In the tiger’s lair at Kanha

Having finished the Bhopal leg of our trip, Lipi and I boarded the Indore Jabalpur Express from Bhopal junction. The train journey was a rather short one and it reached Jabalpur at an unearthly hour of around 5:15 AM – I am used to waking up early but Lipi was quite game too this time around !! Fortunately, our driver organized by the tour operator was there waiting for us and we started off from Jabalpur station at around 6:30 AM. The interim period was spent in trying to charge our mobile phones but both of them as well as the two batteries we had seemed to take ages in getting charged.

Our plan was to go via Beraghat and Dhuadar falls to Kanha and both these places were quite deserted early in the morning. At Beraghat we managed to get a boat for ourselves and, even though the boat crew overcharged us to some extent, the experience of rowing through the Marble rocks early in the morning was a mesmeric one. During your travels you always yearn for something unique and the Marble rocks are as unique as they come. The experience of the morning mist slowly rising from the water, the Sun’s rays trying to break through the clouds and the rhythmic movement of the boat through the water flanked by the magnificent Marble rocks of different hues, was almost surreal. Even though I have traveled quite widely within and outside India, this was to be cherished.

Dhuadar falls on the Narmada river is a waterfall worth seeing. The spray from the falling water as it crashes into the gorge creates a mist like ambiance and you can feel it all over. The waterfalls can be viewed close up or from a rope way. As we were early that day we missed the rope way but came back later on with our cousin. After spending a while at the falls we were again on our way to Kanha. The road was initially bad due to a 4 lane construction effort but it got better after a while. Our luck in terms of charging our devices or in getting some 100 Re notes as change remained bad.

We reached our resort (Wild Chalet Resort) around 1:00 PM and were very impressed with both the layout and the construction of the resort. The resort has a river running behind it and like all Eco resorts it has integrated the construction with the local terrain and vegetation. Our unit was quite large and well appointed, overlooking the river and even having a private hammock hanging right outside the verandah to boot !! Not having any safaris scheduled for that day, we spent the day at leisure and sampled the food at the resort which was homely but very well cooked. There was a Tribal dance performance in the evening which was quite riveting both for the vigorous drum beats accompanying the music and the swaying rhythm of the dancers. The resort does not have any TV and this adds to the relaxed atmosphere in a big way. 

Next day was dedicated to the safaris, we were doing both the morning and the evening one. After some early morning tea we set off to the Khatia gate for completing the required formalities before starting the Safari at 6 AM. The open jeep was pretty cold due to the biting wind and thankfully, the driver had provided us a couple of blankets to huddle into. Being in the southern part of the country for the past 18 years, we are simply not used to that level of temperature or winds any more. Anyway, adaptability is the key ingredient for successful travel so we just braced up for it, with the view that the sighting of a tiger will make all of this worthwhile.

Those hopes were unfortunately belied in the morning Safari. We did see a lot of tiger pug marks and the Guide seemed confident of spotting one but, despite a lot of chasing around, it just did not happen. We had to be content with seeing a lot of Deer, some Jackals, a herd of Bison from a distance and a few Peacocks and other birds. In the end we consumed the packed breakfast from the hotel and felt rather deflated about the fact that the returns had just not matched the investment we had committed to. Fortunately when you are a frequent traveler you are able to take such disappointments in your stride and after a quick lunch at the resort, we were again ready to take on the Jungle.

A few words about Kanha will not be amiss. It is the largest sanctuary with a total area of about 2000 Sq Kms including the buffer zone. Even the Core area of the jungle is impressive at 940 Sq Kms. The tiger population is nearly 100 there and there are Leopards, all kinds of Deer, Hyenah, Jackal, Bison, monkeys and a whole variety of birds with Peacocks having pride of place. The sanctuary is divided into six Zones and traffic is regulated so that there is no overcrowding. In the morning we had been to the Kanha Zone, where tiger sightings are quite commonplace. Our afternoon safari zone was Kisli where the frequency of sightings are lower. This being the case we were tempered in our optimism of being able to spot one.

The afternoon safari was an improvement in many ways. The Sun was shining and this allowed for great visibility. More animals were out in the open and we saw all the ones we had seen in the morning, some at really close quarters such as a couple of Nilgais and Barasinghas. The real deal was sighting of a Bison right next to our Jeep. It paid scant attention to us and went on munching some leaves. From close up one could see that is is a magnificent animal. The black muscular frame, the curved colorful horn and the white feet were all a sight to behold. After seeing the Bison we were feeling a little less let down at not viewing the tiger.

Throughout the afternoon safari our Guide was listening to the chatter of the monkey, studying pug marks and taking us over several tracks in the hope of spotting a tiger. His efforts and our ardent desires got rewarded at long last, just when we had almost given up on it as a lost cause. We could finally see a tigress making it’s way through the jungle. The sighting was not absolutely clear due to the trees but we could see it for long enough. As they say, when it rains it pours – we were soon seeing another tiger crossing the road and going to the other side of the forest. By then it was nearly dark and we had to end the safari. Overall, it was a thrilling experience, what with the adrenaline pumping anticipation of seeing a tiger as well as the eventual excitement of spotting not one but two of them within half an hour. All was well as it ended well !!

After such excitement the rest of our stay in Kanha was rather uneventful. We checked out around 10 AM next day after having an elaborate breakfast of Aloo Paratha and Masala Omlette. On our way to Jabalpur we were lucky to get one SBI branch where you could withdraw money through a micro ATM, which was good as we had almost completely run out of 100 Re notes by then. Our tour operator MP Go Wild tours and the manager Rajesh had arranged the Kanha trip very well and it was a very satisfying experience. We could enjoy our travel without having to worry about anything administrative. Check him out if you are planning for any of the wild life sanctuaries in MP.

Jabalpur was rather fun as we got to meet my cousins ( both Doctors)  and their families at long last. Two days flew by with good food, great liquor and even greater company.We visited the Dhuadar falls once more, this time using the rope way and got a 360 degree view of the falls. Also looked at the Balancing rock which has stayed in the same place for centuries apparently. 

Finally it was time to get back to Hyderabad on Thursday. The drive to Jabalpur airport was a nice one and soon we were about the ATR aircraft of Air India. This was a trip planned rather well and there were several worthwhile experiences and memories. If any of you want to check out some pictures go to my Facebook page and read the posts I had during the travel.

We will of course be back in MP soon, there is so much to see in it that I can easily visualize at least another 3 or more trips that we will need. For now though, the memories of our recent trip are fresh in our mind’s eye and will sustain us till we travel next.

 

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