They say a love of nature and wildlife can make you do strange things. 😉 So there we were at Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India the middle of summer. Crazy temperatures at 45 degrees and dry heat! It was unbearably hot but thankfully there was a thunderstorm that cooled down the place a bit.
We did a morning safari, knowing how hot the afternoon one would be. Luckily for us, because of the storm the night before, it was cloudy all morning. We headed from the Pench Jungle Camp out to the Turia gate in our gypsy at 5 am with our driver Kishore. We reached by 5:15, but there were already about 10 other gypsies ahead of us. On entering the main gate, we completed entrance formalities and were joined by our guide, Vinod.
We were in time to see the sunrise.
Just as we headed into the park, we saw some grey Langurs. They’re also known as the leaf monkey and commonly called hanuman langurs in India because of the long tails like the monkey god Hanuman of Indian mythology.
Vinod seemed quite excited showing us a Jungle fowl, but we were like, ‘That’s just a Chicken, we have those in Bombay’. Plus, we used to have them at home back at the grandparent’s place.
We saw large herds of chital deer.
My sis’s pic of the deer looked more like a painting, didn’t it?
We also saw quite a few different birds starting with the Crested Serpent Eagle.
And the Indian Pitta, the Indian Roller and the Indian Magpie.
We also spotted a Malabar Hornbill, some White Eyed Buzzards, Jacoban Cuckoos, and the Black Drongos.
We were lucky to spot a lone Wild Dog (Dhole), thanks to me 🙂 We watched as it came through the forest, crossed the road ahead of us and went on its way the other side.
Not sure why it was alone though, since Wild Dogs usually travel in packs.
The landscape was quite dry throughout the park being as it was summer.
But there were some ever green trees like the sonpata or bidi leaf tree. Son meaning gold, pata meaning leaves, and bidi meaning cigarettes. The tree that grows from 3 to 5 metres in height flowers from Feb to May and is known as sonpata because its leaves are exchanged during the festival of Dusshera as a sign of gold or wealth. And bidis, well the leaves are used to make cigarettes.
We passed a group of Gaur (Indian Bison) and some Nilgai before we stopped by a huge lake that was quite empty. Our guide Vinod said that in the monsoon it gets really full.
We were stopped on top of the bridge taking pictures of the lake.
Around the lake, we spotted a few more birds like the Wooly Stork aka White Necked Stork, Herons, Egrets, Black Head Ibis, Ducks, also a Jackal quenching its thirst.
On the other side of the lake, amidst the arid landscape, the patches of green around the watering hole provided respite from the heat. The colours were too lovely not to photograph. My sis wanted me to specify that she took this pic. She’s very very happy with it. 😉
Thankfully, there weren’t any of other gypsies around, just vast stretches of open land. Good for us!
We continue on for a bit and the landscape changes again.
My sis takes a pic of me shooting pics. She insisted that I use it here.
We then headed over to a smaller pond named the Bijamata waterbody. As we approached we saw a lot of other gypsies stopped there with everyone looking in the direction of the pond. We immediately knew it was a Tiger!
There he was cooling himself down in the sludge. He just sat there for almost an hour and so did we, just watching him. Raiyyakasa was his name, and this was his territory. This Bengal tiger is arch-rival or BMW, and the mate of Collarwale of Guiness book fame and Langdi. Raiyyakasa is also called Sula because of the a wine glass shaped mark near the bottom of his body.
We couldn’t see it though. All we could see was his head.
There were a group of Langurs playing on this side of the pond, the opposite side to where he was, but they were quite aware that he was there.
A sambar deer cautiously approached the pond to drink water. Raiyyakasa turned his head and saw the deer, but was not interested. He kept glancing at the deer every now and then, but didn’t move. We hoped to see a kill, but were not that lucky.
Finally, after a while Raiyyakasa swam to the shore and got out.
He walked about 10 feet to some bushes and took a dump! Got that on camera, ha!
He then walked across the road and onto the other side into the forest, aware of but unfazed by the humans that were going crazy clicking away with phones and cameras. It looked like he was eating grass. Did he have an upset stomach? Did you know that they eat grass when they want to regurgitate and vomit their food.
Raiyyakasa paused a few times while walking, then finally disappeared into the bushes. Happy that we’d seen a Tiger, we drove on and continued with our safari.
Do the tigers look the same as the ones in Corbett National Park? We really don’t know, but since they’re all related, i.e. they’re all from the family of Royal Bengal tigers they should have the same overall appearance. But the the stripes will differ from tiger to tiger, just like our fingerprints differ from human to human.
We saw more birds, langur, monkeys and deer and then headed to the picnic point for our breakfast at around 8.45 am. The location of our picnic spot was the erstwhile Alikatta village that has now been relocated outside the park. Alikatte were Forest Villages that were established by the forest department during colonial times, – mostly by the British – to ensure that there was labour available for forest works like tree cutting and transportation.
There were a few other gypsies there taking a break while Mowgli kept watch. Who was mowgli? He was the adorable little kid in the 1967 movie called the Jungle Book based on Rudyard Kipling’s famous book. Yes, the statue doesn’t look as cute as the Mowgli from the Jungle Book movie of 1967, but it is the very same story. Rudyard Kipling in his famous book The Jungle Book took Pench from being just another jungle to a jungle that people care for. The Legend of Mowgli is probably fictional, but Rudyard Kipling used a lot of influences from the Seoni district while writing ‘The Jungle Book’ although he had never visited Seoni himself. Mowgli was a case of the ‘wolf boy’ where there were cases or accounts of wolves nurturing children in their dens.
Our breakfast was packed by the kind staff at the Pench Jungle Camp where we were staying. There were a variety of options to choose from; Boiled Eggs, Puri Bhaji, Sandwiches, Muffins, Fruits, Tea, Coffee and Juice.
Picture time with our forest guide and driver before heading out.
Just after we headed back out and our guide spotted a nest with Eagle babies. We could actually see them, even though they were so high up. One more thing ticked off the bucket list. Baby eagles. 🙂
The trees in Pench Forest were really tall and the Ghost trees especially made for some great pics. The trees shed their bark for six months of the year and their mostly white appearance is said to have scared folk in the forest. Thus earning the name bhootiya or ghost trees.
On our way out of the park, we saw a Langur resting in the hollow of a tree, that was a sight!
After it came out, we saw that there had been another one behind it down in the hollow, though that one just sat there staring back at us. Amazing!
And then we noticed another langur higher up in the tree trunk. It seemed that the entire tree was hollow, but still alive. Awesome!
Nearing 11 we headed towards the exit and said goodbye to our enthusiastic guide Vinod. Just outside the exit, I ran into a travel agent friend who had booked a group trip to Kenya with us years ago. After saying hello, we headed back to the Pench Jungle Camp where we were lodging.
On the way there we noticed quite some activity near the MP Tourism Resort Kipling’s Courtyard. Kishore, our driver told us that the night before a Leopard had been spotted roaming around there. It ended up in one of the rooms. I wonder how they got it out?
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Sarah has worked in travel for 11 years and specializes in Africa. She caters to clients looking to travel to niche destinations across the globe, whether it’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, rafting on the Zambezi River, viewing seals and penguins in Antarctica or walking Safaris in Africa…..
She loves music, wine, food and travel. Her love for nature and wildlife makes her work even more enjoyable and satisfying. Armed with her camera, she likes to take photographs and write stories that inspire you to pack your bags and run off to a faraway destination.