Precautions to take while staying in a resort near a national park

First and foremost never go towards the forest on foot or in a vehicle if it is prohibited. There are gates from where all tourists vehicles enter. Use only the authorised gates to enter at the given time with a valid permit to enter the park. Do not even try entering from any other area in the protected areas. There are many precautions to take while staying near a national park. Some are listed below.

Caught in a national park without a valid permit will attract a jail term for you besides impounding of your vehicle. So please do not even think on these lines even if any local or a resort person tells you to.

Never leave the vicinity of the resort by yourself after sunset. Not even if you plan to just take a stroll around after your dinner. After sunset Leopards often tend to come close to the villages and resorts in search of food or the livestock. Tigers also move around in the night outside the protected areas. It is not worth the risk or adventure that you might want to experience.

If you must go out for some emergency work, and you must cross the buffer area of the forest, please do not go on a two wheeler. Ensure you are in a car and take someone along from the resort who knows the area, and do not forget to carry a torch for sure. Driving a two wheeler in a forested area is a huge risk more so in the night. If it breaks down, or a flat tyre, you can be in for a tough time. Four wheeler will at-least ensure your safety from the predators.

But if you happen to be in the Elephant country, then even a four wheeler is not a good idea to travel in the night. It is best that you postpone all your work for next day morning. Wild Elephants can treat your vehicle like a football. Hence it is in your best interest to stay in safe vicinity of your rooms.

Please do not even consider carrying any weapon even if you have one.  Caught with a firearm is a non bailable offense and attracts a term of up to 7 years in prison. But yes, it is a good idea to carry a wooden stick while on foot. No weapons whatsoever even in a safari vehicle.

While moving out of your room to go to the dining hall please carry a torch. Normally the electricity supply in the remote areas is erratic. Though most of the resorts have power back-up but it can take few seconds for the power supply to resume, hence carrying a torch is a good idea. These days there are wonderful caps which have a solar light, it is convenient to carry the same to as well. While doing the safari if the cap is on it keeps getting automatically charged, and in the night you can use it wherever you are going within the resort. Please click on this link below to see a good quality cap which i have been using for last 4 years.

Also be extremely careful not to go into bush, as there are many varieties of venomous snakes in the national parks.

http://www.ebay.in/itm/252642163895?aff_source=Sok-Goog

Precautions to take while staying near a national park
Solar cap, comfortable, and convenient

Stay safe and enjoy your safaris

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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The Biggest Tiger of Central India; the Umarpani Male of Kanha National Park

Tigers of Kanha are known to be big in size. And, i am putting my neck on the block by making such a statement. But having observed Tigers for close to 28 years in many nationals parks (specially in the Central India highlands) i think this guy has it all going for him as far as size, strength, and stealth is concerned. Umarpani male, slightly premature to crown him as the future King of Kanha as there is some serious competition on the cards from Chotta Munna who is taking his father’s legacy very seriously.

A lot of this has to be dedicated to his genes. His forefathers have been dominating Tigers in Kanha for past generations. Let us see which lineage does he come from.

The lineage of Umarpani male:

Father is Munna, the legendary Tiger who has CAT spelt on his forehead. At 15 years of age, Munna is still controlling the main tourism zone of Kanha. The world knows him, and he needs o further introduction. Munna’s father also known as the Limping male was one of the dominating and a huge Tiger before Munna.

Tigers of Kanha
Limping male, father of Munna, and grand father of Umarpani male
Tigers of Kanha
Munna, father of Umarpani male, photo by Naren

Mother is Umarpani female, the daughter of Banda, the dominant male Tiger of Kanha before Munna, and Sonapani female, who in turn is the sister of legendary Laxmi (not same litter). This is the reason for her size. Her size confused people with a male Tiger quote often. So her genes come from dominating male and popular Tigresses of Kanha.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpnai female, daughter of Banda and mother of Umarpani male,. Photo by a past guest of ours.

Umarpani male:

He was born around Nov 2009, they were two brothers and sister in the litter. The other male cub was even bigger than him. He was shaping up well until about 2 years old when tragedy struck. When and where he disappeared alongwith his sister none know. Umarpani male is the smaller of the two brothers. At times i wonder if his brother was around what would have been his size.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpani male in 2014 (5 years old)

My first sighting of Umarpani male was in December 2014. I mostly followed him from behind, and only for few seconds i was able to take some of his side flanks. He was about 5 years at that age. His muscular build was very obvious.

Tiges of Kanha
Umarpani male in June 2015, 6 years old

Then i saw him in June 2015. Behold, I was in a state of shock when he turned to look at me. I skipped a heartbeat or two. Never before any Tiger seemed so big to me. From close quarters lot of Tigers look big. But this fellow’s largeness was evident even from a distance. It was not only his size that stole my heart, but his looks, and presence are of a killing machine. I am not sure how many people have had the opportunity of photographing Umarpani male for 30 minutes or more. But after that sighting i thought if i do not see Tigers for next 2 years i am fine, as i thought i had seen the best.

Who is bigger Munna or Umarpani male?

Today when i sit back and compare both these big Tigers, Umarpani male outshines Munna very comfortably in size, and semblance. And this i am comparing Munna in his prime. The skull of Munna is big, but Umarpani male’s skull is bigger, wider, and with a larger circumference. Though the height and length of both would be similar, but sheer compactness and crassitude of Umarpani puts him in a class of his own. His overall bone structure, bigger limb bones, and wider skeleton puts him on a pedestal where his huge father starts to look minor in size compared to him.

After all Umarpani male has the advantage of his mother’s genes as well. She was one of the largest Tigress of Kanha ever.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpani male; the sheer size of his skull is matchless

Umarpani vs Bheema

Bheema is thinner, infact much thinner compared to Umarpani male. They might seem to be of same height and length but girth wise Umarpani male outclasses him. Bheema’s bone structure is lean, smaller frame compared to Umarpani. And his skull lacks the monstrosity of Umarpani. Bheema weighed 225kgs when he was just 2.5yrs old  (vs Jai 220kgs full grown). Bheema with his winter coat would be 280kgs plus, and yet Umarpani male outmatches him in summer. Now again for a moment think about Umarpani’s brother who was even bigger than him. What a loss to Kanha by his mystifying disappearance.

Tigers of Kanha
Bheema, June 2015

Umarpani vs Rajaram (Kingfisher)

I have been a fan of Kingfisher too as he was a peaceful Tiger who in terms of size looked similar from a distance. He like Chotta Munna gave ample opportunities to tourists to see him from close quarters. But as one would look at him closely he seemed like a Tiger on steroids. He was shorter in height compared to Uma male. Maybe hence he lacked the core muscles and his belly literally touched the ground. Length-wise also he was smaller than Bheema and Uma male. When someone saw him with a full belly he looked like a big Tiger, while he was actually a big belly Tiger. Also from the Tiger point of view he did not have the cuts and contour of a competitive cat. He seemed to be lot of fat, and lacked muscular manifest.

The fatal fight, October 2016: Umarpani male vs Rajaram

Umarpani had a close skirmish with Rajaram in January 2015, wherein he got Rajaram to retreat. Though both seemed to have some injuries, but Rajaram left his area, and stayed away. So Uma male had a measure of him from the past fights while Chotta Munna did not. So had it been Chotta Munna in the territorial fight even he would have sustained injuries. But Uma male had the knowledge of the mass and might of Rajaram so it was most likely him, and only him who could have given the fateful bite.

Another point that would point towards this direction is that the fight most likely did not last long. Uma male nailed him fast and furious, cause had it lasted long even Umarpani male would have sustained injuries, which he did not. He was sighted a couple of days later moving quite briskly by the forest department.

Tigers of Kanha
Rajaram aka Kingfisher male
Tigers of Kanha
Rajaram and Umarpani male in a territorial fight. Photo by Naren Malik

Above fight between the two was in January 2015.

No one has any evidence of the fight of October 2016, as it was seen by none. But the past records, and strength of Umarpani male tilt indication towards him. He usually avoids limelight, and prefers giving the tourist vehicles a skip. Uma male is mostly sighted crossing the tracks, even if he follows a vehicle it is not for a great distance. But this behavior might undergo some change now and people might start seeing him more. As killing Rajaram has given him extra expanse in territory, and confidence for sure.

Umarpani vs Chotta Munna (Link 7)

This will be the comparison for the future, or fight for the No 1 slot. Chotta Munna has the attitude of his father. He has gained in size over last 4-5 months. But being younger to Umarpani male would most likely be a tad deficient in strength as on date. But Chotta Munna seems to be catching the eye balls of everyone as he is one tourist friendly Tiger. On the contrary Umarpani male is shy.

Tigers of Kanha
Link 7 Tiger Photo by Naren Malik

With Rajaram out of the equation, it is but natural that Umarpani and Chotta Munna will expand their territory. It cannot now be ruled out that Kanha might witness another superiority sparring between these two males in the near future. It is unlikely that anyone will lose easily without giving the other some serious agony. I would pray that they both survive in case such a situation arises, as both are very strong contenders to be the next Legend of Kanha after Munna. May the strong genes of Tigers of Kanha prosper far and wide.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpani male

I would like to thank Minh Ha and Naren Malik for providing some crucial information on lineage, and Naren for some images as well. A special mention here for Minh Ha whose knowledge on Tigers of India is nothing short than encyclopedic. He is an inspiration to many.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

 

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Indian Wildlife

nature safari india
Indian Wildlife

Indian Wildlife pleasantly surprises many.  We have 16% of world population living in less than 1% land mass of this planet. The bio-mass pressure of the human and cattle population creates a huge pressure on our forests. A worldwide trend where development, and GDP growth is an enemy of the environment.

While traveling in rural India you still find people worshipping trees, animals, rivers and practically everything that is in nature.

This is the reason India has still managed to hold on to some endangered species. The so called #TigerExperts had given a apocalypse that Tiger shall not survive to see the turn of the 21st century. Tiger survives well into 16 years of the century. Did these experts underestimate their subjects of study, or overestimate their own expertise? Perhaps they were quite right at the time of this prediction, maybe this prognosis served as an alarm bell in the right ears.

For every forest being disrobed, there are many Krishna’s prohibiting the same. There are poachers and there are protectors. In summary the experts saw only one side and predicted. They did not see the human side. But I would still like to thank them for the prediction, cause that woke up lot of sleeping souls of the society.

An Indian Wildlife savior in Bandhavgarh National Park

 I would like to share a true incident I witnessed in #Bandhavgarh National Park in Feb 2016. Do see the image of the same below the text.

While doing an evening safari in #Bandhavgarh from a distance I noticed a forest guard sitting near the #Rajbhera waterhole. On looking closely we see a cheetal (spotted deer) by his side. The guard was feeding him with water and leaves. Later we asked what happened, he said while patrolling this morning he noticed the old and weak deer almost dying next to the water hole. He fed him with some leaves and water. Thereafter, the deer was able to lift his head in a couple of hours. When he came back in the evening to feed the cheetal, he saw more improvement. I was touched by his gesture, as no one had told him to do that.

We appreciated his work, and what he said after that amazed me, and made me laugh simultaneously. He said, “Sirji hum to tiger ko bhi aise kar dein agar woh karne de”. (Sir, we would treat / handle the #tiger similarly if he allows us to). His voice and eyes had genuine concern and love for animals. Whether the deer survived the night or not, whether he became food of some predator or not, is not important. But what is important is, that we do have a lot of people in our forests doing their job sincerely and silently, away from recognition. In my eyes, he did not only save the cheetal, he saved the tiger, and the forest simultaneously.  This is why I say, that there are Krishna’s working silently saving Indian Wildlife in their own ways.

Indian Wildlife
Indian Wilds Savior. A ranger at work in Bandhavgarh

I have not lost any hope despite a lot of adversity towards Indian Wildlife. Nature will regenerate, it is powerful enough to take care of itself, it has done so for eons, and will continue to do so eternally.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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10 important points for Wildlife photography in India.

Doing a safari is not economical any longer. One spends substantial resources in doing the same. They say, that taking good photographs add value to your safari. The below points will help you prepare for Wildlife photography in India.

Wildlife Photography in India
Machli the Legendary Tigress in Ranthambhore National Park
  1. To hone your Wildlife Photography skills it helps to know the national park you are visiting. Read about it to know what animals you can expect to see, the type of terrain, temperatures, type of vehicles being used. Wildlife Photography in India is unique as the terrain and animals to shoot are different. Hence you must do enough research to know the same.
  2. Patience and perseverance is extremely important while doing safaris. Please see the above for the same.
  3. If you plan to shoot Tigers, then it helps to understand the Tiger behavior a bit.
  4. Listen to the guide and the driver of the vehicle you are traveling in, and follow the rules and regulations during the safari.
  5. Be as silent as possible. Murmurs are best when you sight something. Your talking, or excitement can push the wildlife back into the bushes.
  6. Avoid sudden movements when you sight anything. Sudden jerky movements of hands, standing up, disturbs the animal, and they can go away before you realize it.
  7. You must know your camera equipment well. Read your camera manuals once again before the tour. Avoid changing lens and memory cards when in front of animals. They should be done before sighting. You must know how many images your cards can store, and store surplus cards, and batteries.
  8. If you are sitting with other tourists in the Jeep, then it helps to coordinate with them in advance and ensure everyone is be able to take images. Avoid getting into any alterations with fellow tourists while the Tiger sighting is happening for want of better angles and a look. Everyone sitting has paid for the safari. (this point is usually for youngsters who get very excited during the sightings)
  9. Personal physical fitness is very important as well. You should be light on your feet, i.e. adjust the angles fast without being noisy. In a hurry to take images, do not move when others in the vehicle are taking images.
  10. Eat light. Avoid having heavy Indian meals before a safari, as the same can bring in a bit of laziness, and can induce sleep, resulting in you missing some possible opportunities.

For more personal guidance on how to shoot please feel free to write to me.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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When is a good time to see Tigers in India?

A very important, and an often asked question to me by almost all guests wanting to do safaris in India. is “When is a good time to see Tigers in India. My answer is, “Depends on what is your motive?

Good time to see Tigers in India
Tiger in morning golden winter light in #Kanhanationalpark.

If you are a wildlife enthusiast, who really enjoys nature, and is wanting to see maximum wildlife, then anytime from October till June is good to see Tigers. All national parks in India are closed from July till about September for monsoon.

Good time to see Tigers in India
Misty winter evening #Tiger and an #Elephant in #Dudhwa National Park

If you are a nature photographer and wants good light to photograph Tigers, then December and January is perfect. As the morning golden winter light is perfect for Tiger and nature photography. The morning mist also adds to the beauty of the image.

Good time to see Tigers in India
Tiger in water in peak summer month in #Ranthambhore National Park

If you are a serious amateur or a professional photographer, then  April to June is fantastic. It gets hot in the these months, the mercury soars above 40 degrees celsius. So if you can personally handle such temperatures during the safaris then you will be rewarded by some amazing Tiger sightings. June is also onset of monsoons. Most of the national parks would get some pre-monsoon showers in early June.

Is monsoon a good time to see Tigers in India?

The national parks are closed from 1st July till Sept. Infact Corbett is closed from mid June until mid November for monsoon. Some parks open their buffer zones in the monsoon. The beauty of a national park in monsoon is pure magic. The colors in these months are intense. It is like the national park has just undergone some spa treatment. The green backdrop in the sal forest with Tiger in front is a dream image for many.

You can do safaris in the core zones even in June when the park is open. But if the pre-monsoon shower is heavy then the national park can be closed for the safari to avoid your vehicle getting stuck in a slush. Not all national parks close in showers. It all depends on the type of soil in the park. For example light showers in Bandhavagarh will do no harm to the tracks. But in Kanha due to black clayey soil, the tracks become slippery, thus making it risky to do safaris. Therefore the park authorities close down certain routes in the park. Hence it is important to know all this, or book with them who all this so that you get maximum returns for your resources and efforts.

So when you choose your safari operator be sure that they know when is a good time to see Tigers in India.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

www.naturesafariindia.com

 

 

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Why Choose India as a Safari Destination?

India Wildlife Safari
Tiger in Jim Corbett National Park, India
India Wildlife Safari
Tiger in Corbett National Park

When East Africans meet, they often greet one another with the phrase “Habari za safari?”, which translates as “How was your journey?”  Indeed, the word safari is Swahili for journey or travel.

In non-Swahili languages the word safari has been adopted and carries a more specific meaning.  “An expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat”.

The term safari is used for  travel adventures where one goes to observe or hunt animals. I hope that everyone will limit their hunting of wild animals using only a camera. Camera is much easier on wild animals. As these aimals desperately need our protection in this age of ecological threats).

By the fall of 2009, I had already undertaken safaris in East Africa, Southern Africa, and Australia.  I remember reflecting on the many African Elephants, Lions, Hippopotamuses, Rhinoceroses, Zebras, Wildebeest, Antelope, Giraffes, Wallabys, Cocakatoos, and Platypus I had seen on these adventures.  And I thought about what I really wanted to see next.

The Tiger immediately came to my mind.  I assumed that the best place to see wild Tigers would be in Russia. It is here that fabled Siberian/Amur Tiger reside. Thus my on-line search began for a proper Tiger safari provider in Russia. These searches revealed that reliable safari providers in Russia were few.  I also discovered that trying to see wild Tigers in Russia was a difficult undertaking likely to end in failure.

The by products of these internet searches was the Royal Bengal Tiger. FOr that i had to do an India Wildlife Safari. These providers seemed to assert much greater promise for seeing the iconic Tiger than the Russian Tiger safari providers.  I realized that India was the destination to travel to in order to see the great striped Cat. So beautiful and yet so endangered in the wild.

I emailed one company, Nature Safari India, and stated my desire to see Tigers and Asian Elephants.  To my utter surprise a complete reasonably priced Tiger safari itinerary was emailed back to me the next day.  The company seemed to indicate that seeing Tigers was a strong possibility. A little bit suspicious of such a claim, I asked for three references. I was promptly provided with two in the USA and one in England.  All references spoke very highly of Nature Safari India and I thus decided to make the down payment for my first Tiger safari in India.

Arriving in India in late May of 2010, Nature Safari India tour guides first took me to Jim Corbett National Park. Here Asian Elephant sightings were guaranteed and Tiger sightings were a possibility.  Upon entering Corbett, I was completely awestruck with the beauty of this wildlife refuge. Set in the foothills of the Himalayas and containing thick 400-year old sal forests interspersed with grassy meadows and boulder-strewn dry river valleys.  I had never seen a more beautiful area of the world. This opinion has remained unchanged in my returning to Corbett park three times during the past 5 years.

The most memorable part of my first Corbett experience was seeing the Asian Elephant herds and the desire to see my first Tiger.  It was adrenaline-laden enthusiasm that my ears heard the words of my guide Sarbjeet. He said that, “A Tiger is in this area of the Ramganga River, just off the road.  We must wait for it to emerge from the tall grass on the side of the river.”

We waited but no Tiger showed.  It was soon 11:00 a.m. and time to return to the Dhikala Lodge.  But I was determined. I told Sarbjeet that i wish to stay in the watch tower near the river so that I could see the Tiger if it emerged from the grass.

Sarbjeet sensed my determination and he did not dissuade me to sit out in the very hot  sun.  He sent his jeep back to Dhikala Lodge with another driver and joined me in the tower. This tower ascended a good 20 meters or more at its third and highest level.

After about an hour, Sarbjeet noticed something in the river.  He told me to come to the second floor of the tower and look through some trees. The leaves mostly obscured our view of the near shore region of the Ramganga River.  As the wind blew, it created a brief window in the tree branches. There lying right in the cooling waters of the shallows of the Ramganga river, I saw a Royal Bengal Tigress.

It was one of the most amazing wildlife experiences I have ever had.  I watched the Tigress for two hours. Took plenty of photographs when the trees branches moved.  The image of the Tigress’s black stripes set amidst a rich orange and white background. Simply an amazing initiation to viewing wild Tigers.

I was hooked.  Tigers are the most beautiful of the big Cats and now I wanted to see them even more.  Though I saw no more Tigers in Corbett National Park on that first safari. But I did see about 10 more tigers and some of these at very close range in Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks.  All of these were very memorable experiences.

It was now i realized on this first Indian safari that I loved India. And Indian wildlife even more. I would rate it to be the very best wildlife I had seen in any of the nine countries of Africa I had previously visited.  This impression was assisted, no doubt, by the fact that I also saw large herds of Elephants, Spotted Deer, Wild Pigs, Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, Indian Monitor Lizards, Leopards, Indian Wild Dogs/Dhole, and a good sampling of some of India’s 1,300+ Bird species.  Many of these species are the most striking Avian species to be found anywhere in the world.

India Wildlife Safari destination

In addition, there is a certain quality in the Indian cultural climate that casts an ambience. An aura that adds what can only be termed a spiritual dimension to the whole wildlife experience there.  The Hindu stories, for example, speak of the important roles played by the Tiger, and other animals in the history of this great land, India.

Somehow the reverence the people of India hold for these animals is communicated to the foreign traveler. One understands the respect Indians have for these animals.  Then one realizes why there are still wild Tigers and Lions in India.  While these animals have disappeared from so many neighboring countries.  Indeed, these predators are not seen as dark, fearsome forces of nature. Rather they are seen as critical elements that have their rightful place in the natural order of the world. They are entities to be revered and protected as they represent an important aspect of that which makes life complete.

I would also state here that there is no better safari provider in the world than Nature Safari India.  I have returned to India on six occasions and each time Nature Safari India has been my host.  On three of these occasions, I brought university safari groups to India. These groups comprised of 20 to 30 individuals. On each occasion, Nature Safari India always delivered well beyond my highest hopes.  I give them my highest recommendation. Also i would urge you to book your future India Wildlife safari with Nature Safari India.

All best,

John

 

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