Emily Dickenson, a great American poet of her time once said that, "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all." Every time I think of birds or I go for bird watching this quote automatically pops up in my mind. For me birds are a symbol of hope and freedom. Bird watching involves its own pleasures that only acquisitive birders enjoy. But even if you are not an avid birder but you love nature, you can be a part of this happiness.
The Pench Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh) is a 292.85 km2 Project Tiger tiger reserve located in the Seoni District and Chhindwara District of southern Madhya Pradesh in central India.It is contiguous on the south with the 257.23 km2 Pench Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra), both of which are included in the Level 1, 13,223 km2 (5,105 sq mi) Tiger Conservation Unit – 31 (Kanha-Pench TCU). (Source wikipedia)We decided to go to Pench as we had heard of it from a couple of our friends who had been there. It was quite a last minute decision and the long weekend of 26th Jan would have made it slightly challenging.But as luck would have it we did get bus tickets from Hyderabad to Nagpur and could book a one-way atleast.Our go to person was "Chintoo Dwivedi" who made all the arrangements aroudn the logistics of our trip.DAY 1:We were picked up from the Nagpur and dropped off at our hotel "Mahua Vann" which was 100 kms away from Nagpur. A very pleasant ride and we were quite pleasantly surprised with the last minute accomodation arrangements.We managed to rest a bit and catch a night safari with our guide "Imran Khan" who was extremely knowledgable and insanely passionate about the wild.We had very interesting conversations and got some really interesting facts from our guide. The safari lasted about 3 hours and was worth the time spent.DAY 2:Chintu also arranged for the early morning safari for which we had to wake up at 4 30 am.Again totally worth our while and some extremely beautiful moments of silence and soaking ourselves in the randomness of the wild.DAY 3:We took the day easy and went for some cycling and a trek exploring our vicinity which again was very energizing and lovely.
Pench is about 2 hours from nagpur by road, the hotel had sorted our car ride. We reached the Pench Jungle Camp, to be greeted by our great hosts - Agam and Anuradha, this couple lives in the jungle and takes care of the camp property. Very warm and welcoming, they'll make sure you're as comfortable as you can get in the jungle! Pench Jungle Camp is just outside the main Turia Gate of the Pench National Park and thus an excellent location to stay. Post lunch, we left for our first jungle safari to the Khursapar gate. Being the first experience in the jungle, it was exciting and peaceful. The sounds of the jungle is unlike any other, I would call it 'chaotic peace'. This gate, we later realised is not that famous for any sightings, so would strongly not recommend to take it. Safari cost: Rs. 5500/- for small gypsy and Rs. 7500 for jumbo (both can fit in about 4-6 people) The night had a nice tribal performance by the villagers (even if you don't like it, appreciate it as it's the only form of employment for them). Being the 31st, we had a few drinks after which we all passed out as we had a very long day! Day 2: Just a few birdsWe didn't opt for the morning safari, so got up straight for breakfast then relaxed in this beautiful jungle property of merely 24 odd rooms, we had taken the luxury tents which is an experience in its own right. Agam made sure we had the food of our choice, if we didn't like anything from the buffet and also made sure the staff was at our disposal. Agam being a naturist, it was interesting even just to walk around the property with him, as he will give you insights into the plants and birds around. Also his stories of the jungle made us all, all the more excited for the next safari in the afternoon. Post lunch we left for the safari by about 230 and this time agam was nice enough to drive us himself, he gave us deep insights into every bird and animal we sighted. He also helped us sight a beautiful owl sleeping inside the hollow of a tree. Unfortunately we weren't lucky enough to sight a tiger, although we heard many alarm calls from the deer and monkies. We slept early that night as we were scheduled for an early morning safari the next day. Day 3: Paddevwali sighted with her 4 sub-adult cubs! Early morning, 0630am we left for our next jungle adventure, freezing cold due to the windchill in the open jeep. We were with this other couple from Hyderabad which was alot of fun! In the wild everybody is one, just an extra pair of eyes can really help. We heard strong alarm calls but couldn't sight anything.. After about an hour, was our moment, at about 830am we see a line of jeeps near the a small pond on route number 2. We get our first sight of the Paddevwali tigress with her 4 sub-adult cubs! They were playing around the lake and then even crossed our jeep. The mother also sprayed with a squat to mark her territory! It's was an amazing experience, majestic yet gentle, calm yet ferocious, dangerous yet innocent! Evening was chilling with the new friends we made at Kohka wilderness camp. Day 4: Last Safari Again an early morning safari, we left in the chilling cold, as soon as we entered the jungle from the Turia gate, we realised it was dead.. So quite we could barely hear even the birds, there wasn't any alarm call during the entire safari. We weren't as lucky as the day before. The same day evening we left for Nagpur then to Mumbai by the Duronto. Tiger sighting is purely on your luck, the guide can help you but no one can guarantee anything! But the rush to try and find one is amazing. Apart from the tiger, we sighted the jackal, spotted deer, sambhar deer, nilgai, langoor, kingfisher, drongo king crow, blabbers, owl, blue Jay etc etc!
My latest escapade from the busy schedules of city life was Pench-Patalkot trip with my childhood buddies Indrani and Bidisha. It was an old dream of ours to explore new places together . Bidisha works as a PhD scholar at Pench Tiger Reserve and she almost single-handedly chalked out a plan for the three of us.We traveled from Howrah to Nagpur via Geetanjali SF Exp and reached Pench on 30th Dec, 2015.We spend 2 days of absolute peace at the tiger reserve, situated in Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh at the border of Chhindwara district. The dry deciduous forest of Pench mesmerized us with each frame she created from dawn to dusk. We met Cheetal, Sambhar, Langoor , Jackal, Elephant , Bison, Peacocks and various other unknown birds during the safari .It was our misfortune that we couldn't find the Royal Bengal Tiger in the forest. But no regrets on that part because nature was really kind to fill our souls with her never ending opulence. On 1st January, 2016 we started for Patalkot and it took us nearly 4 hours to reach. At first sight Patalkot seemed like the Indian version of Grand canyon, only covered with dense flora .Patalkot is situated in the Chhindwara district near Tamiya village. The hills of mighty Satpura range is home to various tribes, most particularly Bheels. They used to live in the canyons and were hunter-gatherers for a long time. Now they live on the top of the hills and use the land for cultivation. Patalkot is not really known to most travelers and that's what makes it more beautiful. We made a short trek to the bottom of the hills where we found cave like structures and the narrow Dudhi stream. We were tired as hell when we returned to our car after 4 hours. But it was worth the pain. Landforms of Madhya Pradesh was unknown to all of us. From what we saw, I can tell that it is like no other. It is not like the mountain where wide ranges block your view and sky changes all the time. It is not like ocean where blue is the color that soothes your soul. Satpura range is rough yet beautiful piece of nature where you can see as far as your sight goes. There is nothing that interrupt your view. It is dusty and rude and yet not arrogant . It was the first time we visited the table top mountains in the large plateau that we only read about, in our geography book.We traveled back to Kolkata via Nagpur and reached on 3rd January, 2016. Patalkot and Pench trip was , in true sense, a dream-come-true event to us and they are going to stay in my memories for a long time, if not forever.
On that fine morning there was a discussion going on, on the radio about a tigress called Baghin Nala from Pench who had been found dead and it was suspected that poisoning had been the reason for it. It broke my heart to hear it, especially since she had just given birth to 4 cubs. For all things tiger, I call up Adeet Ghosh A.K.A Lala our family’s jungle man and my eldest brother(first cousin on a technicality)He said he was going to Pench in the coming week. That was all I needed to hear. Pench had always been on my list of places to visit since the Jungle book was set in this place! I got to the office, applied for leave and booked my tickets. Best first 30 minutes of the work day ever!!The jungle has it’s own infectious charm and the week went by very slowly. I flew to Nagpur and met my brother there and we drove to Pench which is about 2.5 hours away. We discussed Baghin Nala and the various tigers of Pench on the way. Collarwali was the tigress that got my attention since this was a very unique name. She gets her name from a tracking collar that the forest department placed around her neck as a tracking device. I am pretty certain the device stopped working a while back and now it’s just there.