The Forests of Madhya Pradesh in India – Part Two

Saturday, December 5, 2015posted by Bruce 5:39 PM

Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve

A young female leopard in early morning in Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve.

The next stop on my 20-day tiger safari through November 2015 to India was Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve situated several hundred kilometers southwest of Bandhavgarh. I left the King’s Lodge in a nice air-conditioned taxi around noon and arrived at the Kanha Earth Lodge outside the park in the late afternoon. This was to be my home for the next four-nights and it was very pleasant with the bungalows built mainly from natural materials.

Kanha is quite famous for its tigers and other creatures like leopard and sloth bear. Prey species such as gaur and spotted deer (chital) also thrive in great numbers and play an important role as a food source for the big cats. The lush Sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows and ravines of Kanha provided inspiration to Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel ‘Jungle Book’ and it lives up to its name as one of India’s best tiger reserves. However, it is a bit over-visited at the moment with hundreds of tourists visiting almost daily which has had an effect on the balance of nature.

A mature female tiger named ‘Bandri Chapar’ seen above a waterhole in Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve.

That night before dinner, I met my naturalist ‘Mr Happy’ as he likes to be called. I mentioned the fact that being happy was the secret to my success as a wildlife photographer and that I wanted to visit the nearest banyan tree on the way into the park. He said he knew where one was just inside the gate and that we could stop the next morning.

That night after a few whiskey sun downers, I slept like a log after the hectic trip along narrow roads and near misses that day. It was early to bed and early to rise at 4am. After a quick coffee, we headed to the front gate and when we got there, were greeted by hundreds of people and scores of jeeps and cantors (buses) wanting to get in. It was a madhouse but I tried to just ignore it and hoped that once we got in, things would thin out which they did. We picked up a forest guide that is required by the forest department and he jumped in the back seat.

Here she is marking her territory spraying urine on a tree next to the waterhole.

About 100-meters from the gate, Mr. Happy stopped at the banyan tree but park regulations do not allow one to get out of the jeep. I just made a silent prayer for good luck and then we motored in. A short time later (about 15 minutes), it was still a bit dark as we traveled deeper and then the guide called out that a leopard had just jumped across the road. Mr. Happy reversed slightly and there stood a young female looking at us from about 10 meters away. I quickly snapped off a few shots and was able to get one good image of the young cat. Her pupils were dilated, as morning light was just filtering in.

Now this was some seriously good luck for Kanha where leopards are extremely difficult to see and photograph. My spirits jumped a thousand percent. Later that morning, we saw a sloth bear but it was out of range and it slipped into the thick forest. Then it went quiet for the next couple of days with hardly any tiger sightings around the whole park. Then on day-three as we were motoring along some man-made ponds, my guide spotted a female tiger named ‘Bandri Chapar’ walking parallel to the road and calling out for a mate with that unmistakable call of a female in heat. “raaaawr, raaaawr, raaaawr”…! We were the only jeep around and we just reversed following her, and I did not stop shooting my camera.

After crossing the road in front of us, ‘Bandri Chapar’ looked at me one more time.

After several hundred meters, she came up close to our jeep and crossed the road in front of us. She then stopped on my left side looking straight at me, and then slipped into the bush as other jeeps began to show up. Again, the spirits from the banyan tree had granted my wish with some seriously good luck as many people had not seen a tiger and it was becoming sad to see so many long faces as hardly anyone had seen the striped predator. I of course was beaming that I had photographed her. It doesn’t get any better than that..!

I also saw barasingha deer (hard ground swamp deer) and got some good shots. The species almost went extinct here but the forest department started a breeding program saving the species just in time. There are over 600 now living in the park. The magnificent bovine species guar, also thrive here and I got some good shots of two large bulls just a mere twenty meters away.

Barasingha stags and doe plus spotted deer at the back in the grasslands.

It was a great five days and I would like to thank all my friends at the Kanha Earth Lodge, Pugdundee Safaris and the Forest Department in Kanha.

Next stop: Pench National Park and Tiger Reserve

 



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