Tuesday, April 17, 2018

KatarniaGhat Wildlife Sanctuary

Ever since, I had visited Dudhwa tiger reserve, a trip to Katarnia Ghat was always in mind, though it took almost a year to materialize it.

Colleague Neeraj was visiting and had a spare weekend, so a plan was quickly made.

Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary is an extension of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. It provides strategic connectivity between tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and the Bardia National Park in Nepal. 

It is along the Indo – Nepal border, in the district of Behraich. It has an estimated area of about 550 sq. km. of dense Terai jungle comprising of Sal and Teak forest, Lush green Grasslands, wetlands and swamps which are full of life. A river which forms an intrinsic part of this forest flower silently supporting the last of the Gharial populations left in the wild. 

The sanctuary is located at a distance of about 210 KMs from Lucknow and about 500 KMs from Delhi via Lakhimpur.

The forest is largely untouched, away from civilization. It is the perfect getaway for those seeking a brief vacation amidst the calls of birds, thick forests and if they are lucky and patient enough a sighting of Majestic Tiger.

The Gairwa river which flows in the sanctuary area is declared as a sanctuary for Mugger and Gharial. It is also home to rare turtles, freshwater fish and a host of aquatic life. The river presents a scenic view on both banks with long forest tracts running into distance and overhanging trees on the river bank creating coves that attract visitors on motorboats.

There is a direct UPSRTC bus from Delhi to a town called "Bichhiya". This is main town for KatarniaGhat.

From Lucknow, one can take Sitapur-Lakhimpur-Bichhiya - Katarnia Ghat route to Katarniaghat. After Lakhimpur, there is diversion, left road goes to Dudhwa and right one towards Katarniaghat.

After Lakhimpur, road is very bad, pathetic at some stretch and the speed goes down drastically!

There is another route from Lucknow, Its via Bahraich and Nanpara.

If someone reaches there via Lakhimpur then first destination will be Katarnia ghat, then there is Kakraha, aboyt 30 Kms away and then Motipur about 42 Kms away from Katarnia Ghat. We we go further staright, we will reach Nanpara and Bahraich.

The road from Bahraich to Kakraha and further to Motipur is through dense forest. From sunset to sunrise, the traffic is blocked here.

There are guest house from UP Eco Toursim at each of these places, all are good and have their own eco system. Please note that safari is available through Katarnia ghat only, though some nature trail or limited safari can be accessed at Kakraha and Motipur as well. 

Katarnia Ghat also has the Gerua river, in which boating option is available. This stretch of river is famous to see Gharial and Crocs as well as Gangetic Dolphins in their natural habitat.

River Gerua along with River Kaudiyala, togeather forms the Ghaghra (Sarayu) river. 

We reached Katarnia Ghat at around 1 PM and then took the road to Motipur. Our room was booked at Motipur as we could not secure one at Katarnia Ghat.

Our Cottage was quite decent, a hot cup of tea refreshed us again.

After taking some rest, we decided to explore forest at Motipur. After getting necesary permission, we started in our small car for forest.

Soon we were in dense forest, as I was facing difficulty due to doing two tasks, driving as well as taking pics, our forest guide advised me that he would like to drive. I readily agreed.

There are planty of deer; Cheetals, Sambhar, Neel Gai in that forest, but the eyes were looking for something else.

The experienced forest guard, slowed and stopped the car and aksed us to be silent, about 100 meters away in a bush, there was something, I used my Camera to Zoom and soon recognised it was a tusked wild boar.

Wild boar are said to be quite dangerous and can charge even without any provocation.

Sun was going down and we were slowly roaming across the forest and then suddenly the left front wheel got stuck in mud!

The area was covered with fallen leaves and so the driver could not judge it properly.

We tried, what all we could do, but all in vain, darkness was approaching fast and there was no wireless connectivity!

 I was thinking, what all the options are, the guard told me that he wwill walk back to guest house and will come back with some help, I plainly refused, it was about to dark and I didn't wanted him to risk his life.

We all again started efforts, strategy was to push some broken branches below the tyre so that it can get some grip, while pushing it from front and forcing engine in reverse gear. This attempt also failed.

Then we saw one villager, coming on two wheeler. These people roam in forest fearlessly, perhaps as born and brought up in the nature has made them bold enough, the quality which the creatures of concrete jungle lack miserably!

We called him for help, he agreed and now we had two more hands to push as I again tried in reverse gear, and the car moved a few inches...yes and floating like a paper on waters, finally my small car, braved the mud and come out.

We all were fully drenched in mud, but relaxed now!

It was almost dark, but still roamed in forest for some more time, before taking the road back to guest house.

There was a tree we saw, that had over 60 honey combs. Not sure what was the specialty of that tree that it was so dear to honey Bees!

There were a few huts of sadhus as well in that deep forest region. Once someone gets harmonised with nature, the nature protects it!

Back to guest house, badly tired we, took food and slept peacefully to start next day refreshed.

Early morning at around 615 AM, we took tea and checked out.

Idea was to take the Motipur, Katarnia Ghat road early in the morning, to get some chance of meeting wild creatures.

Lot of Jungle fowl were there, and pack of deers, as we slowly drove through the forest. A few timers we stopped also in between to feel the jungle, which used to get alive by calls of Langur and barking deers!

At one spot, Neeraj suggested me that he noticed something, I reveresed the vehicle and came back to the spot, there was a forest path, closed for public, though it looked beautiful as Golden rays of Sun, brightened the area, we could spot nothing.

I had read somewhere, that Camera can catch what our human eyes can't, so I just tried to capture as many pics as possible in zoom. Late evening, at home, while scanning those pics, finally I got the surprise!  yes... I found him the ruler of Indian jungles, in bushes, quite far away with back side of his head visible clearly!

I consoled myself with the glimpse of the fiery beauty, the coat of fire, that a tiger wears the most ferocious yet the Gentleman, thats what Jim Corbett called it!

In next 30 minutes, we reached katarnia Ghat and took one Jeep for safari.

The Katarnia Ghat jungle is abundant with deer, and no surprise its favourite place for Tigers. The guide took us from the range of evergreen forest to grassland to Marcshy area and so on... We encountered herds of deer and many different kinds of birds. We also enjoyed going up the different watch towers and scanning the surroundings.

The terai jungles are full of lakes and the swamps and these play an important part in the ecology of the sanctuary. They are home to Muggar Crocodiles, water birds, Otters and a host of migratory birds during the winter months.

There were a lot of peacocks, and due to recent rains, they were dancing in ecstasy. We switched off the engine and sat silently a few times, enjoying their dance in abundant nature.

Peacocks were seen always with langurs, and deers. This bonding helps them recognize the danger quickly.

There are elephants also in this forest, as I saw a lot of dung. They were there here perhaps 2 days ago.

There is one specific tree in this area, famous as Gudugudi (tickling) tree. It is said to laughs when tickling is done. As soon as someone rubs, its fingers gently on its stem, the entire tree starts vibrating.

And then we approached the famous Bandha Road.

It is famous because most of the tiger sightings have happened here. One side is river and perhaps tiger cross this area to drink water.

My guide told that we at sunrise we come on this road 3-4 days daily, there is very high chance of meeting one of them!

Though today, we didn't encountered one, though we enjoyed a lot of dancing peacocks.

There was also a giant eagle, sitting on tree, waiting patiently for ambush of a small mammal or fish.

We returned back to Katarnia Ghat guest house and tried to hire a boat to take a ride in Gerua river. 

Unfortunately there was no fuel available and our wish to watch some Gharial or Croc or Dolphin in wild here couldn't got fulfilled.

There was also a few small enclosures, where small gharial were kept, and as they grows, they are left in tree. This brief captivity is done, so that they can survive their childhood.

The KatarniaGhat guest house is very beautiful. It also has two tree houses.

We waited patiently for the fuel to come, but it didnt, the nearest fuel station was many KMs away outside the forest area. We took late but heavy breakfast then and took the road back to home.

If government betters the road here, many more tourists will come. On the way we stopped at the Ghaghra Barrage as well as the Sharada Barrage and relaxed sometime. 

There is a meter gauge railway track, which runs between Mailani to Bahraich. It passes through dense forest and I heard that its responsible for many animal deaths each year. Soon it may be converted into broad gauge and so more traffic and thus more threat to fragile wildlife here!

By late evening, we were at home, sweet home!