Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr
Nature Beckons you....Listen to her whispers.....

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Nagarhole......The Best in Class Tiger Reserve!

Nagarhole National Park or Kabini as it is Popularly known

A TIger Family at Kabini!

The name Nagarhole or Kabini, as it is popularly known is well established as a Tiger Reserve and a new blog on this magnificent Forest Area is uncalled for!But my dream of visiting this place was fulfilled this year, and I thought of writing a few things about the place.
Thats the Kabini scape!...There is  a Leopard walking away!


                                                 Situated in Karnataka state, Nagarhole NP is about 75 kms from Mysore and about 520 kms from Trivandrum.It was one of the remarkable journeys I have undertaken in my life.True to its popularity, we had a mesmerising one day stay at JLR.Jungle Lodges and Resorts run by the Karnataka Forest, do a wonderful job of satisfying the customer.Its a well known fact that sighting of a wild animal is by chance, and nobody can give an assurance.But the staff of JLR do make sincere efforts to see that all the guests who stay in their property get to see a few wild animals before they vacate the place.

We arrived at JLR on a Sunday afternoon, and immediately checked-in.It was time for a good meal and rest for 2 hours.The food is always good and predominantly prepared in South Indian style.We had rice,sambar,rasam curd and a few curries.At least one non-veg dish is also served.

The commonly found antelope in the Indian jungles;Spotted Deer
The evening jeep safari starts by 4 pm, and we were ready to climb the vehicle on time.Only 6 passengers are allowed in one jeep and one can sit comfortably, and feel the excitement.There is enough space to keep your tripod, which is very handy in most of the occasions.The safari jeep took the road towards Mananthavady, and after about 5 kms got into the jungle road.

One cannot truly express the excitement which begins to fill our hearts.The ride is bumpy, but I am sure you would enjoy it.The first sightings are inevitably the spotted deers which are aplenty in this wildlife sanctuary.The abundance of prey is also a clear indication of the presence of the big cats.

Nagarhole Tiger Reserve is famous not only for the Tiger but for Leopards as well.Leopards are more shy in nature and don't easily present themselves in front of a safari jeep.At  a time around 10 jeeps start off, but head in different directions inside the park.But all the vehicles cover the allowed routes completely even though they head in different directions to start with.

A Sambar Deer!
The deers are many in number as I said earlier and we saw quite a few.Along with spotted deers are the Sambars, which are fewer in no.In both types the males are bigger in size and adorn big horns/antlers.When you are in Nagarhole, you always want to sight the Tiger and of course the Leopard.We were scanning for one on the trees as well!The muddy road at times came to a junction, and we were wondering which direction the jeep was going to take, and also which direction there is more chance of spotting a Cat!

The Tiger Tank inside the Reserve, is a good spot to see tigers.The Tank is sort of a small pond and this time of the year water was scarce and it was dirty.But we couldn't see any animals around the Tank except the deers.The jeep stopped the engines and waited patiently for a few minutes but luck was not on our side.

Stripe Necked Mongoose....Very fast movers!

It was time to move on from the Tiger Tank area, and head towards the banks of the Kabini reservoir.We need to come our of the mud road and hit the tarred highway, and take a left to hit again the mud part.Soon we reached the shores of the Kabini reservoir and a herd of elephants were cooling off!The elephants consisted of all sizes, as the herd was a conglomerate of babies,adults and sub-adults.

Just before reaching the dam-catchment area, we saw 2 stripe necked mongooses running around and top of a hollow tree, which might have been fallen quite a no.of months ago.

It was nice to see them frolicking around the hollow tree, and giving that customary look as all other animals do.But its difficult to photograph them as they constantly move around.But whatever the few seconds they stopped to look at us, we managed a few good shots!

Then we saw a wild boar and a spotted deer foraging the ground, standing close by.Again the customary look from the deer was nice.The boar didn't bother to do that!

We could see quite a no of spotted deers and were indulging in munching the juicy grass which grows aplenty on the sides of the dam.

A Tusker and a Wild Boar!....Co-Existing

Then the jeep moved towards another part of the reservoir, and a lone tusker was waiting for us or it seemed!He was quite cool with himself and swayed around a broken stump of a big tree.We could see a wild boar at a distance crossing the grassland grown around the reservoir.

After a while we moved from this place, and it was time to head towards the cottages and end the evening safari.It was dark when we exited the mud road and entered the highway.It was exciting to experience the sort of night ride in the jeep.

So no luck with the evening safari, but we were hopeful of spotting something exciting during the next day morning Jeep safari!

WE spent the rest of the evening relaxing in the cottage, and had a nice dinner.Again predominantly vegetarian, but at least one no-veg dish for the guests who wanted to indulge in some "Meat-stuff".

The cottage was surrounded by big trees and a part of the Kabini reservoir was in view.A cool breeze blew from time to time, and it was relaxing to sit in front of the cottage and listen to nature.

At Kabini you have the option of selecting  a Jeep safari or a boat ride or a combination of the two.But we decided to go on a jeep safari again for the morning ride, and what an exciting decision it turned out to be!
A Juvenile Hawk Eagle!

When we climbed the jeep already 4 guys were taken their places and we were the remaining two.The jeep started off at 6.15 am, and headed in the same direction as the last evening safari.The driver and the guide completed the formalities at the Forest office which was about 5 kms from the cottage.We again headed in the direction of Mananthavady and after about 5 kms entered the jungle road.

Mesmerising events were about to unfold, as our jeep trundled along the bumpy road.As usual the spotted deers and Sambars were seen aplenty and quietly munching on the grass and plants but giving that customary look at the passing safari jeeps.

There are high tension wires passing thru the National park, and the roads underneath the lines are little broader than the other ones and we were moving along just such a path.We saw a juvenile Hawk Eagle up at a tall tree and was about to move ahead.

Then suddenly we all heard the alarm calls of spotted deers!We didn't realise initially that thaose were alarm calls!The guide and the driver discussed something among themselves, and turned the vehicle around, and towards the direction in which the alarm calls were coming.At that moment the guide informed us more about the alarm calls and why they would do it.

Alarm calls are made by Deers, Sambars and monkeys when they feel the proximity of predators!On this occasion the predator could be a Tiger,Leopard or a pack of Wild Dogs.Our curiosity arose so were the other people's in the jeep.The driver drove fast and headed towards the direction in which the alarm calls were coming.

You have to remember that, off-roading is not allowed in Kabini and the driver has to keep to the mud tracks only.He came back for a few meters and the road was dividing into two, and took the new route.After about a few meters we could see one safari jeep stationary at a distance, and all the inmates of the jeep were enthusiastically looking to their left.As we approached that jeep and halted just behind it,a lady in that jeep shouted "there is a Leopard!".

We glanced to our left and there it was!A stunning Leopard moving to the left of us.I was prepared with my camera and lens and started clicking.The first few images were shaken and it took quite a no.of clicks for me to gain confidence and get some neat images!

Scratching the right Tree!

The Leopard moved to the left of us, and stopped by a tree and started scratching it.After a few minutes, it moved again and came near another tree, which had a bend just tow meters from the ground, and I realised that the Leopard was contemplating a climb.

We have to appreciate the driver, as all the time he moved the jeep to convenient points, where it was easy for us to observe the Leopard.Those who want to click away can do that always.As expected the Leopard climbed that tree, and stood at the bent for a few minutes.It looked up and I thought it would climb still further.But suddenly turned and climbed down in the same way in climbed up.

Remember as the Leopard show was going on, all the time the Deers and Sambars were continusly making their alarm calls.The Leopard from time to time would look at the direction from where the calls were coming, and continue to move ahead.Then it crossed the mud road right by the side of the safari jeep which was in front of us and got to the other side.

Climb Up....
Stay on Top!

Climb Down!

From the guide and the other experienced passengers on the jeep, we came to know that it was a male Leopard and it was about 7 years old.Leopards normally have a lifespan of about 21-23 years in captivity, and in the wild about 8-9 years.So the Leopard we were observing has almost surpassed its prime and probably on the last few years of its existence in the Kabini jungle.

The wild animals don't consider the jeeps to be a threat!
After getting to the right of us, it drank water from a dirty pool and this Leopard also had that customary "Look" at the surroundings from time to time.The alarm calls were continuously heard, and it seemed the Leopard had enough of these calls.It looked with disdain at the source of the sound and seemed to say "Hey guys,don't make too much noise as not hungry now"!.

But then we realised that the Leopard show was about to come to an end, as the animal was looking into the thickets in front of it and we knew that, once it enters that part it would go invisible.As it turned out, the Leopard did exactly that and went out of our sight.

So that was the first sighting for us of a wild Leopard, and what a show it was!All of us in the jeep were very happy and congratulated one another on the lucky sighting.

But our jeep safari needs to continue and what turned out for the next one hour was still more amazing!

Our safari jeep turned around and took the same route and reached the High tension line road.We moved ahead from there, and  was moving towards the Tiger Tank.In this place there is a pond and the wild animals frequent this place often, especially the Tigers.We reached Tiger Tank and observed for any movement and nothing seem to he happening there and everything was cool and silent.

After some time, we started driving away from that place and saw another safari jeep stopped some distance away.From the situation we realised that they might have seen something, and all in that jeep were looking ahead.We too did the same and there it was!A big tiger was just moving toward the right!

Tigers are undoubtedly the King of Indian jungles, and it gives immense pleasure in seeing one in the wild.The Gir Forest can have their Lions, but here it is the Tiger which rules.As you would agree even the Leopard fears the Tiger!

The jeep in front turned around, and the driver and the guide of that jeep informed us that the Tigers may be moving towards the Tiger Tank which we passed a few minutes ago.Thats great!So we were looking at not one tiger but a few of them!Yes it was a family of 4;a mother and its three cubs!

Tiger cubs are funny Looking!

Our jeep also turned around and moved back to the Tiger Tank.But we stopped a few meters before the Tank, as all expected the Tigers to emerge from the thickets to the left of us.We waited patiently and after about 10 minutes, the first Tiger emerged from the thicket!It was one of the cubs, and the other 2 and their mother followed suit.After coming to the open, they played around and remained there for about 10 minutes.

They are one Big Family!....At least for now!

The safari guides and drivers are knowledgeable and they knew that the next move by the Tiger family would be to reach the Tank and drink some water.There were about 6-7 safari jeeps, and all of us moved more closer toward the Tank and stopped the engines at convenient points, so that the Tank was clearly visible.

Family Drink!

We waited there for about 15 minutes, and then the Tiger family arrived to drink at the pool.They took turns to come near the pool, and drank to their content.The mother was always watchful and always had a "look" at the surroundings and the jeeps.The cubs seemed to emulate their mother and did the same thing.But they were more playful and rollicked around the Tank!

The mother Tiger is always watchful!

I could get good pictures of the entire family together, and individually as well.After about half an hour, the Tiger family disappeared into another thicket.Again what a show it was!After the Leopard show, the Tiger show followed and we were very satisfied.But there was one more inmate of the Kabini forest whom we were longing to meet!.....The Black Panther!

We moved from the Tiger Tank and started our drive back to the resorts.But there was quite some distance to cover and we had not given up on the Black Panther.

But all we could see was a juvenile Hawk Eagle up on a tree, and a few more spotted deers crossing the road.The Black Panther did not present itself!.......

But for that we would make another visit!

Please copy-paste the link on your browser to see a video of the Leopard......

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