Last year I was a tad bit disappointed as I could not travel much. Ever since the trip to South Korea in 2007, I was traveling abroad at least once every year. I badly wanted that to continue, but 2011 did not give me a chance. 2012 arrived with a bang, and the entire year was dotted with travel. Both, international and within India. I took almost 24 flights, more than 9 train journeys, a few bus journeys and a few long road trips in the year. I won’t even add the total kilometers covered. I visited 18 places out of which almost 15 (including 8 major cities) were visited for the first time ever. All those trips were lovely and memorable, but the year ended with me going on a trip to one of the most beautiful forests of India and spending close to a week, in the lap of nature, into the wild!
We visited the Kanha National Park, and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, and in between spent a couple of days marveling at the gorgeous Marble Rocks gorge in the Narmada river basin.
It is a little bit inconvenient to reach those places from Hyderabad. While going we had to take a train to Katni (MP) and then a taxi to Bandhavgarh, and on the way back, we drove from Kanha till Nagpur and then took a train. Jabalpur, Katni, Gondia and Nagpur are the nearest railway stations that have decent connectivity to most major Indian cities.
All throughout our vacation, we stayed at various MP Tourism Hotels/Resorts/Lodges. They were not “the best” at each location, but certainly in the top 5.
Bandhavgarh was our first stop. This is one of the smaller forest reserves in MP, but with one of the largest tiger populations. There are about 60 odd tigers here, and because of the small size, the probability of spotting a tiger is much higher than that in other forest reserves in India, the highest in fact. We did two safaris, one in the evening that lasted 2 hours, and the other early in the morning that lasted 4 hours. The best times of the day to spot animals is either just after sunrise or just before sunset. Summer is even better, we were told.
The guy in the pic above was our guide, Anil Sharma… if you ever travel to Bandhavgarh, and happen to stay at MPTDC White Tiger Forest Lodge, ask for Anil Sharma’s services during the safari! He is the best safari person they have, and has been there for the last 20 years. He knows the forest inside out and will tell you amazing stories! Whether you see a tiger or not is a matter of chance, but your guide being expert enough to understand animal alert calls and track tiger footprints is a subtle key.
The next stop was Jabalpur’s Bheda Ghats, where we spent a couple of nights to take a break, and enjoy the vistas provided by the beautiful Marble Rocks gorge formed by the Narmada. From there we moved on to Kanha, the largest of the forest reserves in MP, and also the best! At Kanha, we stayed for two nights at Baghira Log Huts (Kisli), run by MPTDC and one night at Forest Safari Lodge (Mukki). The Baghira Log Huts are the only place to stay within the core area of the forest. All other resorts are either in the buffer zone, or beyond that. Being in the core area meant that the animals would come on a safari to meet us rather than us going out looking for them. Monkeys, spotted deer and sambar were constant around the huts. The nights were dotted with deer alarm calls (on seeing a tiger around). We did 2 safaris in the Kisli/Sarhi zone of Kanha, and one safari in Mukki zone. We could spot more than a handful of the 30,000 odd species of animals/birds at Kanha. And sprawling meadows gave us a chance to see herds of deer, and much more, grazing happily in the sun. Unfortunately, the best we could get to spotting a panther, was a Leopard whom we saw swiftly jumping across the road. We did not see any tiger at Kanha (Kanha is twice as big as Bandhavgarh and has lesser tigers, so the probability of spotting one is really low). Below are some pics from our trip…
Most people go on safaris with a single intention – spot the Tiger. It was very sad to see depressed faces of groups returning from safaris without spotting a tiger. We were also one such group after our first safari, when all we could spot was a tiger pawmark. We met the Tiger during our second safari at Bandhavgarh. The first sight was from a distance, the Tiger retreating into the woods from a meadow. Sharmaji, our safari driver was quick to turn around and take us to the spot where he anticipated the Tiger would come out from on the other side of the woods. We waited and watched in awe as the majestic creature walked out – stood on the road, turned around to show us his full strength, and turned back to climb up the hills on the other side. We watched as he lifted his tail up and walked away with pride. Seeing the Tiger on the morning of 25th December was our Santa gift :) Honestly speaking, even we went out on all the 5 safaris with the hope of seeing just the Tiger, but it was many times more pleasing to see so many other beautiful animals and colourful little birds in the forest.
I am bad with remembering names of cereals, flowers and birds. But these gorgeous birds we spotted at Kanha will be remembered for a long time: In the pic above, clockwise from top-left: Indian Roller (Neelkanth), gorgeous Peacock (I had never seen so many peacocks ever in my life!), Indian Pond Heron, Owl (I think Burrowing Owl, though I’m not sure).
Roshnai has always wanted to go on a jungle safari, more specifically, African Safari. I, however, had never been in favour of one. Now my thoughts have changed and I would love to visit the Serengeti soon!
I spent the 31st evening at my cousin’s place in Nagpur before catching a train back to Hyderabad. We had all plans to scream “Happy New Year” and scare fellow sleeping passengers in the train, but the train arrived 2 hours later than scheduled. That meant we had to watch the fireworks in the sky waiting at the railway station and greeting each other :)
With the year ending well, we have already started planning for our 2013 vacation/vacations! The idea is the have at least 2 vacations, preferably one within India, and one abroad :)
If you plan to visit Kanha/Bandhavgarh and need more information, you know what to do :)
P.S. Please excuse me for the rather large and in-your-face Copyright Watermarks I have used in this post. Most internet users do not think twice before feeling free to lift images from blogs. Ask me and I will be happy to share them with you!