Suffering from bouts of travel sickness, I try this medicine while on way to Kanha. It is night time post dinner, and we are heading towards Mandla and then Kanha Tiger Reserve. The medicine works and I am relaxed. My guests from UK, Ruth and Klas are in the back seat and dead tired after a long train journey from Varanasi in North India.
I keep a watch on the driver as we cross Jabalpur limits and proceed over the hills of Mandla Forest Division. Sleep over takes and it is dangerous. This does not happen as the driver is experienced, we stop frequently for chai tea as we proceed.
The road is bad as usual and forward movement is a drudgery. The tired guests are in a state of stupor and are very much disturbed by the state of the highway..bumps and all. Anyway the car rolls down on bad to little better road. After a grueling four hours drive we reach the Courtyard House near Kanha National Park. We reach the confines and I peer through the glass in order to spot a leopard or tiger on stroll, but all we see are some spotted deer and sambar deer. I see a civet cat but it vanishes before I could say, "Hello!" Obviously we pack up and sleep... for our tiger safari begins at 6.00 am in the morning.
After a lot of search we do not see a tiger at Kanha National Park. We come close to them but they are not in need to come near the roads. It is disappointing and I have to offer a lot of explaination...."You know too much of rainfall............blah blah!" Tiger sightings are nearly equal in Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh. For first tiger safari choose the first since it has more mammalian species.
Lets get the facts right, however good you are at locating tigers things often do not work out. The animal is as mysterious as intriguing. A living paradox, its presence invites lots of commotion from the prey animals but sometimes it glides in the forest as a silent spectre at absolute ease.
We trace a tiger pair for a long distance directed by a scurry of alarm cries. But then disappointment slaps as the big cats move up the mountain. The expectation gives in to gloom...this often happens in the land of the tiger. To rub salt on the wounds a leopard drops on the ground glances at the jeep coming from opposite direction and vanishes into the bushes. "Just entered that bush...wait it may come out." This never happens except in the case of young cubs who wander out sometimes. The tigresses are more shy, once they move into the thick canopy it is useless to wait for them to come out. At Kanha meadow a tiger sulks in the grass near the Shravan Taal and remains that way.
Even if you do not sight a tiger, the stay at the Courtyard House is wonderful. In quest of the big cat we came across many amazing animals like the bison, sambar, barking deer, wild boar, langur and the ubiquitous spotted deer. These wild denizens astound and amaze as much as the big cats do.
Birds of Kanha are a painted muse, an artist's imagination that uses interplay of colors to create a striking harmony. No wonder the bird watchers are so fascinated by these flying wonders. We come across many and some are striking like the painted francolin, black hooded oriole, golden oriole, brown shrike, large cuckoo shrike, Indian scimitar babbler, brown cheeked fulvetta, racket tailed drongo, shama, small minivet, plum headed parakeet, crested serpent eagle, white throated kingfisher, white browed flycatcher, Asian Monarch and many more.
We spot a single wild dog which is worrysome. This is a pack animal and a single specimen frequenting the forests is suggestive of death of the pack. Wild dogs are least understood in forests of India. This is because of their migratory nature besides they are not believed to be endangered. This is the case with the hyena and Indian Wolf, animals that live in open scrub and fallow land.
The evenings are spent in the confines of the park near the bornfire. Our stay is in a luxury accommodation in Kanha National Park in MP. This is a non traditional private hotel much preferred by niche traveler interested in serenity and privacy. It contains five spacious rooms, a large drawing hall and fine dining room. The accommodation is know for its piped fusion music and sittings - terrace, courtyard, open porch with traditional cots, Banyan tree for bush dinners, barbecue and brunch. The terraces are best for star grazing with crystal clear view of the Kanha Sky.
The food is mind boggling delicious and comes in variety of recipes and flavors. The foreign visitors simply find it delectable. The Courtyard House is situated in Patpara Village near the core zone of the tiger reserve a short distance from the Khatia Gate.
Well not all tiger tours are full of big cats but there is much more in Kanha National Park. It never disappoints.