It’s hard being a travel blogger and work full time. Every time there comes a travel opportunity, I have to dig up excuses to skip work and let the heart and soul indulge. Though the guilt piles on and on but it suddenly vanishes the day I stare out of my airplane or train window. 2015 has been kind and it will be remembered as the year when people around me thought I was on some kind of Bharat Darshan.
A few weeks ago, I was invited by Forsyth Lodge for a tryst with the vast forests of Satpura. The journey began with a flight from Delhi to Bhopal and then another 4 hour cab ride to the heart of the forests. Landscapes kept changing for the entire duration of the journey and that meant I kept looking out of the window without getting bored or the need to converse. I finally reached Forsyth Lodge right in time for dinner. A warm welcome and a refreshing drink later, I headed straight to the dining area which was set up out in the open, under the stars. A blazing fire kept us warm while we hogged on delicious Indian food. Forsyth Lodge has this amazing tradition where the guests gather around a dining table and have their meals together. It saves on resources as well gives opportunities to meet people and share some forest stories. I had missed on the Night Safari that they offer in the buffer areas of Satpura Forests but the stories came alive over a piping hot meal. People had seen a few birds, spotted deer, Malabar squirrel and a couple of owls. Listening to the conversations, my expectations rose exponentially and I couldn’t wait to step out of luxury and into the wild.
Next day, a couple of safaris were planned for us. We started before the sun came out and were greeted by an amazing sunrise on the banks of river Denwa, which cuts through the forest. One has to cross the river and change jeeps in order to head into the forest mainland. A naturalist, Varun from Forsyth Lodge accompanied us for these safaris. He knew the forest like the back of his hand and I was pretty amazed at the effort it must have taken to learn so much, and so well. Slowly and steadily, Satpura unfolded in front of my eyes and all I tried to remember lines from the famous poetry about these forests by Pt. Bhawani Prasad Mishra. I could remember a few couplets, which were not in order and I mentally made a note of coming back to civilization and googling the entire poem.
Satpura Forests are hauntingly beautiful, with a vast variety of flora and fauna embracing them as their home. Thanks to our naturalist, we came to know a lot of inside stories about wildlife and found that there was a code to decipher the calls of the forest. It was really interesting to see him analyse the calls and make moves accordingly, so we could spot a particular animal. Varun’s efforts were not wasted and we spotted some friends from the wild. Only 4% of the Satpura Forest Reserve is open for Tourism and that makes it quite difficult to actually spot tigers. But, I hope we’re saving the tigers this way. Though we didn’t spot a tiger, but there were stories going rounds of leopard sightings. But that happens when you have ample of time and spend a number of days doing rounds of the forest. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury because I work full time.
Forest Department at Satpura is doing a great job of preserving it in it’s natural form. As I told, only 4% of the entire area is open for tourism and the rest 96% is preserved as a natural habitat for animals without any human interference. Considering how our forests are depleting everyday, I think it is only wise to preserve as much as possible. In line with the conservation policies, only twelve jeeps are allowed into the forest at a time.
We could sight quite a few spotted deer and I felt all of them were very shy. Except this one who happily posed for me while I clicked to my heart’s content.
No forest visit is complete without spotting langurs. They were a common sight, playing around in the trees and visibly teasing each other.
And then we found a black ball of fur, digging the earth. A closer look revealed it was a sloth bear, looking for termites to gobble up, just as the sun came up. It must be really hungry , our naturalist told, as bears are late risers and don’t really get so active with the first rays of the sun.
And once it found what it was looking for, the bear gave me a perfect click. My day in the forest was already made!
Dare to get any closer?
We stopped at a pretty river side location for breakfast which included sandwiches, muffins and tea/coffee sent by Forsyth Lodge. This was one breakfast I would never forget because I am someone who is always running late and skips it most of the times. Never knew breakfast could be so beautiful.
And then, we moved forward to spot a couple of bisons but I could click only one. The other one moved away as soon as my camera was ready. And that spontaneity is something I have grown up to love about being in a forest. The subject is not just there forever and even seconds matter as much. Animals kept me on my
toes tips to click them.
We saw at least five to six sambar deer but this one gave a perfect pose when it came to drink water. I just could not take my eyes off it. It was such a pretty sight to see. There were crocodiles in that water too, but too far away to get a good quality picture. I could not click everything I saw, and that included an owl, a malabar squirrel and a few wild boars.
After a four hour safari through the jungle, we came back exhausted, hungry but wishing for more. I spent the day catching up with fellow bloggers and exploring Forsyth Lodge, which is a complete getaway destination in itself. I could have spent an entire day just lazing around there, reading travel books, catching up with nature and talking to people who manage it all, listening to their everyday stories and what brings them here, so far away from civilization. More on that coming up in the next post 🙂
Oh, and Happy New Year! Hope it brings happiness, cheer and world peace, which is on a race towards extinction.