When the alarm went off at 4.30 am I groaned, it could not be 4.30 already! However as we were traveling in a group, I got up somehow and stumbled down on time to go to the Kudumbigala Monastery and Kumana National Park near Ampara in Eastern Sri Lanka.
I am not a morning person. Given a choice I will never wake up early in the morning. I am grumpy to the core when I am out at an early hour. Even the elephant sighting right by the road at Kuamana National Park did not wake me up completely.
But it was the view from the Kudumbigala Monastery hillock that did the trick, suddenly the day turned magical. I was no longer grumpy. It was worth getting out at 5.00 am just for this view.
After returning from the small hike to the Kudumbigala Monastery we sat in our jeep in shade. A green bee eater gave us company. In the shade it was almost pleasant! As we had gone for the hike the day was getting hot. I was wondering about the sightings on our jeep safari. Wild animals do not like heat but there was no other way to fit in both, the monastery and the park, in the same morning.
I love going to the jungle, I love the feel of the jungle. If I get to see big game I consider it a bonus. Otherwise I am happy birding. Kumana National Park has a large number of water bodies, which adds to its bird population and its charm.
As the day was getting hot, big game went hiding. However, there was plenty to enjoy if you love the jungle. This monitor lizard was happily sitting in the sun, probably without a care in the world!
Kumana National Park is full of birds. I saw a lot more than I could capture and there were still more in the park which we couldn’t even see properly. I would see a flash of red or yellow but it would be gone before I could blink let alone ask my guide about it.
There is a watch tower within the park. It is a designated area where we could get out of our vehicles. By now a few of my group mates were dozing off, this break woke us all up!
Kumana National Park has large herds of wild buffaloes. Their horns and whole demeanor looks scary. In spite of seeing so many, I wonder why took this picture of the one standing alone and it has come out the best too!
A strange thing happened on this safari. Because of the early morning start, all my group mates were fast asleep when a group of wild boars crossed our jeep. I have hardly ever seen anyone falling asleep on a jeep safari in a jungle before!
My group mates slept through the antics of the crested hawk eagle too! I guess the guys went to check out a beach party after dinner, whereas I crashed as soon as possible.
I knew I would fall asleep later when we sat in the air-conditioned bus and headed to Batticaloa, our next stop!
PS. I was invited by Cinnamon Hotels Sri Lanka on this trip.
The MD of Chhattisgarh Tourism, Mr. Santosh Misra described Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary ‘as a state of mind.’ I entirely agree with him. I would add that it makes for a very pleasant state of mind!
I got to see Barnawapara as a day trip which is an highly unsatisfactory way to see it. I would love to spend a few days at the Hareli Eco Resort. This is the water body by the resort was where Anuradha Shankaran and I sat for hours in the sun chatting away pleasantly. And even though I have not stayed at the resort I had the key to one of the rooms for the day. Whatever I saw of the room, I liked it.
Right by the waterbody we spotted a common kingfisher, an egret and a few other birds. Monkeys walked past us in a peaceful manner. The sun was out and it felt that all was fine with the world. The cell phone signals drop at Barnawapara and I wonder if it contributes to the feeling of well being!
We traveled to Barnawapara from Sirpur and it is just 17 kilometers away if you know the correct route. Our driver didn’t and we of course had no clue. But we reached at Hareli in the end thought the circuitous route, enjoying the serene drive. When we reached at the resort, it was time for a late breakfast or early lunch. I still remember the delicious aaloo paratha the staff made for us.
We did take a ride within the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary. It is one of those places which is not crowded, yet. You can also take your own vehicle inside the park. The route we took was small. One of the invariable questions that follow a visit to a wildlife sanctuary is that what did you see?
I would start with this bunch of yellow toed green pigeons. But more than that for me entering a forest in itself is a luxury. I can take deep breaths and inhale only oxygen. In the city if I do the same I end up with a lot of petrol fumes! And when I visit a wildlife sanctuary the more important question to ask is what the other jeep saw? Well, they spotted a sloth bear.
I have been always been in awe of the people who live on the fringes of the jungle. This girl was cycling back to home I guess, on the safari route! I wonder if she has encountered wild animals on the way? I wonder if she gets a little scared at times?
I would say go to Barnawapara if you are looking for a quiet vacation. I would also say go there before it gets crowded.
Have you ever wondered how do they go about tracking a tiger? We were sitting in a jeep deep inside the zone 5 of Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan. This was the zone where in the morning two tiger cubs had been spotted. Above the noise of the the Gypsy I couldn’t hear a thing. Suddenly the driver and Anish said, there was an alarm call of a langoor going on. The driver sprang into action and within no time we are close to the langoor which was giving the call. We could still see nothing. There was no tiger close by. As for scanning the area in front of us, it was vast, it included a nala and a hill as well. There was nothing even remotely resembling a tiger that I could see. All this excitement was happening on the Aircel’s #saveourtigers trip.
The driver, Vinod suddely said, “Woh kya hai?” He followed the gaze of the langoor and located the tiger. Leave me on my own and I would have not heard a thing, much less sight a tiger! All I managed was to botch up the shot when the tiger looked back for a fleeting second.
You have seen the side profile of the same tiger before. When I looked at the pictures I was quite heartbroken, but then I learn another lesson. Earlier, before 2013 when I had not seen a tiger ever, I would often wonder if the signs the guide and the driver look for were of any use. The guide would always get excited about the pug marks. I had seen pug marks on almost every trip,it would just not lead to the tiger. So, after a while I completely stopped getting excited about the pug marks. Remember my first real safari was in 2009 and I saw a tiger in 2013. Now that was a long wait.
Then there was this business of alarm calls. I clearly remember my trip to Kanha. Deer were giving alarm calls like their life depended on it, well hold a minute their life actually depended on it. It was late in the evening, the tiger was taking its own sweet time in coming out in the open and it was the park’s closing time. So alarm calls or no alarm class, we were forced to head back.
When Chhavi and I were at Sariska, the alarm call business was going on again. After a while it stopped. they told me the predatory decided to sit down somewhere in hiding. After all it had no obligation to anyone to come on the road and reveal itself! In Sariska the tigers are collared and yet nothing stops them from sitting deep in the woods rather than close to the tourist jeeps.
But then whenever I have spotted a tiger (a grand total of 4 tigers, managed pictures of two only) alarm calls have played a role. Even pug marks revealed the tiger moment at Pench.
So the next time your jungle experts talk about alarm calls and pug marks, don’t think of them as folklore just because you have not sighted a tiger yet. I have been in both situations where the experts tried to locate it via pug marks, calls etc and when they are collared. In the collared case, all the guide did was to make phone calls to various people who had tracking devices. I think the alarm call, pug mark way is much more fun. And remember as Anish says “a guaranteed tiger sighting is only possible in a zoo.” Now tracking a tiger is altogether a different game!
PS. Bhagte Tiger Ke Punch Hi Sahi means just managed to catch the vanishing tail of the tiger.
When you go to a tiger reserve in India, you of course wish to sight the tiger. But remember it is a wild animals, it has a free will of its own. The only place where a tiger sighting is guaranteed is the zoo. In the jungle you have to do tapasya to see it. These were the words of Anish Andheria who runs the NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT). I wholeheartedly agree with him. However, if you care there is more to the jungle than just tiger. This was a #saveourtigers with Aircel.
1. Clean Air and Beautiful Tress
Dhonk Trees are quite prominent at Ranthambore. They give such a soft look when they have dropped their leaves. There were many other beauties like Jamun, banyan and peepal. Also if you pay attention you will realize you can breathe easily on lungful of air without feeling choked. If you are visiting from a big city in India, chances are such clean air is not available for love or money!
2. Small Things
I love birds, this was my first sighting of the plum headed parakeet. It was sitting on the flame of forest flowers was a bonus. If you get obsessed and upset about tiger sightings, chances are you will not even notice beauties like these. So, the next time the guide or the jeep driver points out a bird, do take a look. I also managed to spot my first Paradise Flycatcher but it was such a fleeting glimpse, there was no chance of clicking a picture.
3. Wildlife at the Lodge
Most of the jungle lodges are situated in peaceful environments. The lodge I stayed at Ranthambore was buzzing with butterflies. Same goes for the birds. Some of them get visited by leopards too! Now I certainly do not wish for a leopard sighting at the lodge but I am quite happy with the birds and the butterflies I get to see right there! Anish made an interesting statement about butterflies. He said men like to identify with big things, like tiger, hardly any male would admit that they love butterflies! Go figure.
4. A Philosophical Langoor
What to do, you get to see the langoors in such numbers in any forest they hold no special charm. Now if only they were elusive as the tigers, I am sure we would value them more. I have often enjoyed watching them in herds with little ones. A languor was also of invaluable help to us this time as it was his alarm call that finally gave the tiger away!
5. Sambar Deer on Morning Walk
When I saw the deer on their morning walk, my heart stopped for a while. It was such a beautiful sight to see them crossing the road in line! The early morning clean air, the open spaces and the joy of being in jungle is in itself exquisite. The backdrop of the mountains and deer crossing made it made it extra special. I rarely ever click from a moving vehicle as I can hardly hold the camera still even when we are stationary. But to me this sight was so extraordinary that I did. And I glad the picture came out as half way decent.
6. Spotted Deer
My daughter calls them dot deer and kisses their picture in a book. They are one of the weakest in the food chain, one of the cutest in the animal kingdom. Once again Anish said “if you wish to curse someone, tell them they would be born as deer in Ranthambore.” These pretty creatures are always skittish not knowing when they will become tiger food! Not a pretty thought, I know but such is the animal world or should I say the world?
7. Water, Peacock, Flowers, Mountains
Water, peacock, flowering trees and mountains- when they all of them come together it can be magic. I was fortunate that at this point we were allowed to get out of our vehicles. Otherwise you are strictly required to remain in your vehicle within a national park in India.
8. Water Snake
If it were not for the trained eyes of the driver and the guide we city slickers would have never spotted the water snake. I am no fan of snakes but from a distance they make for a pretty picture.
9. A Young Crocodile
Crocodiles are damn good at camouflage, but then so is the most of the animal kingdom. There have been times when crocodiles have been pretty indistinguishable from the rocks they choose to sun on. I am not sure why this young crocodile made itself so conspicuous!
10. The Selfie of a Peacock
If a peacock was able to take a selfie I wonder if it would be similar to this? I would like to think that it would resemble my picture but then I guess the bird itself would put on display its magnificent feathers too.
So the next time when you go to jungle, I know it would be thrilling to spot a tiger. But even if you do not, don’t worry the supporting cast is alluring too, but if only you would take an interest. After all there is more to the jungle than just tiger.