Thursday, December 10, 2009

Night Safaris at Kanha Tiger Reserve

In early periods night safaris were not regulated in Kanha National Park. But as a right measure this was discouraged in toto. It is not a good idea to conduct night safaris in the core zones of any National Park taking into account the disturbance caused and onus of day safaris which are organized in morning and evening.

I have always encouraged night safaris among my visitors and have conducted some in the buffer zone...mainly on highways passing through. My preferred route is the road that leads right up to the Kanha NP park boundary from Van Vilas Jungle Resort at Mochha on wards. The night safari route which I prefer is the Mukki Highway and Mocha to Mukki road. The last two are public routes so there is no problem although you may have to notify forest guards or posts on the way. For the first route it is advisable to contact the first post you come across.

Night safaris are exciting and offer the best chance of sighting less seen nocturnal animals as the leopard, porcupine, ratel, Indian fox, civet cats, barking deer, the rare wolf and more. You can hear night jars and owls and see them under the light. A powerful torch should be very useful albeit care should be taken not to throw light on big cats and bison if you come across them. For large animals search lights are not essential as the head lights work fine.

Night safaris are the best way to experience the heart throbbing delights of tranquil jungle life and its pristine ambiance. Night safaris are being conducted in Rajasthan and as per TOI news it will be conducted in major NPs and Wildlife Sanctuaries in Karnataka.

Advantages

If properly organized and in the right places, Night safaris at Kanha Tiger Reserve will make tourism more fruitful. Perhaps it will reduce the traffic of day safaris in the core zone.

Night safaris may discourage illegal activities since the roving eyes of the tourists will hinder movements of poachers and timber smugglers.

It will yield more employment to the locals and add business to the hotels, jeep owners and guides. This would be the best way to provide jobs to local guides who often sit jobless due to less tourism inside the core zone.

It will increase awareness amongst the tourists as their scope of understanding this fragile ecosystem will increase.

Caution

The movement for night safaris has to be strictly restricted to non sensitive areas...away from core zone and breeding zones.

The tourist have to comply with decent behavior, perhaps supervised by the guide as he does so in the day safaris.

The night safaris should be conducted in the same manner as the day safari by the administration...and charged.

The safety of the tourist have to be taken into account.

The timings should be restricted up to 11pm.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Forest birds of Kanha and Bandhavgarh

Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh National Park offer the best birding opportunity. The bird species checklist surpasses 250 mark about 50 species less than Bharatpur bird sanctuary in Rajasthan.

Birdwatching is catching up in these tiger reserves but then birds are not seen en mass here. Forest birding is always straining until unless you come across a mixed hunting party. Winters is the best time for birding in these parks but thick forest canopy makes bird watching strenuous.

Winter visitors or migratory birds arrive from October onwards and one can see ultramarine flycatcher, Hume's warbler, greenish warbler, sulfur bellied warbler, Tickell's warbler, black redstart, pintails, common teals, Asian brown flycatcher and wagtails. Many species of pipits that migrate in winters can also be seen.

Common birds are grey hornbill, Malabar pied hornbill, orioles, nuthatches, parakeets, drongos, cuckoos, barbets, owls, owlets, crested hawk eagle, crested serpent eagle, honey buzzards, black naped flycatcher, paradise flycatcher, verditor, Tickell's blue flycatcher, white eyed buzzard, mynas, sparrows, Greater racket tailed drongo, orange headed thrush, black necked stork, lesser adjutant stork and painted stork. There are many more....

Checklist of Bandhavgarh National Park is the same as that of Kanha National Park albeit with minor variations. In these tiger reserves the terrain varies although forest habitat is the same. Wetlands birds do not visit these tiger reserves in great numbers as large water bodies are absent, nevertheless many ducks, teals, sandpipers and wagtails can be seen during the winters.

Many tour operators, hotels and wildlife resorts now offer birding as an option along with tiger safaris in the park. Those with in house professional naturalists and birding guides deliver the best.