Date: 1 to 6 May, 2015
Little known to the world, still undiscovered by many. Dudhwa is a hidden gem lying in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh (India), touching Nepal border. A Sal forest combined with grasslands (19% of the forest) and wetlands make it one of finest forest of India.
I took a group of four people from Mumbai, who were going first time to explore this forest. We started around 1230 hours from Delhi Airport and reached around 2000 hours at Palia Kalan, nearest town to Dudhwa. Our next two days’ stay was in a Sugar Mill’s guest house at Palia Kalan.
My main purpose for this trip was not just going for safaris but also to explore tourism opportunities in Dudhwa, whereas guests were completely geared up for the wildlife adventure.
Day 2 morning, we reached Dudhwa National park safari gate at 0545 hours. Everyone left for the safari at 0600 hours, while I decided to visit the nearby villages with a local person, who is also a forest guide, Ramas. He took me to a village, around 20 kms from Dudhwa gate. It’s the last village in India, beyond which Indo-Nepal border starts. The road for this village is a tar road which passes through the forest. On our way, we spotted a Jackal crossing it and spotted more than 10 Asian paradise flycatchers, a summer migrant in Dudhwa.
As the periphery of the village started, we saw some women going for fishing carrying their nets. I had never seen such a unique design before and was curious to know the fishing technique with it, but the ladies were shy and hesitant to disclose their secret. Then we saw some more women selling fruits and vegetables, Ramas told me that they are from Nepal, they cross Indo-Nepal border daily to sell things, and same way Indians go there to earn.
My main purpose of this visit was to meet Ms. Arti Rana, who runs an NGO there. Through it she has created employment opportunity for many local women to make them self dependent. More than 100 women from nearby villages work with her in making jute bags, caps, purses and other things. Recent thunderstorm destroyed her working premises which was being re-built with the help of the government. It was a high point of my trip to meet such an inspiring lady.
After meeting her we returned from the village, I joined my guests at the gate and we went back to the guest house. They had a wonderful time in the safari in which they saw they saw herd of elephants and different species of birds.
In the evening, I also decided to go for a safari. Tall Sal trees with undergrowth of fern – it was so good to see this park again! I had some amazing bird sightings. A herd of elephants gave us some memorable photographs.
Day 3 morning, our guests went for a safari again while I went to see the “Jaagir Lodge” by Tree of Life. It’s a luxury resort situated around 20 kms from Dudhwa park gate. They have rooms as well as thatched huts. It’s a lovely place to stay, I was taken to visit nearby places for birding and wildlife by their in-house naturalist. There is a wetland nearby as well as a small water stream, where one can see crocodiles especially in winters, as the probability is high in comparison to summers. There is a wooden bridge over the stream that connects the village with the forest. The view is so relaxing that one would want to sit for hours on the bridge itself. After a sumptuous breakfast at the lodge, I joined my guests and we went back to our guest house.
A night stay in the forest rest house of Sathiana range was planned for our guests, after dropping them, I decided to visit more villages on Indo-Nepal Border.
Day 4 morning, I went to see the Junglelore resort (https://www.facebook.com/dudhwajunglelore) situated very close to Dudhwa Park gate. It’s a nice budget property providing tented accommodation. I received guests after their morning safari in Sathiana range and we left for Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary, which is around 30 kms from Dudhwa gate towards Delhi via Palia Kalan. We stayed there for two nights at the Barasingha Lodge. It was a beautiful small place with six rooms adjacent to the forest. We were greeted by very warm and homely staff. The food they served was outstanding, can’t forget their mint leaves chutney, made from mint grown in the property.
We all went for an afternoon safari (which lasts till sunset) in Kishanpur range together one gypsy. Kishanpur has a huge wetland known as Jhaadi taal (taal means lake). One thing is sure that you will always find Barasingha (Western swamp deer) there, few in winters, but in abundance in summers (March onwards). After spending some good time at Jhadi taal watchtower, we moved ahead and saw various birds.
The Sun had already set, and our safari was about to end. Suddenly our driver stopped the vehicle, pointed on his right and exclaimed “Tiger!”. It took us good amount of time to spot it as it was very well camouflaged. It was a cub, no wait, they were in fact two cubs! On seeing us, they stopped where they were. Probably they would have been on the road if we had come five minutes later. We knew that now they won’t come forward in front of us, so we decided to move on as the safari time was also over. It was an amazing experience for all of us. Especially me, as I had been to Dudhwa multiple times, but spotted tiger for the first time.
The nights were cool and breezy. The temperature would drop to 20 degrees Celsius during night even in May, when Delhi’s minimum temperature would touch around 34. I had planned to take our guests on a night drive by our car. We went on a road which separates the forest and the village and were blessed to spot a Indian fox also known as Bengal fox. It was also a rare sighting, as this species is nocturnal and their sighting during day is very less. Everybody was excited.
Day 5 morning, we went for safari again in Kishanpur range. Everybody was freezing in the safari for first one hour as it was very cold. I took some photographs. While coming back from the safari, someone at the gate told us that one gypsy had spotted a leopard in the forest that morning.
In the afternoon safari, As we were going through the forest, our guide said “Ruko Ruko Leopard” i.e “Stop…Stop…Leopard!”. Approx 40 meters from us, between two Sal tree there it was sitting on a branch like a spy. What a view! We were not able to see its full body as it was partially hidden behind the tree. So after taking some shots, we decide to take our gypsy a little back, from where it was clearly visible. I pressed shutter, took a single shot and the next moment it was off the tree and ran towards the forest. But after 100 meters it stopped for a split second and looked at us. That moment was magical and then it disappeared leaving us all awestruck. This experience made our day, our series of fortunate sightings continued as we later saw a python crossing the road.
We came back to our resort in high spirit. It was our last night there. We again went for a night drive, and this time saw a jungle cat.
Day 6 morning, we packed our stuff and left for Delhi. On the way back, we saw a beautiful pair of Sarus Cranes making their nest. There couldn’t have been a better ending to this trip. Guests had to catch a flight for Mumbai at around 1900 hours. We reached Delhi around 1700 hours and I dropped them at the airport. They departed with a promise of meeting again soon for their next excursion.