As a kid who grew up in Mumbai’s suburb I was far away from the jungle, well unless you want to call it a concrete jungle. I lived in a pretty busy part of the city and hence have never understood how this fascination for the wilds developed. I guess I have to blame a few characters my parents introduced me to. One would be Phantom of Indrajal Comics that introduced me to Africa and I have always longed and desired to go see that continent once after all the stories and movies about it. The second pretty important role was played by the movie Jungle Book.
I remember we used to live in Andheri(w) exactly opposite to Amber Oscar Theatre which is Shopper’s Stop today and my parents took me to see the animated Jungle Book movie. Whilst we went for the movie they also bought me a comic of jungle book. Not too bothered about the author and all at that age still the book fascinated me. A black panther named Bhageera, a burly furry friendly bear, Balloo who loved dancing and singing, a chimpanzee king Louie and his band of mischievous monkeys, Col Haathi and his parading elephants, the evilest and the most cunning Kaa, the python who perhaps hynotised me there and then to the jungles, the faithful wolves who take care of a kid, Mowgli and last but not the least Sher Khan, the deadly man hating tiger!! Oh those characters were at that very moment engraved in my brain. I could never ever forget them or take them out of my head. The movie I have watched innumerable times even the second part that came out a few years back was happily lapped up by me in my 30’s!
Some stories are just immortal and some characters that writers weave into our heads never go out. Then finally after life is not settled we have made it a pact to visit a tiger reserve every march, when I say we, its me and my son! Thankfully he is as crazy and longs to be in the jungles as me. So after Ranthambhore last year where we spotted out first tiger in the wild this year was Kanha.
I have read at many places and heard many conservationists and wild life lovers say that Kanha forest is perhaps India’s most beautiful jungles, without getting into comparisons I must say that the line intrigued and always acted as an incentive. Also I many times used to wonder when I saw films shot in Kanha how can a place that is so close to Jabalpur, perhaps hottest Indian place in summer be so green.
Eventually sometimes in life there comes a time when you have to stop wondering and thinking and start searching and finding out. Thankfully this march the time finally came, we drove down 1100 kilometers to Kanha in the last week of March.
We reached at around 4.30 pm and it was hot, quite hot, infact I started telling my wife we shouldn’t have brought sweaters, its not going to be like Ranthambhore. Our resort fellow immediately corrected me and told me to wait till evening. He said Kanha is a Sal forest and pretty uniquely it is an ever green forest throughout the 365 days of the year. Also he told us the beauty of the Sal forest is that you will see an almost 10 degree drop by 7pm. So it happened, infact junior wore a sweater as we sat for dinner that night.
There is an amazing sense of curiousness in all visitors around a national park, almost all visitors seem friendly and are always ready with a warm smile. Perhaps the greens have that effect on humans! As we sat for dinner we noticed that we were the only Indians there whilst most others were foreigners. And out of the 5 table that were filled 3 of them seemed quite happy whilst one table was relatively quiet and soon we realised that the quiet table had taken two rides into the safari park but somehow come back without spotting the elusive tiger! The blokes who had seen were rejoicing with beer and savouring the memory, the thrill and the experience of tracking a tiger.
Anyways, when on safari, early dinner and early to bed as you want to get up at 5 am for your entry into the jungle! However, I must admit, its damn damn difficult to sleep for me with the prospect of a safari the next day and the possibility of spotting so many birds and animals. Even after having driven some 500 kms and being damn tired the excitement would not let me sleep and this happens every time.
Thankfully it was 5 and we set off in the park… Finally Kanha was to be seen with my own eyes, enough of imagining and watching movies on Nat-Geo…
We saw an amazing number of Mahua trees in Kanha, I had always seen in the Nat Geo movies how these Mahua tree’s were the favourites of the monkey’s who would keep eating and also dropping as much for the chital below the tree who would also lap it up. There is a unique relationship between the langoor and the chital, as he not only drops food for the deer but also warns if he sees a tiger from the height he is perched on! This Mahua tree has a parakeet on it though. I have heard stories of how sometimes the monkey’s and deer get a high after eating the produce of this tree.
The best part about Kanha National Park is there are no villages inside the park! Which I think is a wonderful achievement by the park authorities. Its always easy to wish the jungles were left alone, quite another to ask people who are living there to shift to leave the place for the animals. Amazingly no settlements inside the park means less interference with the animals. Watching the jungles also explained how Rudyard Kipling must have been inspired. The place is heavenly beautiful and full of so many birds and animals that you just have to visit it and see it! 🙂
I guess this first post needs to end here before it gets epic long! I will be back with a few more pictures and a few more stories in my next post! 😀 😀
Until then… Ciao! 😀