The morning sun rises and the mists disperse, shoulders hunched against the cold begin to straighten and chins emerge from their muffle of scarves. Dust motes dance & tease in celebration, captured within the shafts of sunlight breaking the canopy of the trees, but will the emerging forest reveal it’s rich bounty?
The afternoon safari ends with the evening hues living up to their clichéd status, casting a mesmerising glow over the entire jungle, the scent of wood-smoke filters through the air as fires are lit in the surrounding villages which remain untouched and unspoiled by modernisation. Children run and play and wave as the jeeps pass by, some filled with exultant wildlifers, memories digitally captured, some despondent, those with more safaris to experience, still expectant………
The bounty for our day; chittal, sambar, barasingha and muntjak, four separate Jackal, a family of wild boar, gaur, the usual suspects when it comes to birds though an unexpected blue bearded bee eater. A good day because despite the elusive cat, a day spent in Kanha is always an utter pleasure, the scenery, beauty and ambience is quite simply mesmerising.
Yet a safari experience is so much more than the park and it’s wildlife. It is about a home away from home, a lodge fire with accompanying dogs, a quiet corner to read a book or watch the world go by, birding style. It is campfire chats with old friends and new, a warm towel and hot rum, tasty nuts (!) and soup in mugs, a bike ride around the village or an hour in a hammock, a walk along the river, binoculars in hand or a visit to a tribal market. It is about forgetting wifi and just being with oneself, or friends and family, quality time to experience a life that used to be.
For me it is also about coming home. I frequently get asked which is my favourite place in INDIA and I am never quite sure where. But I had to bring dad here, to Kanha, the scene of my novel and the place that lured me permanently to India. In doing so, for or the first time I realised, this is where my heart truly lies, in the very centre of central India. There is something magical and mesmerising about the place which makes it more than just special. I left after my initial stint, 6 months at Shergarh feeling that I would never find the man of my dreams if I were to remain in the jungle. Yet, in the last ten years, no man has captured my heart quite like this place…… But that doesn’t mean I have given up hope, I am ever the optimist!
An enormous heartfelt thanks goes out to Jeehan and Katie Bhujwala, without whom I would never have quite discovered the magic of this place and whose home here, Shergarh, truly feels like my home too. It was great being back, seeing the old staff and reminding us all that I didn’t destroy it either when it was left under my supervision!!
Also, thanks goes out to Eric D’Cunha at Bagh Tola, my second home in Kanha, whose genuine hospitality never waivers, whose food is extraordinary, whose cats are delightful and who, more than anyone who spends time here, knows quite simply just knows the magic of Kanha.
I could not have wished for a better finale to Dads trip. Thank you Shergarh and Bagh Tola, Katie, Jeehan and Eric.
On #Safari in #Kanha #Shergarh #Baghtola