Wild Madhya Pradesh – Looking beyond the tiger
In this post, we visit Panna National Park and Sanjay Dubri National Park, two lesser known tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh
“Yahan dekhne ke liye sab kuch milega (You can see everything here) – chital,langur, sambar deer, nilgai, wild boar, bear, “rattles off my guide, Dinesh Yadav as we go on a bumpy ride, early in the morning in Sanjay Dubri National Park, one of the new tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh.There is however no mention of the tiger, until I prod him. ” Haan, tiger bhi hai, ” ( Yes, there are tigers too ) he adds as an afterthought.
The early morning rays of the sun filter through the foliage of sal forests as the colours come alive . The grasslands blush. The cold breeze nudges me. We have the entire forests for ourselves and as we pry through the trees the denizens are watching us, although with eyes, invisible to us.
It was perhaps Rudyard Kipling who discovered Madhya Pradesh and its wild side long before the tourists did. And the many Maharajas of the region who had hunted for trophies had left a legacy behind with their wild tales.
However for a wildlife enthusiast, the choices with respect to tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh are many – from Pench to Kanha, Bandhavgarh to Satpura. And yet, there is something exciting about exploring a relatively lesser known wildlife haunt, a landscape that is new to tiger tourism.
As we drive past the montage of woods, under the dense canopy of forests, Yadav tells me that the forest is recently opened to tourists while it was mainly a haven for conservationists and naturalists. The forests spread over 830 sq kms between Sanjay National Park and Dubri Wildlife Sanctuary is located near Parsili village, closer to Sidhi in Madhya Pradesh.
The silence is interrupted by the occassional call of the birds. I see a lapwing sitting by the rock while a treepie flies into the woods. The trees sway, dancing to the rhythm of the morning breeze. Yadav tells me there are 40 tigers in the woods, but they are obviously in a world of their own. We are also lost in our own thoughts until a fellow traveller lets out a squeal. I follow the direction of her finger and I see a furry blur rush into the woods. “It is a bear, ” announces the guide with a contended look that seemed to say, ” Finally, they saw something.”
Well, we do see something. This time it is a little more in focus, even though it lasts for just another fraction of second. Watching the woods reflecting in a little stream, we stop to take a photograph. And that is when I see it. Another furry black creature walking amidst the woods he owns. This time the sighting of the bear is more than just a blur, although it lasts for another fraction of a second.
The exciting thing about a safari is not the sighting alone but the anticipation of the sighting. And sometimes, just a blurry vision that lasts for a fraction of a second is enough. In case you dont get to see that, a pug mark will do the trick. And even when that fails, stories help. And that is exactly what happened in Panna National Park, one of my favourites among the many tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh.
We are just a handful of jeeps following an alarm call of a sambar . We stand around the dense foliage, waiting for a tiger to either walk in front of us or just flaunt its trophy. However all that we hear are more alarm calls. Finally after what seems like eternity, we see the sambar deer walking away into the woods while the langurs leap around the branches.
The story however does not end here. While all of us were surrounding one invisible tiger, another jeep took a different path hearing the same alarm call. And they did see, not a tiger, but a leopard with a kill.
The tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh are wild, but the wildest part of Madhya Pradesh lies in a natural canyon formed by the River Ken. I am at the Raneh Falls and fascinated by a canyon formed by the river. It is 98 feet deep and five kilometers long and is formed with granite rocks in different colours – with shades of red,pink, ochre and grey. I sit there for hours admiring the raw essence of nature. It seems like a large brush dipped in various shades had stroked these rocks. We head to the Ken Gharial sanctuary and we spot gharials and crocodiles here basking in the sunlight.
I am however not the right tourist for tiger tourism. For instance I tell the guide, ” Show me some birds please, ” and he looks at me puzzled. I ask him about snakes or request him to stop because I want to take a photograph of the serpentine path meandering into the woods. Dont get me wrong. It is not that I do not want to see the elusive tiger or the leopard. I do – but am happy just watching the landscapes morphing in front of me from a dense undergrowth to a grove of woods to tall grasslands to thorny scrubs.
The leaves dance in the reflections in the streams, the sun plays with the trees, the paths just vanish into the woods . I am excited seeing vultures and eagles, crocodiles and gharials. I am just happy soaking in the atmosphere.