Poet Bhawani Prasad Mishra described the Satpura forests as dense but sleepy. I think I agree with him, the forests are sleepy – full of vines and spiders but today may be there are not as many tigers as he saw. Earlier this month, we were invited by Pugdundee Safaris to stay at their lovely Denwa Backwater Escape resort on the banks of Denwa River, across which lies the Satpura National Park. For 3 days we shuttled between the resort and the forest, crossing the backwaters of Denwa and explored it in various – each with a uniqueness of its own. So let me share this Safari Menu that we savoured at Satpura.
Jeep Safari: Now this is a standard way to explore national parks. A forest guard takes you in a Jeep along a defined path in the core forest area with a hope to spot animals in their natural habitat. We took two Jeep Safaris at Satpura – one in the morning that starts around 6:30 AM and another that starts around 4:00 PM. Times may differ a bit depending on the time of your visit. A group in the resort had spotted a leopard and a sloth bear – and that kind of raised our hopes of spotting these animals and once we did come close as we heard the calls by deers and monkeys. Well, you need loads of luck and perfect timing to spot the big animals like tiger, bear and leopard. We did not see any of them but we did see loads of Indian Gaur and Sambar Deers – doing all kinds of activities. We saw langoors, monkeys and herds of spotted dear. We spotted many birds in the forests and they were the ones who tempted us to go back to the forest again and again. The biggest discovery of Satpura forests was the giant spiders and their webs that joined the tall trees together – it appeared as if they are trying to weave a cover on top of the trees. Ghost tree with their peeled off skin shined in the moonlight as other trees merge into the darkness
Walk Safari: There are walking trails designed on the periphery of the core area where you are allowed to walk around. Once you buy a ticket, a forest guard is sent along with you to take you to the trail. He helps you spot birds, spiders, butterflies and animals. He also acquainted us with various plants and trees that happen in this region and cautioned us against the plants that we should be careful with. We passed through the tall grass, through thorny plants and through some plants that just wove their straws into our clothes that kept pricking us all the way. Our alert guide spotted few camaflouged species like lizards. Children below the age of 14 are not allowed on this trail. Wear comfortable clothes that cover you as much as possible as lot of plants tend to stick to you and your clothes.
Boat Safari: This is essentially a boat ride for an hour or so in the backwaters of Denwa River where you see small isands that are the perfect habitat for birds. On this boat ride, the dense green forests on all sides surround you including core area of the forest. It’s the flight of birds that would hold your eyes though. Birds flying alone, flying in pairs and flying in groups is a site a see, specially if you take this boat safari in the afternoon when you also get to see the sun setting into the waters. The day we were there, the sun gave saffron and blue color to the waters and I do not think I have it in me to describe that scene. You have to be there to feel it and soak it in – the sheer play of colors by nature.
Night Safari: This is the scary one – you go in an open jeep in pitch dark and use the searchlights to spot the animals. This safari is done on this bank of the river and usually organized by the resorts themselves with their naturalists guiding you in spotting nocturnal animals. We were told to look for shining eyes as that is the only way to spot animals – this means you have to be extra lucky for not only you have to be in vicinity of the animals, they should be looking at you too. We spotted a few Indian Hare running around to begin with and then we got lucky. We saw two sloth bears first and then one of them crossed the road just in front of our vehicle. It made our day or rather our trip. After this spotting some night birds like Indian NightJar was like icing on the cake.
Birding Trail: To catch the birds it is best to walk and if possible not in groups. We walked around the waterbodies around our resort and spotted many birds like Woodpecker, Indian Roller, Parakeets and some colorful duck around the ponds. Best time to do these trails is around sun rise and sun set. On this trail while my better half was busy shooting birds, I said hello to many medicinal plants that grow in this area. There is an abundance of Ebony tree whose leaves are used to roll Beedis and this is a major source of revenue from these forests. Ghiria tree has multiple uses – its leaves are used as mosquito repellent and anti-septic & its wood is used for making ploughs as it is light in weight but has an amazing stength. Wood from Rimjha tree is used to make cartwheels, as it does not wear off easily. There was Jungli Tulsi or wold basil that is also used for medicinal purposes by the locals.
Apart from these, there is also an option of doing and Elephant Safari where you explore the jungle from the height of elephant’s back. There is Village Safari that I thought would be more relevant for non-Indian visitors.
We will share more picture of the flora and fauna that we saw at Satpura as part of our Sunday Shot series.