The Kanha Affair
My first ever visit to Kanha National Park. This was a last-minute trip with different objective but there is always scope for an unplanned safari, right? provided you are able to manage permits. Thankfully being a weekday, it was a smooth affair & i was all set for my first safari at one of the most famous parks of India.
We entered the park from Mukki side & were allocated Mukki zone for safari that day in morning. Having seen photographs of some of the prominent tigers of Kanha & their relatively big sizes as compared to other tigers of north & central India, i was really looking forward to see one. I was told that Mukki is home to some of the biggest males of Kanha & so we surely were on right track or so i thought in my mind.
Morning safari at Kanha is roughly 5 hours & we started our drive by passing through some of the most beautiful Saal woodlands, and meadows which combined together make this landscape so majestic. As the time progressed hope to see the striped king at Kanha kept on getting dimmer. Last night's rain was surely one of the reasons, the whole jungle seemed silent with almost no alarm calls/ pug marks for the first two hours. We reached the Babathenga water hole where a sighting was reported the previous evening & a fresh set of pug marks kind of renewed our hopes. We waited silently so did other jeeps who had entered from Khatiya Gate. Our driver confirmed that there were no reported sightings in even Kanha & Kisli zone that day and it almost looked like a dry day.
We decided to take a short break and finish our breakfast. During our discussion over breakfast, I was wondering if this is going to be a dry run after a really long time. honestly, in my mind, I had already started to figure out the possibility of doing an evening safari. As we rechecked the same areas for movements nothing much had changed since our previous visit, in fact, most of the vehicles were already on their way out. Having learnt the hard way that anything is possible in the forest at any time, we decided to give it one more try rather than heading out straight & who knew that things are about to change soon?
As we approached a kaccha bridge our guide explained to me that this place is popularly known as Bagh
Puliya (Tiger Bridge) as sometimes tigers do rest under this bridge, especially in summer. Halfway through the bridge I casually turned back & saw a male tiger coming out & I shouted “woh raha” (there it is) The place has been aptly named place I must say. The guide was quick enough to identify him as Link 7 male who frequents the area. He walked a small distance before he decided to rest on a rock surface a little ahead of the bridge giving us some photo opportunities in between. This was 10.10 AM.
The clock was ticking faster than usual speed or so I think on such occasions. We were contemplating between staying for a few more minutes or starting back as it was a good 4o minute drive to the park gate. To our delight, this fellow decided to oblige us a little further & started walking. While I & other co-passengers were excited the guide and driver looked worried as this guy has a reputation for walking on track for long distances” road hi road” as they say & we would have ended up getting late. However, his majesty was calling the shots here & he walked a few more meters before slipping below another such bridge perhaps he was planning to spend the rest of his afternoon there.
The joy of a sighting is inexplainable especially when it is probably the only sighting in the entire park that day & that too exclusive sighting just for us, as if my striped friends from Kanha were welcoming me to their home. I could not have asked for more definitely on my first visit to this beautiful landscape comprising of the meadows, the woodlands & the home of hard ground Barasingha & some legendary tigers.
Who knows this is just the beginning of an everlasting Kanha affair…….