Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tadoba Stories: Forest Has Place For Everybody!

“All forests have their own personality. I don't just mean the obvious differences, like how an English woodland is different from a Central American rain forest, or comparing tracts of West Coast redwoods to the saguaro forests of the American Southwest... they each have their own gossip, their own sound, their own rustling whispers and smells. A voice speaks up when you enter their acres that can't be mistaken for one you'd hear anyplace else, a voice true to those particular tress, individual rather than of their species.” …Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint is a Canadian writer of Dutch Origins, live in Canada. Primarily a writer of fantasy fiction, he has written widely in the subgenres of urban fantasy. Besides being an author, he is also a musician, together with his wife MaryAnn. He plays multiple instruments and sings and writes his own songs. And how correct Charles is in defining forests as not just every forest but every part of even one single forest is also different like human beings! I have been to same forest repeatedly & yet I have found the personality of the forest ever changing, like we find same person different on different occasions! Every tree looks new on every new day & the wind blows new tune each time I enter in those greens. 

Come March & the incoming summer makes my fingers started feeling urge to hold camera, the forest gear at home looks at me & says silently “boss its forest time, enough of rest time, now we need that red dust to cover us”, & I lift the phone to make my forest bookings. And nothing better start than to visit my favorite Tadoba, which one of my friend call now it’s "Ladoba" (pet or favorite) for me! Though it was mid March the summers can be very tricky in Central Indian forests as if at noon the temperature can go to 40 degrees the mornings can be as chilling as 10 degrees so it’s better to brace yourself for both extremes as the first hour of morning can be very cold! At the same time you should have proper information of weather conditions & tiger sightings which can be easily available by calling the locals at the forest you are visiting. This time my ace wild life photographer friend Sanjay Shrishrimal was with me & Nitin my partner & Sanjay has updated us about tigress & cubs’ moment which are in kolsa range. Agreed we have seen enough tigers but in central part of India, this time of year is mainly best for tigers because bird sightings are rare due to harsh summer & water holes stars drying up. Also the grass becomes yellow, camouflaging the tiger best making hunting easier & as the prey base also comes in open in search of water.

Another thing is I decided to travel to Tadoba by road as I wanted to go via my home town Khamgaon near Shegaon & I love road trips as they make you get real feel of the terrain you are traveling through. So sipping chull made chays (wood fire tea) & having lunches at dhabas on way, testing local meals I reached Tadoba after fifteen hours travel & it’s the effect of liking for forests as well high oxygen level in air one never feel tiered in forests is my experience. In the forests even five hours sleep at night also is enough as our lungs are not used to such pollution free air.

Just three days back there was heavy rains at Tadoba & surrounding & it does have its impact on moments as well sightings of animals. Though there are many disputes over this aspect, that does untimely rain or cloudy weather really affects tiger sighting; as few experts says it doesn’t while the locals i.e. guides does mention this thing that because of rains tiger sightings gets disturbed. Though tigers do enjoy rains & there have been many instances of capturing in camera tiger especially cubs playing happily in rains. After first day of safari we get to know that in kolsa range there are four tigresses which are having cubs & in such situation sighting are surer. As those who complain they have haven’t seen a tiger for them I will share something from my exposure to tigers. To sight a tiger in vast jungle is never easy as each male tiger has territory of nearly fifty sq km, means imagine to locate a single person in Pune right from Deccan to Kothrud that too you are in gypsy & on road where as tiger need not have to follow roads. A male tiger can walk even 20 km in a day & unless there isn’t any water hole left deep inside his territory he won’t easily come & sit in an open water hole. The only surety for male tigers sighting is in summer when he prefers some particular water hole or if there is a kill around. As after eating the raw meat it generates heat in the body & tiger needs to cool down by sitting in water preferably near by the kill! Except these two situations the chances of sighting a male tiger are very rare in compare to the tigress, as there can be three to four tigresses in territory of male tiger. And especially when the tigress is with cubs then she need to restrict her moments keeping the cubs always under reachable distance. And this is why when the cubs are around the sighting of tigress is more sure though again very small cubs she usually keeps inside thickset of bamboos or shrubs. Yet the cubs need to be taken for a walk or to the kill & to the water holes & they also need to play with their mother, making them exposed to outer world i.e. us! What weather can make difference is sudden rain might disturb dears & they get scattered & in locating tigers other animals does play very important role by their alarm calls. You can find tiger only by two things; one is its pug marks & second is by alarm calls of animals & birds. And then as I mentioned if you can locate the cubs then sure the tigress is around & here is where one should inquire about sightings or moments of the cubs if any before visiting forests or selecting routes while safari. Agreed after doing all this then there is luck factor but then that’s factor is everywhere any way as I know people who has seen eight to ten tigers in their  first & only one safari while there are many who hasn’t had glimpse of tiger even after five to six safaris!

Best part of visiting forests is not just meeting the personality of forests but you get to meet many tourists also & many of them have become friends with me over the period as common factor is wilderness. And best place for making new friends in forest is over the cup of tea at the dhabas outside of entry gate after the safari! Here you can just watch the faces or chats among the groups & you get to know entire forest sightings. The faces which are glowing with joy & eager to tell their encounter with tiger & then the faces which are down & trying to hide their frustration of not being able to see the tiger, all I enjoy equally. Usually I start conversations with those who haven’t seen the tiger, in one such incidence I met Abhishek Chaudhari & his wife over the cup of tea after one safari. They both are work in research with a political party in Delhi & has come to the forest for the first time as a holiday break after hectic work schedule. Unfortunately they weren’t able to see tiger even in three safaris & I explained them all above my tiger theory & assured them they will get to see the tiger as well first enjoy the wilderness of which tiger is one part! They were satisfied & we promised to be in touch which they did. After coming back I got whats-ap from Abhishek saying next day also they didn’t get to see the tiger & they were a bit disappointed & felt it was their bad luck! So I again messaged them there always is first time for every sighting & they too will be lucky as forest never disappoints anybody is what my experience is! I think this aspect needs to be looked after by the forest as well tourism dept i.e. counseling of the tourists which hasn’t been able to see the tiger as they went back with negative mind sets & lost the liking for wild life, just because they are not aware about the facts regarding tiger sighting! We need to start this activity & sure many NGO’s can join hands to meet & speak with such tourists making them not only feel better but make them wild life lover even they haven’t seen the tiger but they will come back some day! We need to tell them wild life is not just tigers & there are many things they have seen which in their city life they wouldn’t ever have experienced!

Then I met Nirmalya Chakrborti who is software engg from Kolkata & now working with an MNC in Pune & is a regular visitor of Tadoba. He has clicked six tigers in a frame in kolsa range & hats off to this guy as he was staying at Moharli gate & every day morning he wakes up at 3.30 am & went all way round to kolsa which entry is by zari gate & again come back in noon & goes back for evening safari, travelling nearly 200 km in a day! That’s most tiring & only a die-hard wild lifer can do such heroics without getting fatigued!

Interestingly we were staying at Moahrli & we too wanted to go to kolsa as to capture tigresses with cubs but we were lucky to get a place to stay at kolsa zari gate & here I got introduced to another character Kalpak Sawlikar & his wife who has started a cozy rest house at zari gate. Let me tell you how difficult that is to run something like a rest house at zari gate which is right on the border of forest & at such places you get nothing in the name of infrastructure. You don’t even get milk there such is the scene leave apart any essential things like mosquito coils & stuff like that. Everything you have to get from Chandrapur which is some 30 km away & man power that too trained for running a rest house is rarest thing! On such background this young couple has taken challenge of running a guest house & with no background of hospitality industry it’s just Kalpaak’s passion for wild life has made him to dare this venture. It was so heartening to experience the stay at their rest house & its youngsters like Kalpak who are real hope for wild life conservation! Speaking about infrastructure, barring Moharli & Kolara gates there is nothing to assist the tourists on other gates which our beloved MTDC i.e. State Tourism dept must take cognizance of. Especially when on one side we call Tadoba as Jewel of State Forests & at entry gates the tourists can’t gate even mineral water bottle is the scene! I think this front forest dept & MTDC should work on as this can be an opportunity to create some means of earnings for locals also & agreed the tourists foot-fall is less so survival of business is difficult but the tourist’s assistance activities are equally necessary which can’t be worked on just scale of profit making, that’s the job of govt!

Then next two days we were tracking hirdi nallah tigress (these names are arrived from name of the location around which said tiger is seen often) which was having three cubs of age approximately five to six months. At such times the cubs are most playful & as they are small, the tigress usually doesn’t move much. So we finally get to see the family in thick bamboo plantation where we could see them with naked eyes as that’s probably best camera invented but difficult to click them in our normal cameras. At such times I always feel the camera is a burden as instead enjoying the playing cubs we use to crib about not getting good snaps & I wasn’t the exception to this feel! Yet with years of forest travels have taught me that forest always fulfills my wish someday & may be today isn’t that day! With that thought I left the tigress & the cubs & the Tadoba with a promise to come back soon to meet those trees newly! After meeting so many new friends as well the trees, the tigers, the birds & many more species which actually are personalities as Mr. Charles has described, I have learnt one more thing this time about forests & that is, the forest has a space for everybody who comes to it! All you have to do is identify your place in the forest & then you will be never disappointed with any forest, I think that’s the best gain we can have by visiting forests!

To conclude when I reached after travelling some fifteen odd hours to Pune, there was huge traffic jam at Nagar road near Mundhava crossing & I got stuck in for one hour in the traffic jam at 11pm, just because the signals were off & no police-man was there to control the traffic making the mess of it! It’s the indication for me of returning back to my concrete jungle which we call Smart City! I wonder why can’t we even keep the traffic signals on for twenty four hours at-least on major roads; well, may be our personality is never meant for Smartness is the answer!


Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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  1. Very well written. Friends in forest know how to respect each other and co-exist. We in smart cities are always rushing to be the first one. You mentioned about chaos on non-working traffic signals but the chaos exists even at the working signals. If we respect each other then we can have an unwritten norm of releasing one vehicle at a time from alternate side. No one is required to man the un-operative / operative signals. Likewise, if we can learn to be considerate to others, world will be a far better place.

    1. thanks a lot, yes a lot to learn from forests :)


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