3 Days in Kanha National Park - A Travel Story

#1 Aug 9th, 2012, 22:28
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  • ghosh.ruchira is offline
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“Welcome to Kanha!” A driver stepped forward with a broad smile as soon as our hired Xylo car wheeled into the compound of Kanha Reserve Forest Rest House. The driver of our car introduced Imrat, who will be the driver of our next day’s ‘Safari’ through the reserve forest. “Sadan could not come, that’s why I’ve come. If you want anything, please…” announced Imrat modestly. It was his brother Sadan whom we had contacted from Kolkata for our conveyance from Gondia to Kanha and the car for our ‘Safari’. It was simply a commercial contract, but we were deeply touched by their sincerity. Imrat took the pains to bring in the Care Taker of the Rest House and arrange for our checking in.

We had left Howrah by Gitanjali Express at 1:50 on 22 January. After we left Kharagpur, the view before us changed. Small villages appeared on both sides surrounded by corn fields and scattered thin woods at times. The village women dressed in colorful clothes were planting saplings of paddy in the fields among dark green woodlands. Suddenly the scenario changed when long rows of low lying hills appeared in the horizon. The sun was about to set and the western sky presented a pied pageant of myriad colors.
When we crossed Ghatshila station I remembered the description of this place, a small township surrounded by hills, as I have read in my childhood. The names of the places and the rivers around are so romantic—Fuldungri, Ratmohona, Subarnorekha. But the heaps of bricks and stones and the crowds of flyovers around the station marred my nostalgic dream. After the train left the station area we were again amidst the wide expanse of open fields and forests. Behind the hills the sun was setting in the horizon. The unforgettable view left us spell bound and made me take out my camera for the first time.
The day was yet to break when the train reached Gondia at the appointed hour of 5:15 a.m. the next day. The first light of day greeted our eyes at Balaghat. Leaving the town we proceeded through open fields, villages and sometimes thin forests of ‘Sal’ trees. We crossed small hills on the way, left behind the road to Mukki Gate near Bahiri, crossed a rivulet and reached Khatia Gate, our destination, in about four hours after a break at the picturesque site of Gangulpara water reservoir.
The Forest Bunglow at Khatia Gate is in the immediate outskirts of the forest separated by barbed wire fencing. The courtyard of the bunglow too abounds in trees and plants of various kinds. Each of the one-storied buildings of the bunglow sprawled over a wide space has two well-furnished rooms. We spent a peaceful night there expecting eagerly for the next day to reveal the marvels of one of the most famous forests of India.


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#2 Aug 9th, 2012, 22:29
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The Kanha National Park is extended over about 2000 square km in the two districts of Balaghat and Mandla, of which 950 sq.kms form the Core Area while the rest is the Buffer Zone. Apart from the widespread grassland for which it is famous, the forest contains mainly Sal trees and bamboo bushes. Once there were 27 villages in what is now the Core Area, but the Forest Dept has evicted all the inhabitants from these places which now are the grasslands of the forest.
Kanha abounds in wild life—tigers, leopards, gaurs, wild dogs, wild boars, deers and birds of various species. But it is famous mainly for its Big Horned Deers(Bara Singa), an endangered species whom Kanha has saved from total extinction.
After Khatia Gate the road ventures into the forest. To go beyond this point tourists have to secure the Forest Dept.’s permission on paying entry fees. For the sake of better administration the whole forest area has been divided into four zones—Kishli, Muski, Sarhi and Kanha. The entry fee for Kanha is Rs 1530.00 per vehicle while for the rest of the zones it is Rs 1030.00. Tourists are allowed into the forest for two time spans: from 6:30 to 12:30 in the morning and from 3:00 to 5:30 in the afternoon with a little variation according to seasons. It is a must for the tourists to have a guide with them but they can have no choice of the guides as they are allotted serially from the list.
We reached Kisli Gate inside the Core Area after travelling one and half km along the black-top road. The ‘Bagira Log huts’ of the M.P. Tourism Dept. are in its immediate vicinity. It is a costly resort, but ideal for enjoying the experience of living inside the forest. We didn’t know if we would have the rare fortune of seeing a tiger from the cottage but peacocks and deers were likely to appear in the courtyard.

A little away of the Kisli Gate a family of owls lives on a tree. Though the number of members is said to be six we could not find more than four. They do not belong to the species of owls known as ‘Fortune Owls’ or ‘Hooting Owls’ in Bengal. These owls are much smaller and their feathers are brown in color. The guide told us these are wild owls.

Later we met 2/3 deers to the left of the gate—the first batch of wild animals to be seen that day. Then within one km we found three elephants, not wild but domesticated elephants used by the Forest Dept. to find tigers and carry the tourists to the spot, though it is not that tigers are found regularly or every day.
What’s the matter? Why the elephants are here? Mr. Tiger, we were told, was lying behind a bush nearby. Oh, we are going to have a view of the majestic creature so soon without much endeavor! I could not like it. Some overzealous tourists peeped with their binoculars and demanded they had got a glimpse of him. But I could not see anything.
“Imratji,” I told the driver, “let us have our tiger sighting from this place.” But that could not be done, as the place was in Kishli Zone while we had booked for Kanha Zone. So ‘March Forward’ was the order. A little ahead of this spot the natural mud road started at the end of the metal road. We saw a wavy, stony piece of land a couple of yards off the road with a small canal running through it. Imratji informed us that such places are favourite haunts of leopards.
There are about 150 mud roads through the jungle area. So the ‘Safari’ drivers take the cars as they wish depending on their guesses about where the tiger can be seen. Suddenly our driver stopped the car beside a water body. We were about to shout in joy seeing a fleet of deers fleeing but Imratji stopped us with a muffled “Ssss”. As silence fell all around us, the innumerable different sounds of the forest became distinct.
Imratji said in a low voice that he could hear the alarm call of monkeys that indicated a tiger’s presence nearby. The drivers of Safaris can detect the presence of tigers from the calls of various animals like monkeys and ‘barasingas’. The direction of the sounds tells them which way the tiger is going or whether it is resting at one place. Our driver interpreted every sound for our understanding.
After we had proceeded further ahead the driver of a car coming from the opposite direction informed us, “We have seen a tiger in No.4 in Kanha,” which meant that the elephant had spotted the tiger. But what does this No.8 means? The guide gave us the details. In the forests every male tiger has his own area of dominance with two to three tigresses. The females may move from one area to another but if a matured male intrudes into the area of another male a tough fight ensues in which both are usually injured and the vanquished animal is often killed. We had no idea that the forest has been divided not by human demarcations but according to the specific areas set by tigers themselves. We could not but welcome the original idea.
Last edited by ghosh.ruchira; Aug 10th, 2012 at 02:06..
#3 Aug 9th, 2012, 22:32
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We had to go to the Ticket Counter at the Kanha Center to get our tickets for elephant rides. The office of the Forest Dept. and the residential area for its employees are at the heart of the forest. The tickets cost us Rs. 200.00 per head.
On the way to Area No 8, we met a female Samber. She gazed at us with wonder for a few seconds, and then ran for her life. At Area No.8 there was a long line of cars. Three elephants were shuttling with tourists between the cars and the tiger which lay immobile after making a feast of a Samber the day before. There was no chance of its moving away.
After a while our turn came. Four of us along with the mahout mounted the elephant by climbing a ladder. Two of us sat facing right and two facing left. The elephant marched with us smashing the trees and plants of the forest. We were going upwards along the slope of a hill; our legs were at times getting entangled in branches of trees. The mahout was driving the animal in a queer style that looked like as if he was rubbing his feet on its head.
Suddenly the two behind us startled. Looking over the shoulder I found the Lord of the Forest lying at a distance of seven to eight feet from us, in a pose akin to that of the tiger in the scene of the song ‘Paye Pori Bagh Mama’ (‘I bow to thee, uncle Tiger,’) in Satyajit Roy’s “Hirak Rajar Deshe”. The whole of its body was visible to the two behind but not to us. When they finished seeing and filming, the elephant took an 1800 turn and we clicked our camera rapidly.
The royal animal was looking away from us; it was preparing for a pleasant nap after a grand feast but we made a clamor that was too much for it. Being disturbed the tiger turned its face to look at us from behind the leaves and our eyes met for a moment making us shiver all over. Oh! What a look in his eyes! No need to take his photos, I thought; it would be enough to return home safely.
We carried on our Safari both in the morning and in the evening. The weather that day was rather foul. We were told that animals do not come out in cloudy weather; but still we could see some wild dogs, barasingas, numerous spotted deers, monkeys, countless birds and even a horned male sambar by a canal. Wild dogs are rarely to be found for they live in groups; only during the mating season a single stray dog may seen roaming alone being driven out of the group. We found such a one on both our visits. Gaurs leave for the hilly areas in winter, so they were hardly to be found. At one spot we saw a group of monkeys licking the ground. Our guide said it was licking salt.
In the afternoon we were roaming about in the grassland in the hope of viewing a tiger. Over a long stretch of the road fresh pug marks were seen, but there was no sign of the animal. We saw a host of deers, peacocks and other birds at a distance to our right.
Moving about in an open jeep in the grassland surrounded by hills in the horizon with the light of the day waning in the sky, it seemed to me that I was travelling not through an Indian forest but through one of the famous primeval forests in Africa. I remembered the description of the wide grasslands in African forests by Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay in his immortal classic ‘Chander Pahar’.
The guide was telling us an old folk lore of the local area: it was at this place that King Dasaratha killed Sravana Kumar with his sound-tracking arrow (শব্দভেদী বান). Pointing to a distant tank he announced, “That one is the ‘Sravana Talao’ (tank) of the Ramayana”.
Suddenly we saw something swoop fast from the sky to seize a snake in its beak and disappear instantly behind the trees. It was a big bird, bigger than a kite; we could not decide what bird it was but the guide told us it was an eagle of a rare kind.
As we were returning to Khatia Gate at the end of our evening Safari we found all the cars stranded at a place. What’s the matter, we enquired? A tiger was coming towards the place, someone told us. Highly excited every one of us stood up on their seats, looking hither and thither eagerly. Suddenly there was uproar from the car ahead of us. Their faces clearly told us they have caught sight of Mr. Tiger. Following their fingers pointed at a direction we had only a momentary glimpse of its hind parts and the tail vanishing behind the bush. But not all of those in our car and none in the cars behind us could see that much even.
We waited for sometime more while conjectures ran round whether the tiger was resting there or it had walked forward under the cover of bushes. However, our patience yielded nothing; we had no more sign of him. As we were thinking of leaving the place the driver and the tourists of a car passing us said they had moments before seen a tigress with three cubs beside the tank at Kishli zone. Oh, what a luck!
#4 Aug 10th, 2012, 01:37
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  • vinobhojak is offline
#4
A great travel story it could be more interesting if you could post some photos here.
#5 Aug 10th, 2012, 02:09
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I am trying to post photos. But, the photos from picasa are not showing up here.
And it takes time to reduce resolution to attach images and I am not getting that time.
#6 Aug 10th, 2012, 02:27
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I thought your words painted a beautiful picture ghosh.ruchira.

I especially liked

" Being disturbed the tiger turned its face to look at us from behind the leaves and our eyes met for a moment making us shiver all over. Oh! What a look in his eyes! No need to take his photos, I thought; it would be enough to return home safely".

You "crapped out" LOL !!
I know that feeling well !!
A long time ago I got "The glare" from a lion in Africa. Its known as "the amber glare" but, in fairness, I was close enough to touch him, literally. Come to think of it, I have been too close to Lions, and Tigers, too often. Once in Corbett, I had a tiger so close to my shoulder it could have easily grabbed me.
Big cats are awsome creatures, and deserve much respect.

I recently visited Kanha, and really had a fabulous time.
However, we preferred to not go for the elephant back "tiger show".
You said the clamour made by the tourists disturbed it, but it was the elephant. The two creatures do not enjoy each others company. I think that is one aspect of tiger tourism that should be banned.

Here is a short movie clip memento from my visit
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlKBtH2FXg0
#7 Aug 10th, 2012, 04:18
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Thanks so much for the write up, and for sharing your photos with us, ghosh.ruchira! I enjoyed them.

Wonderful video, FUGLY!
#8 Aug 10th, 2012, 13:09
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In our afternoon venture we could not see the tiger but we explored and experienced the forest for two hours. Apart from its wild life forests have their own attractions. At some places there were dense forests of Sal trees with six feet high ant hills, around them were different kinds of trees with their pied leaves. At the beginning of spring the trees had, as if, dressed themselves in attires of different colors. It is this color of the trees at the end of fall that in Europe and America is known as ‘Fall Color’.


At some places there were bushes of thin bamboos, at others there were grasslands extending up to the horizon. At places the forest Dept workers had burnt the old dried grass expecting new vibrant grasses to sprout at the touch of rain water as fodders for the grassivorous animals. At another place all the trees were covered with fresh reddish leaves as caterpillars had completely stripped them of leaves.
There was a little rain after we had finished our morning Safari. In our afternoon drive we smelled a strong acrid smell of the forest, perhaps because of the rain. We noticed some platforms high on trees; these are used by the forest guards as observation posts with a view to save the forest from sudden forest fire. There are, we came to know, about 52 such platforms in the whole forest.
One can also walk about in the buffer zone beside Khatia Gate. These are called ‘natural trails’. But one has to hire a guide for a walk and the time schedule is the same as that allowed for Safari. Though we found no animal other than deers, we saw foot prints of many other animals. At the end of the road there was a canal beyond which began the core area. The pug marks of tigers by the canal made us conclude that they come for a drink at the canal at night.
A strange beautiful sensation filled my heart as I stood by the pug marks along the canal in the fading light of the waning day listening to various sounds of the forest. On our way back we enjoyed spell bound the beauty of the forest drenched in different hues by the myriad colors of the sun setting behind the trees. How strange, how beautiful is the earth—I thought as we returned to our shelter for the night.
Our holidays, our days of happiness were coming to an end. We will have to leave the world of innumerable wild animals, dense forests and the boundless sky and return to our colorless daily life of the urban civilized world. We will again breathe, not in the fresh air of the wilderness filled with the fragrance of countless unknown wild flowers, but in the air of towns and cities full of dust and smoke. We will no longer hear the cheerful chirping of birds or the grave howls of animals but shall be tormented by the shrill horns of vehicles. Yet we have to go back, for our means of livelihood lie there in the cities; however lack luster they may be and however sad we may feel at the thought of returning to them.
So adieu Kanha, adieu forests, adieu our friends in the forest.
#9 Aug 10th, 2012, 15:53
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@FUGLY could not watch the vedio. It is showing that the vedio is not listed
#10 Aug 10th, 2012, 16:58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FUGLY View Post
Here is a short movie clip memento from my visit
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlKBtH2FXg0
great footage.
#11 Aug 10th, 2012, 18:13
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@ghosh.ruchira
The video is unlisted, but by using the link it should play.
If your connection is slow, or your ISP is very busy, it may take a little longer to load. Try again, it should work, and others are able to view it seems.
#12 Aug 11th, 2012, 12:29
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#12

@Ruchira

Great story,I have already watched the snaps in your facebook profile.
#13 Aug 16th, 2012, 16:10
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#13
Beautiful write-up, Ruchira. Had seen the photos earlier in fb....the narrative is equally delightful.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid Albert Einstein


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Syalsaur/ Deoria taal/ Chopta trip report, West and South Sikkim trip report , Puri/ Konark trip report
#14 Aug 19th, 2012, 19:46
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#14
Thank You Sagarneel,Soumik,FUGLY,daisyL, vinobhojak for your good words.
#15 Aug 21st, 2012, 13:19
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#15
Its always a pleasure for me to read your trip report sitting in front of a beautiful mountain. Yes it was Mt K while reading your Sikkim report and Kinnur Kailash this time ... Fabulous travel story.... Thanks very much for the write-up.

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