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Being a travel agent, new destinations and places have always lured me but nothing tempts me more than the wilderness. It’s the wild jungle that calls out to me like a fog horn draws tired ships to the shores. Every affair with the Jungle, every encounter and every rendezvous with the beasts big and small remains entrenched in my memory and gives me enormous pleasure in quiet times. In the wild, you are not the one calling the shots, the jungle rules, it’s the master and makes one realize how insignificant and incapable humans are against its fury. A safari excites me and I would choose an adrenaline pumping jungle holiday any day over lazing at a beach or visiting a museum.

In a jungle one is unable to control the twitching finger for clicking pictures. Unfortunately, I haven’t really had an opportunity to learn the ropes professionally, but the fantastic thing is that even an amateur photographer like me feels like a hot-shot shooter in the jungle! You just cannot go wrong simply because there is so much beauty surrounding you!

While India has some amazing wildlife in its 64 recognized National Park & Sanctuaries, it is also a haven for many endemic and endangered birds & reptiles. Besides Tiger, wildlife enthusiasts can visit India for Lion Tailed Macaque, Great Indian Bustard, Niligiri Tahr, Wild Ass, Asiatic Lion and many such endemic species of flora & fauna.

The state of Madhya Pradesh, the heart of India as it’s called, alone is home to 5 extremely rich National Parks. After some Iongish gap, recently, I had the itch again and chose to revisit MP. The task of inspecting hotels & lodges and the PR exercises done, I took some time to literally stop and smell the flowers. The sweet intoxicating smell of the Mahua is a pleasure to the senses when it is flowering. Equally intoxicating is the local wine, the ultimate nectar as the locals describe it. Entire family can be seen picking up the Mahua fruit systematically and quietly. Many a times, one can spot up to three generations of a family picking up the fruit.

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Flame of the Forest with its red flowers is another tree that adds color to the skyline here and is one of my favorite trees!

Usually spotting the big cat, a tiger is the ultimate goal of a safari, but imagine a park where tiger-sighting is not a challenge but the number of tigers you spot is.  Bandavgarh is such a park. It is also a park known for its population of other mammals such as Nilgai (Blue bull) and Indian Gaur (Bison), Leopards etc. There is a 2000 years old fort, sitting majestically atop the Bandavgarh hill, looking down at the jungle below. The houses in and around Bandavgarh are painted blue and have a distinctive character that takes one back to childhood & folktales. At the northern area of the park there are also 35 sandstone caves.

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A lot of new hotels have mushroomed all over Bandavgarh, which is little worrying as the construction activity does affect the peace & tranquility. It is a necessary devil of our trade, but I do hope that all this development work is limited to what is extremely essential and is done in an integrated and healthy manner minimizing the environmental and ecological disturbances. Besides luxury hotels like CC Africa and the latest addition, Samode Safari lodge, the park offers an extensive variety of lodges to choose from- each with a unique character, style and USP. The SAMODE SAFARI lodge beats all the competition hands down. Located at Magdi gate and far from the madding crowd, the resort offers village-styled independent cottages and it knows how to pamper its guests.

Kanha, the largest Park in central India encompasses 2000sq km of grasslands. A jungle in true sense, it is as good as it gets. Thick, dense and full of adventure, the park has waterholes, which are good spots to patiently wait for good sighting of mammals. Accessed by two entry points, Mukki & Kisli, Kanha has a variety of accommodation of International class as well as local camps, providing a rustic and comfortable experience.

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The discovery for me was a quaint boutique property called Kanha Earth Lodge. A very tastefully designed lodge, this one talks loudly about its silence & quaint location. The only disturbance here is chirping of the birds and every sit-out faces the wilderness. Professionally run by a bunch of passionate wildlifers, this lodge is worth a 4 or 5 nights’ stay.
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Pench, is a picture-perfect park where sunsets can be mesmerizing. Park has amazing variety of trees such as Flame of the Forest and Ghost trees. These, I was told, appear like a ghost on a full moon night and hence the name. This is the only park where I didn’t regret not seeing animals. In fact one doesn’t miss them. Park is so awesome that I didn’t mind clicking just the open sky, trees, narrow winding path and almost everything that I could lay my eyes on. It abounds in bird life, water bodies, and green open grasslands that just appeared like a golf course.

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Unfortunately there are not many lodges available here. The only one piece-de-resistance’ is CC Africa, now rebranded as “& Beyond”. It is as African as it can get in its style and comfort. Built between a cluster of Mahua trees, the rooms here offer al –fresco showers, bedding under the stars and many such unique experiences.

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More than the wildlife, it was the trees in Central India that caught my attention this time. For all of you who have a copy of ‘Trees of Delhi’ by Pradip Kishan, do pick up “Trees of Central India”, his last one.  As long as the focus is not on the safari alone, there are plenty of trees, villages, tribes and birds to look for.  Central India is a paradise for people looking not only for wildlife, but also much more than that.

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As I sign off, I invite all of you to experience a jungle trip in India.

Till then, be good and be wild!

Vagabond Shoes,
20 Feb’ 2013

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traveler, dreamer, photographer, birder and nature lover. i try to travel to offbeat places and write about them to encourage others to do the same. my blogs are photo-essays, that are supplemented by my own images.

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