in the world of the rare hard ground Barasingha. The good news is that their population is now on rise. It was very interesting to know that during mating season these Barasingha put some grass to their antlers and try to seduce their female.
In Sariska Tiger Reserve there are almost 10000 peacocks, and sometimes you felt like shouting…please no more…please no more…in Kanha though less in number but our national bird knows well that how to entertain their admirers.
Another interesting information I came across was about deer family. Male and female deer grow and shed new antlers each year. This characteristic differentiates them with antelope family as antelopes are permanently horned animals. You can see in image the velvet antlers of spotted dear which was in large numbers in Kanha. These velvet antlers though look beautiful but causes itching to deer, so they tend to rub there antlers to trees. During this season (February and March) you will see many trees with red color at their lower half. This is due to velvet antlers. Once deer shed these antlers they grow more firm horn in the later part of the year.
It is pretty common site in forest. These grasses are burnt intentionally so that the test of animals would get change and fresh grass could grow.
From this point the favorite game of forest began, i.e. ‘wait and chase’, without loosing patience and holding your luck.
Like in party after eating every crap we go for some delicious, mouth watering sweets, so here in the similar fashion I am going to present you the king of the forest, the nocturnal, the royal, the BAAP of everyone, when he walks on green carpet peacocks stop dancing, sambhar left their doshas, languor’s stick to their branches and few lucky like us start clicking to their heart content, the tiger.
While enjoying this video and looking at the images, I am going to tell you some secrets about this mighty creature. Tiger never stays in group (Obviously he is not a dog). He owns an area like any other brave soldiers, mostly after bloody riots, then mark the area by urinating around its perimeter and keep looking for it. He just can’t resist heat. That is the reason tiger mostly walk in the night, sometimes even 20-25 kms. In forest there is a common way of asking, what is the movement of the Tiger? Note the word movement. If he moves then it is for some purpose. Either to hunt or to secure his area. If his stomach is full he prefer to rest than wondering around aimlessly. He can sleep as much as 24 hours straight. Tiger is a very lazy creature. The main reason is his food habit. Because of the fresh meat he eats it causes heat in his stomach and makes him lazy.
When tiger feels threat then his tail gets erected like you can see in the image. We literally chase this female tigress to have a glimpse of her, following the different calls of the animals that our expert guide was getting. When we reached the location where she was supposed to cross the road, it was felt like we have almost blocked her way. Quick decision was made and one Gypsy just moved behind to give her the clear access.
In most of the Tiger Reserve the tigers are used to see the tourists. So chances are that they do not react until they feel any kind of threat. But sometime there are new tigers who are not as much exposed to human population so either they roar or came in attacking mode. That time it is advisable to stay calm and still. Any backward movement can alert these predators and they might attack. So, keep firm on your feet and shout as much as you can. It is believed that since tiger is a part of cat family so he is basically of shy nature and he will return without attacking. Though these are mere information I collected through various guides and co-traveler in forest and fortunately never required them to test.
Once tiger is located in Kanha, the information was transmitted to nearest check point/control room. Forest guide like this guy come immediately and inform the authority for probable Tiger Show, which is a unique concept especially in the forest of Madhya Pradesh like Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench and Panna. An elephant is called on, and he restricts tiger to make any movement. 200 Rs is collected to visitors and they got chance to see the tiger from closed proximity, riding on elephant back. However that day due to dense forest it was not possible to locate her movement. Anyways I was eternally satisfied so it hardly mattered to me.
It is also believed that the ‘Shravan Taal’ area in Kanha is the same place where the legendary Shravan Kumar gets killed by king Dashratha of Ayodhya, while he was taking his blind parents to pilgrimage.
There are as many as 150 Check point inside the Kanha Tiger Reserve. Each check point is occupied by 2-3 guards who are responsible for their area and its safety. During summer its very common that the forest catch the fire. Usually this happens when dry bamboo trees gets rubbed with each other.
The guards has responsibility to prevent the fire as well take care of animals. Their lives are very tough. They usually have just a knife or a stick while roaming in forest on foot. This is a movie, showing the life of forest guards, that I purchased from Kanha Museum, inside the park.
Morning safari ends at 12 in the noon and evening safari starts at 3.30. Though I was not second time lucky but during evening safari since the route was different so I got the chance to see the beauty of the forest.
Kanha is evergreen forest like Jim Corbett. Even if you do not encounter with tiger, every second you spend here is worth it. The forest is extremely dense and pleasantly beautiful. During our evening safari we saw two plastic bags thrown in the forest and the guide make sure to collect those so that it could not harm animals. Hats off to this sincerity and love for the forest. I was spellbound with all these efforts, the passion of tourist (many of them were foreigners), the simplicity and love of locals and guide towards the forest, probably these are the facts which make these places our most valuable assets.