Watching wildlife unfold on a jungle safari trip had never been on my bucket list. I might have occasionally watched the Animal Planet when there was nothing worthy on the TV. And now it happened: I spent 4 days in a jungle. Moreover, never did I think in my life that I could witness that very same jungle and the habitat of Mowgli that Rudyard Kipling described in his Jungle Book. Wow! I loved it – the entire experience from being in the middle of nowhere in rural India to multiple safari tour attempts to spot a tiger in the wild.
Bandhavgarh National Park is the name of that part of the jungle where true lovers of wild life take trouble to come from all over India to experience the most unspoiled natural reserve.
The photos accompanying this post won’t do justice to sheer beauty of spotted animals rolling freely in their jungle. During the safari tours, mostly undertaken in the freezingly cold mornings (oh yes, jungle can be quite chilly, down to almost 0 degrees Celsius) we saw plenty of cute-looking spotted deer (yep, those looking just like Disney Bambi),
good-natured langur monkeys and mean macaques, big sambar deer (one of the largest in Asia) and a much smaller barking deer (which is said to bark just like a dog), quick mongoose with a fluffy tail, funny porcupine, huge bison, many arrogant peacocks and peahens, colorful wild chicken (which can actually fly), jackal, multifold of beautiful wild birds of all possible colors (that I have never heard of before) and a lot of parrots of all types.
Spotted deer and langur monkeys turn out to be very good friends; it was absolutely awesome to watch them interact, when the monkeys were throwing leaves from trees for the deer and the deer with their perfect sense of smell would warn the langurs if a tiger was around. Mighty tigers did not feel like paying their tribute to the Russian chick who’d never been interested in them before. Well, now I definitely am going to watch the Animal Planet series about tigers and their habits.
The terrain of Bandhavgarh Reserve is diverse and simply gorgeous – green hills, rocky formations, thick forest, grassy plains, many natural springs, plenty of bamboo and a lot of other cool trees – the ones I managed to remember the names of are – Banyan tree, Sal tree (was used in construction of railways before), gooseberry tree with ripe fruits known as amla (Amla is a fruit with a mind-blowing taste and rich in vitamins. Upon the first bite, it is super sour but a minute later one feels a pleasant sweet aftertaste. Drink water and the sweetness increases! Here you can find more info on how beneficial and super useful amla is to our bodies.) in Hindi, which our superb guide managed to get for us right from the tree against the regulations) and a ghost tree that grows in the moon light!
The jungle was brilliant but it is not the only thing that makes Bandhavgarh so special. I believe it is also about the local people of the area. They are incredibly friendly, simple, even naive at times and warm-hearted. Their kindness and purity are shining through their faces. That place seems to be still untouched by the greedy consumerism.
Familiar with common Indian cities, I was taken by surprise when no one was trying to sell me this or that bric-or-brac, not a single tuk tuk spotted, no one begging in the street. Guides for the reserve are provided by the government, thus, recruited and paid by the Indian government, and jeep drivers are all members of a trade union and are assigned customers on the rota basis. No haggling involved. When money is paid to get the jungle entrance pass, no ticket or any receipt of acknowledgement is given: you fill out a few forms and that’s it. When asked for a ticket, the officer simply replies, “Now I know your face. Why need a ticket?” All the staff at the guesthouses and cafes are super attentive, accommodating and genuinely glad to have you as a guest. On my way out of the jungle I took a local bus that passes through real rural India with few villages here and there; the ticket officer of the bus got down at one of the stops, bought a coconut and then shared it with all the passengers (the bus was full). I was deeply moved.
To sum it all up, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to experience the raw beauty of the rural India with its gorgeous nature and amazing people. Many thanks go to my friend Kaneshka for inviting me along on that trip. Wild nature is captivating. So far my favourite animals are spotted deer and wild chicken. Tigers yet to be seen on some other safari trip.