“Jungle jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai” the song that became synonymous to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. It was a childhood favourite for most of us. Now, why am I talking about Jungle Book? Just because it is Pench – the forest of Mowgli’s adventures. In quest of meeting Kipling’s Shere Khan, Bagheera Baloo and others we ventured to Pench National Park.
The last and first day of a year are never a good time to travel to any known destination, especially any popular forest. But once the thought of visiting came to my mind how can I step back? By hook or crook, I have to make it happen. Again the last minute booking and arrangements and a messy plan.
There was no hassle for the travel and stay tickets. But the main part that is the Safari, all were already booked. Calling various numbers available and trying out various online booking option yielded no result. Then Mr. Prasad of desi Traveler fame came to our rescue.
He provided me with some of his contacts in and around Pench. They helped me out guiding me to arrange for the seat based permit as all the Gypsy permits were already gone. All thanks to Mr. Prasad and his contacts to save our trip.
I feel a thing that starts with a hassle continues with it throughout. I was happy to have all set. When all were partying to bid farewell to 2016, we were travelling to meet Mowgli’s friends. Due to heavy traffic, we reached Nagpur late and with no prior arrangement of a vehicle from there, we were further delayed.
Our stay was at MPTDC Kipling’s Court in Turia Gate. Thanks to the delay, just after checking in to the hotel we immediately had to move to the forest gate for the Safari. No breakfast and no lunch, surviving on the tidbits of packed snacks. To our distraught, we were informed that our booking was from Jamtara gate which is approximately 70 Km from that area.
The time did not give us the liberty to travel to Jamtara gate. The driver of the Gypsy that brought us to the Turia gate from our hotel proactively worked to arrange for our safari from this gate itself. We requested the officer on duty to allow us in.
Finally, with extra payment for cancellation of the previous permits and fine for the delay of that respective vehicle and added price for the new Gypsy permit and guide expenses, we were allowed to enter Mowgli’s forest.
The jungle resides in the border region of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh near to Nagpur. The region is mostly dry with deciduous trees. The forest itself is of the same nature.
As every forest has its own characteristic, so does Pench. The forest not so dense consists predominantly of teak and few other deciduous trees. It can be better termed as a mixed forest. The variety ranges from grass, bushes to tall trees of Mahua, Amaltas, Aonia, Salai and others.
White Kulu trees (Sterculia urens) also known as ghost trees are a common among the vegetation. It is so called because of its smooth, fibrous and thick, greenish-grey bark, with the surface layer peeling off in large flakes. Their ghostly appearance might be quite nightmarish in the darkest of night.
The undulating dusty topography with the trees spaced out gives a good opportunity for sighting wildlife. The Chital or the spotted deer was the very first animal at sight. A Rufous Treepie diligently feeding on the bugs from the head of a deer.
The Macaques on the nearby trees dropping the leaves and fruits on which the deer happily feed on. They share a relationship of mutualism. There were frequent screeching and squawking sounds. It showed that the forest had a good number of Parakeets.
Our search for Shere Khan was on as we met a Sambar stag followed by few bird species like the Drongo, Peacock with his harem of Peahens, Racket-tailed Drongo, Owl, Oriole and also the magnificent ‘Neelkanth’ – the Indian Roller. Now one more new species added to my list. I have been longing to see the Neelkanth since a long time. Pench gave me ample of such scope.
I wonder how the terrain within the forest changed from woodland to a long uneven grassland. The flock of deer grazing on the soft green grass as the wild boars looks from a distance under the cover of trees.
Then we arrived near the bed of Pench river, after which the place is named. Water is Life. So well expressed through every aspect of nature. The surrounding was mesmerising. The presence of water in this otherwise dry region transformed the landscape to a fairy land.
The water body introduced me to another new species, the Brahminy ducks. There were a few common Teal and Cormorants too. Still no sight of any tiger. This is when Tabaqui made its appearance. Tabaqui the Jackal. A few more joined the first and then ran away within the bush.
The sun was now preparing to end his day. The temperature too was rapidly coming down. We could feel the chill in the air. This is when the chattering and screaming of the macaques increased. Possible the tiger was around the corner. All the vehicles stopped and many eager eyes moving around. Even after a long wait, there was no sign.
The last spot of the safari was again another water body. This part was little dense than the other part of the jungle. A few more Brahminy Ducks or Ruddy Shelduck and a Kingfisher. Then it was time to return when we encountered a rose-ringed parakeet coming out of a hollow in a tree. Then its partner joined from a nearby tree.
Both came closer and in their own language they spoke and one was frequently moving its foot up and down signalling something to its mate. Every foot movement was followed by a serve of feed. It seemed the male was feeding the incubating female. For a long, we watched their exchange of love through sign language.
The night was even more chilling. We skipped our plan to watch the night sky in the surrounding of the forest. The morning search for Malabar pied Hornbill yielded no better results. Although it was a wonderful experience to walk through the dirt roads around our stay spotting different birds.
A couple of Hoopoe which I love to call Hudhud were perched on a top of a tree. A few more joined them. They were frolicking in the dry branches spreading cheer within the spectators. Then again a couple of Indian Roller and some Shrike, Shikra and Owl.
Few kilometres of walk all around the village and the nearby areas was an interesting part of our trip. We spoke to the villages saw their farmlands. Their brightly coloured mud houses clean and well maintained seemed inviting. So were the flamboyant Bougainvillaea, exuberant and shiny.
Now it was time to say adieu. We could not meet the major characters of The Jungle Book. But we did feel have the forest of Mowgli. Although a trip for a day was not enough to see the wildlife in a forest. Neither to satisfy my hunger to stay in the vicinity of the jungle. With joyful memories and a wish to be here again, we bid farewell to Mowgli’s place.