Pench… The little piece of earth which holds the natural beauty (treasure)… is full of liveliness. The beauty of this forest is ravishing. It disconnects you from the urban world instantaneously. A golden path running through dense areas of the Pench National Park takes you to its varied landscapes and water bodies which put life into its inhabitants. The deepness of this forest creates a strong echo of sounds produced by birds and animals. This forest holds bountiful resources that seem to provide lifetime food for all its denizens.
A number of highs and lows of the vast land here have resulted in its particular topography. There are ravines formed by huge boulders in “Joda Munara” and “Saat Modi”. Beautiful grassy slopes dotted with trees on either side of “Mal Kundam Talab”. Such are examples of this park’s diversified geography.
Pench is a place which gave birth to an extraordinary story of “Mowgli” from Rudyard Kipling’s notable writings called “The Jungle Book”. According to his story, Mowgli (a man-cub) was threatened by his arch-enemy called “Sher Khan”–the Bengal Tiger. However, today in Pench, it’s the tiger that fascinates everyone–irrespective of age–and pulls the crowd every day.
Pench National Park is divided between two states in India i.e. Maharashtra & Madhya Pradesh. The Pench river–from which the park derives its name–divides this national park into two. Thus Pench became the first-ever inter-state Tiger Project in India.
Entering In Khursapar Zone
We had booked 6 safaris, 2 in “Khursapar” (Maharashtra), and 4 in “Turia” (Madhya Pradesh). Our plan was to explore most of these lands in the high aspirations to see the tiger and his kingdom with its full of surprises. On 1st January 2020, we left our homes from Pune early in the misty morning and drove towards our resort in Turia, Madhya Pradesh. We reached near “Khawasa” village and a Grey Langur–sitting on a Milestone–turned its head towards us and hopped down on the other side, indicating us that we have now come in close vicinity of the Forest!
Our first safari(Evening) was in “Khursapar”, Maharashtra. We were provided with one guide and driver in a gypsy after confirming our entry permits. Recently this side of Pench has become quite expensive as compared to Turia and other gates. We entered the forest and our eyes started scanning the surroundings for any movement or signs. It takes time for your eyes to become accustomed to search in the forests for animals and birds. The clouds had blocked the sunlight and we were informed that it had rained the previous night. That was not a good sign for spotting any tiger/leopard in the forest. Animals take shelters when its raining and then it becomes really hard to see them. Following on the tracks of tires formed by other gypsies, we started venturing into the core of this forest.
“Stop!” – Our guide ordered the driver to halt for a moment and then she started examining the area. She had detected the kill of a “Spotted Deer Stag” who’s rump was partially eaten. Our guide said, there was the presence of a leopard here last night. The pug-marks were clearly visible along the forest track. The daylight was slowly fading away and our guide expressed the possibility of a leopard coming back to the kill in some time or during the night. So we waited for a while prospecting the signs of movement or a bird crying out in alarm. Minutes passed by but nothing happened and the jungle was dead quite.
We progressed towards other areas in “Khursapar”, where the possibilities of spotting a carnivore seemed good to test our luck. There were some waterholes where we halted for some time. Frequently, enquiring about any activities of animals to the passing gypsies. There were none except the chirping of birds and some deers grazing under the trees down the grassy slope.
The feeling of returning with no animal sighting was growing stronger and the dullness of the climate was adding to it.
Soon, we came upon a bend of a track on a ridge and has slopes–dotted by the trees–running down on both sides. Long and tall trees were there with some branches growing diagonally towards another tree. One “vine” like tree trunk was coiled up itself like a wire on the neighboring tree. The fog had deposited in the air and the trees were wet.
And we heard the warning call of “Chital” (Spotted Deer) which was coming from a distance. Our guide stopped the gypsy in anticipation of tracking the nearby animal movement. We stood out from our seats with rising hopes of meeting the most awaited moment of this trip, that is to see the Tiger!
Search For Striped Big Cat
Our guide saw some movement at a long distance, down the slope on our left side. She was convinced that its a tiger but was not 100% sure. Due to the great distance, she could not confirm the tiger. We tried to search the place she was pointing towards, with our long-distance lenses but nothing was visible that would confirm the tiger’s presence.
Minutes by minutes passed and nothing really showed up except some “high-on-alert” deers and a Rock Agama. Watching us stopped by in this place, few other passing gypsies also lined up on both sides of our gypsy and everyone was looking towards us.
Excitement and curiosity on one’s face can also reveal what one has already seen or about to see.
Then there was also a confirmation given by a chital deer which was enough for others to wait for the moment. The first safari in Pench National Park went dry and with a disappointment. Nevertheless, we had 6 more safaris waiting ahead of us in the next couple of days.
It was now getting dark and the time to close the park was nearing. We had to cover a long distance within the speed limitations of 20 kilometers per hour. In order to keep up with the time and distance, we had to leave. Clouds had gathered up above and it was evident that there will be a heavy downfall in the night. We came out of the park and drove towards our resort for the night. Chances of tomorrow’s sightings via another gate called “Turia” were seemed to be washed off by the heavy downfall with lightening and followed by sleet during the midnight. We had never ever expected this to happen in the month of January.