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Tiger Tiger Tiger!

Fun in Kanha and Tadoba Andhari, with a first foray into Barnwapara

sunny 25 °C

Kanha is the best for streaming sunlight!  The trees are so tall, creating amazing filters for the early morning rays.

Kanha is the best for streaming sunlight! The trees are so tall, creating amazing filters for the early morning rays.

Kanha National Park

Had a brief trip to India last fall, so of course had to fit in some wildlife. Before I get out my final Turkey Blog instalment, thought it time to update some wildlife adventures! I had had such a great time in Kanha in April 2012, I decided to head back in November. This park is lovely and so large there seems endless places to explore. This time, we tried out Muba Resorts, a wonderful, natural spot at the Mukki Gate of Kanha. (I really should check out the Kisli Gate side one day!) Muba is set in an extensive and mostly natural property of trees and grasslands. The accommodation is large, comfortable and clean (though no air-conditioning, which might affect your comfort in the summer). A great value, the cottages are easily accessible yet remote enough that it is delightfully quiet at night. Except when the resident langur troop decides to have a party on your roof! The food was very good here and the staff incredibly responsive. While our safari driver was responsible and responsive his wildlife knowledge was not terribly strong. This would be the only thing lacking here for the serious wildlifer, but then again, this not unusual.

The head langur of the troop that jumped around on our cottage rooms

The head langur of the troop that jumped around on our cottage rooms

Kanha in November is very cold at night and I can only imagine how cold it gets as winter really sets in! The moist air, hot afternoons and cold nights actually created rather magical mornings. When I left my cottage in the dawn hours there was so much dew falling from the trees around us that it sounded like it was raining. Dewdrops were lying on everything in the forest, sparkling in the dawning light.

Fields of Glass

Fields of Glass

We had some really good tiger sightings this trip, far better than the summer visit, which only goes to show you the vagaries of tiger spotting. We had a fun sighting with a mum and her two adolescent cubs, who were so shy. One darted across the road to his calling mum, while the other paced in the jungle gathering his courage before making a run for it down the road from us. Much more shy in Kanha but more rewarding somehow. We came across the same mother early in the morning of our 6th drive as well. This time she was having some alone time. Sitting on the side of the road, happily grooming herself, before she stretched, got up and sauntered down the road. We literally stumbled upon her, my friend exclaiming in a loud whisper… tiger, tiger, tiger. That’s when I realized, spotting a tiger is never a single utterance. It invariably comes in three’s. Not sure why. Any other spotting seems to be a single utterance… “Leopard”, “bear”, “grey hypocolious” (yes, really!), but, not the regal tiger. Tis always an excited and loud whisper “tiger, tiger, tiger”

She looks just like my cat!

She looks just like my cat!

We’d had a few slow drives in the park, though still lovely for birds and deer, but when we took off for our 8th afternoon drive, that changed! The first few hours of the drive were also very quiet, so for the last 1/2 hour of our drive we decided to head to an area where a male leopard had been spotted near his kill the day before. We parked on the darkening track and sat quietly. Hard to do sometimes with others in the jeep, but we are old hands at it. Was lovely. The light was slowly dimming as the sun set, casting wonderful shadows on the tall forest and bamboo around us. Suddenly, we were startled by a peacock sticking his head out from the brush. He was seemingly just as startled, and let out a loud warning honk before disappearing back into the undergrowth. We started to laugh at the poor peacock’s alarm, stumbling across us, when we realized our error! Something else had startled the bird. A huge battle was taking place in the bamboo as something was chasing the poor peacock. He was running back and forth in the bush, honking his alarms as what we presumed to be a leopard, was in hot pursuit. After a few tense moments, it got very quiet, and then a sudden, even louder commotion arose and the peacock was caught. We were standing in our jeep and peering vainly into the bush, when our driver whispered loudly, “leopard!”

Classic pose

Classic pose

A large, magnificent male leopard sauntered out of the forest on the opposite side. I’m sure I held my breath, because my experience with leopards has always been for them to see me, and then quickly melt away. This boy was not so timid and very curious about the drama we had been witnessing across the road. Who would possibly have the nerve to come into his territory? Let alone hunt? He posed in the middle of the road, staring into the bamboo before turning and walking along the forest edge, right toward us!!!! I could not believe it. He came quite close, before finally entering the thicket. Then there was a brief snarling confrontation, and the intruder made a rapid exit. Maybe a female? Wow! Such excitement!! But we couldn’t linger, as we were already pushing it for making it out the gate, so filled with the Moment, we drove off. Such a Moment!

Coming straight toward us!  Seemingly unphased by our awed presence.

Coming straight toward us! Seemingly unphased by our awed presence.

We also had good bear sighting this trip, both on our first drive, and later on our penultimate drive. The latter being a really good one, rounding the corner, and there was a lovely ambling sloth bear, walking along the road, without a care in the world. So lovely.

Final sloth bear we were lucky enough to see in Kanha this trip.

Final sloth bear we were lucky enough to see in Kanha this trip.

We had a wonderful 10 drives and some fantastic encounters with our four-legged and feathered friends!

Barasingha caught mid-munch!

Barasingha caught mid-munch!


Oriental Scops Owls, resting for the day.

Oriental Scops Owls, resting for the day.


Had a wonderful time with this Grey Headed Fish Eagle, posing nicely, lah!

Had a wonderful time with this Grey Headed Fish Eagle, posing nicely, lah!


... and then taking a drive-by for fish.

... and then taking a drive-by for fish.


The mustard fields, and brilliant blue-painted village houses were wonderful.

The mustard fields, and brilliant blue-painted village houses were wonderful.


Butterfly in back of my cottage.

Butterfly in back of my cottage.


Who's the King of the Castle?

Who's the King of the Castle?


Lonely baby sambar who was very interested in us, crossing the road, back and forth.  Unusual to see without adults.

Lonely baby sambar who was very interested in us, crossing the road, back and forth. Unusual to see without adults.


Frolicking jackel pair.  Hadn't seen this behaviour before.  They were very affectionate, grooming each other and playing in the flower-filled field.

Frolicking jackel pair. Hadn't seen this behaviour before. They were very affectionate, grooming each other and playing in the flower-filled field.


Thousands of tiny dew drops lining the web, as well as the spider in the early morning.

Thousands of tiny dew drops lining the web, as well as the spider in the early morning.


Tough night?  Jungle owlets.

Tough night? Jungle owlets.


Fun frog on my door.

Fun frog on my door.


The landscape surrounding the Barasingha was a field of colour!

The landscape surrounding the Barasingha was a field of colour!

Barnwapara Wildlife Sanctuary

Beautiful mustard seed fields and interestingly shaped hay stacks!

Beautiful mustard seed fields and interestingly shaped hay stacks!

And then we were off for the 5 hour (more like 6) drive to Barnwapara Wildlife Sanctuary in Chhattisgarh. We were staying at a sister property, Muba’s Machaan. Just 2 nights we had there. The Machaan’s are cottages set up on stilts and made entirely of wood. They’re set in a low forest and scrub property, with a lot of birds, which again was quite natural. Barnwapara was a bit warmer than Kanha, which would likely be a problem in the warmer months but it was quite comfortable at the end of November. The Machaan’s are also good for families, with each one having a large bed as well as a set of bunk beds. They are set quite far from each other though, so bring a good flashlight for night.

Purple-rumped Sunbird after his bath

Purple-rumped Sunbird after his bath

Barnwapara is a beautiful but rather sad forest, with a wide variety of habitats and good water. The forest reminded me a lot like Pench Tiger Reserve in MP, but, sadly, the amount of poaching that has occurred here is tremendous. The government is apparently serious about protecting the forest and bringing it back, but right now it’s a bit sad. We did see a large herd of gaur, wonderfully crossing the road and posing for us. Also saw a Nilgai, that barked continued alarm calls upon seeing us. We heard the alarm call of a sambar as well, but that was about it. Even birds were more of a rarity than I’m used to in the parks. It’s amazing how man can strip the resources of a place so thoroughly. The forest is beautiful though, so am hopeful they will be successful at reviving the wildlife of the area.

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Huge heard of gaur making their way through the forest.

Huge heard of gaur making their way through the forest.

Tadoba Anhari Tiger Reserve

A rest in the grass

A rest in the grass

Our final destination was to Tadoba. I had previously been there in the extremely hot weather of May 2011, so was curious to see the differences. But first we had to get there! The drive should have been relatively straightforward as a major highway went from Raipur to Nagpur. Yeah, that’s the story at least. An estimated 6 hour drive took us 12.5 hours! as our driver, in an extremely small and unsuitable-for-the-side-roads car, took a short-cut! Sigh… Lordy help me for shortcuts! There we were, after dark, trying to see on my Google Maps how the heck we were going to get where we needed to be, calling the helpful and concerned people at the Royal Tiger Resort. After stopping in a small village to get some village men to tear off a part of the car that was dragging into the wheel well, we bumped our way to get permission at a park gate to travel the last leg of our journey, through the actual reserve. If that had been denied, we'd likely have been another 4 hours. Assuming to additional shortcuts were applied that is. Actually turned out to be good timing, cause we came across a Russell’s Viper crossing the road… exciting!

Lovely pair of Yellow-footed Green Pigeons.

Lovely pair of Yellow-footed Green Pigeons.

We finally arrived, and thankfully the resort’s rooms were large, comfortable and had loads of hot water, warmed on the roof during the day’s heat, which was very welcome after that drive! Royal Tiger is located at the Moharli Gate right next to the jungle. We each had a deluxe room, which, for the price was exceedingly good value. The rooms were clean, spacious and as previous mentioned, loads of hot water. The food here was also very good, homely fare, and a similar good value. The folks running the resort were very helpful and accommodating as well. The only negative I’d have with the resort, was the incredible amount of bright lighting, everywhere. We tried to turn off as much as we could around us, but this was light pollution in the extreme. Unnecessary and really quite un-eco-friendly, especially when it’s set up right next to the park proper.

Lovely time with some Green Bee-eaters in a fabulous grasslands.  Our only non-tiger-chasing drive.  Loads of bird activity here.

Lovely time with some Green Bee-eaters in a fabulous grasslands. Our only non-tiger-chasing drive. Loads of bird activity here.


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Little bushchat stopping still for a second.

Little bushchat stopping still for a second.


Beautiful Red Avadavat.

Beautiful Red Avadavat.

We opted for our own arrangements for safaris, although I hear the resort’s arrangements are good. Following a detailed recommendation from a fellow Trip Advisor reviewer, we contacted Ishmail, a forest guide, who along with his driver brother Mubarak made our safaris quite seamless in a not-easy-to-organize park. Only thing to note for anyone interested in using their services is, their English is not fantastic, so would be tough to arrange unless someone in your party speaks Hindi/Marathi. Would be happy to recommend and pass on their contact information if anyone is interested.

Sambar in the lake

Sambar in the lake

Tadoba is actually fairly small, with the long main road running straight through it. After the Supreme Court ruling in October, this meant many of the smaller, side trails were closed to meet the percentage requirements of the core areas open to tourism. Other routes over the hill that I loved so much from last trip were also closed. Sadly it seemed to mean there was even more of a focus on tiger chasing, though happily, the majority of the travellers to the park seem to be far better mannered and more respectful of the wildlife than other tiger spots I’m used to. Good distances are kept when sightings are made, and there is no pushing or aggressive behaviour, that I witnessed in these 8 drives at least. Also unusual, foreigners pay the same as Indians for access to the park. Our guides told us, this increase in Indian fares cut down on the weekend partiers that would previously come from Nagpur and had increased the better behaviour we witnessed. Interesting if it can be verified. Certainly anecdotally I’d agree.

Long night!  Tigress in the wee hours of the morning.

Long night! Tigress in the wee hours of the morning.

Tadoba is one of the best parks for chances of tiger spotting that I've been to in India. And this trip did not disappoint. In fact, even during the monsoon, sightings are apparently very good. Being able to go into a park during monsoon is an unusual plus and I hope to experience it some day. Our first drive brought us upon a lovely female, part of a mating pair, as she relaxed in the grasses, then checked out the smells, and wandered around the jeeps. Even though people parked well back from her, she was completely unphased by jeep loads of people, and spent a long time wandering around, often very close to us, before sauntering back into the forest.

Now that smells interesting?

Now that smells interesting?


Hanuman Langur waiting for nightfall.

Hanuman Langur waiting for nightfall.


Green Bee-eater in profile.

Green Bee-eater in profile.

A young family was very active in one area a - mum and 3 fairly old cubs. We came across the three bold cubs, even with a forest ranger on foot directing the jeeps to allow photos for all. The unconcerned behaviour was very like the lions of Gujurat. All 3 of the cubs came out at one point, and then in another, 2 of the them wonderfully took turns sharpening their claws on a slanting tree, before climbing into it for a bit.

3 adolescents taking a stroll.

3 adolescents taking a stroll.


Young tiger, not even looking at his fans.

Young tiger, not even looking at his fans.


That feels good!

That feels good!


"You guys still here?

"You guys still here?


Again on our last drive, this time wonderfully away from the masses and at the end of the drive, we came across one of the cubs on a small track. He was alone and had been cooling off in a pond before heading back to his family we rounded a corner and almost ran into him. We had to keep backing up down the road as he kept coming straight at us, until we were able to pull over and allow him to walk off. A future King of the jungle!

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Bye bye lovely tiger!

Bye bye lovely tiger!


Thinking our drives were over, we were happily surprised by an offer to take us for a morning drive in the Buffer Zone. The forest department is developing it to allow more drives and variety of landscapes in the park. They're also creating some overnight rest-houses, set up in concrete stilts for another experience. This could be very good indeed! W woke up our forest guide from a local village and then set out. In October/November in many forests of India, you find masses of giant wood spiders, always in my past experience, high in the trees. Well, turns out they're high in the trees, because people clear paths through them at the lower levels! This drive, they were everywhere!!! Ishmail grabbed a big branch to clear (most of) them from coming directly into my face as we drove. Mostly it meant breaking the webs, but during the course of the drive, the branch ended up with a lot of spiders! And though most were caught, I still concentrated on dodging and weaving the stray web/spider, heading straight for me! Lynnie, for once, am glad you weren't there!

Counted over 20 babies on the branch after one drive down a route.

Counted over 20 babies on the branch after one drive down a route.


The beautiful giant tree spiders, not high in the trees after all!

The beautiful giant tree spiders, not high in the trees after all!


Purple Swamphen as we were leaving on our final day.

Purple Swamphen as we were leaving on our final day.


Not sure what they mean with a gate like this?  Ouch!! In the buffer zone.

Not sure what they mean with a gate like this? Ouch!! In the buffer zone.


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Too soon it was over and we were driving back to Nagpur for our overnight train to Delhi, dreaming of “tiger tiger tiger.”

Village before dawn, waiting for our guide to enter the buffer zone.

Village before dawn, waiting for our guide to enter the buffer zone.

Posted by LisaOnTheRoad 05:52 Archived in India Tagged birds wildlife india safari tiger forests kanha jungles tadoba tadoba_andhari barnwapara Comments (1)

Bandhavgarh, Wonderful Once Again

... and a Spectacular Finish at the Canadian Official Residence

sunny 45 °C

Rajberah meadow, complete with a bunch o' vultures

Rajberah meadow, complete with a bunch o' vultures


My final couple of weeks in India for this trip and what could be better than hanging out with my friend Yugdeep in Bandhavgarh? Not much!! and what a wonderful start our first drive brought!

Peacock posing

Peacock posing


The private courtyard outside my hut

The private courtyard outside my hut


This was my first time staying at Taj Safaris in Bandhavgarh, and was there because it was where my friend and naturalist Yugdeep was currently working, and because at this time of year, it’s actually a bit more affordable! Mahua Kothi lodge is spectacularly lovely. Spacious and luxurious mud-style huts, with large courtyards piled high with pillows and various seating areas, and all set out in thick bamboo thickets. Taj hospitality is typically wonderful, and I think I got the best room in the house, and the best butler – Vishnu from Nepal. A next-door neighbour to another naturalist friend at Ken River, Shukra as it turns out.

Serpent Eagles in synchronized mating flight.

Serpent Eagles in synchronized mating flight.


So off into the forest I went with Yugdeep. Just he and I, which is another luxury of this time of year. April and May are stinking hot in many parts of the country, but for wildlife: cost, smaller crowds and spectacular photo ops, you can't beat it.

Macaque family

Macaque family


I had had such wonderful tiger sightings in Tadoba earlier with CV, that my immediate tiger thirst was a little quenched, so we decided to avoid 'the Horde' and meander the forest. Which, happily, you can do again in Bandhavgarh! They’ve broken up the Tala zone and removed the route system. So no more centre-point check-ins - back to roaming at will, chasing alarm calls, or sitting quietly waiting for the action to come to you.

Chital in mid-leap

Chital in mid-leap


The park gives the appearance of being much emptier this way, since the majority of the vehicles are tiger chasing and sitting at the sites of a more ‘sure-thing’ sighting. They’ve also opened up routes within the zone that have not been opened for a while. I’m cautiously optimistic about the park, having arrived believing it might be my last visit here, to thinking I’ll definitely have to come back. They’re also talking about opening walking zones in the park, and opening up a separate gate and area next year. Fingers and toes are crossed! Might throw in a few eyes too... two at least.

Indian Pitta calling for a girlfriend

Indian Pitta calling for a girlfriend


But, I digress! Where was I? oh yes, meandering the forest. About 20 minutes in, we were driving through the Barua Nala area, when chitals started to sound the alarm and broke from the undercover, darting across the road. Curious, we slowed down, and looked into the nala (valley) to our right and “tiger”!!

Vanvai

Vanvai


A beautiful girl, about 4-5 years old and referred to as Vanvai. Yugdeep had last seen her a couple of weeks earlier, heavily pregnant and now she wasn’t. She may have left the cubs to get a drink, or maybe try to make a kill since she was panting very heavily and with the way the chitals ran from the nala, this was likely the case. Regardless, she was walking straight for us!

Vanvai catching her breath

Vanvai catching her breath


She is apparently a normally shy girl, but we were the only vehicle there, and pretty quiet. She seemed quite calm and unphased by us as she settled in a nearby thicket. What a sighting!

Vanvai looking sweet

Vanvai looking sweet


We spent almost an hour with her, as she sprayed, wandered, sat, rubbed up and down trees, walked on the road and sharpened her claws in a dead stump, not 10 feet from us! Unbelievable! And the whole time, no one joined us.

Vanvai marking a tree

Vanvai marking a tree


Finally she started to walk back down the nala, and then must have heard something, since she started running. So fast, the ground she covered. Then she broke through the bamboo, and ran across the road and up into the hill. There was intense growling and thrashing about that sounded so close I was actually nervous for the first time, as was Yugdeep. We wondered if she had heard her cubs call, or sensed a predator. Some boars broke cover and moved out of the thicket. Soon the noise died down, and peace swept over the nala again. So exhilarating!

Vanvai scratching into a log, with great concentration!

Vanvai scratching into a log, with great concentration!


After this long encounter, we moved out and continuing our original meandering plan, coming across 'the Horde' gathered around a female tiger far in the distance and exited the park. Bandhavgarh is back! Please please let it stay!!!

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher


Langur playing peekaboo

Langur playing peekaboo


Tuesday morning was a quieter one. Not too much activity happening for the most part, but some lovely birds and explored a newly opened area. Wonderful to photography trees and monkeys that I haven’t been able to do during the last few visits racing around at top speeds.

The Horde, waiting in vain for Bokha to appear.

The Horde, waiting in vain for Bokha to appear.


Came across 'the Horde' gathered around Bokha, who we couldn’t actually see, deep in a thicket. We left to spend time in the forested stream area near the entrance to the Tala zone, looking for racket-tailed drongos and other birds, when the tigress who killed Chorbhera this year sauntered down the stream, just like Chorbhera had done for me many times before. She has a bad eye, from the mortal fight she had with poor Chorbhera. A nice, but quick sighting, before she settled well out of sight in the cool stream.

New tigeress, who vanquished Chorbera

New tigeress, who vanquished Chorbera


Langurs hanging out

Langurs hanging out


The old boy himself - B2

The old boy himself - B2


That afternoon we happily caught up with the park’s patriarch, B2. He was sitting in a water hole for quite some time, then slowly hauled himself out and started grooming, before stretching out for a nap. B2 looks fabulous, heavily muscled and strong, but his movements looked so slow and painful. Not sure if it’s arthritis or a recent injury or strain as Yugdeep thought, but sad to see him move so painfully.

Langur inching his way down to water while B2 naps

Langur inching his way down to water while B2 naps


Was funny to watch a desperately thirsty langur slowly inch his way to the water. He'd move about a meter, then sit for a few minutes watching, before repeating the performance, over and over, for about 20 minutes. The langur finally, and oh so cautiously grabbed mouthfuls of water.

Langur finally grabbing a drink - one eye on B2

Langur finally grabbing a drink - one eye on B2


Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizard


Wednesday morning was the morning of the monitor. We saw 3 monitor lizards, having never seen one before in Bandhavgarh and loads of wonderful birds. Saw paradise flycatchers at a waterhole, along with a black-naped monarch. Then in the entrance nala saw a blue bearded bee-eater, a painted spurfowl couple, a serpent eagle, brown fish owl, sprangled drongo and black-hooded orioles. Also the tiniest baby wildboar I’ve seen to date. At first I thought it was a group of partridge-type birds around the adult, but nope, teeny tiny little striped babies.

Teeny tiny baby wild boar

Teeny tiny baby wild boar


Loving the park again, and loving that I’m loving it!

In the aft, it poured buckets! Including on us, when we went to the village. On the way to Rancha, past Kings Lodge, we chatted with a couple who have a home here. Yesterday they saw Vanvai moving her cubs to a new location. Rancha village is very prosperous, tidy and lovely. Smelling especialy wonderful, as is the forest, with the rain. Got nice and wet, and drove back to the lodge holding umbrellas over us. Very funny looking I’m sure.

Beautiful and wild-eyed chital stag

Beautiful and wild-eyed chital stag


Met a lovely French NBA basketball player at the lodge -- Boris Diu, who's also a wildlife nut and amateur photog. He apparently plays for Charlotte currently and was briefly (30 minutes) traded to Toronto last year. He’d love to play for Toronto since he’s a big fan of Canada, and of course the proximity to Montreal and Quebec. And boy was he tall! Yugdeep told me they had a couple of young US girls at the lodge that weekend, who didn't have any tiger sightings, but weren't upset at all, cause they were so excited to see Boris.

Brahminy Skink

Brahminy Skink


Thursday's drive was quiet throughout the park after all the rain. No sightings that we heard of, but new to me was a brahminy skink, yet another monitor lizard, a mating pair of Serpent Eagles flying acrobatics above and finally caught a greater racket-tailed drongo in flight, though not to well. Also only had one racket-tail. Oh well, good to have goals to keep working towards. Yugdeep and various forest guides have been working hard trying to get them for me, but they’re so friggin fast and easily scared away.

Racket-tailed Drongo, minus the racket-tail

Racket-tailed Drongo, minus the racket-tail


Curious langur baby

Curious langur baby


On our last drive we traded in our Tala tickets for the Mugdi zone. Saw some beautiful lillies that come out briefly after the rains. Heard the brain-fever bird everywhere – it’s the common hawk cuckoo. So sad to end my stay here, and had such a wonderful time with Yugdeep. He let me drive the Taj jeep back to the lodge too! The jeeps are massive, and the sun was setting. Took about twice a long to reach the lodge, and was pretty funny seeing the double-takes from other drivers and folk on the road. Fun fun fun!!!

Beautiful lily following the rains

Beautiful lily following the rains


And then back to Delhi for my last week with Lynn and Remy. Lynn looks after the Canadian High Commission dog when the family is away, and we moved into the Canadian Official Residence! which was kept low-key while she was staying there. Was a pretty wonderful experience to live here. So beautiful and very different from the only other time I'd been there during the Thanksgiving Ball.

Official dog - Cleo

Official dog - Cleo


Backyard of the OR

Backyard of the OR


So now I'm busy planning the next trip, and working on 'officially' taking people on escorted tours. My focus is obviously wildlife, but, have managed to visit pretty much all the major tourist sites in India over the last three years. In late November I'm planning to visit Gujurat and try to see the lions of Gir -- the last population of Asiatic lions in the wild. As well as go birding in the Rann of Kutch, and of course visit Panna and Bandhavgarh again. The rest is still in the planning stages. So exciting!

Bandhavgarh plateau

Bandhavgarh plateau

Posted by LisaOnTheRoad 07:35 Archived in India Tagged wildlife bird safari tiger bandhavgarh Comments (0)

Birthday Party with a Really Big Fish!

Corbett National Park

sunny 30 °C

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Arrived back in India on March 11, and Lynn’s house is filled with puppies! Beautiful little Miss Sookie Stackhouse was anywhere from between 2-5 months old and was rescued from the street by Lynn with a broken leg. She was understandably very timid at first, especially since her leg had to be rebroken to be set. By the time I arrived she showed no signs of her tough start in life. Sweetest little girl, so loving and filled with energy, running all-over and sliding down the hall in her cast. She loved toys and promptly took all the ones I brought out straight to her basket. She was also very good with the 5 other puppies here (3 weeks old when I arrived). But, when one of us would put a toy in with the puppies, who are just starting to figure out how to do something other than eat, sleep, poop and pee, Miss Sook would watch it so intently, and at the first chance, dive into the blow-up puppy pool and retrieve said toy, taking it straight back where it obviously belonged – her basket!

puppies at 4 weeks

puppies at 4 weeks


Typing this is so heartbreaking because while I was away in Corbett, Sookie very suddenly got sick, with what is thought to be an aggressive recurrence of distemper, that she must have picked up when she was on the street, and died two days later. It’s been a week now, and so far the puppies all seem healthy, but knowing how contagious it is, we are very nervous for them.
Miss Sookie Stackhouse

Miss Sookie Stackhouse

All in all, a lovely first weekend in Delhi: off to Ahujason’s to pick up a couple of pashminas for the cooler Corbett nights (yes, I do need more!); a fantastic brunch at the Hyatt’s TK; and, of course a visit to Mr. Mogha and the beauty parlour at the Meridian. Spent the rest of the time hanging out with Remy and dashing about town before finally heading to the jungle on Wednesday – Corbett National Park, about 6 hours north of Delhi.
Northern Zone looking across at our tented camp

Northern Zone looking across at our tented camp

Stayed at the Hideaway’s Riverside Lodge for 3 nights, which was wonderful and the food fantastic, but the trip River Retreat was the real adventure into the heart of the northern zone of the park. The lodge was a beautiful little tented camp where we were the only guests for the first night, so spoiled royally by the attentive staff. There’s no electricity in the camp, which made the night sky stunning, even with the full moon lighting the camp. Our ‘Commander’ Agam, who runs the camp, was so hospitable and interesting. He’s worked in a number of wildlife places and including a stint as a wildlife photographer. He spent 5 months photographing snow leopards for National Geographic (5 months, but as he said, was 5 months waiting, with a last minute lucky sighting and photography session). Over a billion people in India, and he was an alum of the same college as CV Singh, the wildlife guide I was travelling with, as well as many of the naturalists and lodge owners I’ve become friends with over the last few years. Small world!
Chital Stag

Chital Stag

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Our drives in the park were good, but no exceptional sightings, though with CV's help, managed to check off a load of new birds. Did see a lovely large herd of wild elephants and had fun watching macaque monkeys at one rest-stop. One youngster had stolen the rear view mirror off a jeep and was endlessly fascinated by his reflection. They are generally not-so-nice monkeys and can be very aggressive, unlike the langurs, but still fun to watch. The young ones especially have such funny old faces.
Naughty Macaque

Naughty Macaque


Fed up baby macaque

Fed up baby macaque

Hanuman Langur

Hanuman Langur


The langurs here are different from central India, something I didn’t notice on my first visit 2 years ago, being an Indian jungle newbie then. They’re much lighter in colour, with a large ‘mane’ and a flattish head. Also tons of barking deer this trip. Quite small deer, with a curious set of canines, leftover from the Jurassic period? They aren’t man-eating deer… I hope!
Male Barking Deer

Male Barking Deer

Strangler vine around a hapless tree

Strangler vine around a hapless tree


I love the old growth Northern Zone of Corbett. It meanders down steep valley sides, through weird and wonderful twisted strangler vines wrapping around massive trees, over rocky streams before reaching the Ramganga river valley. A beautiful Pallas Eagle nest with an almost grown fledgling sat on top a lone tree in the river stream path. Our tents were set overlooking the valley and beautifully quiet. You don’t realize how much noise electricity and modern appliances/air conditioners/heaters make till you experience the absence.
Palas's Fish Eagle

Palas's Fish Eagle

Palas Fish Eagle in Nest

Palas Fish Eagle in Nest

We took an elephant safari one morning, which Agam gifted to me for a birthday present. So kind. But the piece de resistance was fishing for the Mahseer in the river pools below our camp. Our fishing guide Raju led us down the often steep shale pathways (wasn’t looking forward to climbing back up, no longer being in the Incan shape I was in SA!) to two spots that were deep enough for the larger fish. Mahseer have a fearsome reputation among fishermen. They are really good fighters, especially the golden mahseer, and these certainly lived up to their reputations. They reminded me a bit of fishing for salmon in the Pacific, the way they would run the line, rest and then run again, just when you thought you’d finally be able to land it. They are also very smart fish. Our guide kept varying our bait, casting angle and numbers of hooks to keep them biting. Even so far as making our visibility on shore different. Really interesting, because each time something was changed, they would go straight for the bait, but the second time using the same method, you could see the fish milling about the line, nibbling away, but no good bites.
Indian Roller

Indian Roller

Golden Mahseer

Golden Mahseer


As we approached dusk, we had successfully landed 4 smallish golden mahseer, about 4-5 lbs, when the big one took the bait! Wow, what a difference! It took me 42 minutes to bring it in, and at one point almost all the line was in the river so we had to follow it along the rocky shore to keep it within line distance. As I was bringing it in closer to me, a wild goat (goral) and her baby appeared on the cliffside above us. Was a surreal moment, playing the line, and trying to get a glimpse of the goral, at the same time trying to set my camera up on automatic mode CV to take pictures of the fish, the goral, me… yikes! Completely spent, the poor fish was finally close enough to heave out of the water and grab a few pictures before releasing back into the river. Poor bugger! He just lay there in the water for a while, and I was a bit scared for him, but he finally got the energy to drift into the deeper pools. Such a beautiful fish! And apparently good eating, though boney. Every year I seem to say the same thing… but I think it will be really hard to beat this birthday!
Golden Mahseer catch n release

Golden Mahseer catch n release

Holi in the jungle

Holi in the jungle


It was Holi on the 20th, so nice to be away from the festival chaos in town, and there to take advantage of the full moon, which peaks on Holi. After our elephant safari, the staff included us in their Holi celebrations. Painted with wonderful colours and having Bhang, a very tasty Holi drink made with almonds, sugar, milk, masala and cannabis! Yum! Then, along with other snacks, pakoras of potatoes, spices and cannabis leaves! So smart, taking care of the munchies all in one go! Not too much of a ‘bhang’ tho – sadly I think they gave me the ‘tourist-strength’ version.
Himalayan Bulbul

Himalayan Bulbul

I think next time I come to Corbett, I’d head straight to this bit of paradise.
Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters having a heated discussion

Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters having a heated discussion

Back in Delhi and the arrival of Kathleen, Sandra & Traudi. Did a whirlwind tour of Delhi and now on the train to Amritsar. Popped into a local ATM to get money for this trip and at the conclusion of the transaction was given the choice: “Get Money” or “Get Advice and Get Money”. Unsure I chose Get Money. Turns out Get Advice would have given me the receipt…. And maybe a little note? I could just see it… Lisa, do you really need to buy that pashmina? :-o
Corbett National Park, Northern Zone

Corbett National Park, Northern Zone

Posted by LisaOnTheRoad 09:47 Archived in India Tagged birds fish wildlife safari langur macaque corbett chital barking_deer chestnut_headed_bee-eater himalayan_bulbul mahseer Comments (0)

Fun in Delhi and Rajasthan

...and the sari stayed on!

sunny 30 °C
View India ~ 2010 Part B on LisaOnTheRoad's travel map.

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Back in Incredible India! This is my 4th trip in 2 years and it's a very different visit for me, being shorter and more socially-driven. With sightseeing not being a focus, I’m finding it a very relaxed trip so far.

I arrived ridiculously late on the 19th of October with a mission. Find the perfect sari for the Canadian High Commission’s biggest social event of the year – the Thanksgiving Ball. This would be my first attempt at wearing the fantastically beautiful garment that Indian women wear so easily and gracefully throughout the country. While men in India have largely adopted western attire, many women still wear the sari. Tied in different ways depending on regional areas and traditions, and made of a variety of fabrics and colours. Sparkled, painted, patterned and plain, the women add an incredible array of colour to the landscape in India. Whether walking the streets of the bustling cities and markets, working on the roads, construction sites, fields or home, it is done with incredible grace and beauty in the sari.

So... all of you who know me, can understand my nervousness at doing the same – grace and beauty not being the first 2 adjectives that come to mind! Still, I don’t often let fear stop me from trying something new. So, off to Sarojini Nagar to shop with Sabrina, my friend Lynn’s housekeeper. This sped things up considerably, since she was able to quickly tell if the shop didn’t have the very specific colour I had in mind and I didn’t have to spend 20 minutes as shopkeepers pulled out every colour and fabric type completely opposite to my requests, all the while nodding and assuring me they did indeed have that colour/fabric… “one moment madame”... before ultimately throwing their hands up in frustration at the foreigner who quite obviously didn’t know how to pick the right colour/fabric for the sari she wanted to wear.

So that was Wednesday. Thursday saw me heading to SouthEx and Ahujason’s to pick up a shawl for cooler Rajasthan nights, as I was heading to the parks on the following Monday. Then the embassy to get my guest pass set up and of course Hanuman Mandir, to my favourite bangle stall, to get the bangles to complete the ball outfit. After a Friday at the spa, a stop at Mr. Mogha’s in the Meridien to pick up some suitably sparkly rings, Lynn and I were off to a pre-Diwali party hosted by an embassy client.

On Saturday, we went to DLF mall and the Inglot store to have our make up done. As someone who prefers a more natural look with make-up (read too lazy to deal with cosmetics), I was a bit leary but figured I could always wash it off and start again. I was in luck – the young man who worked on me was an artist! Using colours I never would have picked in a million years. I think that I must keep him with me wherever I go from now on, the results were almost unrecognizable.

Wrapping a sari seems so complicated and precise, but the lady who came by to wrap us made it seem so simple and I was bundled up in a matter of minutes. Panic started to set in tho when I realized that she put in only 2 safety pins – one at the shoulder and one to keep the front pleats together. I kept asking if I should put more pins in, like every inch or so, only to be reassured that it wasn’t necessary! Oh boy!

Lynn, Remy, Vrinda and me

Lynn, Remy, Vrinda and me


All done up and off to the High Commissioner’s house, where the ball is hosted. So beautiful! The tables were set up throughout the garden, fairy lights strung through the trees, the air warm and sultry. And to top it all off, a full moon pushed valiantly through the Delhi smog to add a glow to the glittering guests. Of course, a complete turkey dinner crowned the evening. We danced and laughed till 1, then moved to the Taj’s nightclub and finally a house party in Vasant Vihar. Back home at 5am, feet a tad sore, but sari still securely on! Major mishaps avoided and what a fantastic night.

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Sunday was spent doing absolutely nothing, resting up before heading out on Monday for a wildlife fix. This time of year starts off a bird migration period in India, so I was excited to visit the UNESCO park, Keoladeo Ghana National Park. Had a comical drive from Delhi, with a driver who couldn’t seem to go anywhere without getting lost, even with specific instructions. He had a seemingly uncontrollable urge to take “short-cuts”, whether he’d done it before or not/ whether it was shorter or not/ and whether it was even heading in the right direction or not. Funny… after the fact!

Painted Storks greeting each other

Painted Storks greeting each other


We stayed at a wonderful lodge, run by a highly respected Indian birder, The Bagh. It was set in a 4-hectare former royal orchard and was so lush and filled with trees that you often couldn’t see beyond the next building. The naturalist provided by the lodge, Mr. Rajveer Singh, was similarily exceptional.

Cool looking bug eating fruit in the park

Cool looking bug eating fruit in the park


I love the wilder areas of India, and look forward to exploring them, but in most cases, the naturalists are not of a dependably high calibre. So, I decided to hedge my bets and try something new – I hired my own naturalist/guide for this trip. It made such a difference. Rajveer was unexpectedly great, but Sarkiska guides were what I have come to expect. Mr. CV Singh, from Udaipur, is one of only 2 exceptional naturalists I’ve been lucky enought to travel with in my many park visits within India. Luckily for me he began private guiding this year and he immeasurably improved my experience on this trip. In addition to the wildlife aspect, I was able to experience places, foods and insights that I would have completely missed out on without his wonderful company. Helped with our direction-challenged driver too! He was similarily impressed with Rajveer, which says a lot more than my good opinion.
Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizard

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Keoladeo is a relatively small 29 sq km sanctuary made from diverted water by a former Maharaja’s desire to have a ready hunting ground. There is a plaque in the park, which highlights the shooting successes of that bygone time. For a duck, not so much a success. One listing, in November 1938 saw over 4000 ducks shot in a single day.
Green Bee-eaters

Green Bee-eaters

Little Egret

Little Egret


The area constantly battles to gain access to water these days, which needs to be diverted from a nearby dam. Competition from local farmers and villagers and the highly unpredictable monsoon rains make the park’s water levels virtually non-existant some years, putting the UNESCO designation at risk. Luckily this year the park has water and was lush and green, but the last few years has seen the park dry, which has greatly damaged this important bird breeding ground.
Painted Stork

Painted Stork

Indian Pond Heron

Indian Pond Heron


With no motorized vehicles allowed in Kaleodeo, we actually got to walk most of the time, which was such a treat! Can also rent bikes to explore. How wonderful to walk through your safaris. The big excitement in the park while we were there was the tiger! Yep, you heard right! A tiger had wandered over from Ranthambore national park and settled into one of the areas. Must have seemed like paradise to him – loads of deer and antelope, and no other competition! It really was all everyone could talk about. At one point, CV planted some pugmarks on the side of a path to add to the excitement. I knew that’s how those pugmarks got there in all those parks I visited without seeing a tiger! Hah!
Brown Fish Owl far off in the trees.

Brown Fish Owl far off in the trees.

Soft Shell Turtles

Soft Shell Turtles


So a wonderful 2 days in this park, with loads of birds, massive turtles and the lizard, and we were off to Sariska Tiger Reserve a few hours away. Our driver had received detailed, direct instructions on how to reach the Alwar Bagh resort, so of course we went another way… and got lost…

Beautiful cliffs in Sariska

Beautiful cliffs in Sariska


Alwar Bagh was a lovely, family-run hotel and our hosts were so welcoming. The resort is adding a new more luxurious building, built of beautiful pink sandstone, so the resort was quite empty with construction to be completed this month. Lovely peaceful grounds to relax during the afternoon and have evening drinks, filled with trees and surrounded by the Aravelli hills. A bit of a trek to the park (about 30 min drive) but didn’t become tiring as we feared it might.
Flameback Woodpecker

Flameback Woodpecker

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Sariska – wow! This park is so beautiful. From the towering, stark Aravellis hills and cliffs; the brilliant greens of dense, old-growth forests; plentiful water holes, streams and lakes; and patches of open grasslands. The beauty of simply driving through it was spectacular.

Chital reaching for a particularly good leaf!

Chital reaching for a particularly good leaf!


This park is wonderfully quiet and less travelled, which I loved. Sadly farming and cattle are strewn through the park as well, which doesn’t bode well for its future ecology. After being wiped out a few years back, there are now 5 tigers reintroduced into the park. The absense of tigers helped to make the population of leopards high, and there were pugmarks everywhere. We had a dramatic tracking one evening, following the warning calls of sambar, chital and langurs, accompanied by the very loud growls and calls of a leopard. It seemed only a few feet away hiding in the dense vegetation, but unfortunately remained hidden from us.
Langur posing in the sunlight at the Hanuman Temple

Langur posing in the sunlight at the Hanuman Temple

Beautiful little jungle cat at dusk, posing for us

Beautiful little jungle cat at dusk, posing for us


Lots of animal action here, but no big cat sightings. Tho did have a beautiful sighting of a jungle cat as were racing out of the park at the end of the last day. Also had a dramatic face-off between 3 Indian mongooses – is that mongeese? – and red-wattled lapwings as they searched for eggs for dinner. Also had a fab sighting of an Indian hare – but missed the shot! followed by the comment that I’d never get a chance like that again :-S Had such a wonderful time on this trip, and loved, loved, loved this park. Oh yeah, and I finally learned to eat curry and rice with my hand! sort of...
Mongoose being confronted by anxious Lapwing as it searched for eggs

Mongoose being confronted by anxious Lapwing as it searched for eggs

Sadly this adventure closed, it was back to Delhi for the Halloween party and to relax with friends before heading out to Sri Lanka for the Diwali weekend.
Halloween party in Delhi.

Halloween party in Delhi.

Posted by LisaOnTheRoad 06:25 Archived in India Tagged people parties birds india halloween safari forest birding tiger langur balls mongoose sari jungle_cat Comments (0)

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