29 Jul Night Safari at Central Indian Tiger Reserves
I stood up in the setting sun on the sprawling garden lawn of a luxurious camp at the Pench National Park. It is also known as Kipling Country along with Kanha National Park as they were contiguous forests once. I was in one of the finest wildlife lodges in Pench – well-known and the pride of the park. Both tiger parks are the pride of Madhya Pradesh. These are both tiger reserves and National Parks and cater to high-end domestic and overseas clients. As the rays began to sink we began preparing to embark on an ultra luxurious open-top large sedan. When the day ends, nightly adventures begin. The safari is around two hours and could be more or less depending upon the National Park.
Night Safari Experiences & Jungle Book Life
I visualized the esoteric “Jungle Book” characters enacting the story of their jungle adventures. Mowgli, and the wolf pack hunting deer as twilight approaches. As I stood by, the immaculately dressed naturalist my thoughts were wandering over experiences of the night safari we were to take part in at Pench Buffer. This was my first.
Would I see Baloo and the black panther in the halo of the moonlight? They are always worried about Mowgli the wolf child! Well, my greatest fear was that of being eaten by the tiger. Do tigers become man-eaters in the night? Will Jim Corbett Story be enacted today? I shiver!
Well, nothing like that happened, on the contrary, it was a romantic experience, and I fell in love with animal watching at night.
At Pench night safari we saw hares and deer scurrying past. But the night safari ended with the greatest surprise of all. We saw a sloth bear tumbling in front of jeep lights. Remember at the game ride at the night you are accompanied by a driver and a trained forest guide. The safaris take place in a designated zone and you cannot trespass.
My next visit was to Tadoba Tiger Reserve in Maharastra. The luxurious camps charm you with their elegance, architecture, and their luxurious sprawl. On the night safari, we saw the deer and hares as usual but the biggest surprise was the Nilgai. This antelope is a rare sight since it lives outside the periphery of dense forests where day safaris are held. One night safari was one good over the other. More was to come.
Kanha National Park is an exceptional tiger conservation unit. It is world-famous for tiger tourism with each reserve having more than a hundred tigers. At Kanha, the best conservation initiative has been saving the Barasingha or Hard Ground Swamp Deer. From 66 heads in 1968 to over 500 heads that is a great achievement. But you cannot put one choice over another ecosystem – they are World’s finest tiger heavens. It is at Kanha that we saw our first porcupine with needles upright on a night safari. It was a hair-raising sight. The nocturnal animal was quick and fast. The next big surprise was the tiger itself crossing the road at a leisurely pace. We were surprised at the ease with which it crossed the jungle pathway. Under the jeep lights the twinkle was magical. He was out of sight soon.
Night Safari Experiences
Night safari is an experience much different from one night one to another. The darkness at first feels eerie but soon you are comfortable under the starry, moonlit night. The twinkling of eyes captivates you as the jeep turns towards the source. At night cool breeze blow, and there is absolute silence all around. Until…the sudden alarm call or the rustling of hoofs. All hell breaks loose.
Safari in the night becomes addicting, the silence and the distance are music to the ears. The nightjars, owls, bats, lapwings, and thousands of insects all make a sonorous buzz for you to enjoy. Other animals you should look for are sloth bear, four-horned antelope, fox, jackals, sambar, and deer that break the silence abruptly when they sense alarm. Sound breaks are jarring but who won’t want such an experience? Experienced naturalists await to hear night sounds, and seek micro-fauna like bandicoot rats, pangolins, civets, rats and mice, mongoose, jungle cats, snakes, and more. That is what a safari under the darkness means. Megafauna is easily seen in day game rides but make sure you become a regular night safari guy too. At night the landscape changes abruptly all you can see is that which is visible under the Jeep headlight. But the most interesting sights are that of wild animals and the tall stands that reflect light towards you, and form a diminished halo. You will love it all. No searchlight or torch light is allowed on night safari please take note.