Perhaps one of the unique aspects of the Park is that you have to cross the Denwa river to reach the Madhai Gate from where one takes the vehicles assigned by the Forest Department. We did a couple of Safaris and each time we had good sightings! We were visiting Satpura towards the end of March, a time when the forest is mostly dry except for some trees, which had new leaves and the beautiful Flame of Forest, which was in full bloom!
The dry forest works in our favour as it is easier to sight birds and animals. Our first sighting as the sun rose above the tree-line, was of the Indian Gaur. It is the largest bovine in South Asia and can weigh upto 1000Kg. We came upon a herd with some young ones. They walked about quite unperturbed by our presence. The sheer size of the Indian Gaur is something to behold. Inspite of the huge size, it is an attractive animal with a dark brown to black body and white lower legs.
Satpura National Park is actually a part of the Satpura ranges, which along with the Vindhya ranges, separate the Deccan Plateau from the Northern Plains. The terrain is hence hilly, with rocks providing shelter and sitting perches to animals. As we traversed up a hilly path, our Forest Department Guide almost squealed with delight……perched on the rocks somewhat above our eye-line were three Leopard cubs!! Two were clearly visible while the third one to their right was hiding behind some dry tall brush. To see them sitting so casually, in our full view, left us all quite speechless!! As per Siddhartha’s estimation they were about four months old. The cubs were too young to hunt on their own…..they cubs relaxed on the rocks, soaking in the warmth of the sun, posing like models, while we all furiously clicked away!! The scene was picture perfect!! We hung around there for almost twenty-five minutes watching these beautiful spotted creatures. Every move they made was accompanied by a collective intake of breath by the group!!
After such a high, it was quite a task to come back to a normal Safari drive!! The park as well as the areas around were teeming with Indian Rollers. It is a beautiful colourful bird. Infact, the golden wheat fields bring out the vibrancy of the feathers. We came across a beautiful Alexanderine Parakeet which seemed to be glued to the trunk of a tree almost an arms length away from our path. We couldn’t really make out the reason for this behavior. Anyhow, it was a treat to watch from such proximity.
Along the way we spotted a Grey-headed Fish Eagle. It was perched on a branch in our path so we were able to take pictures both of the back as well as the front of the bird.
We saw the Oriental Honey Buzzard, Crested Hawk Eagles, Crested Serpent Eagle and a couple of Hornbills.. As we were going to cross a stream, we spotted a dancing white tail…it was the Paradise Flycatcher! It is such a pretty bird to see prancing about. The tail seems to follow the bird so gracefully. It was extremely hard to get a good image as the bird would keep flitting about!
Another highlight of the Safari for us was the sight of the Malabar Giant Squirrel or the Indian Giant Squirrel. Much larger than the squirrels we see in our neighbourhood, about 36cms with a long tail, it has all the cuteness of a squirrel plus a lovely coat. It has a funny way of balancing its’ body on a branch while using both front paws to eat fruits. It was jumping about on the upper branches of a fig tree.
On our last Safari, in the last half hour we saw a Female Sloth Bear with a young one! They were quite a distance away from us but we could see them through the dry shrub. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take good pictures but managed to make a quick video. On our way back two Sirkeer Malkoha’s flew past us and sat down on the stump of a tree. Outside the park we spotted a Black-hooded Oriole and a Large Cuckooshrike in an orchard. Just goes to prove you have to keep your eyes open all the time!!
It is advisable to take a guide on such tours. There was no way we could have seen the Rusty Spotted Cat. On our return from the Safari it was getting dark, when our guide spotted two bright eyes in the headlights of our jeep. It is an elusive and shy cat. We saw it for a few seconds before it scurried into the field.