Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary—-a hidden jewel.

Jaulasal Forest Rest House,
Jaulasal Forest Rest House, Nandhaur
Shravan Taal
Shravan Taal– a water hole in Nandhaur
Semal tree in Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary
The Mahavriksh of Uttrakhand, Semal Tree in Nandhaur
Nandhaur
River in Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary
Khanila Tree in Nandhaur
Khanila Tree..the ticklish tree
Nanak Sagar
Nanak Sagar outside Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary

Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary is a hidden jewel over shadowed by it’s elder cousin #Corbett National Park. A part of #Terai #Arc #Landscape this park is as easy to reach as Corbett. Best approached from Haldwani or even Ramnagar.

We reached the #Kadapani gate, and started inward journey into Nandhaur. T he opening feelers were not good, rather far from good. When you see extensive mining of sand and river stones in the Terai plains, it is not a pleasing sight to the eyes. But after about 5 kms into the drive my perceptions began to change. The Jungle seemed to be taking over. A typical sal forest, with serenity of a paradise. Nandhaur has some Khattas (transitory villages) on one side of the forest. So one thinks that this would be a forest disturbed by humans.

At Jaulasal Forest Rest House, in Nandhaur

About 18kms into the drive, we reached the staff quarters of #Jaulasal. We mistook the staff houses to be the Forest Rest House. We were disappointed not to find any staff in the premises. But then I heard a motorcycle rumble by to us, and the guard said, that they were waiting for us at the #Forest #Rest #House upstairs. We drove up about 200 meters and what awaited us was a breathtaking sight. A beautiful hamlet tucked away on a hilltop facing the Shivaliks, and the Nandhaur Valley below. The location, the design, and the concept of the British Raj theme it is a paradise on Earth.

This rest house was made in 1923 by the British, and has been recently renovated. The view was so heavenly that I did not enter the FRH for a long time. But once I did, even that was spellbinding. These Forest Rest houses made by Britishers over 100 years ago are mostly of 2 bedrooms, with a common living room, and attached bathrooms. The second bedroom is for your assistant, servant or a driver. We carried some food raw materials, and handed over to the guard. He briefed us that there is no electricity here, only solar lights which last few hours only. Well, who needs electricity in a paradise. The outdoor was so stunning, that we made ourselves comfortable on the chairs in the verandah overlooking the Shivaliks. For a typical city dweller this is the perfect recipe for peace.

Safari in Nandaur

Our morning began at 6 a.m. with a hot cup of tea, and we impatiently got into the vehicle for our safari into this unexplored heaven on earth. We were about to begin our safari when I heard some alarm calls of the Indian Pea Fowl. This further increased my anxiety. It seemed to me that the denizens of Nandhaur were calling out to me. Less than a kilometer and we crossed an almost dry bed of a seasonal river. What followed after that is a feeling of grudge against myself, as to why did I not visit this place before.

The forest guard who was accompanying us took us to some beautiful spots. The first one was #Shravan #Taal, a peaceful water hole waiting for animals to come and quench their thirst. But as it was only November so there was a lot of water in deeps of the Jungle and I was told that come summers this waterhole is in demand by the #herbivores.

Mahavriksh of Uttrakhand, Nandhaur

What ensued, was astonishing, for I had not seen a tree with a base circumference of over 80 feet, yes you read it right, 80 feet. A #Semal tree, over 150 years old, and if 15 people stood with hands stretched they would perhaps be able to cover it. The Guard, Mr Trilochan Bhist called this a “Mahavriksh”, aptly so, and said that this is the largest tree of Uttrakhand. I had no doubts about it.

While sitting at this spot, the guard narrated a beautiful story. Guru Nanakji had visited Nandhaur once, and he stopped inside the forest on a hill top with his group of disciples. Being on the top of the hill, there was no water for the thirsty disciples. The great sage surmised a small lake known as Siddh Taal at that height. Till today that lake stays full. The circumference of the lake is about 750 meters. Depth is unknown, and it is said that #Siddh #Taal is the source of Nanak Sagar lake about 40kms from here. I was curious to visit the Siddh Taal, but was told that currently it is not accessible by a vehicle, a road is being made which should be ready in about one months time from now, and then it will only be a 3kms trek to the Holy Siddh Taal.

Meeting the guard who fought bare hand with the Sloth bear at Senapani Rest House in Nandhaur

We commenced our safari, and reached another beautiful Forest Rest House known as #Senapani #Forest Rest House. Here I met Prakash Singh Bhatt a Forest guard who had an encounter with a Sloth bear on his patrolling rounds. He fought the Sloth Bear with his bare hands. After the fight he was hospitalized for about 40 days. His wounds still not healed, and on being asked if he would go back again patrolling, he said sure, he would, once he recovers fully. I bow down to such Forest Guards who risk their lives to save our national heritage, the silent unsung heroes.

Forest guard in Nandhaur
The forest guard who fought with the Sloth Bear bare hands

Totally inspired by his bravery, and dedication we moved back towards Jaulasal. En route the guard stopped and showed us #Khanilla tree. We were told that this tree is used extensively in the Ayurvedic medicines to cure many diseases. The unique thing about this tree was that on being very lightly scratched on its bark the tree would start shaking as if it was being tickled.

I was now getting anxious to discover more of the forest. Such wonderful information, and knowledge waiting to be gathered while we remain focused only on Tigers that too in some big parks.

Leopard in Nandhaur

Our journey back to Jaulasal began. After a brief while Lovnish braked, and said, “Spotted”. My internal reaction was it’s ok, we have seen #Spotted #Deers, he started to reverse, stopped and showed us a #Leopard sitting about 10 meters from us. The Leopard was so still that he could be noticed only when he moved. He obviously did not like being “Spotted”, and went into the bush. We moved on a bit and stopped. It was just 2 minutes when the Leopard came out on the road, looked around and crossed the road. We all had smiles on our faces. I was consumed in seeing the Leopard in those beautiful surroundings that I totally forgot to click. Camera was in my hands, but I was just mesmerized by this beauty. On our return we saw some more pug marks of the Leopard on the dry river bed.

Nanak Sagar and Nanak Mattha, excursion from Nadhaur

We had lunch at Jaulasal rest house, and I asked our tracker, what next, he said, if we are keen we can go to Nanak Sagar and #Nanak #Mattha. Keen was an understatement, we jumped and before Deepak could realize we were sitting in the car. Drove for about 45 minutes, to reach #Nanak #Sagar. What unfolded was unbelievable. Sun was setting, cool wind was hitting us, a slight shiver, total silence, only sound was from the flock of egrets landing and taking off. And in front of our eyes, was an ocean. Reminded me of #Chuka in #Pilibhit #Tiger #reserve. Not as huge perhaps but what one saw in front was only water, and no shore.

Nanak Mattha Nandhaur

We then went to Nanak Mattha, the Gurudwara, sat and listened to the Shabad for a while, before hitting the road back to Jaulasal.

Memorial of Mrs E A Smythies, near Jaulasal, Nandhaur

Next day morning it was time to check out. It was now that we were showed another milestone of Nandhaur. A spot where wife of Mr E A #Smythies had a fight with a Tiger with her bare hands in 1925, she died fighting the Tiger. This was another touching moment that became engraved in our memory. For records Mr E A Smythies was a forester and an expert on Ecology of Uttrakhand. He alongwith Jim Corbett had proposed for area around Ramnagar to be made a National Park. While we all remember Jim Corbett and have named a National Park after him, we have forgotten a renowned Forester who spend his life in the Jungles of Uttrakhand.

Mrs E A Smythies memorial in Nandhaur
Mrs E A Smythies memorial in Nandhaur

For those interested to know what does Nandhaur have, I must mention here that Nandhaur has over 25 Tigers as per last census, Elephants, and everything that a Terai forest can offer. Birdlife is very rich. What it lacked was some grasslands to attract the prey so that visitors can see them. Removal of the Khattas on the boundary will do only good to the sanctuary, and some more roads to explore Nandhuar, which apparently is already happening at a great speed. The Forest department is working hard, and I heard that a proposal has been sent to the Central Government for it to be made a Tiger Reserve.

Nandhaur you are very beautiful, and I am happy that hardly any tourists come and disturb your peace and beauty.

I will see you again and soon

Sharad Vats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Tolerant Tigers and Tribals

Tigers and Tribals
Tiger and Elephant face off in Dudhwa
Tigers and Tribals
With the farmers in the fields close to Dudhwa

After a long drive from Delhi we reached #Dudhwa on 14th Nov by lunch to do safaris. The Park was to open on 15th November. The thrill of being amongst the first vehicles when the park opens after a gap of 5 months is unique. The mind is pre-occupied thinking on what would have transpired in the past months when the park was closed.  As we had time on 14th hence we went for a small drive. Into the countryside through the surrounding village fields to explore the area where Tigers and Tribals (tharus) have co-existed together.

Farmers were ploughing the area. We got off the vehicle and walked towards a small water stream. With fields on one side and sugarcane crop on the other, Suresh suddenly noticed fresh pug marks of an adult male Tiger. The pug marks were moving in front of us, rather, we were following them. After a while the pugmarks entered the bush just adjoining the sugarcane crop. It is not wise to follow the Tiger pugmarks on foot into the sugarcane field. We were left with a satisfied feeling that the Tigers are roaming in the fields of villages around #Dudhwa #National #Park.

It was then that we saw one farmer approaching us with his teenage son. We got talking to them, and wanting to know how they felt with Tigers as their neighbors. What i heard from him was totally shocking to an extent. He said, they were happy to have Tigers share their home. Taken aback i asked him for the reason, and if they were not scared for themselves or their cattle. His answer shook me completely, he said, “Sahab, jab Tiger yehan hota hain to baaki jaanwar hamari fasal se door rehte hain, aur hamari kheti acchi hoti hai” (Sir, when the Tiger is in the area, his presence does not let the other animals from the forest enter our fields, and we get a good crop). Showing his mustard crop he said, had Tiger not been here, this crop would have been damaged by the herbivores.

Tiger is a gentleman

He went ahead to say, that Tiger is a gentleman. When he (Tiger) hears them walk and talk in the field, he leaves the farms and goes away. There had been occasions when they encountered the Tiger on foot, but he (Tiger), always left the trail for humans. I was delighted to hear about the peaceful co-existence of Tigers and Tribals. Yes, this is the only way for Tiger to be saved, we have to accept them, while they have gladly adapted themselves. We cannot send Tigers, and other wildlife to any other planet. Both have to live together.

The sun was going down, and the farmer said, let us go now as it is time for the Tiger to come out. I felt on cloud nine hearing this. Not sure if all tribals in and around other national parks would share similar sentiments but i am confident that most of them respect wildlife much more than what we anticipate. Be it the #Baigas of Madhya Pradesh, or #Tharus of #Terai, they are more tolerant towards Tigers than the urban dwellers.

 

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Introducing Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary, (Dudhwa National Park)

Kishanpur WIldlife Sanctuary
Morning in Kishanpur
Leopard by Sharad Vats
Leopard in Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary

Visiting Dudhwa National Park, please do take out time to do a safari in Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary. Located about 30kms from Dudhwa, this sanctuary is very different to Dudhwa. Kishanpur compliments Dudhwa very well. You will see all big things in Dudhwa, i.e the Tiger, Elephant, Rhino, maybe a sloth bear, but hardly any prey base. In Kishanpur you will see a lot of prey animals apart from the big cats.

Standing on the main road in Bhira before the railway crossing, you have no idea on what to expect. After a drive of about 5kms, we reached the Dudhwa Wilderness Camp. A very small Lodge with just 6 rooms, but nicely furnished. Total staff of three, but they take care of everything you need. Infact i think it is good to have less staff in a Jungle Lodge.Basic food, but the ambience is absolutely awesome. Do take out time to  sit on the terrace of the room no 1 to 3. The Jungle comes to you at this camp. The boundary of the forest is visible to the naked eyes. At dusk you start hearing the denizens of Kishanpur who are much closer than you expect. The camp had two resident jungle owlets who become active in the evening.

We reached the entry gate of Kishanpur and looked around for the guard. Found him, and he gave us an entry permit to the sanctuary. One of the most reasonably priced entry permits in the entire country. The guide boarded the Jeep, and we entered. After about 2kms of drive, we reached a spot where the Jeep stopped, and the guide and driver said let us go to the Machan to look around. I accompanied them not knowing what was in store for me. Holy Lord, behold, what unfolded in front was something unimaginable. A huge water body filled with migratory birds. On our reaching the top, they got a bit disturbed, and a few hundred just took off like a jet plane. They landed about 100 meters away from us.

Kishanpur
Jhaadi Taal in Kishanpur

It was now that the guide said, Sir, this is Jhaadi taal. I had heard about it, but saw it now. Observed a herd of Swamp Deer at a distance, standing next to few crocodiles basking on a small island in the middle. The tall grass in the background, and the peaceful foreground started to soak in gradually. It was now i realised that unlike other national parks, there was just no tourist rush here. Mine was the only Jeep in the sanctuary. I felt Kishanpur belonged to me.

Kishanpur Jhaadi Taal
Jhaadi Taal in Kishanpur

After a brief while, we stepped down, and got into the vehicle again. Now started our round of the Ring road. This road goes around the Jhaadi taal. In about 200 meters there was another Machan (watch tower). What was very beautiful here was a hyde they had made for the photographers to go stand in, and take photographs of the birds without getting noticed. We stood there for a while and moved on. Suddenly we hear the screeching sound of a Swamp Deer. The guide got interested, stood up on the seat, pulled out his binoculars, and was a bit hysterical. On being asked what was this, he said, a Tiger has caught a Swamp Deer for sure. It was then that the alarm calls started. We waited for something more to happen. But nothing.

Kishanpur
Spotted Deer in Kishanpur

We took a left turn after the 2nd watch tower, and the driver stopped to show a pugmark of a male Tiger. It was massive, never before i have seen a pugmark this size. The driver said, this is the larges male Tiger here, and he moves from Kishanpur to Pilibhit and back. Moved onwards and crossed the 3rd watch tower too. It was now that we started to follow very fresh pug marks of a Tigress with 2 cubs. We kept following with a hope that we will find her sitting on the road somewhere. But the pugmarks kept going, and so did we. The Tigress would have walked nothing less than 5kms. It was like a rangoli of pugmarks on the road. We took the whole circle of the ring road, and reached the watch tower no 2 again.

It was here that i noticed something sitting in the centre of the road, looked small as it was far away, and was in a shade. He got up, and looked at us. A Leopard. Left the road in a hurry. This junction on the first watch tower has 5 roads going into different directions. We left the 2nd road, and reached the spot where we thought he might emerge from on the third road. But the Leopard had read our mind very well. He did emerge, but atleast 50 meters ahead of us on the road. We again see the Leopard on the road, but at a distance.

The safari time was coming to a close. So thought of heading back. What a great experience in this small but beautiful Kishanpur wildlife sanctuary. We came back in the evening, and saw the Tiger on road no 18. That is a story in itself for another blog perhaps. A small piece of advise for first timers to Kishapur. Do not be too adventurous by wondering far from the watch tower on foot. The big cats are usually aorund in this area waiting in the tall grass for unsuspecting prey.

So whenever you do go to Dudhwa, please do visit Kishanpur for atleast one safari if not more. If you can stay one night there that will be even better. Infact it is possible to do Kishanpur from Dudhwa itself. Ask your hotel or safari provider to get you a safari in Kishanpur which is just 30kms away. Yes you will have to start very early for the morning safari, but it will be worth it.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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