Pench National Park - Call of the wild

#1 Feb 20th, 2010, 22:53
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  • thewanderers is offline
#1
6th February 2010

As they say……..the jungle calls out to you! We had gone for a friend’s wedding, but couldn’t resist the temptation to spend some time in a nearby reserve forest.

Pench Tiger Reserve is spread across nearly 800 sq. km, including the buffer area. Getting its name from the winding river that runs across it, the reserve is spread across two states, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Around 70 kms away from Nagpur, on the Nagpur-Jabalpur Higway, one has to take a left at Khawasa (a sleepy little village) to reach Turia Gate (one of the main gates) into the forest. Smaller than its more distinguished sister, Kanha Reserve Forest, Pench has now gained prominence in wildlife tourism.

Exactly three years and one month back we had come to Pench on our honeymoon. Unbelievable for many, we decided to come to Pench as we love the jungles and Pench was geographically well-located for us. Those three days in Pench had been great! We had, on elephant back, chased a tigress and her four full-grown cubs across the dried Pench river and into the jungle where she had made her kill. The memories of that trip still remain fresh in our mind.

And that is what brought us back to Pench!

The wedding and reception, that I was talking about earlier, ended at 2:00 am and we had to leave for Pench at 4:00 am……….that was the toughest part! But the effort was worth it! When we reached Pench (Turia Gate) at 6:00 am it was still dark, but the wildlife enthusiasts were already there. For the next half an hour we tried to complete the formalities for entry into the reserve forest. The entry fee is moderately priced at Rs. 530 per vehicle to maximum of seven people and so is the guide fee of Rs. 150 per trip. It is the vehicle cost that is back breaking. If you have a private vehicle it is around Rs. 500 per entry but a gypsy hired just outside the jungle costs around Rs. 1000 – 1200. So, you may end up paying Rs. 1180 (for a private vehicle) to Rs. 1680 (for a trip in a hired gypsy) per trip. And if you make two trips a day that is a whopping Rs. 2300 – 3300! Wildlife tourism is getting costlier by the day!

Well, leaving the tension of costs behind, we ventured into the jungle (in our private vehicle). The five hours we spent in the jungle were very interesting. Anil, our guide, stopped for almost half an hour at one location as he had spotted a tiger sitting around 200 metres away. We had no binoculars and so no way of confirming. But a contingent of some British tourists passed by and we used their binoculars…………..alas after gazing for a very long time we realized that what we had seen was just a deer that was camouflaged by the jungle around it. We moved on!

Pench offers two rounds of jungle safari every day. This varies across the months and for February the first round begins at 6:30 am and ends at 11:15 am and the second round is from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm. So after the first trip we decided to scout for a decent hotel to put up in. There were many options available as compared to the last time we were here but we decided to go back to our honeymoon cottage! Mowgli’s Den derives its name from the endearing character ‘Mowgli’ created by Rudyard Kipling in the ‘Jungle Book’. It is said that Kipling spent a considerable amount of time in this forest area and first heard about this folklore from the locals there. In fact ‘Mowgli’ in the local tribal language means ‘naughty kid’.

The Den is located around 1.5 kms from the main Turia Gate of the reserve forest. Just off the road, it is like a hamlet with 10 cottages spread across and in between the beautiful garden and walk-ways. Each cottage comprises just two rooms - a huge bed-cum-sitting room and an equally huge bathroom – and a verandah that opens into a view of the jungle!

With very little sleep the previous night, I had just dozed off when Gaurav woke me up all excitedly……the second round of jungle safari was due. Grabbing some quick hot lunch served at the resort we rushed off towards the jungle.

This time our guide was Amit. As we moved in we saw a horde of wild boars with the male species weighing almost a tonne (at least it looked like that even if the actual weight was not so)! Next up was the beautiful Changeable Crest Eagle, an amazing bird that had a crest like a cock, wide eyes and muscular legs. Hmm! Thank god, I was not the prey it was after as Amit informed us that the Eagle feasts on peacocks.

We were dying to see one of the ‘cats’ but had not expected what was in store for us. After hearing some ‘calls’ (sounds that animals like peacock, monkeys and deer make when the tiger/leopard are on the move), Amit decided to take a particular route into the jungle. And then started the wait………..the calls were frequent and we knew the action was close by but the jungle plays tricks on you. We had already faced that in the morning trip! We moved ahead, the vehicle at a speed of less than 10km/hr but we did not leave the area……….we moved back and forth trying to find out the hiding place. And then we saw them………………two leopards - a mother and her almost full-grown cub – swiftly running away into the distance. I kept staring to make sure that that sight was etched in my memory forever! Gaurav had the camera but he decided to look rather than miss it by trying to capture it….good decision I would say as this lasted for just 20 seconds or so!

A few other vehicles had pulled up by then as the other guides had also heard the call and even they saw the leopards, but after that they pulled off. But not us! We decided that the leopard will move towards the stream and decided to go towards that. We spent around one hour within 1 km itself trying to track the mom and child. We knew they were close as the calls had not stopped yet, though reduced in frequency. And as we stopped at a turn the sudden calls made us rush forward. The mother leopard had crossed the road and was running away………….we saw her again! But she was alone, where was the cub? The guide was sure that the cub could not cross on time as we had rushed in and was still on the other side of the road. We waited for it but it did not cross and was hidden away. The long wait for it to cross did not yield any result as it had decided to wait and watch ………….. it was their domain and not ours. We had to go back and that is exactly what we did! But word had spread - we were the few who had seen the leopards, but the only ones who had seen it twice!

When we went in to ‘Kipling Court’, the Madhya Pradesh Government-run Resort, a couple even came up to enquire how it was. I didn’t tire from rambling away and describing all that I saw!

We had sumptuous dinner back at the Den and called it a day!

7th February 2010

The next day we got up early in the morning as it was a Sunday and we knew that there will be too many local tourists and only 50 vehicles per trip are allowed into the jungle from this gate. Last evening we had decided to take one of the gypsies so that we get the feel of travelling in an open vehicle in the jungle. So, this morning Santosh, the owner of the gypsy was the one who got into the line to complete all formalities…………………….which were being delayed leading to our increased blood pressure as we saw the long line outside. We just wanted to be in!

Finally, it is towards the end that one gets a guide…….and this morning’s was Siyaram. Gaurav turned towards me all excited and said ‘He is the one who took us around 3 years back when we saw the tigress and her four cubs. I am sure of it!’ Well, I looked at him and he did look familiar, but when I asked him he did not remember…..sad! Then when I told him that we had been on elephant back while he was waiting for us in the jeep, he instantly remembered everything ‘Aapke paas handycam tha us samay. Aur aapka driver dar gaya tha aur usne gaadi ke sheeshe chada liye the (You had a handycam then. And your driver was so scared that he rolled up the windows of the jeep.)’ In so many years, that sighting of the tigress and her four cubs was etched in his memories too!

As we moved we saw many spotted deer, sambars, nilgai, peacock, owl, boars and even some jackals! The jungle does offer a lot to see.

But today was not the luckiest days for us, or for that matter anyone who had come into the jungle, to see the cats. The elephants who go out every morning to track the tigers had also come back as the tigers were on the move. So, Siyaram decided to take us to a part of the jungle where very few came in. It was the most beautiful sight! We took a turn from a mound that overlooked the Pench river (now pretty dry) and moved into the thicket. Lantana bushes were everywhere and the road on which we travelled was very narrow with many a twists and turns. The smell of the jungle was amazing and we could see families of deer roaming around. The tall trees were so thick on top that very little light came down and that also made the place a little eerie. But it was wonderful!

Our trip was over, but we were taking back with us wonderful memories once again…………..bidding it goodbye, knowing only too well that we will return! [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
Attached Images
Crested Eagle.jpg Owls.jpg Peacock.jpg Spotted Deer.jpg Jackal.jpg Reservoir.jpg Sambar Deer.jpg Pench River.JPG White Tree.jpg Elephants Returning.jpg 
#2 Feb 21st, 2010, 01:42
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  • imtiazkhank is offline
#2

Nice writeup

Nice writeup and pictures.... During april I was planning to visit kanha and bandhavgarh. I will try to include Pench also...
#3 Feb 26th, 2010, 15:47
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#3

hey

cool write-up n info..planning to go there soon...

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