There is no doubt that Kanha national park is my favorite tiger reserve in India. There is something magical about this place that keeps drawing me here again and again, year after year, sometimes even many times in a single year. I am so in love with this place that, I plan to have a little house for myself here, but more on that later. Kanha has some famous well photographed tigers like Munna, Kankata, the ever snarling pattewali, Bheema, Umar pani female and cubs, Karai ghati female among many others. It is also home to the rare Hard Ground Barasingha and once even housed a healthy population of Dholes or the Indian wild dog. It is also a bird paradise and even this year gave ample sightings of the flaming Scarlet Minivet, the beautiful Monarch fly catcher and the ever restless and mocking racket tailed Drongo amongst many others.
Unlike every year this year at Kanha was an extended family get together and so photography took a back seat as every bit of space in the gypsy was occupied by some one or the other. Still no regrets as I did manage a few decent shots even in packed to the brim Gypsy. All seats in the gypsy occupied, meant that I could not get my behemoth, the 600 F4 VR, as one needs an entire bench to take this on a safari. Ofcourse I was in a way glad that I did not have to worry about the carry on restriction on the Bombardier Q400 turbo prop plane between Mumbai and Jabalpur. So I took my old and trusted Lowepro Mini Trekker and within it were my D800E and D7000 bodies, My trusty old 300 F4 + 1.4 Kenko TC, my new ‘tiger’ lens the 70-200 F4 VR and the 24-120 F4 VR.
One inconvenience was that my little Chevy Spark’s AC conked off before our road journey from Jabalpur to Mocha where we were to stay. So a full mid morning journey was covered in 40+ degrees without cool confines of an AC car, but who cared about such inconveniences when one is going to Kanha 🙂
There were no significant sightings except a herd of gaur in the first afternoon safari at Sarhi. We had an over confident middle aged gent as our guide who guaranteed a sighting of Munna and family near the water hole at Salghat. We kept waiting and waiting but no Munna and no any other tiger decided to grace us with their glimpse that afternoon.
Next day morning was Mukki. Mukki had delighted us in 2007 from where all our tiger and jungle love started, when Kaunda, the then ruler of the range, gave us one of our best ever ‘scare’ and tiger sighting possible. So hopes were high as Bheema, the young male is now quite active in these parts. There was a strong possibility of a tiger sighting early morning, when there were constant Sambar calls near by and we waited with bated breaths to see a glimpse of the king, or even a queen or a prince or a princess. But after waiting for a sufficiently long time we left the place disappointed. Meanwhile Bheema’s regular water hole was being checked again and again in the hope that he comes in for a drink. At around 9:00 AM a forest elephant paid a visit to the water hole and gave us info that a tiger was seen walking away from the path to the water hole. Then predictably, a mad scramble to cut the tiger’s path on the road ensued. But of course there was no tiger crossing on any path suggested by the mahout. At 9:20 AM it was decided to wait at the water hole and lo, an excited guide in the gypsy up ahead which was parked at the water hole, motioned us to slow down as there was a tiger there. Hmm, so the forest guard had deliberately tried to deceive us. But that is pretty common everywhere, so the lesson of the day, don’t believe most forest guards and usually do exactly opposite of what they have advised you to do.
The next 20 minutes were spent in company of Bheema, who by the way has lost his collar recently. He drank water, walked around and then in a typical tiger fashion got into the water hind legs first which is always an enjoyable sight. He seemed to have many puncture and injury wounds on his front shoulders and legs. So all the cuteness and docile nature that he was exhibiting was just a facade. One thing I could not help noticing, is his uncanny resemblance to his father Kaunda. The markings, the head shape all seemed similar. Any way I managed a few shots with my D7000 and 300 f4+ 1.4 TC combo mounted on a Gitzo GM5541 monopod.
We were running out of time so eventually had to leave Bheema in peace who I am sure must have been happy to see all the gypsy’s so so that he could chill out in peace.
Afternoon was in Kanha zone. Not much action in the harsh summer and most animals preferred to be inside in the shade or near water holes than brave the 40+ degrees in the sun. But on our return we had a glimpse of Kankata who after walking a considerable distance uphill on the road was forced off the road by some idiotic gypsy drivers who refused him space.
So the day was well spent with two amazing tiger sightings. Dinner at night was some yummy locally cooked desi chicken curry and chapatis.
Next day morning was again Sarhi but instead of tracking tigers it was decided to enjoy the beautiful Sarhi forest and check out the new MP tourism property on the Sarhi gate.
So this year again Kanha had not disappointed and keeps drawing me to it again and again. Hope to be here sometime in the winter again when Kanha is again transformed into a lush green heaven with little rivulets everywhere.