Sophie Tissiman, our India Specialist, has recently returned from a trip to Tadoba National Park, an ‘off the beaten track’ area of Maharashtra. Here she shares her encounter with a Sloth Bear…
Our early morning wake up is with Indian Chai and a biscuit, our naturalist is waiting with a big smile and eager eye for adventure. After a few minutes drive I find myself inside the most enchanting national park I have ever seen, the heavenly lake, mystic mountains and wavering meadows. The sun is rising and the warm first morning rays of light are beaming through the forest canopy.
Butterflies, peacocks, lizards and deer wake to spread colour and life through the jungle. The air is filled with birdcalls as we drive quietly deep into the wilderness, eyes peeled, anything can happen at any time. Our naturalist starts to unravel the park’s many layers, its beasts and birds, secrets and tales. Signs of a nearby predator such as fresh pugmarks or alarm calls are closely monitored, followed and interpreted by trained eyes, tuned ears and the innate sense of a native forest dweller.
The jeep stops and the driver points to the ground, a ‘pug mark’ – the fresh footprint of a leopard. We slowly follow the pug marks until they disappear into the thick of a meadow. We sit quiet for a while, in the branches overhead a rustling noise and barking sound, it’s a male langur jumping from tree to tree and giving an alarm call. We gently make our way towards the sound- my heart is racing and my tummy is filled with butterflies – is it a leopard, a tiger… we turn a corner… it’s a bear.
My mouth drops in amazement as he saunters down the road in front of us. He looks back at us with suspicion in his eyes, but after a few seconds decides that we are no threat to him. He cautiously turns away and continues his patrol of the forest path in search of a termite mound. His long shaggy, black coat shimmers in the sun. I am captivated. He is massive but moves in such a gentle way, with his huge soft padded feet and inquisitive muzzle. A few seconds feels like a lifetime before he disappears into the deep jungle.
For a moment nobody said a word, and I just stared at the path where this handsome bear had just been. Overcome with a warm feeling of excitement we continue our adventure…
India’s National Parks
Considered the second largest base of wildlife in the world, India promises an unforgettable experience to its visitors. The national parks, many former hunting grounds for the Maharajas, offer a unique experience. The elusive tiger is top of most people’s spotting list but there are many other mammals, reptiles and vivid birds for the wildlife enthusiast.
The quality of the planning and your guide can make the difference between a good trip and an outstanding one. Our wildlife team is extremely experienced and, because it is a complex area to operate in, have spent years researching in the country. We have carefully picked a team of guides with extensive knowledge. They will do their best to ensure that every game drive is a unique event and the multitude of prey animals, birds and monkeys will keep the keenest eye busy.