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Tryst with nature: The Kanha National Park

In December 2013, I got the opportunity to spend a few days exploring the Kanha forests, and relaxing at the Kanha Earth Lodge, a comfortable haven for wildlife and nature lovers.

A trip into the forests of Madhya Pradesh is incomplete without a tiger sighting. Or so they say. Though it was something that was on my mind, I wasn’t really too stressed about it. My guide, on the other hand, was. He tried his hardest to make sure we sighted a tiger, but unfortunately, the two times we went into the Mukki and the Kisli zones, the tiger wasn’t in a mood to come out in public.

Early morning landscape
An early morning scene as we enter the Kanha National Park

The tiger is one magnificent animal and there’s nothing as memorable as seeing one roaming free in the wild. But with the dwindling numbers and the poaching reports, I am not very hopeful of this animal’s future. We’re definitely bent upon eliminating this majestic creature from the Indian landscape and doing a good job of it too.

But leaving aside the tiger, I still considered myself lucky to be ensconced in the lap of nature. To see beautiful creatures like the sambar, the spotted deer, the bison, the barasingha, and many different species of birds in their natural habitat.

Barasingha in the water
A barasingha takes a sip from a water body

As you venture deep inside, you feel how small and insignificant you are in the larger picture. The breadth and depth of the jungle is hard to really comprehend. And to think that only 20% of the area is open to tourists. The maidan (a huge area with long wild grass) could hide a few tigers easily. You would be hard pressed to sight one in the thicket even he (or she) slinks right past. And the adjoining hills provide a great place for them to wander, totally unseen.

Into the jungle
The morning safari into the forest

In my two forays into the forest with our guide, naturalist Chinmay Despande, I caught sight of the sambar, the spotted deer, barasingha, owls, many different birds including large birds of prey. Since we went in the morning and the afternoon, we got to experience different moods of the forest. And I highly recommend both the trips – the morning and the evening.

You looking at me?Bison by the roadside Male spotted deerThe male specimen of the spotted deer
Tiger killA large sambar lying by the road, fresh tiger kill LangurLangur, enjoying the morning sun

More pictures in the Flickr photo album

In the lap of luxury at the Kanha Earth Lodge

After that, it was back to our base for some rest and relaxation at the Kanha Earth Lodge, located around half hour from the Kanha gate. What I really liked about this particular property is it’s earthy construction. The exteriors and interiors blend with the environment so that nothing is glaring or a misfit.

The dining area at the Kanha Earth Lodge
The central dining area

Care for a swim?
Relax on a warm day by the poolside

Interiors of the Kanha Earth Lodge
Interiors of the lodge

One of the cottages
Your cottage: Earthy and comfortable

The main construction material is stone, which has been sourced from the area and sal wood, which is one of the primary varieties of wood available for building in this region. There are 12 cottages in all, 6 on each side of the central dining and living area. And this common area has 2 long dining tables to cater to a full house.

Looking out,
Enjoy the peace and quiet in your cottage sit-out area

This Pugdundee Safaris property became functional around 2010 and their other properties are located in Panna, Bandhavgarh and Satpura. There is a property in Pench under construction. Each property is different with the Satpura property topping the list in terms of location, with it’s beautiful view of the Denwa river.

The Lodge tries to encourage sustainability practices like sourcing vegetables from neighbouring villages. Setting up the villagers with seeds, supplies, manure etc. The harvest is then procured by the resort for consumption. Around three farmers are now a part of this program and Chimnay oversees this too.

A village ride
A cycle ride to the nearby village
Looking over his farm
A farmer looking out into his field

The staff is also mainly local, except the chefs, naturalists and senior staff. Some of the naturalists are from around the area – they are trained and some like Chinmay are from other states – he is from Maharashtra, Mahesh is from Nepal. Pugdundee has around 2-3 naturalist (12 in total) for each of their properties.

Though the Kanha property doesn’t boast of other luxuries like a gym, sauna/spa etc. it does have a swimming pool for you to lounge around, especially when the weather gets warmer. The Bandhavgarh property also boasts of tree houses, which remained on my wish list. The interiors too have won several awards, and the accolades are all displayed on a wall.

Locally made items
A wall display of traditional arms

Local handicrafts
Handcrafted metal lamp

A nice idea
A boat doubles up as a bar

Interiors of the Kanha Earth Lodge
A wall displaying local masks

All the mementoes, knick-knacks and handicrafts have been sourced from local crafts people from the state. I spy a wall of beautiful wooden masks (Bastar), wooden bow and arrow sets, a intricately carved animal stool and a tall metal lamp and beautiful cushions embroidered in a signature style.

Tiger, tiger… burning bright?

We’ve heard of a lot of numbers around the tiger, India’s national animal. In fact, after reading reports and statistics about the tiger in India, it’s not probably unusual to draw the conclusion that this animal is going to be extinct soon.

There’s something about the tiger. It elicits all kinds of reactions. From fear and respect, to admiration and obsession. There are many wildlife enthusiasts who visit every sanctuary in India just in the hope of catching a glimpse of the elusive tiger.

On a short trek upto the sunset point nearby, I chat with naturalist Chinmay Deshpande and Ashish Abraham (manager of one of Pugdundee’s new properties in Satpura) and they are surprisingly optimistic about the fate of the tiger. Working closely with wildlife, forest officials and the government, they feel that there are enough champions of the tiger and they will ensure that this animal will survive. I am not so sure. The numbers are already manipulated so much that no one really knows the actual number or anything close to it.

But I’m happy that these youngsters still feel optimistic about the tiger’s future. Who knows – maybe next time I venture out into the jungle, I might still see one?

(NOTE: This trip was made possible on an invitation from Pugdundee Safaris. The opinions expressed in the blog post, needless to say, are all mine.)


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