It might seem a touch odd writing about a trip to India I took earlier this year just before Christmas, but there are actually a couple of reasons.
Firstly I am increasingly finding that a period of reflection on images gleaned, particularly when there are a lot of them and which a big trip generally results in, tends to actually make the editing process quicker, easier and less wrapped up in the emotion of the experience too. A personal thing this (doesn’t suit everyone, I know) but it does mean that there’s a lot of material from this year yet to emerge from hard drives and still to look forward to!
Secondly this time of year is about family and I know my parents have been waiting for this blog in particular so there’s an aptness there as well. Why are they so interested – well when I was young we lived in India for a number of years so for them it has a special place in thier lives and memories; for me most of said memories are based on their photos and slides of the time, but whenever I’ve been back to the sub-continent since the smells have always triggered what recollections of early childhood I have off again, and this trip, my first to Bandhavgarh was no different.
Of course the majestic tiger was an obvious target photographically, but this is the area that Rudyard Kipling loosely based his tale around and so it was always going to be more than just a one species experience. In fact the word jungle itself is derived from the old sanskrit word jangala which literally means uncultivated land and not the dense rainforest that it is often considered to be. It’s a description that perfectly describes the national park here especially at it’s early morning best.
It’s this combination of light and shade along with distant calls accompanied by nearby unseen but overhead movements in the combination of Sal trees and bamboo, that makes the experience of time spent here so exciting: that and the fact that you never quite know what will happen on any game drive.
Much of the noise is made by troops of Grey (or Hanuman) Langurs. They are inquisitive and quite numerous around the park as well as the surrounding villages but they make for a great subject to work with photographically in any setting: I particularly like working with them in a backlit setting too as their fur worked perfectly with the sun behind them.
This last picture of the group sitting on a rock reveals another important feature at Bandhavgarh – and that is the huge rock escarpment that rises in the middle of it, site of its historic fort.
The combination of steep slopes covered in vegetation and interspesed with these open grassy meadows (this one is the Rajbhera meadow) are what makes up the key elements of the habitat here – perfect for an array of indigenous species to co-exist.
These meadows in particular are key to the Chittal or Spotted Deer – good grazing areas but they need to keep their wits about them at all times as they are in the open there too.
You can also see how well they are able to hide but the way they blend into the scenery here is nothing compared to the ability of the apex predator of the park – the tiger: Kipling’s own Shere Khan.
It’s very easy for a tiger to simply disappear: and this is in the open areas of the meadows never mind the thicker undergrowth. The result is that finding opportunities to photograph them requires a lot of patience and a great deal of local skill and knowledge which our guides Satyendra and Kay Tiwari and their team most definitely have. Even working within the tight constraints of the permit system here we were able to enjoy a couple of excellent encounters and one morning in particular with the heavily pregnant Wakeeta who as trying to shake off her now almost sub-adult offspring, is one that will live long in my memory banks as she walked elegantly through trees, clearings and then eventually across the path beside us in the early morning.
There aren’t any wild elephants in the park but they are to be seen as they make up part of the parks own patrols for it’s general management: they make a good photographic opportunity too either for close-ups or when left on their own to enjoy a dust bath in the way only elephants can.
Those who know me well will know that I can’t resist a few bird images wherever I go, and these Oriental Turtle Doves, Red-vented Bulbul and Little Green Bee-eater were among the common sights around the village where we stayed so simply had to be photographed!
Hopefully some images that give a good feel of the wildlife of this part of central India, the origin of the Jungle Book itself. It was my first trip to this part of the country but not my last – I have plans to return in 2015 with dates now set so if you are at all interested in joining me then just drop me a line. It’s not a place where you can strictly guarantee anything but there will always be encounters and they are all special: when things do fall into place with the queen of the jungle (in this case) then it’s the icing on the proverbial cake.