The Call of the Wild: A Peek into the Indian Wildlife Safari Experience

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks

John Muir

As the golden rays gladly dance on blooming wildflowers in the distance, a pandemonium of parakeets screech high above in the canopy and the cold winter chill greets us as we enter the ironclad gates of the national park. Butterflies swirl in playful waves and a flock of yellow-footed green pigeons sunbathe on the towering Sal. The forest feels alive with an ancient soul that stretches into everything it possesses and behind that very gate lies a world so extraordinary, we seldom find a chance to contemplate it. In a place where folklore and mystery intertwine, a safari in the breathtaking jungles of India, namely Tadoba, Kanha, Pench, Nagzira, Bandhavgarh, Corbett and Ranthambore might just turn you into a nature lover if not a safari addict for sure! Others like Panna, Dudhwa- famous for its stunning backdrops, Kabini- for its black panthers, Kaziranga- for the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros and Sundarbans- known for its mangrove forests and boating safaris are places that will simply take your breath away! Everything here comes together like enchanting symphonies one after another, in tune with the changing seasons, the forests hold tales of love and brotherhood, grief and glory, rise and defeat.

© Cobblestone Chronicles

As you drive through bamboo thickets, dense vegetation, picturesque meadows, dried grasslands and a peaceful medley of bird sounds filling your ears every now and then, the experience is bound to soothe the soul. 

© Cobblestone Chronicles

Skyscraper trees of all kinds loom above and skimpy sunlight blesses us with a little warmth as we drive further into the jungle. The wafting aroma of wet earth and the surrounding verdure fills our senses, jolting us awake from the 4 am ‘wake up’ call at the resort. There is a soothing tranquillity to the ancient ballad of the birds and the calls of the animals here, as a langur swiftly scampers away at the sound of our jeep and a pair of jungle owlets lazily nap in the hollow of a tree trunk. We drive slow, taking in the sheer magnificence of a place far from the bustling city life, where every warble echoes through the wind and every alarm call rings in your ears, each sound taking us closer to the most anticipated moment of spotting a big cat on safari. Magic unfolds at every turn in these jungles, never knowing what you may witness. It could be a pack of wild dogs on a chase, a beautiful peacock merrily dancing right ahead of you, a baby langur swaying from its mother’s tail, deer quietly grazing away in hundreds, a sloth bear somewhere in the bushes, a leopard crossing your path like the wind or what I call the epitome of utter beauty, power and glory- the sight of a Royal Bengal tiger in these wilds! Nothing compares to spotting a leopard or a tiger in its natural habitat and the thrill of tracking them in the woodland, but the whole experience of being present in that very moment to witness their movements is something you shall cherish for years to come!

© Chetan Desai | Cobblestone Chronicles

The forest hums with life as we gaze at the lush canopies and soon enough, the guide signals for the driver to stop and turn the engine off. Strong alarm calls of langurs and spotted deer from the opposite end only add to our anticipation and the guide explains the presence of a tiger in the vicinity. Their judgment is something I’ve always admired, for they know the ways of the wild better than anyone. Hushed whispers are heard amidst our ever-enthusiastic campers and within moments of our arrival, more jeeps line up to watch magic unfold! Meanwhile, both the guide and driver spot the flick of a tail somewhere in the bushes, a furry black tip slowly making its way towards the open space and they signal for us to keep our eyes on the road. Cameras are hurriedly lifted and bean bags are quickly adjusted atop vehicles in anticipation.

© Chetan Desai | Cobblestone Chronicles

In the distance, strips of orange and black leisurely gleam in the light amidst the dried grass, revealing the beautiful creature that only minutes later, walks the road ahead of us, its movements relaxed and distinguished. The tiger was a proud sight amid the dusty boulders and tall grass, his amber eyes glistening in the day’s light and his stride, elegant and dignified. All the while I gazed at his massive paws, imagining they were probably the size of a human face and how they grazed the land without a sound! Each time I witnessed a tiger in the wild, I was simply amazed at the size and absolute magnificence of it. But, spotting the evasive leopard or a sloth bear in these wilds is a different experience altogether. The big cats only add more soul to the whole forest adventure where any and all sightings are worthwhile and my words do no justice to the beauty of India’s forests. You have to undertake a safari or two to understand what these jungle tales are all about!

© Chetan Desai | Cobblestone Chronicles

You can also plan a quick weekend getaway to Tadoba, Pench, Nagzira or Kanha as they all have easy access from Nagpur by road. Beautiful resorts and camps promise to make your trip all the more exciting, where you can relax along the poolside on a hot day, relish flavoursome food, enjoy the resort amenities or even host a cozy campfire at night in the winters. In the forest of Nagzira and Corbett, you get an opportunity to stay inside the core area of the jungle and amidst the vast wilderness. Now, what could be more exciting and memorable than to witness the raw, pristine jungle in all its glory?

© Cobblestone Chronicles

How to get there?

Apart from the popularly visited Pench, Tadoba, Kanha and Navegaon Nagzira Tiger Reserves, there are quite a few lesser-known wildlife sanctuaries you may consider visiting like the Bor Wildlife Sanctuary, Melghat Tiger Reserve, Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and Umred. Also, the city of Nagpur is the base from where you can either self-drive or hire a vehicle to reach some of these places. In the next few segments, I shall provide an overview of the jungles I’ve visited in an attempt to inspire you to plan your next trip here! Keep reading…

For more stunning images on Indian Wildlife, do check out this brilliant page ‘Wildcrawler’ on Instagram.

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