Stepping into the wild

Mayank Pandey is a photo blogger  with a sensitive viewfinder. He captures the mood, the feelings and the ethos of his subjects, so much so that they each tell a story. He keeps the text to the minimum, letting his images speak for him. In this guest post, he makes an exception, talking about the jungle, sharing his feelings about its awesomeness, moods and ethos. The sighting of the big cats seems almost incidental in the scheme of things! Behold the lovely pictures of the jungle and you will know what I mean. Read on…

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As I walked into the reception area of the Jungle Lodge at Kabini, I was greeted by the jaw dropping-awesome photographs of the big cats. I couldn’t take off my eyes of the photographs, and I surreptitiously noted down the names of the photographers in the frame.

My friend meanwhile had completed the short check-in formalities and was discussing about the last significant sightings. ‘If the jungle is kind, you should see a leopard in the next three days of your stay, sir, said the staff. I did not fail to notice the reverence that these people had for the forest and the animals there, though at that time I did not give it much thought. My focus was on my primary interest of photography. If only I could manage some good shots similar to these — they could be my modern day equivalent of wildlife trophies I thought wistfully.

However, at that time I didn’t realize that the next six days in the wild across the dense forests of Nagarhole, Bandipur & BR Hills were going to be so much more, an experience which was way more expansive than what I could view through my viewfinder. It was to become a virtual lesson about the orderliness and aesthetics of the jungle.

Is it a different sun out there?

Those of you who are into photography would agree that light is the most crucial thing for the craft, and here in wild the forest is washed in a beautiful golden light filtering through the trees — almost creating a surreal environment, morning or evening. It makes one think that the sun is indeed different there! The warm hues filled my heart and soul in a way no digital sensor can ever capture. Photographs do not do justice to the magnificence of the forest and yet that is the only way to share it.

Backwaters -- Kabini

Backwaters — Kabini

Evening @ Bandipur

Evening @ Bandipur

Morning mist @ Bandipur

Morning mist @ Bandipur

 

The jungle is not chaotic as believed; on the contrary, it almost always follows its own rules:

One can never take nature for granted, it never ceases to surprise us. And yet, I was quickly convinced that there is nothing chaotic or unruly about it.

It is amazing to see how those who have spent years in the jungles can hear and interpret the noises of the jungle as our guide Afsar, a local lad could. He could hear the alarm calls of the monkey and confidently announce that a leopard had just stopped moving and was sitting down. I believed him when he explained that there are different calls that monkeys, deers and other animals use to announce when the predator is moving and when it is not. It appears that with experience it is even possible to tell if it is a leopard or a tiger!

As I said earlier, the jungle is very predictable. For instance a brown fish owl was spotted at same spot every day for three days and we all became familiar with how the big cats mark their territories in the wild and do not stray in another cat’s territory unlike humans who invade each other’s space!

 

 

On the second day, our guides were convinced of the presence of leopards in one part of the jungle. One of the guides told us that the animal was attempting to cross the road but ran away after hearing the sound of the vehicles.  For 40 minutes, six jeeps waited for the shy leopard to come out. I learnt the value of patience during that wait. Just 10 minutes after we moved on, we got to know that a pair of leopards crossed the roads at the very same place where we had kept vigil.

This largely predictable behaviour of the jungle and its wild inhabitants is one of the reasons why it is easy for human beings to get close and study them. And sadly also one of the primary reasons why animals, especially the big cats are such easy targets for poachers.


The jungle rewards you at its will — there is little you can do, except maybe pray!

Even with best of guides, sighting of big cats in wild is rare and therefor special simply because they are shy animals. And if the true blue enthusiasts are to be believed it is also a matter of one’s good karma and the general attitude to the wild.

Hard to digest? Well, one such brash young guy who was boasting about how good he was at sighting animals and how he hated dense Indian forests was instantly dubbed as an outcast by the others in the bar one evening at Kabini. That he and all the members in his group failed to have any sighting thereafter was probably only a coincidence but became a topic of conversation later as to how the jungle only favors those who treat it with reverence.

One evening on our way back after a hard and dusty and fruitless safari, we were discussing how hard it is to sight a leopard. ‘I have had 100 tiger sightings and yet not seen a single leopard in my last 6 years of safari’, Sandeep, a fellow enthusiast told us. My friend had seen none in his 10 years of forays into wildlife either!

And so as we were heading back to the lodge around 6.15 pm, when my friend cried sharply, ‘Stop!’ The jeep screeched to a halt. And guess what? We see this beautiful male leopard on a tree by the roadside! It was a dream come true, too good to believe.  Imagine, just when we were discussing about the improbability of sighting a leopard!

None of us spoke a word for the next three minutes till the magnificent animal dashed off.

Leopard on the tree @ Kabini

Leopard on the tree @ Kabini

The mood in the evening was ecstatic with a lot of back slapping, and stories shared over drinks and food. The jungle had rewarded our patience! Funny how one sighting could lift the mood of the whole team in the jungle lodge. I was ready to believe the theory that it was indeed some good karma that had got us this treat.

 

 

There is more to the jungle than big cats

Indeed there is more to the jungle than big cats and sightings. That I was treated to a tiger sighting within a day of leopard sighting is a story I would keep for some other day.

Yet every time I step into the forest, the fresh air, the sound of forest and the thrill of unknown would be enough to keep the adrenaline flowing.

Zen Serenity @ B R Hills

Zen Serenity @ B R Hills

When I look at the picture above I am reminded of this Zen saying :

The jungle does not rush, yet it accomplishes everything – Tzu

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The thoughts of my first leopard and tiger sighting in wild still gives me goosebumps, something I will never forget all my life and I know will keep pulling me to the wild again and again.

 

And to sum up, as aptly said by a good friend – there are two types of people in the world, one who have seen a tiger in wild and others who have not.

 

Do share your stories and experiences!

32 comments

  1. This note is just to thank Zephyr for this great opportunity and all who took time to go through this post and dropped by at my blog too.

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    1. Hey Mayank, you are most welcome. I loved putting up your post, so it is quits, ok? Feel free to post more of them, and this time, I promise to put up the pics right the first time around 😀

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  2. nice photos

    love the leopard one

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    1. thanks !

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  3. A very nice walk-through blog of the Bandipur sanctuary. Great shots:)

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    1. Sanjeev – thanks. Just a small correction the photographs are from kabini and b r hills as well. Glad you liked the shots!

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  4. Awesome pix! How wonderful it must be to capture the animals in their habitat.. posing for you!

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    1. Delhizen – thanks for liking the photographs. I still haven’t figured out if they are afraid of us humans or not, they do indeed almost stand still as if posing for you. I would tend to however believe thats its just incidental !

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  5. Awesome!! Want to visit Kabini ASAP 🙂

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    1. please do bhagyashree, and if you do need any inputs please do not hesitate to contact me. The best time to visit is summers – so maybe you could plan one quickly. 🙂

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  6. Brilliant narration Pandeyji. Just awesome. And beautiful photographs. Can’t decide which one is the best. But then I guess I will be a bit biased towards the Leopard pic. 🙂

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    1. snow leopard – how i wish if even once in my life i could shoot a snow leopard! 🙂 thanks for compliments – glad you like it.

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  7. Awesome photos. An inspiration to go to the jungle. A gr8 Guest post!

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    1. Abha – glad you liked the post.

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  8. I’d been Kabini back in 2001 with my brother as a road trip from Bangalore. Also went to Bheemeshwari – Cauvery Fishing Camp onroute. Some of the weekend getaways from Bangalore are really awesome!

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    1. Vineet – This trip too was a road trip with a friend Blore – Kabini – Bandipur – B R Hills – Gadibore cauvery fishing camp. I practically covered all at one go and what a trip it was. 🙂

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  9. I planned to visit Kabini and Orange county twice but couldnt. Great photo story.

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    1. Alka – Kabini is a must visit. Tatler travel a british publication rates Kabini as one of top 5 widlife resorts in the world. So please do plan to make a visit – Orange County and / or Jungle Lodges are both great places to stay with quality support by trained naturalists. I would suggest a visit in summer season as thats the best time to sight animals which move out from dense Nilgiri forests.

      thanks for your comments.

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  10. Woooooww!!! Awesome pics and brilliant narration to go along! Loved it 🙂

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    1. Arti – I am happy that you thought the pics were good and super happy that you liked the narration too. Always hard for me to write! 🙂

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  11. Excellent work and very appropriate narrative. I enjoyed reading this post.

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    1. Thanks a lot Shiju! I hope you can view the images alrite!

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  12. Thanks purba. Only yesterday i was reading interview of a well known wildlife photographer Kalyan Verma on blog adda and was happy to read him say “More than the photographs that you come back with, it’s the experiences that you have in the forests that change your life forever.”

    I am glad you liked the photographers even though they do not do justice to what I saw and felt out there.

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  13. Thanks Purba! I was reading an interview of well known wildlife photographer Kalyan Verma and to quote him “More than the photographs that you come back with, it’s the experiences that you have in the forests that change your life forever.” Read him speak here.
    http://blog.blogadda.com/2011/05/05/kalyan-varma-wildlife-photography-nature-interview

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  14. The pictures have an ethereal quality, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. And with an interesting narrative, I couldn’t have asked for more.

    Excellent piece Mayank.

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  15. Hahaha.. well i am sure you are evading the question now. I meant to check which side you are “there are two types of people in the world, one who have seen a tiger in wild and others who have not”

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    1. Well, you know that i am a little slow on the uptake, don’t you?

      I have seen the big cats in Bannerghatta national park in Karnataka long long ago. They frankly looked drugged and used to be let out by turns from their cages. Sariska is another story altogether, with the guides indulging in elaborate charades about footprints and footfalls and no tigers 😛

      Kabini seems to be an exception.

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      1. Bannerghatta is a zoo really so I wouldnt be surprise about your observation of they being drugged. The guys are hardly fed anyways. Sariska is a painful story – i went there earlier this year and then did a bit of research. Sariska lost all its tigers to organized poaching and I hear local politicians were involved. They had to airlift 5 tigers from Ranthambore who were rehabilitated in Sariska. the last I heard was one of the males had died.

        I do agree about the charades of forest officials who continue the stories of sightings etc probably to keep the interest levels of visitors alive. Kabini is not the best place for tiger sightings i hear. Should you consider doing a visit, please do visit Ranthambore or Bandhavgarh ! I need to do it too.

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        1. Back in the early 80s, it was not. It was a safari and wild animals could be seen in their habitat. There was a section of zoo with smaller animals.

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  16. Zephyr – thanks a lot for having me contribute to your blog. I forgot to ask you which category do you fall into! 🙂

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    1. Someone who can recognise good work??

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  17. That was a wonderful photo essay of the jungle 🙂 Loved the pics of the leopard and the Zen serenity of the wild. A wildlife safari that focussed more on the jungle than the big cats was refeshingly different too!

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