By : FAREEDA KANGA
Most wildlife safaris in India, or for that matter worldwide, follow a similar pattern. An early morning game ride followed by lunch and a short snooze, and then another afternoon jaunt in the jungle. Safari junkies are usually in the habit of hopping from one park to another within the same state, making the journey from one park to the other by road over the national highways and mainland.
Imagine my surprise, when I signed up for a safari in The Satpura Tiger Reserve and learnt that I had the option of transferring from one lodge to the other right through the jungle instead of commuting via crowded city roads. “Jehan Numa Wilderness offers a unique transfer option between our two lodges. Since Reni Pani Jungle Lodge and Bori Safari Lodge are both located in the same contiguous landscape, guests opting to stay at both lodges during the same itinerary have the option of transferring through the park on a full day safari,” says Aly Rashid, who runs both these lodges in Madya Pradesh.
The driving time isn’t really that long but the entire journey begins at dawn and as the park shuts from 11am to 3pm, we have to stay put during these hours, and so, it ends up being a day-long adventure. Not that I’m complaining! The untamed natural beauty of the jungle is always appealing; much more than the sight of a tiger or leopard so the thought of just driving from point A to B without actively on the lookout for wildlife is refreshing.
We set out early morning at normal safari time and the scent of the Sal, Oak and other trees herald our arrival. The landscape through Satpura (stretching across 1,500 sq.km from the well-known hill station of Pachmari in the north to Bori Sanctuary in the South) is dotted with a mix of dry forests, grassland, shrubs, tall canopies and riverine formations. The pace is slow in keeping with the rhythm of nature.
At 8.30 am when the sun starts beating down on us we stop for a cup of tea and a breakfast of boiled eggs and sandwiches and are delighted to have a cacophony of birds break the silence of the untamed forest.
It is the majesty of the jungle, the clean, crisp air that is the USP of this drive more than the wildlife sighting. Of course, there is plenty of that as well...
Before we reach Churna rest-house at 11.30 AM, where we break for a delicious vegetarian home-style lunch (cooked on a blazing charcoal fire) we have already feasted on sloth bears, leopards and some amazing avian superstars like The Malabar Pied Hornbill, Flame backed Woodpecker and Paradise Fly Catcher.
The sensible and thoughtful bit on the part of my hosts is booking a room at the Churna rest house so that I can use the loo and lie down for an hour or so instead of acrobatic balancing in the public one! When you stop mid-day at Churna rest-house, there is an opportunity to do a nature walk where a number of butterflies, dragonflies and other small creatures can be seen.
“Depending on the season, the guests will resume their safari according to the afternoon safari timing and exit the gate at sunset. This option is available transferring from either end of the park. In both ways, the midway point will be Churna rest-house. The total distance between the Madhai Gate (Reni Pani) and the Bhimkund Gate (Bori Safari Lodge) is approximately 90 kilometres, but the guests will spend the whole day searching for wildlife that they come across,” says Rashid, whose deep and abiding dedication as an environmentalist and conservationist comes through in everything he does.
On the full day transfer drives, guests can expect to see a variety of mammals including leopard, sloth bear, wild dog, giant squirrel, tiger, gaur, sambar and other wild herbivores. Those who have a fondness for birds can also expect to see a plethora of species as Satpura is home to 270 plus species of birds.
Apart from wildlife, transferring through the park, also gives guests the unique opportunity to see a varied landscape of this tiger reserve with the Satpura National Park being mountainous, dense and undulating, and the Bori Wildlife Sanctuary, being flat, open, and a terrain filled with grasslands. The Denwa river on the north and Tawa to the west can both be seen on this drive showcasing the riparian ecosystem of Satpura.
To immerse yourself in the exoticness of the jungle should be your goal if you sign up for this drive. The pace is easy and doable and the 4WD ride isn’t rib-rattling as it sometimes is when over-enthusiastic drivers dash around on the hunt for a tiger or a sloth bear.
A slightly sore behind after the journey is a small price to pay, easily remedied with a hot water bottle, just one of the many indulgences that the luxurious and spaciously appointed rooms at the Bori Lodge will pamper you with.