This was my third visit to the beautiful forests of Kanha in MP. The last one was immensely disappointing – not because I did not get to see any tigers, but because a group of colleagues in another safari made a great sighting! And there was pretty much nothing to see in the forest except lots of people. (There is one thing you have to remember when going to a safari in Indian forests – never go on a Sunday. You will almost not get to enjoy the forest at all, and you will meet so many people that you would wonder if you have come to the local park)
Anyways, this trip had everything going for it. In contrast to the previous visits made in scorching heat of the summer, October was a great time to travel and enjoy the non-safari hours. We got to see a lush-green forest, and of course, we got to see good wild-life.
There were some glitches though – we had landed in Kanha just a day before the forest was to re-open after monsoons. On the first day of opening, due to a new rule, the Safari drivers got into an argument with the forest officials, and the safaris started almost 1.5 hours later than scheduled. One can only imagine the frustration – when having woken up at 5 am after a long journey, hungry and sleepy, you have to wait for long fruitless hours to get into the forest, every minute threatened by the impending impasse. So yes, a trip on the day of re-opening is best avoided. (BTW given the new ruling, you may like to check with the safari you hire if he has a commercial vehicle license to take you to the forest!). The only saving grace after all that frustration was seeing a tiger stalking a group of deer, and then giving up after they discovered him and scooted.
The forest is much more beautiful in October, and less dusty. Other than the tiger – which we saw thrice over three safaris (turns out it was the same tiger meeting us over and again), we spent a lot of time admiring the fauna – beautiful dragonflies, butterflies – ever spiders. And the deer and the sambars which are abundant in this jungle. Even the jackals could not have enough of us, and visited twice. Unfortunately, no barasingas turned up (not even one, except for a very distant female).
Two of our encounters with the tiger were a little scary. In both, he was walking towards us, and came within intimidating distance (much-much closer than the defined limit by the officials – 50 meters!). Though the guide kept saying that we needn’t worry as this tiger has never tried to attack a safari so far (sweet!), you could never be sure when it would change its mind! I mean he was only 6 years old, and in tiger lifetime that must be teenage – and which teenager is not experimental, or rebellious? And does not want to blow up the world in flames? And as if his youth was not enough of a problem, one of the budding photographers on another safari began using a powerful flash – in a jungle! on a tiger! Human stupidity has no limits! Nor are there limits to the carelessness of officials who would allow a tourist to sneak in an off-camera powerful flash in a jungle!
There is something new I discovered in Kanha this time – they have some nature trails, on which guides accompany you on foot, on pre-marked routes in the forest. The routes are almost all in the buffer zone, but still in the forest. I was quite tempted, given the beautiful weather. However, the walks happen during the safari hours only, and I just could not bring myself to miss a safari. May be next time, when I have time for at least 5 safaris, I can give the 5th to the nature trail. May be?
And btw, we missed our flight back and caught the last one only after frantically running around the airport freaking out the security guards outside Nagpur airport. Another advice – never travel to Nagpur on a Dussera. As if Durgapuja and Ravan-dahan are not enough crowd-pullers, there are greater crowds pouring to pay homage to God Ambedkar who took his diksha on Dusshera.