For a very very long time India has been one destination that has fascinated me and has drawn my attention on many occasions.
But what is it about this country that attracts visitors from all over the world?
Is it the culture? The food? The magical forests? The possibility of seeing a Tiger in the wild?
For me personally it is probably a combination of all of these factors that had me rolling around my bed a few days before the safari as the excitement started to set it.
Arriving in Delhi the day before the safari started, one of the first things that was very evident to me was just how many people live in India. There was an energy like I have never experienced before! People, cars, hooters it was all happening and no doubt I must have looked like a Deer in the headlights. Having personally never experienced anything like this before (outside of the African continent) I was shocked, but also super excited at the same time, I am in India!!
After a very comfortable night at the Radison Hotel in Delhi, my guests and I boarded our flight to Nagpur first thing in the morning. A short one hour flight followed by a three hour road transfer and all of a sudden we were out of the hustle and bustle and in the Jungle, the very reason we came to India.
Our first Camp, Pench Tree Lodge, is located about 10km (20min drive) from the gate and is situated in a beautiful 16 hectare forested area. The park is surrounded by local villages, all going about their business from cattle farming to wheat fields.
Pench Tree Lodge
A local Lady burning the remainder of her wheat fields
One of the challenges a lot of these parks face in India is human animal conflict. But what was great to see is just how supportive the majority of the local people were of tourism and conserving these national parks.
Excited to get out there and explore Pench National Park, my guests and I enjoyed a traditional Indian chicken curry before setting out on our first afternoon game drive.
Before entering the Park we had to drive through one of the local villages which was an experience in itself. Kids running around with big smiles on their faces, waving as we drove past in our Maruti game vehicle (known as Gypsy's). There were ladies plowing their wheat fields, men herding cattle, kids collecting water... it is just a whole new world!
As we entered the park, it was quite overwhelming as every small detail is still unknown to us! Although I have done a lot of research on these properties, to finally see these animals I have read so much about and seen so many images on of in person was amazing!! Peacocks, Langurs, Spotted Deer, Indian Gaur, Sambar Deer just to name a few...
The magnificent Indian Roller
A massive Indian Gaur
A baby Langur Monkey enjoying the safety of mom
Two Sambar Deer battling it out
Indian Wild Dog, known locally as Dhole
The ever inquisitive Rhesus Macaque
Kanha Tiger Reserve was our second stop of the journey where we would spend 4 nights at Kanha Earth Lodge. The lodge is ideally located in a small hamlet bordering Kanha's buffer Zone and blends in perfectly to the environment. Once again the food and service during the four nights was absolutely outstanding and every need or dietary requirement was catered for.
Kanha Earth Lodge
Kanha Earth Lodge
Kanha Tiger Reserve, is a total contrast to Pench National Park, consists of evergreen forests made up largely of Sal vegetation and is without a doubt one of the most beautiful parks I have seen. The forests take you back to the Jungle Book and one can just imagine "Mowgli" appearing at any stage. This park, like many in India consists of numerous zones which you are assigned to per game drive. This is a great way of making sure that there are not too many vehicles in one particular area.
During our first afternoon game drive in Kanha Tiger Reserve we came across our first real good Tiger sighting. I can clearly remember how in awe I was of this magnificent beast. Here is an animal I never thought I would have the privilege of seeing in person! The sheer size, beauty and mystery of a wild Tiger is hard to explain, you simply have to experience it for yourself. She laid down in an open area for a few minutes before standing up and disappearing into the forest, completely ignoring our presence.
Because of the dense forests, viewing in certain areas can be a bit limiting, however there are also some beautiful water points located throughout the Park, most of which become extremely popular as the days heat up.
Our final destination of the trip was the very well documented Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. This Reserve although smaller than other wildlife parks is known to have one of the highest densities of Tigers in the world.
It was clear that our next 5 days here were going to be memorable when we encountered a Tigress on our way in to the Lodge. Since we were in a closed vehicle for the road transfer and with all of our camera gear packed away, you can only image the chaos that occurred when we spotted this beautiful cat. Bags went flying, phones were dropped, ANYTHING to get some footage of this amazing sight! Little did we know what was in store for us over the next few days...
One of the reasons we visit these parks during the month of April is to spend time at the seasonal waterholes where Tigers and other species gather to cool down during the heat of the day. Our patience was well and truly rewarded when on two occasions we found 3 Tiger Cubs resting at one the water points, submerging half of their bodies in order to stay cool.
Each day just kept getting better and better and by the time we had finished our 7 game drives at Bandhavgarh we encountered 16 different Tigers!!
India has well and truly touched my soul and opened up a whole new world to me!
Oh and did I mention THERE IS NOTHING IN THIS WORLD THAT CAN PREPARE YOU FOR WITNESSING YOUR FIRST WILD TIGER!! It is simply breathtaking!!!
I cannot wait to return next year and experience more of what this amazing country has to offer!
Trip dates for 2020 have been finalised and I am already counting the days...