When Rudyard Kipling wrote his lovely little story featuring a man cub and wolves and a tiger and a hypnotising snake, he was actually talking about the Kanha National Park.
Situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh, right in the heart of India. It’s a vast stretch of forest housing tigers, sloth bears, deer, monkeys and birds. However, there were no hypnotising pythons with jaws dropping to the floor, although I admit that would have been cool. There were also no talking animals but there was definitely an encounter with Shere Khan. This is a survivors’ guide to the forest.
So, without further ado, imma take you through the bare necessities that form India’s diverse wildlife.
This one is a Sambar Deer, one of the most common sights in the Park. The cries of these deer combined with that of the monkey is a warning sign indicating the approach of a tiger.
When we reached the national park, a deer was the first thing I saw, right outside our forest cabin. I got super excited considering that was practically Bambi in front of me so I decided to follow the deer and ended up crossing the boundary beyond which humans are not allowed. The deer ran away, leaving me disappointed and I returned without the slightest realisation that crossing the ‘no humans’ boundary literally meant a possible encounter with a tiger or worse….spiders.
This one’s a male Chital or a spotted deer. We literally had to stop the jeep to let it pass as the little Majesty took its own sweet time to stride across the street, giving us plenty of time to get pictures. A funny thing about deer is that they will run at the speed of light if they hear a twig creak near them but when you’ve got a vehicle coming at them at a decent speed, they will stand in the middle of the road and stare into your soul.
One of the nights, we saw a deer right outside our cabin door, just standing still, staring into our soul. And it was quite a jolt, considering the place is pitch dark at night and their eyes glow red.
Bambi is quite a fun package, as it turns out.
A dancing peacock in the middle of a deciduous grassland. Peacocks can be see in empty patches of grassland, or even crossing the road at the national park. However, a dancing one is a rare sight, especially as it’s not raining.
See, I told you I saw Shere Khan. This was literally after three unsuccessful tours and one sight of the tiger was like heaven itself. Even though the park has around 200 tigers, it is very difficult to spot one as they are literally out in the wild. There’ll be days where you’ll legit see a trail of fresh pug marks and following them won’t lead anywhere. This was a day when we couldn’t see a single pug mark so we stopped at one water hole as the guide played a hunch and the next moment, this cub crossed the street. It was really close and there were two more, probably its mum and sibling, napping at the water hole but this one restless cub made our day, trip and life.
Kanha National Park has been involved in tiger conservation since 1955 and the very idea that India’s national animal is one of the rarest sights at a Tiger Reserve really serves as a wake-up call to preserve these animals. However, on the brighter side, the number of tigers in India have increased from 1400 tigers in 2014 to 2967 tigers and counting at present owing to the strict crackdown on poaching and illegal wildlife trade and preserving the environment. The Kanha National Park for instance, is a no plastic zone and eating on the jeep is forbidden. There are rest stops provided for refreshments and any trace of littering is strictly dealt with. All these measure are very encouraging and are a strong step to conserving wildlife.
This big guy is a bison. Another common sight at the national park, crossing the street in herds. Often, you’ll see a wee cattle egret perched on its back, carrying out its daily dose of commensalism. A bison is huge. It makes a buffalo look like a wee lamb but that’s where the physical similarities end. If one has lived in India, a bison crossing the street comes as no surprise considering we are used to herds of buffaloes going in the opposite direction in the midst of heavy city traffic and carrying on with our business like its no big deal but this one’s size may not exactly deem it suitable for a city hustle hence it does its bit of street antiques in the forest. Apparently, tigers are scared of this guy.
God Bless the Bison.
That mound in the picture is a termite hill. These vicious babies are seen in every nook and cranny in the national park and sometimes, you can see creepy crawlies spewing out of it. Personally, I felt these were the scariest things at the national park as they camouflage so well and you never know when you might trip on them while walking.
On a less eerie note, see that wee peacock back there? It said ‘Peek-A-Boo’.
Talking of bugs, here’s an actual sweet story. The evening we reached the National Park, I found an injured butterfly on the windshield of our taxi. I took it in a tissue paper and put it on a leaf at the entrance. After the formalities and all the luggage collect, I came back to see that it was already beginning to climb a twig.
Now that I think of it, it was a small, sweet gesture but to my ten year old self that did it back in 2013, it was equivalent to saving global wildlife.
That’s a hawk on a barren tree. And for some reason I have twenty photos of it in the exact same pose. No wonder the camera ran out of memory.
Here’s a question for you: Do you know how fast a sloth bear can run?
Answer: Faster than lightning. We saw a glimpse of a sloth bear, right in from of us but before anyone could take a picture, the wee baby ran deeper into the forest in an eye blink. An Indian Sloth Bear has black fur with an off-white nose. That’s all I can say.
Finally, here’s a pug mark keychain I got from the national park museum shop as a souvenir:)
And that is a wrap!
Until Next Time,