One line summary – We had a lot of fun and spotted a lot of animal and birds and did not spot the Tiger even once!
However if you are still inclined….. do read on…
This time the journey was waaay better than last time, yeah! first time is always disappointing in retrospect To begin with we traveled in luxury – it was an AC Qualis and not really stuffed to the gills, the roads were also much better than the last year and we reached Kanha from Nagpur in 4¾ hours rather than the 6½ it took last time. We stayed at the same place as before. Uncle Stephens was very glad to see us and we got the compliment that we were looking much healthier and younger than last year. Which made us realise as to how much we have changed our lifestyle in past 12 months. This time we also met Mr Chaddha the owner of the resort and he was most happy when I told that 2 things brought us back to Kanha were Uncle Stephens and the birds. We made it very clear to everyone that Tiger had to be incidental and if at all – we want to see it from the Open Gypsy rather than from the elephant.
I agree that Tiger, majestic as it is, has got a mystic charm about it which anyone finds difficult to resist once in the heartland of the king… and to a degree we did succumb for a while when there were reports that a Tigress with three cubs has been spotted.
This did not deter us or divert us from things things at hand for long. The driver of our Gypsy was the same from last year and knew what we wanted. The park guide was a young man named Shail Gope, he was very very good and knowledgeable – during the course of our conversation we learnt that he has worked for almost two years with Valmik Thapar when he made the famous “Land of the Tiger” documentary for BBC – and yes I verified his name in the credits on the VCD we have.
Just an aside for people down south – You cannot enter the Kanha Park unless you have a park guide with you, you cannot take your vehicle anywhere but on the paths which have been clearly demarcated, you cannot get down from the vehicle and the park timing are very restricted and they are strict about it. Summer time the park timings are from 5:30 am to 11 am and 5:00pm to 6:30pm. This in no way restricts the pleasure if you know where to go and what to see.
This time we saw the Gaur (Indian Bison) in abundance, not just juveniles but complete family herds and full grown males – in fact at one time a full grown male made a mock charge at our Gypsy – I say a mock charge because it stopped the last moment a few feet away as soon as I got the camera ready…
So other than not spotting the tiger what were the highlights of the visit?
We spotted the Indian Sloth Bear not once but twice in a row!
We witnessed a pack of Dhols (Indian Wild Dogs) chasing a herd of Chital deers.
We saw Wild Boars
We saw the Chital deer, the Sambar deer and the somewhat rarer Barasingha deer.
But then we went inside the park only 2 times of the potential 5 times we could have – rest of the times we went for walks in the jungle buffer area escorted by Uncle Stephens. Though this area is outside the core park area it still is the territory of Tigers and Leopards in fact Uncle told us that there is one male Leopard whom he regularly meets just about 100 meters from the resort, and we did see Bear pug marks in the sand as we walked.
The main objective of these walks was bird watching and it was a stupendous success, we managed to spot 96 varieties of birds in just about 6 hours of cumulative trekking. The area along the dried river bed which was a 5 min walk from our resort is a paradise for bird watchers. There is a very helpful checklist of birds from Kanha which has been compiled by Eric D’Cuhna and we kept it handy and ticked off birds as we spotted them..
However the most magical moment was not the birds – Last day just before we came back myself and Swati ventured out alone on a walk – some distance down the river bed we stepped into a clump of grass beneath a shadow of tree, with a soft whir we were engulfed in a cloud of shimmering, iridescent blue – Butterflies!!! we had walked into the last of the blues which are found in huge numbers in the area. We stood still for almost a minute as dozens of them flew all around us before settling down – showing just the drab brown of the outer wing.
We were very tempted to extend our stay for one more day but instead we decided that we will be back in Kanha in June – in fact we will be there on 10th, 11th and 12th of June – It is a part of the bet we have with Arjun (Dhanwatey) and his wife. Bets aside – we do plan to go to Kanha more often…
Some important lessons learned about photography in the wild.
#1 You never change lenses when out in the field.
#2 400mm is too big for most animals.
#3 400mm is not adequate for most birds.
#4 A Video Cam can capture moments which a still camera can never do.
So a tentative plan is to acquire a second, second hand Nikon DSLR body (the cheapest we can find) and a good 300mm tele this combined with the 2X TC20e teleconvertor that I already have will be a decent bird cam and the 70-200mm VR would be the animal cam. Plus we also intend to shop around for a reasonably versatile Handycam. Swati wants to revive what she had once upon a time studied – making Short Films….
Pictures of the visit?
Yes indeed! there are 300+, some of them really very good bird pictures, but it will take a long time for me to put them all up. Once again, subscribing to the RSS feed from my site is the best way to keep abreast – In case you need instructions on how to subscribe to an RSS feed view the above URL in a browser and follow instructions.
P.S. For Tiger lovers – Arjun and family went for all 5 safari trips and spotted the Tiger on two of them….
Forgot to write – we were offered a Jungle Cat (Kitten) to raise and if possible re-release, unfortunately had to turn down the offer due to Swati’s allergies. May be some day we will be able to do it considering that the homeopathy treatment is working wonders for Swati