From Pachmarhi, we took the Hoshangabad route and reached Satpura Tiger Reserve (STR) in about 3 hours. It was a hot April afternoon and we were desperate to reach there in comfort of a hotel quickly.
Satpura Tiger Resreve is located in Hoshangabad (Now Narmadapuram) district of Madhya Pradesh. To reach here, you can take a cab or bus from Bhopal (about 190 KMs away). Nearest railhead is Pipariya about 50 KMs away. Madhai gate is where we decided to take Jungle Safari. This is most famus among tourists. There are good hotels and resorts there at Madhai, but they all are costly. Prime reason they are there is to support tourists visiting the Satpura Tige Reserve only. One can stay at nearby towns like Pipariya etc., but with that taking an early morning safari will be a challenge.
The terrain of the national park is extremely rugged and consists of sandstone peaks, narrow gorges, ravines and dense forests. The altitude ranges from 300 to 1,352 metres. It has Dhoopgarh peak as high as 1,352 meters and the almost level plains of Churna. We took some rest in the hotel and as the evening approached we decided to explore the area. The MPTDC hotel is next to Tawa river and we went there and enquired abut Safari. It has to be booked in advance otherwise its difficult to get a slot for same. Safari starts from the other side of the Tawa river which needs to be crossed by boats. The cost of boat is included in safari tickets. It was late evening as we reached the river bank. Sun was setting and its golden glow had penetrated the entire area. It was soothing to be on river bank, with slow moving breeze and gentle Sun. This river is flowing silently for millions of years. It has seen good and bad times and rulers and people. But its unchanged. It does what its has to do silently without bothering times....
At dark, we returned back and took rest for morning safari. We got up early next day.. target was to get first safari of the morning and so we rushed to the counter. We were the first to be there. It was abut 4:30 AM and the first safari was guaranteed. We crossed the river through boats. Gypsys were waiting for us at the other side.Soon we were inside the forest.Satpura National Park is rich in biodiversity. The animals here include Tiger, leopard, sambar, chital, muntjac, Bison, wild boar, bear, and Indian giant squirrel. There are a variety of birds.Its name is derived from the Satpura Range. Satpura is a Sanskrit word, that means seven mountains (sapta – seven and pura – mountain). It was first explored by Captain James Forsyth of Bengal Lancers in 1862 while he was searching for Indian Freedom Fighter Tantya Tope. It is one of the first declared Reserved Forest Area of India due to its ecological and commercial importance. It became a Tiger Reserve in the year 2000 and therefore it is also called Satpura Tiger Reserve (STR).The first major herbivore that we encountered was Indian Bison (Gaur). These gentle creatures are from bovine family and are of huge size. Still tiger hunts them particularly the young ones. Though hunting a fully grown bison is not an easy tak for tiger also.
Many of them were grazing in peace, though they got disturbed with our presence and moved towards thicker bushes.'Then we encountered a sloth bear, which was carrying two cubs on its back. It was a sight to be seen. The small cubs got down and started playing there, while the mother was busy in feeding. As she moved further both cubs ran and again stationed themselves on her back.Satpura national park, along with its surrounding buffer-zone area have a large and diversified population of wildlife which are rarely seen in other national parks.Along with birds and butterflies its fauna comprises Spotted Deer, Indian Bison (Gaur), Tigers, Leopards, Wild boar, Wild dog (locally called Dholes), Sloth bear, Black buck, Porcupine, Sambhar, Barasingha, four Horned antelopes (Chowsingha), Pangolin, Marsh crocodile, Langurs etc. Indian Giant squirrel is one of the special feature of Satpura Tiger Reserve as it is rare in India now.We were lucky to shot one with our camera playing and eating fruits on a tree. Our driver and guide were in constant touch with other vehicles and came to know that a leopard has been spotted in another pat of Jungle and we rushed to that area. I had never seen a leopard in wild and was very eager to witness one....and we got it, on top of a tree. Though my Canon was drained of battery but was able to give a couple of excellent shots!Spotting a Leopard in wild is even more difficult that that of elusive Tiger. Leopard is much more shy and its said that it can hide even behind a blade of grass! Our driver came to know that in another part of jungle one alarm call has been heard. As we were heading to that side, one small deer came from bushes and ran away. It was a Muntjac perhaps, a small deer. I had not seen one on wild before!Alarm call made by deer or Langur means the presence of carnivore in the area. We rushed there.Jungle was completely silent, except for alarm calls at frequent interval. There was adrenal rush... perhaps we can find a tiger closely! It was around 10 AM and bright Sun was there, generally at this moment, tiger retire into thick bushes for rest. We waited for over half an hour but could but could not see the King of Indian Jungles. Perhaps it was there somewhere nearby in bushes. Langurs were able to see but we couldn't.
We drove to another area where it was allowed to alight from vehicle and ream at river banks. The rocky terrain there along with rivers and forest was quite beautiful. We spend sometime there capturing the moments in our memory and camera. It was time to return back. We were excited to capture Leopard. Sloth beer was also an exciting experience along with Bisons and Muntjac. We alighted at Reception center and took boat to cross the river. Time to take road to Bhopal as we had a late evening train. Morning we were at Home, Sweet Home!