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elefromoz

Chillin' in India, Feb/March 2020

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elefromoz

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A Return to Indian Jungle where the Termite is King.

 

It was on an afternoon Safari in Nagarahole when we passed a termite mound and the subject of Termites came up.  The job of the Termites is to breakdown the timber of the Forest as it falls to the forest floor. Without the Termites, the tree debri would take years to decompose. As trees and limbs fall continuously, the ground surface would be covered, thereby blocking grasses and shrubs from growing. No ground vegetation, no Spotted Deer, no Sambur…..no Tiger food, no Tigers. Fancy that, the smallest of creatures determines the destiny of the largest.

 

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A Leopard skulks past in the morning mist, can you see him?

 

At the moment Nagarahole has a very large Spotted Deer population which is in turn, supporting a growing healthy Tiger population. Nagarahole, Bandipur and Wayanad form a contiguous corridor for the movement of Wildlife. When you look at a map of this part of Southern India, it is surprising to see so much "green” area. Only 10% of the Park is open to Tourism. It is said that 20 years ago you would have struggled to see a Tiger here, the last Census reported approximately 100 Tigers. It seems the Predators are flourishing.

 

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Trip overview

This was my 2nd trip to India. In 2016 our trip took us to Gujarat (Velavadar, Gir and Little Rann of Kutch), Satpura and Kanha NPs, transiting Delhi and Agra. We missed Tigers other than 1 very brief sighting, so I still had to scratch that itch. We booked with Wild World India again as we were very happy with Vikram and his Team last trip. I didn’t get a quote from another company so I can't make a cost comparison.

 

My original plan was for Kazaringa and Ranthambore. One day at work I mentioned my plans to a colleague, he replied “safe up there??” (Assam). I immediately checked the Australian smartraveller (Gov) site, and was disappointed to see Assam blanketed in orange with an attached “reconsider your need to travel” warning. This surprised me as others on this Forum had travelled there fairly recently. Vikram suggested Kabini as Plan B and we were set.

 

“We” in this case, was me and my mate Julia, it didn’t suit the OHs  to travel this time, so it was just us girls. This was her first trip to India, she was a bit apprehensive, didn’t have a lot of interest in Mammals (how quickly that changes once you see a Tiger or Leopard!) but was very keen to see new Birds. Mmmm, let’s see how that pans out. Im not really into celebrity Guides or celebrity Animals, so specifics on ‘who’ might be a bit light on. This wont be a day by day report, but rather a collection of bits and pieces cobbled together.

 

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elefromoz

Our Final Itinerary

Fly to Delhi, 

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Love the logo

 Overnight Hyatt Andaz, very good airport Hotel, excellent Breakfast Buffet including  Continental and Indian food, but also a Vegan/Organic section and Gluten Free options. The room had a weird bathroom whereby the sliding door/wall never met the fixed wall by about 10 inches. Hence a huge gap, have to have a very open relationship with your travelling partner.  Architects folly.

2. Fly to Bangalore, then long 6hr drive to Kabini, stopover enroute at the magnificent, mind bending Mysore Palace (thanks @Chakrafor this gem).

 

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On to the splendid ‘Evolve Back” resort on the banks of the Kabini Resevoir for 4 nights. We did 5 game Drives and 1 Riverboat trip 

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3. Drive back to Bangalore (repeat that looong 6hr drive), fly to Jaipur

4.  Jaipur for two nights, and some local sightseeing,  stayed at the very lovely  Heritage Haveli

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5. Drive 3 hours on a weirdly excellent deserted highway to Ranthambore. Stay Dev Villas for 4 nights. Lets call it “shabby chic Indian”.  Simple accomodation, friendly staff, tasty food, hints of a glorious past. 

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6. AM/PM Game Drives x 5,  1 Full Day Game Drive (just a note here, I missed the last half day AM drive, felt a little ‘off” at 5am and had to make a call,( as it turned out I was fine a couple of hours later :angry:)

7. Fly back to Delhi, Andaz O/N

8. Fly back to Perth via Singapore

 

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elefromoz

During our stay at Kabini, we were lucky enough to see Dhole. The first pair relaxed and lounging about the road and our vehicle.

The following day a group of four were on the hunt, their sleek chestnut bodies and black brush tails moving forward with determination. They split into 2 pairs and ran off in two different directions. I wasn’t aware that their hunting technique is the same as African Wild Dogs, their prey is not killed outright, but rather, “eaten alive” on the run. We didn’t have time to see what was going to happen as we had bigger things to pursue.

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Mongoose were spotted a number of times, they never hung around for long, getting a photo was tricky. What a tough little predator the Mongoose is, it will take on a Snake, wearing it down with its writhing acrobatics, before killing and eating it. It will die itself if it takes a venomous bite, agility is its only defence. We saw Mongoose across both Parks, Grey, Striped Neck and the Ruddy, which I couldn't get a shot of.  I’ve read that they are in strife as their hair is favoured as paintbrush hair.

 

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elefromoz

“Blackie’ is the King and big drawcard of Nagarahole, well, we didn’t see him, disappointed…no, not at all. The Lodges 2nd group, in a 16 seater, were jammy enough to have a full 20 minutes in his presence as he strolled down the road. Wow for them, funnily they were a bit pi….ed thay missed the Tiger on their next couple of Drives. My feeling was, one Black Leopard sighting = two Tiger sightings, so no sympathy from me! And we had our luck in other ways. We had seen Leopard twice on two previous Drives, both times they had slunk across the road in a matter of seconds and gone, so we knew they were around and our patience would pay off eventually. We were speeding off to a possible Tiger sighting, alarm calls had been heard. We rounded the bend in the track and confronted this, not what we were looking for but  holy moly I'll take that!

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he sauntered along a couple of hundred metres, just turning occasionally to throw us a glance, cool as you like. This guy has seen a lot of Jeeps full of tourists because he was not slightly interested in our presence. He entered the Jungle after about 5 minutes, then popped out again on the other side

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 This is "Torn Ear” I think, from some reading I've done post trip. Yes the ear is damaged, the bottom fangs seem to be missing and he looks pretty thin, maybe just hungry today,  to my uneducated eye. Passed his prime I suspect… but still impressive

 

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 He then approached the waterhole. Only then did he look a little cautious

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 and finally a drink

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always on the lookout though

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So no regrets,  we got our Leopard fix elsewhere

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janzin

ah glad to see you've already started your report...and that you got Bear!!  And very nice to meet you and Julia at Dev Villas, thanks to Abhishek for arranging a dinner for all of us.

 

 

 

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elefromoz

Hi Janet, nice to meet you both too. If Im reading todays news correctly, India has closed its borders to all visa holders. Wow, looks like we got in and out just in time. Shocking for the Tourist Industry though.( of course please fact check me, don't want to be spreading inaccurate information.) Yes, we got a couple of really good Sloth Bear sightings.

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TonyQ

A great start to your report with excellent sightings and photos.

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elefromoz

“and the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night, and he’s watching us all, with the eye, of the Tiger”

My undisputed favourite sighting of the trip. There we were, slowly rolling along a very rough track, just us, no mobile coverage to spread the word to other Jeeps, the Naturalist telling us how, after the Monsoon, he had to get out and push when the Jeep got bogged on this very track. I say “lucky there were no Tigers around”, he laughs, suddenly he points and says “there’s a Tiger” in a very flat, monotone voice like “there's a Spotted Deer”.  No pug marks, no alarm calls, no madness, just us and one very relaxed Tiger.

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This young Tiger was the inspiration of my title. Everyone expects Tigers to look majestic, full of intent, this one was having none of that.

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Just in case you ever wondered ...

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elefromoz

@TonyQ, thanks, we feel very lucky indeed, oops..where did that Leopard poppin' from/

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elefromoz

@Game Warden or one of the mods, if you could be kind enough to remove the last "leopard' photo, thanks, Eleanor

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Zim Girl

Love the lazy tiger!!

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Game Warden

@elefromoz What leopard photo?

 

Matt

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michael-ibk

Absolutely love the opening photo and that last batch, what a friendly looking Tiger! :) And Leopard, Sloth Bear and Dhole - just wow, you were very lucky! Looking forward for more.

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The_Norwegian

awesome photos and trip! Definetely on my wish-list sometime. Not right now though, corona and all, no norwegians allowed. 

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Chakra

Glad to hear you liked Mysore palace. Yes, India has indeed closed its doors to all leisure/business travel.  Despite having the good luck to see Blackie I also agree with you he is a bit overhyped. 

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Galana

That is one cool cat with a great set of teeth!

Nice leopard too. Makes up for Kazaringa.

Sadly, for those of a nervous disposition, all canids kill in much the same way as they have no claws to restrain large prey so just have to wear it down.

 

More please.

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elefromoz

Thanks @Zim Girl @michael-ibk I think some others in the Jeep were a bit disappointed to see a sleeping Tiger, all I could see was a young fella truly enjoying a “lay in”. @The_Norwegian, looks like no-ones getting in now, so lots of time to plan😀. @Galana, yep, a set of choppers to be proud of! Canid behaviour makes perfect sense, I decided a while back, I’m not coming back as a Spotted Deer in my next life. @Chakra, hoping you’ll pickup again on your fascinating TR...

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xelas

Wow, there are tigers in Kabini?! BTW what about birds? Hopefully some photos will follow.

 

Yes, this year early risers were lucky winners. 

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Hads

Wonderful TR thanks @elefromoz - Fantastic Tiger piucs and I love the photo of the Leopard slinking off into the woods.

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elefromoz
On 3/14/2020 at 3:38 PM, xelas said:

Yes, this year early risers were lucky winners. 

Yep, "snooze you lose", 

 

Thanks @Hads, hope its all goin' OK up there in the Pilbara, regionals not getting much media, as usual...

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elefromoz

For Nagarahole we stayed at the excellent “Evolve Back”. We both loved our stay here, Julia being a first time India visitor, was completely taken aback by how lovely this place was. If you haven't travelled to India before, maybe haven't done much reading, it would be hard to believe that places like this exist in India. I don't just mean the "luxury", but rather the calm...the space, and really we did not want to leave, we really could have done 2 more nights here, ah well. The Lodge reminded me of the beautiful Reni Pani where we stayed at Satpura. The Lodge is set on the banks of  the Kabini

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with views from all commom areas

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It’s a large property set in very treed grounds 

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between safaris I did some garden Birding,

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Asian Paradise Flycatcher

 

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Red Whiskered Bulbul (for the Bulbul fans ;))

 

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Jerdons Leafbird

 

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Ashy Prinia

 

 On our room orientation we were shown our private pool/jacuzzi.. “what a waste” I thought. Well we used it everyday. It started to get hot by about 2pm so it was great to freshenup, cool off, chill, before we headed out for the afternoon1486271769_India67.JPG.f251622b302ddf3a2dac89499d3c50a1.JPG

 

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Safaris were on the opposite bank of the River. Each morning started with Tea and Coffee, muffins, croissants  then we took a boat to the other side

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The boat docked at the JLR (Gov run Lodge) where you then get into your allocated Jeep

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One of the main reasons we were booked here was that we were guaranteed a Jeep and the Lodges Naturalist accompanied us on each drive. The “Jeeps” here have seating for 8 guests, we had 6-8 Evolve guests on each Drive, this is not going to suit everyone, but the theme being “chill”, we didn’t mind at all.  Others were in 16 seaters or Canters, the large trucks. Obviously aside from the fabulous accommodation, the guarantee of having a Jeep with our own Naturalist each drive was the single most important factor in booking here

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madaboutcheetah

@elefromoz - glad you had an amazing time at Kabini........

 

Torn Ear is also called "the temple male" - He is often seen at or on the Temple that's in Zone A.

 

You were lucky to have finished your safari - park in lockdown from yesterday .......... Tough Times around the world!!!

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elefromoz

@madaboutcheetah, look while I am so happy our trip went off smoothly, I am gutted for the Indian people and their livelihoods. We can only hope that the Wildlife too doesn't take too much of a hammering as a result. 

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elefromoz

I realized quickly that no matter what you say to Indian Guides and Drivers (actually talking more about Ranthambore here) regarding it “not being all about Tigers”, for them it is. Julia came away on this trip saying she’d like to see a Tiger, but she was more interested in the Birds (more on that later). On more than one occasion we said  “We don’t mind if we don’t see a Tiger today”.  Before the words had left our mouths, the response was, “Don’t worry, we will find you a Tiger”. We tried to say we loved Birds,  “Don’t worry we will find you a Tiger”. As the vehicle is stop/start, forward/backward, flying around, stop/start etc etc, stalking a Tiger, and we’d said we had enough Tiger photos now thanks…..”Don’t worry, the Tiger will come out again”.  We didn’t see a Tiger in our first 2 Ranthambore Drives, and I could almost  feel the burden of responsibility on the guys to find us one. In the end we gave up and just went along with it all, chilled as we are -_-   @Filip A you asked about the difference between Ranthambore and Nagarahole,. Everything is a lot calmer in Nagarahole, less vehicles I guess, and the famous “Blackie” shares the burden with the Tigers. Put simply Ranthambore is manic. A Tiger sighting has an almost drug-like effect (not that I know personally) on all the Drivers and Guides and everything just goes crazy. Doesn’t do my chilling any good at all :D 

 

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Nagarahole waterhole, the eyes stayed focussed on the vehicles

 

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"Arrowheads" 2yr old siblings (Ranthambore)

 

The funniest thing, when people asked “what did you see today”, initially Julia would respond with…”a Woodpecker”, she was so excited as we don’t have them in Aus.

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And I should add,  it is something,  the first time you hear it, when the silence of the morning, misty Jungle is broken by the deep hammering of a Woodpecker. I should also add that by the time we left Julia was as hooked on Tigers as everyone else.

 

 

 

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elefromoz

Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger and Tiger!

Nagarahole,  the call had gone out, Tiger at the Waterhole! Yay, our first for the trip, who knows , maybe our only one for the trip. We pulled up, there was already a few vehicles there, I looked over the edge but couldn’t see much, damn I'm gonna miss it. Suddenly my eyes adjusted to the scene and colour, I spotted it…actually, not one but four, a Tigress and her three sub adult cubs. The Tiger Gods were smiling on us today.

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Eventually they left and moved off into the Jungle

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Within half an hour, the call came again, Tiger at the waterhole. Well, I’ll be damned, the Male, Mate and Father of the family was coming in now.

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He stopped and posed a bit…I really couldn’t believe our luck

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Later we had one last look at the Family as they came out of the Jungle, walked by,down the road and disappeared again. What a morning. I think we were both stunned.

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So @xelas in answer to your question, "yes" there are Tigers in Kabini! 

Truly, if we hadn’t seen another Tiger for the rest of the trip, we would have been happy (though we were never going to get away with that attitude in Ranthambore :lol:). 

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