Sunday, May 15, 2016

Kanha, Sal Heaven!

“Some of the best advice you will ever hear will come from the forest.” … Dacha Avelin.

Dacha Avelin, a co-founder of, is an occultist, a witch and an avid self-help junkie. She has been deeply involved in various forms of witchcraft, old world magic, and the occult and practical spirituality for over 25 years.  Well I don’t believe in witches or witch craft but sure what Dana has said about forests I do believe it! As whenever I have been to forests, the trees, the grass, the birds, the animals even the air & time I spent there has taught me something! And every time I came out with something different, something more which has made my life a shade better! I don’t know what it is but the person who enters in the forest & the one who comes out are surely different!

Though its last week of April yet the morning breeze flowing through the Sal's is pretty cold yet refreshing & making me realize this is Kanha so a jacket is good at least for first hour of morning. Its 6 am & moon is still shining bright in sky & the gypsy started chasing the alarm call & our eyes noticed pug marks in dust on road & the guide said, "sir tiger aage chala hai", I filled the fresh fragrance of Sal in my lungs with a deep breath , closed my eyes & told myself, Kanha is here finally!

So this Kanha trip too wasn’t an exception as among all the forest I love the Sal most! There is something unique about Kanha, though many of the tourists of late have complained about lesser tiger sighting in kanha yet the ever green magic of the Sal forest is unfazed for me. But I must admit I was bit surprised this time as April last week is peak period for tourism at kanha & the hustle of the visitors makes the place live; right from the crowded reception or call as ticketing window of the park to the hot tea serving Burman dhaba, to my surprise they all were very quite. The capacity of kanha is nearly 130 gypsy’s’ at a time i.e. that much numbers of vehicles can enter at a time in one safari but this time not even 3o gypsy’s were waiting at my first morning round! I thought it might be just one odd day but even on evening round I didn’t witnessed the usual crowd of tourists so I inquired & the answers came from the guides as well gypsy drivers, that this April has been the worst period as very less numbers of tourists has been there, making heavy losses for the entire business pattern of the park & people depending up on it. That way kanha has nothing except wild life & tourists related to the same. So if the tourists don’t visit here then right from hotels to dhabas to guides entire life cycle gets affected.

As I started looking around on my safaris, I was to myself, that’s what forest makes me. For me I have seen tigers so many times that I have lost counting yet no question about the excitement at looking the king of forest but somehow to sight the tiger you don’t just need luck but great patience as well knowledge of the forest & routes of the forest too. Here I will quote my own example; I have taken full day safari that means I don’t have to follow zone system. Those who are unaware of zone system, for them kanha is a large forest & has been divided in four tourism zones i.e. kanha, kisli, sarahi & mukki. Tourist vehicles have been divided in these four zones & in one safari you can move only within the zone which has been allotted to you. This is to avoid concentration of vehicles in one particular area; means if tiger is getting sighted in one part of the forest then had it not been zone system all gypsy’s will gather to that place making problem of traffic control as well disturbing privacy of the animal. At the same time the tourist get to see entire forest at leisure zone wise which has different biodiversity as well geography too, so the focus should not be just tiger. Also each zone has fixed routes as which way the gypsy’s should travel, there are many one ways too! This is good for park management but this all makes tiger sighting difficult. Coming back to my experience when you take a full day safari which costs some Rs 20,000 per safari in comparison to Rs 2300 per normal safari, there is no zone or route, so you can roam anywhere in forest. This is specially for photographers who wants to cover all the forest as well unlike other normal safaris you need not have to come out of forest for noon time, so that much time your vehicle is all alone in the park, giving you chance for photography at your calm & quite mode. On earlier day we had got information of sighting of a tigress with four cubs on a talab (lake) road in kisli zone as well in kanha zone a tigress & her cub has killed a bison at 9 number route, so we thought of visiting both places. In between first I have to meet forest director who was at opposite side of park in mukki zone, so we thought to visit him first & then on way back spare time at above two spots. But to our surprise while way back on both roads we found ‘lakdi dali huai”, a wooden stick put horizontal on the road start, meaning of which said the road is blocked for tourists! We didn’t know what happened but disappointingly went to other spots & could have had any good sighting that day. Back on gate we came to know that the talab road in kisli was blocked due to a male tiger attacked the tigress & cubs & killed one of male cub, while the 9th number route was blocked to avoid more traffic as there the sighting of male, female tigers along with kid is surely happening!  

Well, I can understand the male tiger attack reason & blocking that road as this may make the tigress very aggressive but blocking 9th number route is bit weird! A comment from one of the guide was very self explaining about the forest scene, he said “ab to main gate pe hi lakdi daal do” means let forest dept close the park in itself instead blocking every route where sighting is happening! Somehow keeping respect for forest officials’ intentions something is missing between park management & guides & gypsy drivers who are in direct contact with tourists! And do mind just recently Kanha has been honored as best maintained park in entire South Asia recently & Park Director has been felicitated at the hands of Hon Prime Minister for the same! There are various presentations covering Kanha success stories in that summit on Tiger Habitat countries & here the link people between park & tourists are having a feel of being deprived from tiger sighting!

What was unfortunate is every time a tourist complains of not sighting tiger then the guides & gypsy drivers put it on policies of park management, saying they block the roads where sighting of the tiger is good or it’s because of the following of fix route policy by which we can’t even reverse the vehicle, so even if a tiger is being sighted at distance you can turn your vehicle & show the tiger to the tourists. Another issue is timing, as most of the times especially in summer tiger moments starts a bit late in evening so the park timing should be keeping this in mind so as tourist can have more chance to see the tiger at its movement time. Another issue is closing the access to water holes, as here is where best chance is to sight the tiger in summer. Unlike other forests kanha is ever green & has lots of shrubs & grass all along the year, making tiger sighting more difficult in compare to forests of tadoba or ranthambore, so such initiatives will be definitely help for tourists, is what guides feel. Outcome of such stringent rules does makes tourists get angry, a time frustrated which leads to oral fights between guides & tourists.

Agreed a forest has lot more to see than a tiger & somewhere guides also forget this & gets only behind tiger yet a fact remains that 90% of tourists come to any forest only to see a tiger & they do spend a lot for that & unless they see a tiger, they don’t feel they have got value for their money! So somewhere forest dept also should consider this fact. Even I myself always feel that a first comer to any forest ought to get opportunity to see a tiger as that keeps his or her excitement about forest alive & then only he or she will be more interested to know more about the forest. The more & more people will visit forest, may it be for tiger or for any reason that’s a welcome sign for entire forest life cycle. Then we got opportunity to visit a weekly bazaar, in village Mocha, outskirts of kanha. Weekly bazaar is wonderful concept to know the life around forest as many vendors from different places come to sale their products on a particular day of the week, i.e. Wednesday if for Mocha village & they display their goods all along the village roads. Colorful dressed tribals to locals visit this bazaar for their daily needs & its fun event. When the park is closed on week day usually bazaar day the forest department can promote such events amongst the tourists as added attraction of park & its good way to learn about life style of the people who also are part of the forest.  Similarly there is need to promote safaris out of the park in buffer at late evening time as many night crawler animals like sloth bear & leopard can be seen on night safari making forest more interesting place for the first time visitors.

Lastly about forest experience then kanha always throws surprises to me whenever I have visited those Sals! While waiting at one water hole at 9 number road we were engrossed in a tigress & her cub lazying in water. After some time we thought lets go & search some other spots & we left & after coming back again we saw the tigress laying there only but when looked through the lens I noticed the size is much bigger & wow it was a male tiger who has joined them after we left the scene & he was cozy with the cub! Never in kanha I was able to capture a male with a cub & it was thrill to see that moment when most of the times male tigers are known to kill the cubs & especially when they are from another male.

This makes me to share one fact that recently I read 2015 was good year as numbers of tigers are increasing yet that’s the year during which there has been maximum numbers of tiger deaths, for different reasons. One main cause is fight amongst male tigers over territory or attack on female tigress & her cubs. The main reason is if tiger population is increasing then they need more space also to survive with their living rules & this is something we are failing to provide. More efforts must be put towards increasing lands adjoining to tiger habitats to cover under forest by replacing the existing land users in better life style. And this is job of not just forest department but each of us! So let’s get together as being a wild life lover is not just clicking tiger snaps & posting on FB & getting “Likes” but we need to earn our “Likes” by our efforts for surviving the forests!

At link below are some of the Kanha moments which I have captured & will be living them again & again always, that’s the gift kanha gives me each time I visit it..


Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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  1. Fantastic.. Sanjay it is really beautiful. But according to my opinion write the articles in marathi, so that more readers will enjoy your writing.

  2. आपण मराठीतून जास्त छान लिहिता. ...

    राजीव जतकर.

  3. आपण मराठीतून जास्त छान लिहिता. ...

    राजीव जतकर.


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