This isn't actually my first blog. I've written some about my earlier trips but never had the will or confidence to post them. So, I hope you like my first official attempt at blogging. I'm seriously hoping that this blog gives you a good account of what Pench is like. Here's every single great thing that happened to me during my summer holiday Pench trip.
I found out about the camp about one month ago. Dad told me about it and I readily agreed, not wanting to miss out on a chance to see the stunning beauty of the Tiger. I was aware that there wouldn't be many students because of the recent Corona Virus threat. I began packing relatively late, yet covered all the essentials. I was awarded with Dad's DSLR, which was the first genuine camera that I was going to handle which had a respectable zoom, different modes for different types of photography, plus all the extra (not latest, but still pretty good) bells and whistles. Unfortunately, I have zero aptitude when it comes to photography. So, shopping and photography training began as soon as I heard about the camp. The night before camp I was asked to think again as the Corona Virus infection was increasing day by day. Even so, I had made up my mind.
The day of the camp I reached Pune station by 4:30 pm. No one had arrived yet, so we waited for some time. About 5 minutes later, my instructor Shauri dada, who also happened to be my EVS teacher at school, climbed out of a cab with the second instructor Mukta Tai. Following them was a very familiar looking person. About a year ago, I made a friend at my Maths class. Coincidentally, Aditya Grover happened to be Shauri Dada's nephew. We quickly reconciled, and I found out that Aditya was here as "under an alias", so as to speak. Someone had unfortunately backed out, so Aditya was there in his place. Everyone was already wearing their head buffs as we were in an area with a lot of hustle and bustle. We boarded the Garibrath Express to Nagpur at 5:40 pm.
After a fun night with my school friends, we reached Nagpur around 9:25, got off the train and boarded the relaxing AC buses. They were a huge comfort for us, this was followed by playing all sorts of songs on the speaker in the bus which enthralled us greatly. In high spirits, we reached the resort at around 12:30 and explored it quickly. We found out that there was a restaurant (with Wi-Fi obviously, we teenagers can't live without that thing), campfire sites, lavish cottages (two rooms per cottage), an elevated area to chill out, which also served as a watchtower for birding, and old-fashioned swings made up of tyres. There was also a swimming pool, but we were not allowed to swim in it, because of Corona threat. Being the adaptive semi-adults that we were, we quickly made ourselves comfortable. We had a safari scheduled in the afternoon at around 2:30 so we quickly rearranged the required essentials in our bag. Just to test if the camera was working fine, I took a test shot of what looked like an Common Pierrot butterfly just before leaving for the reserve. So satisfied was I with that picture, that it was followed by 6 more test shots of the Indian Langur at the entry gate for the Tiger Reserve. The place was crawling with Langurs, so I had many subjects in many different poses.
Common Pierrot Butterfly
Adult Langur with baby langur
We eventually entered the reserve, with my first picture being of a Plum-headed Parakeet, there were 2-3 of them; which made a good family photo, next was again the Indian Langur but with a baby Langur cradled in his lap, I definitely couldn't afford to miss that, and deduced that the mating season of Langurs was going on, or had passed. Spotted Deers were a common yet captivating sight, with their graceful antlers. Next of course, was the Indian Peafowl. Considering it was March, there was sadly no way we could see its feathers unfurled in the majestic fan, but its blue colors were striking, nevertheless. Nothing special up next, the occasional Indian Roller here and there. But then we saw 3-4 jeeps lined up, and instantly knew it was the Big Cat. The Tiger was sitting a relatively far distance away, and it took a long time for newcomer jeeps to spot it due to its excellent camouflage. When everyone did however, all I could hear was the clicking of cameras, my own camera's sound mixed in them. After everyone was done clicking, we stopped there as the guides from all the jeeps were certain that it would cross the road. We waited for a good 2 hours until the Tiger finished its leisurely nap. I ran out of my snacks there, and chatted with Mukta Tai, the guide, and my friends. As predicted, the Tiger did cross the road, which threw everyone into a frenzy as they attempted to get a picture of the tiger crossing. I was unable to get a picture though. I was still thoroughly satisfied on seeing a Tiger on the first safari (which people think is uncommon).
Male Plum-headed Parakeet
We returned to resort for our much awaited night trail. We were all utterly famished, yet excited for the night trail. Shauri dada, was equipped with a UV torch for the trail, which allowed us to detect scorpions, who shone fluorescent green under UV light; we plunged into the darkness of the forest around our camp, which was also, the buffer area for the Pench Tiger Reserve. We found scorpions, all right. Moreover, Shauri Dada caught a few to show us, and then he released them. We also (pun alert) spotted Spotted Deer very close to the camp. Exhausted, we trudged back to camp, and passed out as soon as we hit our pillows. We had an early morning safari the next day so we needed all the sleep we could get.
The next morning, we woke up at 4:15 to Shauri dada's wake up call, I had woken up 5mins before to the sound of my friend's alarm. The morning was extremely cold, so we wore our jackets and head buffs. We were generously provided with thick blankets by the hotel staff. We left for the safari and after few minutes inside, our guide spotted the pugmark of a Tiger. We clicked pictures. We spotted the Sambar Deer next, where I got some fairly acceptable snaps. While we were waiting as we had heard the alarm call of some animal, a raptor came and sat on a low branch. On closer inspection through our cameras, it was revealed to be a Honey Buzzard. We were there for some time, as a female appeared quite close to the male buzzard. We were very lucky, as later we noticed their brief mating before both flew away. Next up was the Wild Boar. We could not see the male who have tusks, but they still looked frightening. I randomly remembered that this animal was the symbol of the Greek god of war, Ares. This safari remained slightly uneventful as I didn't see anything else that was new, but little did I know that this disappointment was going to be compensated.
Oriental Honey Buzzard
We came back to the resort. Before the evening safari, I headed out with Aditya for some quick birdwatching. I quickly realized that he was a seasoned pro and decided to stick with him for the rest of the trip, just for the enhancement of my natural knowledge. Inside the resort I captured the Common Emmigrant Butterfly in my camera. Aditya went inside to get his camera, while I explored the underside of the elevated cottages, and found out that there were a few Orange-headed Thrushes under most of the cottages, supposedly drinking on the geyser water. Both of us were there for some time.
We were greeted by the Sambar deer in an open field, in the third safari. I finally got a clear shot of this robust animal. Next I spotted a Shikra in a damp field, which, judging from its dark eyes, was a male. Next was the Indian Roller. So why did I stop you may ask? The Roller was sitting in perfect light, its blue feathers gave off a metallic lustre. Got some good snaps here. We also noticed what may have been the scratch marks of a Leopard coming down from a Ghost Tree. I was clicking photos of Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, etc. when I noticed a Grey Hornbill and got it's photo too. Although I couldn't get a photo, we also saw the rare Wild Dog. Next was the Indian Gaur, who was one of the biggest animals I've seen so far, and thus, fairly easy to photograph. Next was the Jackal, who rarely rests, but we spotted it sitting. We got good close-up photos hence. Couldn't see a tiger, yet it was fun.
The fourth safari was the most interesting, first Tiger scratch marks, and then the Big Cat itself. We spotted 3 tigers at once!! It was a female with her two cubs. Due to the increasing number of jeeps, one cub got cornered and wandered around in search of a way out. Scared that it might get provoked and attack, everyone retreated. I didn't get photos as good as the opportunity presented by fate, but as a rookie photographer, I'm more than happy. Next we got pictures of Magpie Robins, White-throated Kingfishers, etc. Also saw the Jungle Owlet, but no photo, oh well. We got back to resort, and I spotted a Crimson Rose butterfly carrying another one, knowing they were about to mate, I went to my room, freshened up quickly, and headed out with Aditya for some more nature exploration. In resort, I photographed the Orange-headed Thrush yet again. Aditya spotted the butterflies, and we witnessed their mating, simultaneously clicking dozens of pictures. Next we got photos of the Lemon Pansy butterfly. Lastly, Aditya did some magnificent photography through my camera of a golden-yellowish dragonfly. It was by far the best insect photo in my camera.
Mating pair of Crimson Rose Butterflies
Lemon Pansy Butterfly
Sadly, after all these spectacularly breathtaking sightings, I realized that it was our last day at camp. I hurriedly went back to my room and started packing. When it was time to leave, we boarded the buses and were off. Sometime later we were stopped at a barricade. There were doctors doing a quick check-up of the people travelling, to check for the Corona Virus infection. After we were done with the check-up (and cracking corny jokes) we proceeded. Dada informed us that our parents felt that we shouldn't eat dinner offered by train vendors, and so we were ordering from an app; to this, everyone quickly ordered their choicest delicacies. Later, half the bus fell asleep until we reached the station and boarded Garibrath around 6:35 pm. After boarding we were surprised to know that the entire train was empty, only 10% passengers were travelling. We were dumbstruck, as this was unlike..... well, anywhere in India. We got to know that the Government was going to stop trains and thus people had cancelled their tickets to escape the onslaught of the Corona Virus. We didn't ponder over this though, as we had all the seats we wanted. Our pizzas arrived shortly, and we attacked and devoured them in a flash. Next we decided to play cards, and we did so after calling Tai, and some other friends. After that we watched a movie till midnight, we then went to sleep and woke up directly early morning (because it kinda became a habit). When we came out of the Pune station, it was relieving and terrifying at the same time to see our families coming here to take us back home.
So to give you a short list of everything I saw: Common Pierrot butterfly, Indian Langur, Plum-headed Parakeet, Spotted Deer, Indian Peafowl, Indian Roller, Bengal Tiger, some unknown scorpions, Honey Buzzard, Wild Boar, Common Emmigrant butterfly, Orange-headed Thrush, Sambar Deer, Shikra, Grey Hornbill, Wild Dog, Indian Bison, Magpie Robin, White-throated Kingfisher, Jungle Owlet, Crimson Rose Butterfly, Lemon Pansy butterfly, an unknown dragonfly and a partridge in a pear tree (Just an expression, I didn't see any partridge).
Well, that's it. My Pench Trip. On closing, I would say that Pench is a wonderful, beautiful place, which you should definitely visit. With thousands of flora, fauna, and scenic views; Pench is one of the best Tiger Reserves. Plus, I would thank Insearch Outdoors for arranging this camp and Shauri dada & Mukta tai for taking such good care of us.
That's my group
Oh also, if you happen to see a Leopard when you go there, send me pics.