After our early morning wake up call at 5.00 a.m we set of by torchlight to the meeting point. Here we climbed aboard the lodge’s jeeps and drove by the light of the full moon down to the river Tawa. As dawn was breaking we walked across the floating bridge to the National Park’s jeeps on the other side. We then entered Satpura National Park through the Madhai Entrance Gate. As with all Indian reserves the driver and guide were from the National Park and we also had Rigasha, the female naturalist from the lodge with us. Our companions for all our safaris were Alf and Carol.
Today’s whole day safari was to the abandoned village of Churna in the Bori Sanctuary within Satpura Tiger Reserve. Churna used to be a village until 2013 when the villagers were voluntarily relocated. The area has now been repopulated by herbivores and a Tigress with three cubs had been seen in the area recently. So there was a possibility that we might come across them during the day.
Journey to Churna
Due to the distance the first part of the journey through Satpura NP to Churna was taken at breakneck speed. We sped through the beautiful diverse scenery that Satpura is renown for. We past rocky outcrops, ravines, hills, forests, waterholes, small streams and in the background the backdrop of the Satpura hills. At one point in the distance we could see the dark shape of a Sloth Bear. Turning off the rocky track we tried to get a closer look, only for it to disappear. Further along we had a brief glimpse of two more Sloth Bears before they too disappeared. Beside the track Gaur grazed and small groups of Spotted Deer, Langurs and Rhesus Macaque stood and watched as we drove past.
Rufous Treepie – with snake
Suddenly a Rufous Treepie dropped from a tree onto the ground, picked up a snake in its beak and took it on to a branch in the tree. We watched fascinated as it pecked at the writhing snake. It was later identified as a Russell’s Viper a dangerous venomous snake.
We stopped at a remote picnic area for breakfast and an opportunity to stretch our legs. A couple of Indian roller’s flew across in front of us and Bee eaters flew into the low bushes. As we watched a Black-rumped Flameback appeared at the base of a tree and hammered away. Further away a Wryneck flew on top of a termite mound and Jungle Babblers pecked at the ground. After breakfast and a catch up with the remainder of our jeeps. One of which had excellent views of a tiger on the way to the picnic area. We continued on into the Bori Sanctuary.
Malabar (Indian) Giant Squirrel
After another hour or so we reached Churna and after a brief drink and rest stop we explored the grounds. High in a tree we saw the Malabar Giant Squirrel. This reddish brown squirrel is one of the largest in the world. Endemic to the forests of India, and at its northern extent in Satpura. Its underparts are pale and its tail is black. We only saw the giant squirrel in the high canopy of the trees. It would appear that they rarely visit the ground. Nimbly it walked along the branches and then turned upside down to get some fruit. The Giant squirrel builds more than one drey and moves its young between them to confuse predators.
The guides decided that we would go for a short walk before lunch. We trekked through the village and along a lovely flowing river. There were good sightings of a Common Kingfisher and a Crested Serpent Eagle.
Crunching through the dried leaves we clambered down the river bank and crossed over on some stepping stones. On a bend a small sandy-muddy area protruded into the river and numerous Baronette and Spot Swallowtail Butterflies kept landing. They were getting salts and minerals from the sandy mud. As we walked back along the bank through the leaves a White-eyed Buzzard flew into a tree beside the track.
Arriving back at the village area we sat and chatted as lunch was prepared. A Common Chiffchaff pecked at the ground near where we were sitting. After a cooked lunch we sat and relaxed in the shade until it was 3.00 p.m. then it was time for the long journey back. This time we could take it more slowly.
Wildlife on the Return Journey
As we passed a water hole a Marsh Mugger Crocodile sat on the muddy bank and slid into the water. On a rock an Indian Soft Shelled Turtle sunbathed as a Pond Heron stalked the edges.
Further along Woolly-necked Storks stood and stared as we drove past. A family of Sambar Deer grazed and amongst the leaf litter an Orange-headed Thrush pecked looking for insects. Brahminy Starlings and a Sirkeer Malkoha sat in trees as a Black winged Kite and a Shikra flew overhead. A Jungle Owlet gazed down at us from a high branch as we drove past.
Nearing the boundary of the Bori Sanctuary, suddenly we slowed to a crawl as a large black shape emerged from the undergrowth close to the track. It was a Sloth Bear. This was an amazing view. We could clearly see the shaggy black fur, the white v shape on its chest, the long curved claws and the large pale snout. Unfortunately it seemed to have a large white lump on its head. The bear stood looked at us and then ambled across the track in front of our jeep. Giving us a great opportunity to get some clear images.
As the light was starting to go it was time for us to leave the park and head back to the lodge. The delicious evening meal was outside at 8.15 p.m. and it was then to bed as tomorrow we would have an early morning safari in the buffer zone.
More Images from Bori Sanctuary and the Churna Camp