I visited Pench(from the MP side) this Jan. As always the objective was clear. The hope of sighting the pride of Pench(Rayakassa) and the Leopards along with the warm and welcoming winter light.
This was my 25th jungle safari. Yes, 25th! There are many who ask me, why do you go to the jungle? What is the fun in seeing tigers? Every tiger is the same! If you make no money out of these tours why do you do it? Tere pas bahut jyada paisa ho gaya hai! Have you divorced? I will answer all these questions some other time.
For now let me tell you how this silver jubilee ride turned out to be a memorable one.
We took a different path this time. Having failed in the previous two attempts to spot the tiger and leopard on Route1, we explicitly requested for Route3 at the gate. Lucky us, our request was granted. Our luck was further blessed with an amazing guide. He was very positive and knowledgeable.
As we ventured on the route where there was no one else, we were having a gala ride in the thick forest. This zone was very different as compared to Route1. Our guide was bombarding us with a lot of information and stories of tiger and leopard sightings.
Suddenly the driver applied breaks, The guide stood up in his seat at the rear side of the Gyspsy. We pulled out our lenses and tried to focus on this little creature. What is it? Now the knowledge of our guide was put to test.
Sir ye Civet cat hai shayad. Looking through my lense, I zoomed in. A very beautiful creature was looking back at me with the same curiosity as of mine. As I scanned this creature, I stumbled upon its long tail. I was completely awed by its mysterious appearance.
The guide had already pulled out his book (he was the most studious guide I have ever seen). Sir aap log bahut lucky ho. Ye Asian Palm Civet hai
This Toddy Cat (alternate name) was searching for its food on the ground. There were absolutely no opportunities to get a good click. We were at least 5 ft. above the ground. An eye level shot looked impossible. The forest was dense. Hence the lighting conditions were poor. My fear was, as its a nocturnal animal it will shy away and vanish. To my disbelief it continued to stay there. We ensured we do not get into his space and make him uncomfortable. Luckily ours was the only vehicle out there.
After observing us for a few mins, this AsianPalmCivet seemed confident that we are more friends and were not going to harm him. So he decided to help us. He climbed up a tree. Eye level shots were now possible and to top it all he posed for us on the branch and then got down to continue his search for food.
It was more than 30 mins that we spent with him when our guide said, sir age chale? Putting the camera down we decided to leave him on his own and move on. Mr. Guide said, “I am working as a guide for 12 yrs now and this is the first time I have seen a Civet in broad daylight”. Chati fool gayi bhai!
From our 3 jungle safaris @Pench we did not spot a single big cat. It was as if section 144 was imposed in the forest. But then special appearances like these keep you motivated to visit again. Never have I returned void from the jungle so far. The silver jubilee ride was no different. Rather it was very special. There was another story waiting to unfold just 200 mtrs. ahead….