Kanha's many stripes

Animal retreat

Sighting: A tigress in the Kanha Tiger Reserve. photo by authorOne fine crimson evening, I found myself in Kisli, a village that lay within the green woods of the Kanha Tiger Reserve.

Saturated with saal trees, these forests maintain their greenery even during the summer and act as green mansions for the wildlife in Kanha Tiger reserve.

As I explored the Kanha forest, I came across a plethora of fauna. I found a herd of bison as well as deer grazing merrily in its lush green surroundings. Negotiating hairpin turns on Salkat Road, a terrain defined by bamboo and saal trees, I found myself entering the tiger’s abode.

My excitement and anticipation over the possibility of spotting a tiger fell through, however, when all we could spot were a couple of wild boars rustling the bamboo. While I might have had no luck on that particular day, I chanced upon the beast on my return journey to my rest house in Kisli. I hadn’t noticed that the being I had driven past in the middle of the night was one that I was hoping to see all along.

Early next day, while exploring the meadows of Kanha, I also chanced upon one of the most beautiful and elegant deer to be found, the Barasingha. There are different species of Barasingha, some of which can be found in Kaziranga National Park in Assam. But the most beautiful are those protected within the confines of Kanha.

Forest officials also organise a ‘Tiger Show’ for tourists. Mahouts on elephants set out before dawn to areas where one is most likely to spot a tiger. When the tiger is sighted, elephants encircle the area to make sure that the tigers don’t stray too far off. Wireless messages are then sent to a camp at Kanha, who then usher the tourists (for a price, of course) to view the tigers from an elephant’s back. Seated on an elephant, I had the delightful opportunity of watching a tiger during its meal time.

Its catch of the day was the royal stag. It was rather chilling, and at the same time, exciting, to watch this striped carnivore devour its kill. I wanted to move a little closer to the animal to get a better shot on my camera.

An inch forward, however, led to a low warning growl from the tiger. I managed to get my picture in a fraction of a second, a second that captured his feast and growl all at once.

The mahout pointed out to another tiger lazing about behind a bush, trying to seem like he was meditating. Perhaps, he had gulped down his grub to his satisfaction and was enjoying his siesta. As we inched closer, he opened one eye, only to remind us that appearances, after all, were always deceiving.

We saw other fauna too — black buck, spotted deer and sambar, to be precise. The guide also pointed out a variety of birds, including the multi-hued peacock and the colourful kingfisher.

The Kanha Tiger Reserve is spread  over 1,945 sq km of lush green flora of the Maikal Mountain of Satpura mountain ranges in Central India. The park is open from October to May.

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