Amidst the several national parks in Central Indian region, lies Nagzira wildlife sanctuary. Covered in pristine vegetation, this lesser-known park is an abode of wildlife. Though a home to a variety of fauna, Nagzira is primarily known for it’s higher chances of leopard and wild dog sightings. Apart from these, other major fauna includes tiger, sloth bear, Indian gaur, wild boar, Sambar and spotted deers etc. This place is a paradise for bird watchers due to its wealth of avifauna. Indian pitta, Greater racket-tailed drongo, Orange-headed thrush, woodpeckers, Black-hooded oriole and rarity like Jungle owlet are often seen around the park. Raptors like Crested serpent and Crested hawk eagles, buzzards, Shikra are also seen.
We had planned to take four safaris in the forest and the FDCM resort was the obvious choice to stay. Nagzira is one of the few national parks where one can stay inside the jungle. The forest department’s resort has basic amenities but the place itself gives the raw feel of the jungle. The sight of leopard or sloth bear on the bank of the lake which lies in the backyard of the resort is plausible and here the night comes alive with the alarm calls of deer announcing the presence of a predator in the vicinity. We had booked our safaris from the well-known Pitezari gate. The route from gate to resort passes through the forest and here also the chances of sightings are pretty high.
On our very first safari, we sighted a beautiful leopardess with stunning blue eyes. Leopards are arguably one of the most adaptable of the big cats. Their compact body frames make them exceptionally agile and their camouflaging body coat helps them to blend themselves in their surroundings.
The blue-eyed female boldly crossed the road and vanished in the golden grass. Towards the end of the safari, we also managed to see a sloth bear at a close distance though the light was very low and hence the photo was not possible. Birds like woodpeckers, Indian pitta, peafowl and Indian scops owl are also seen.
On the next day, our morning safari started with the sighting of wild dogs. The pack was returning from the kill and they blocked our road for several minutes in the early hours of the morning and engaged in some playful activities. Dholes or Asiatic wild dogs have got fearsome reputation due to their hunting methods. These Whistling hunters use an elaborate and coordinated method of pack hunting to bring down prey much larger than an individual Dhole.
Nagzira is a place where chances of seeing these hunters are quite high. Though we did not have any leopard sightings in the morning, we got the pugmarks of tiger and sloth bear and also sighted a majestic Crested serpent eagle from a close distance.
That day’s evening safari held something special in store for us. Within an hour after the safari started, a bold leopard crossed the road at a surprisingly close distance from our vehicle. He vanished inside the bushes and we followed him to some distance where we saw him devouring the kill. We decided to wait for him to come out.
It was past two hours when he finally came out, walking in front of our gypsy and blocking the road for a good 15 minutes. In those two hours, we also got a glimpse of his mate who was in the tree but vanished swiftly as another vehicle approached. As the male finally vanished again in the falling light, we decided to return to our camp. But that day we were destined for something more.
On our way back we decided to revisit the place where we had seen pugmarks and luckily encountered two sloth bears on the road. As the vehicle approached, the bears moved inside the bushes towards the waterhole. As we were clicking pictures, our guide pointed towards the end of the road where a tigress was walking down the path. In recent years, tigers are seldom seen in Nagzira and hence my hopes for sighting this big cat were pretty low. Though there were reports of T4 and T8 in mating, seeing the tigress in the fading sunlight was a surprise for me. She was coming at the waterhole where the bears were. The excitement was palpable as she came closer but waited in the bushes watching the two sloth bears.
As soon as the bears left, the tigress named T4 approached the waterhole and immersed herself in the pool. The light was very low and we had to push the limits of our cameras just to get the record shots. The tigress was watching us in the twilight but we had to leave as the closing time was approaching. That night we also heard the alarm calls of Sambar in the close vicinity of our resort.
The last day’s morning safari was more of a birding safari. We saw Black-hooded oriole, Indian pitta, Golden-fronted leafbird, Common cuckoo, Common hawk cuckoo, Crested serpent and Crested hawk eagles, Grey-headed fish eagle and the elusive Jungle owlet. The safari ended with a close sighting of Common Indian monitor and Indian rock python on our way back to Pitezari gate. Our guide Prakash and our driver helped us a lot with their tracking skills and thorough knowledge of terrain and wildlife. The staff at FDCM is very courteous and helpful and the stay at this camp is a thrilling experience in itself. The Nagzira lake near FDCM is also great for birdwatching.
Nagzira wildlife sanctuary is one of the jewels of Indian wildlife; a place with a diverse variety of flora and fauna. It’s a place which a wildlife lover should visit as well as a place we need to conserve so that the denizens of forest flourish in these serene woods.
With this I bid adieu to all my readers and I will be back soon with another Journal.
Details about Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary:
Nearest airport: Nagpur Airport (approx. 140 km)
Nearest railway station: Nagpur railway station or Gondia railway station.
Best time to visit: The park is open from October to June for tourists and is closed during the monsoon period. The winter period is recommended for great bird watching while as in summer, chances of leopard sightings are good.
Species sighted in the park:
Mammals: Indian leopard, Bengal tiger, Sloth bear, Indian gaur, Asiatic wild dog (Dhole), Spotted deer, Sambar deer, Wild boar, Gray langur, Indian hare.
Birds: Crested serpent eagle, Crested hawk eagle, Grey-headed fish eagle, Oriental honey buzzard, Jungle owlet, Indian scops owl, Rufous woodpecker, Lesser goldenback woodpecker, White-naped woodpecker, Common cuckoo, Common hawk cuckoo, Indian roller, Greater racket-tailed drongo, White-throated kingfisher, Oriental magpie robin, Indian pitta, Orange-headed thrush, Black-hooded oriole, Golden-fronted leafbird, Indian peafowl, Pond heron
Reptiles: Indian rock python, Common Indian monitor
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