Jungle Book (Kanha, India)

When Rudyard Kipling penned his famous ‘Jungle book’ inspired by Kanha, the verdant yet dense forest with teeming wild life wasn’t as famous as it is now.
Located at Madhya Pradesh in Central India, Kanha National park extends over an area of over 1,945-sq-kms with beautiful topography of undulating plains with a horse-shoe shaped valley, flanked by the spurs of the Mekal Ridge and the meandering Surpan River. The dense deciduous forests of sal and bamboo with rolling grasslands made it a natural beauty. Created in 1974 under ‘Project Tiger’ the park is one of the finest and the best administered National Parks in Asia; an irresistible attraction for all wildlife lovers and home to the perhaps most lethal and gorgeous, Royal Bengal Tiger.

There are two clear ways of spotting a tiger in kanha; a jeep safari or an elephant safari. We wanted the taste of both, so one fine morning we left in a jeep, driving past the lush forests of kanha, heavily equipped with binoculars and cameras. Early morning rides are advised because the spotting of all other animals in their natural habitat is easier during dawn. We drove around hoping to see the stripes when our driver slowed down the vehicle and silently pointed out to a nearby clump of tall grasses but nothing was at sight. Suddenly there was some movement and what we could see was a part of the striped body heavily camouflaged within the grasses that moved away swiftly. Is that all? We depressingly asked our driver…he assured us that next day would definitely be better. We returned, sighting only some pretty deer.

Once again, next day, early in the morning, we were ready, this time for the elephant safari. The elephant safari is an organised way of spotting the tiger. Once a tiger is spotted, wireless messages are sent across the park and the entire herd sets out to look for the Tiger.
Our mahout (controller of the elephant) and our unofficial guide to the forests turned out to be reasonably knowledgeable about the tigers. Our elephant strolled lazily on its thumping heavy feet. We sat high up on its back, feeling secure. Rays of sunlight entered the forest through the branches and dusty haze and the journey continued through the pathway with tall thickets of grass, scattered trees and patches of forest.
We were restless; but the mahout reassured us and as he turned the elephant, near a messy bush of grass – stood the famous Royal Bengal Tiger. Finally!
Beautiful or magnificent would be less of an adjective, in fact any superlative would fall short in describing the handsome male tiger that lazily strolled there. Did someone say that we humans are very fashion oriented and boast of combining colours to create exotic shades?....think again, the fantastic combination of the dazzling yellow and the bold black stripes looked awesome. Could we learn a bit of colour combination from nature or may be a bit of geometry, we wondered as we admired the symmetrical stripes.

It had probably finished a heavy breakfast and had decided to rest for a while. But we couldn’t spot any residue of its hunt anywhere nearby. Maybe because it was full, the king, thankfully did not pay much heed to us. All it did was to blink, a bit non-challently though, smack its lip and twist its whiskers. Despite its fearsome appearance, it looked peaceful and therefore we took our time catching the best angle within our lens.
It was time for us to return and in the evening the sunset at Kanha was another unique experience. Captivated by the soft shadows of the Mekal ridge and located in the wildest of wildernesses, we watched the multi-coloured sky gradually give way to an enigmatic blue, scattered with stars.
Next day, early in the morning, it was time for us to leave, happy and enriched. The easy accessibility of the park and the chances of spotting rare wild life made a short visit a genuinely rewarding experience.