After breakfast we left our hotel for our three to four hour journey to Satpura National Park and the Reni Pani Jungle Lodge. Today, 21st March is the festival of Holi in India. It celebrates both the arrival of Spring and the death of the demoness Holika. So it celebrates the triumph of good over evil in a colourful way. People celebrating the festival throw bright coloured dyes over each other. The narrow streets of Bhopal were full of market stalls selling brilliantly coloured dyes. Unfortunately they are now artificial and there is a move to bring back the natural colours.
Bird watching at The Narmada River
The route took us through many villages, rural areas and across the large Narmada River. This river is one of the only two rivers in India which flows east to west. It rises in Amarkantak in the east. Then it flows through the ancient rift valley between the Vindhya and Satpura Hill until it enters the Arabian Sea in the west.
This area and its marshes was great for bird watching. Sarus Cranes stood majestically in the field. Nearby were Woolly Necked Storks. A Marsh Harrier flew low over the marsh searching for prey. Cattle Egrets stood amongst the cattle as Black-winged Stilts and Red Naped Ibis wandered along the shoreline. Flocks of Barn Swallows and Dusky Crag Martins swirled around in the air feasting on insects. Indian Pond Heron crouched patiently watching the water
As we drove along we could see it was harvest time in the rural villages and women were gathering the wheat crops and the straw. Elderly ladies drove the cattle through the streets of the villages to new areas of grazing. On the roofs of houses cow pats were drying ready to be used for fuel.
We stopped at a service station for a rest break. Groups of colourfully dyed youths on motor bikes congregated around the fuel pumps, laughing at their dyed faces and clothes. They were very eager to have their photographs taken by members of our group. Across the road a stall had an old piece of machinery which we thought was a sugar cane crushing machine. Throughout the journey the roads were variable from tarmac surfaces, with lots of road works, to bumpy, dusty, dirt tracks. Eventually we arrived the entrance to Reni Pani Jungle Lodge.
Reni Pani Jungle Lodge
Leaving our coach at the entrance we walked through the forest to the lodge. At the restaurant/lounge area we were greeted with wet towels and a refreshing cold drink. After a delicious buffet lunch we were shown to our cottages where we would spend the next six nights. Along a dirt track through the forest, over two wooden bridges was our cottage. The cottage was on three levels. You walked into a large bedroom area, with an enormous bed, tables, chest and window seat. Down four steps was the bathroom and wardrobe. A large room with Jack and Jill sinks and separate toilet and shower rooms. Up a flight of stairs from the bedroom was a covered terrace with comfortable chairs and coffee table, with views over the forest.
The first task before our afternoon birding walk was to put out the trail camera near an obvious animal track behind the cottage. As we sat and watched a group of Chital (Spotted Deer) wandered past on the track. One of them walked close to the camera and appeared to be startled at something new and moved down off the track. Whilst a group of Grey Langurs jumped from branch to branch as birds sang invisibly in the trees.
Spotted Deer captured wandering past the trail camera on a track behind our cottage.
Afternoon Birding Walk around Reni Pani Village
At 4.15 we were meeting up in the restaurant for high tea before a leisurely walk in the surrounding village area. All of the naturalists from the lodge, who would be joining us on the safaris set off on the walk. Perhaps the group size was too large for close encounters with wildlife.
The small village had a school, and the usual mud/cow-dung huts and well brushed courtyard area of packed earth with white painted edges. A hand pump was the water supply and the women were filling gleaming cooking pots. The villagers were members of the Gond tribe. They had obviously been celebrating Holi as there was evidence of coloured dye on people, clothing and the ground.
Cows with their horns painted blue and their calves ambled through the village along with the chickens. A large number of dogs barked a welcome.It was harvest and the wheat crop had been cut. Straw and the sweepings of grain were in piles in the field near the platform structures where they lay and guarded the crops. A young boy, covered in purple dye came running towards us to guard one of the piles of grain.
Birds Seen on the Walk
As we walked through the field a Black-winged Kite and a Shikra flew overhead. Spotted Doves pecked at the dusty ground as Rose-ringed Parakeets flew noisily into a tree. Two Indian Grey Hornbills sat high in a tree near the field boundary. We scrambled down a slope to a waterhole where there were good views of a White throated Kingfisher perched on a dead snag. A cow with blue painted horns stood on the muddy shore with a Black Drongo on its back.
Leaving the waterhole we clambered back up the slope to the track beside the village. A Greater Coucal pecked among the stubble and we had good views of the Black-winged Kite. A large Cuckoo Shrike perched high in a tree beneath which sat an Indian Roller.
Emerging from the village track a group of Jungle Babblers pecked in the mud and a Rufous Treepie flew across the track onto an overhead branch. Brahminy Starlings and Myna Birds perched on the wires overhead. A Cinereous Tit, a much paler version of our English Great Tit, sat in a tree as we headed back to the lodge.
We were greeted at the Meeting point by cold wet face towels and a delicious iced tea. After our dusty walk it was much appreciated. There was time to shower before our evening meal and briefing.
Before the meal we had the briefing for the following day and an opportunity to catch up with the check list of the wildlife we had seen.
The large group was to be split into two groups called the Leopards and the Bears. We were to be in the Bears during our stay. Wake up call in the morning would be a 5.00 a.m. Leaving for the parks gate at 5.30 a.m. Our Group would be going on the whole day safari to Churna, while the Leopard group would be going on two half day safaris. Plans for the day included a picnic breakfast, a cooked lunch at the basic camp at Churna, and a short walk. Returning to the lodge about 7.00 p.m. A very full day to look forward to.
After a delicious evening meal we decided on an early night to get ready for the early start the next morning.