Saturday, January 12, 2013

Goa - Birdwatching paradise

First up, yes I've been through all the jokes on Goa and birdwatching. And no, the wildlife on this blog still does not cover humans, so for all of you looking for birding action of the non-feathered kind, this ain't your scene! With that disclaimer out of the way, here goes the real thing.

Goa doesn't spontaneously present itself as a wildlife destination, but in truth, the state has some fabulous sanctuaries and water-bodies which provide some awesome sightings, of birds and mammals. The Zuari river is one such awesome birding destination, with 5 different species of Kingfishers as well as several different raptors.

Great Crested Tern - in flight
We were in Goa over Christmas, joined by our good friends Nikhil and Aparna with their kids. And early one morning, Aparna and I set off to Curtolim pier where the local birding expert Mr. B M Kamath ran an early morning 'safari' over the Zuari river. There were finally 8 people in total on his boat, including an old friend and avid wildlifer from Mumbai, Siddhesh Maldikar. 

Osprey in Flight




Even as we waited for the boat to arrive, the birds had already started to present themselves. A pair of Brahminy Kites hovered above, a Black Kite dived into the river a couple of times and a Pond Heron floated by on a bamboo platform of some kind. And when the boat did arrive, Mr. Kamath set course towards the sea, which was just that bit surprising. After all, wasn't this supposed to be birding on the river?

We got to know why within a couple of minutes as we made for a set of bamboo poles which housed several Great Crested Cranes. These beautiful birds preened for us, gave us some 'in-flight' pictures and generally played perfect hosts. And as we sailed back into the river, Mr. Kamath said two magical words - Peregrine Falcon. And sure enough, sheltered under the Zuari bridge, sat a beautiful falcon. He sat in the shadow and the early morning light wasn't good enough to make up for it, so the pictures weren't great, but it was my first sighting of this beautiful raptor. Less than 15 minutes into the trip and already 2 species I'd never seen before.

We cruised through the river and saw plenty of Herons, Egrets and some Cranes but the real attractions lay ahead. First up, a fair distance away, we saw an Osprey perched on a stump close to the water. We glided towards this beautiful raptor and got some decent pictures of him perched as well as when he took off. We followed this up with another Osprey further down and a pair of White Bellied Sea Eagles in flight, followed by a pair of Brahminy Kites. And when we saw 2 Kingfishers as well (White Throated and Common) it was almost like someone was running a 'show' for us.

We left the main river and floated down some side gullies, where we saw more bird life in the mangroves. We saw 3 more Kingfisher species (Black capped, Collared and Stork Billed - no pictures though), more Brahminy Kites, Striated Herons, Stilts and Sand Pipers to name a few species. And avian activity dulled as the sun's influence grew and it was time to head back to shore. One funny incident though - as the boat glided through the mangroves, we spotted a Black Capped Kingfisher perched on a branch and I whispered "Stop" and was amazed and a little peeved that despite my repeated requests, the boat glided on. Only until our guide turned back and with a sweet smile said "the boat doesn't have brakes". I could have drowned in a palmful of water at that point.

Anyways, on our way back we saw the now mandatory Osprey and Egrets. But the highlight was a pair of cranes (Painted and Lesser Adjutant) perched on the same tree. The Adjutant flew off as we approached, but the Painted Stork stayed and posed for us! And that was the end of a lovely birding excursion, a surprising and fun activity in otherwise 'beach-bummed' Goa. Till next time then!

Zuari River Birding Guide

The boat leaves from Curtolim pier, when you're driving from Panjim towards Vasco, drive across the Zuari bridge and take a left U-turn further down and drive till you hit the pier.

Mr. BM Kamath is the resident expert and he runs the tour. You can reach him on +91 9822127936. Call him a few days in advance and he should be able to accommodate you on a tour. He's absolutely brilliant at spotting birds and knows the area like the back of his hand. Most important, he's very keen that you spot every conceivable species and will try really hard to ensure you have a great time.

He charges Rs. 1000 per person with a minimum of Rs. 3000 to cover his costs. It's actually a real bargain given how much he puts in. 



 Common Kingfisher

Brahminy Kite

Egret

Great Crested Tern








Kingfisher diving
Peregrine Falcon

Sand Piper

White Throated Kingfisher

White Bellied Sea Eagle

Painted Stork

Friday, January 11, 2013

Yala - Bounty of the Leopard Gods


My leopard saga. Ten years. Of frustrating, eluding and defeating me. Of brief glimpses and distant sightings. Of decent sightings but in poor light. Of sightings for everyone else but me. Watching someone else's leopard picture felt nothing less than torture. And all through my Wildlife Wander, it was the one sighting that always just got away. It almost seemed like there was a leopard god who I'd angered, maybe while praying at the altar of the tiger god. Whatever the reason, the beautiful spotted wonder always managed to get away, leaving me craving for  ONE mouthwatering, high quality sighting.  Just one, I say!

And then Yala happened. And more than made up for the 10 years. And even left, I dare say, a little bit in credit for the next year or so!


Our (my brother's been an equal victim) burning desire to see a leopard took us out of India to arguably the world's finest leopard destination, Yala National Park in South-Eastern Sri Lanka. With the spotted feline at the apex of the food chain there (the tigers probably didn't make the boat as the island drifted away from the Indian peninsula) Yala legends center around leopards strutting their stuff on the roads in broad daylight, much like the tigers in India.


Our first trip produced a leopard and drama. As we drove around, we came across a large congregation of jeeps near a waterhole and it was obvious that there was a leopard around; he was lying in thick bush a fair distance away, seemingly impervious to all the hoopla. And then the drama began. A jackal trotted up to the waterhole and posed for some pictures. Then, amazingly, he ran full speed towards the  bush where the leopard was resting. We watched as the leopard quietly but quickly raised his head and got into position. In the nick of time, the jackal saw the danger, halted in his tracks and turned and ran for his life!! And the leopard got up, looked balefully at the crowd and walked deeper into the bush and out of sight. Our first trip and a sighting, if not a great one for pictures.


The next day, we saw leopards on both morning and afternoon safaris, all fleeting glimpses and no real photography. we saw elephants, a buffalo wallowing in the water and some beautiful brahminy kites, changeable hawk eagles and sea eagles. But that night, the heavens opened up. And it poured and poured all night. The next morning dawned clear and bright, but our spirits had been dampened by the rain. All prior experience told us that rain really messes up sightings, and this was corroborated by Rajesh, our guide and Sachitra, our driver. Was our leopard luck ever going to change?? But this rain would eventually prove to be our biggest ally.


We set out on an all day safari, all provisions packed and ready. And as soon as we neared the landmark Elephant Rock, we heard from another jeep's tourists that we'd missed a mating pair by less than a minute! We drove around without luck for the next couple of hours till we passed another jeep who told us there was a leopard on a tree, near the beach, around 4-5 kms away. Fingers crossed, we raced there and a cluster of jeeps told us that he was still there. And sure enough, on a massive tree branch, at a distance, sat a beautiful leopard. Sachi maneuvered the jeep into position and we got our first proper pictures. Then he came down and vanished into the bush and we quietly waited at a clearing while all the other jeeps raced to and fro. 




And sure enough, in a few minutes the leopard walked up to the edge of the road and sat there, waiting to cross. Till another jeep screeched up. That, he decided, was it. He disappeared back into the bush and emerged later, much further down the road. My first real quality sighting of a wild leopard! And that pretty much opened the floodgates.

We drove on, looking for a nice place to stop for lunch. And came up to a few jeeps queued up near a mating pair in the bushes; they were audible but not visible. As the rest gave up and moved on, we decided to pitch there for the afternoon. And every now and then, we would hear them growling as they mated. No sighting, but still thrilling to be so close to mating leopards. And they rewarded us for our patience by coming out and mating once at the edge of the bush! Too far for quality photography but to be able to watch leopards mating itself was an unbelievable treat. Post that, they seemed to have a lovers' tiff and the male moved further and sat by himself for the remainder of the afternoon. He sat with his back to us, facing the bush, in the (vain) hope that the female might come back.  And that marked the end of a record-breaking day - 3 leopards, with a mating pair to boot! For the leopard starved Sarathy brothers it seemed impossible to beat. At least that's what we thought.


29th November 2012.  The day when the leopard gods decided to make up to us. And they laid on a mind-numbing, head spinning spread, something even our experienced guide and driver had never seen before. 10 different leopards. And it could have easily been more. It was almost like they were determined to give us everything we could ask for. And more. Anyways, enough of the superlatives, but here was 'that' day.

We drove into the forest on another clear, crisp day and hear our first spotted deer alarm calls of the trip. And as we stopped to investigate, a leopard crossed the road well in front of us. And disappeared. A little further down, we round a bend and there's a leopard walking on the road. He disappears too, into the bush. We then stopped at a beautiful lake-side for breakfast and spent a lovely hour watching teals, storks and a beautiful white bellied sea eagle put on a show for us. We drive on and then hit pay-dirt. Right next to the road, was a huge male leopard marking his territory. Rajesh said he was Hamu (or Sarkar) the dominant male of this part of Yala. I sat on the steps of the jeep, watching this magnificent animal cross the road behind us. Even a fresh scar under his eye didn't take away from how beautiful he was. He walked off, without even bothering to give us a look. A true king indeed!


Still tingling from that sighting, we headed towards the beachside for lunch. We saw the tsunami memorial, built as a tribute to the 40+ people who died as 20 foot waves lashed the forest bungalow there. Notably, not one animal carcass was found, pointing to their incredible 'sixth-sense' which pushed all of them into safer, higher ground. As we polished off a superb Sri Lankan meal of brown rice, dhal curry, papads and sambol, we were hungry for more.... leopards.

And as we drove on, we saw another cluster of jeeps looking at a sub-adult leopard on a tree, at a distance form the road. And it seemed in no hurry to come down. And I felt lucky... so we told our guys to carry on and try our luck elsewhere. Such audacity from people pining for any leopard sighting only a couple of days earlier! And as we drove on, my brother said he wanted to see a leopard with a cub. As if on cue, Rajesh said 'leopard'! And we looked as he pointed to the bush, but couldn't see anything. Till the leopard moved slightly, and even then we could just about see something with spots. Incredible how he managed to see her from a moving vehicle! And then we saw her cub as well a few metres behind. The cub dashed off into the bushes and the mother strode forward and joined him a few minutes later. We waited for them to emerge, but they chose to head away further into the bush. A superb day already, but it was going to get even better. 

Further ahead, and we all see a large male leopard zip across the road to our right. And as we moved back and forth looking for him, another jeep drove by and animatedly pointed to our left. And there was another leopard, a female. She was waiting to cross and join her mate. So we gave her enough room and she strode up and zipped across, right in front of our jeep. And a few minutes later, we heard their mating growls. Then, amazingly, on a tree right above where she crossed, we saw yet another leopard. A timid sub-adult, he must have been terrified by the presence of the mating pair so close to him. And he dared not step down. We had to reluctantly head back, since we had a long way to go to get to the gate. And we were buzzing.... 9 leopards in one day, with some great pictures too! Turns out we weren't done yet! 


One thing we still hadn't seen was the quintessential 'leopard on a rock'. And as we zipped towards the gate, we saw a queue of jeeps on the main road. Which could only mean a leopard. And sure enough, there was a large male perched on a rock! Too dark for pictures, but hey, I'd only asked for a sighting! And we still had time to squeeze in a sloth bear sighting that evening. I should have probably asked for a million dollars as well that day. 

As we headed into our last morning, completely sated, I said to myself - 'how cool would it be if I managed to spot a leopard myself?' And as we sped past a large tree in the distance, I saw something on a branch and stopped the jeep. And guess what, it was a leopard! And two other jeeps had driven past and even their guides hadn't managed to spot it... One more wish fulfilled and a little bit of a boost to the old ego as well.  We watched as the leopard climbed down the tree and escorted by a volley of spotted deer alarm calls, disappeared into the bush. And that ended the most incredible wildlife trip ever - 19 leopards (and at least 4 near misses) sloth bears, elephants, eagles, kites.... and everything else in between. The trip of a lifetime.

Now this is going to be hard to beat!

Epilogue - Why the rain helped rather than hurt our trip. The torrential rain forced the authorities to release water from a dam nearby, which in turn flooded a part of the forest. And so, animals from the flooded areas (including leopards) moved into dry land, and with more leopards in a smaller area, they just became easier to see, especially because they were on unfamiliar territory and hence moved around more, making them easier to spot. Ergo, a flood of leopards!

Yala Trip Guide

Our trip was superbly planned to the last detail by our friends Nikhil and Aparna at Odyssey Travels (www.odysseytravels.net). And because they're avid travelers themselves, they understand individual travel needs like few other people do and always give you unique perspective, based on personal experience most of the time. From cruises and railway journeys to safaris and holidays, they have a wealth of experience and expertise.

They booked us with Jetwing travels in Sri Lanka (www.jetwing.com) who provided an end-to-end car and also made our hotel and safari bookings.

Getting there
Yala (Ruhuna) National Park is set in Sri Lanka's south-eastern corner, approximately 300 kms from the only international airport near Colombo. It's a 5-6 hour drive, so plan for a couple of breaks on the way. The closest town is Tissamaharama, 22 kms away.

From the airport, it's best to hire a car for the round trip. Sri Lanka has excellent driver-guides and they will be with you all through and arrange everything. Our guide-driver Mr. Udaya Dharmawansha was absolutely fantastic - always there with us, through all the safaris and sometimes even keener than us to spot something!

There is a new airport under construction in Hambantota, 100 kms from Yala. Expected to open in mid-2013, it will be a huge boon for Yala travelers. Can't wait!

Stay
Yala has a couple of hotels within easy reach. We stayed at the Elephant Reach at Kirinda, 12 kms from the gate. It's a really nice property, with comfortable rooms and pretty decent food. We ate only the Sri Lankan fare, though they served up a varied, multi-cuisine buffet as well. The service can sometimes be a bit challenging, but it's all very pleasant and smiling, so you're not really complaining.

The other luxury option is the Chhaya Reach, which is on the beach and less than 4 kms from the gate. From the outside it looks like a spectacular property and definitely worth considering.

The third and most interesting option are the forest bungalows. We visited the Buthawa bungalow, set just off the beach. It's a beautiful property, with two comfortable rooms (with ensuite bathrooms) and a large verandah with 8 more beds and a dining area. You have to carry the raw materials and the caretaker will cook for you. And the park entry fees are built into the bungalow cost.

Safaris
Unlike most Indian parks, there is no restriction on the number of vehicles entering Yala. You hire a jeep, get your permit and enter. Simple as that. And you pay $25 per person for every time you enter.

Also unlike Indian parks, Yala allows all day safaris. So you can spend the whole day driving around and given that leopards (unlike tigers and lions) rest on trees in the heat, sightings can happen through the day.

Jeeps can be hired from many sources in Yala, and your tour operator will usually book it. We were booked with Dickshon safaris (www.dickshonsafari.com) And please ask for Sachitra (Sachi) as your driver. He's young but absolutely fantastic! The way in which he maneuvered a big jeep around the forest was superb. And he's always willing to drive, always trying hard to get you a sighting, and always smiling. You can reach him on +94 778353932.

We were also fortunate to have the most unbelievable guide - Rajesh (+94 712107696 or +94 715351103) He is a superb spotter, knows the roads inside out and is otherwise great fun to be with.

Other tips
If you can manage an all day safari, I would definitely recommend it. You give yourself a much better chance of spotting leopards, especially on trees in the afternoon.

For an all day safari, please carry a proper breakfast and lunch,  a full day's supply of water and some fruit or snacks. You do not get anything inside the forest. The hotel can give you packed breakfast as well as lunch.

If you like local food, the guide/driver can arrange a local packet, which is delicious. The breakfast has string hoppers with symbol (coconut chutney) and lunch is brown rice with dal, curry, sambol and papad. 

The best time for sightings is in August, the Sri Lankan dry season. 

The closest town (for supplies, ATM etc) is Tissamaharama, 22kms from Yala. 







Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nagpur-Waghpur - Hidden Jewels of Central India


Herd of Chital in golden light at Pench 
Butterfly at Nagzira

Black Shouldered Kite at Tadoba
The lure of seeing a new forest is always impossible to resist. So when my good friend and Vidarbha forest champion Rajnesh Naidu suggested we do a trip around Nagpur, the feet clicked into gear immediately and we set out early November on a one-week round trip around Nagpur's awesome neighborhood. 

Rajnesh set us (actually himself, since he was driving) an action packed schedule, barely pausing for breath anywhere! So our 8 day trip covered Koka, Umred, Nagzira, Pench (Mah), Tadoba and Bor. Of this lot, I'd seen Tadoba and Nagzira and was keen to reacquaint myself with these forests. But the real attractions were the new forests, all teeming with wildlife and under new management, showing all the signs of an open and welcoming forest administration. 

My favorite spider - Doesn't he look like Darth Vader?
But the highlight was undoubtedly the arachnids - giant spiders with webs strung across the road at times. At the end of the monsoon, these beautiful creatures create large, intricate webs to take full advantage of the increased insect activity in the post monsoon jungle greenery. At every turn, there was one spectacular web, with a beautiful resident at the centre. The first time I'd paid so much attention to these wonderful creatures and man was it rewarding!

Koka
Full Moon at Koka
A brief stopover on our way to Umred. Set barely 20 kms from Bhandara, Koka is currently managed by the FDCM (Forest Development Corporation) and there are efforts underway to declare it a Sanctuary. We drove around the outskirts of this beautiful park on a full moon night and our friends from Bhandara, Bhavesh Nirwan and Nadeem Khan (regular visitors here) have sighted many different animal and bird species, including big cats.

Umred-Kharhangla Wildlife Sanctuary

A Black Shouldered Kite hovers over Umred Lake
Set to the South of Nagpur, Umred is part of a vital corridor that connects Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve to other protected areas like Pench and Nagzira. I was fortunate to accompany a forest department vehicle and watch as they set camera traps to photograph large mammals. Also fascinating was their experiment with a new type of waterhole. Don't want to dwell too much on it since it is still in concept and testing phase - but it looks very promising and hopefully will eliminate the ugly cement structures that make up our man made waterholes!

Giant Wood Spider on its web
Coming back to the Wildlife at Umred, there are several tigers here, including a family with 4 cubs. We met a forest guard who had seen the mother and cubs play on the main road the previous evening. There are also regular sightings of other tigers as well, in addition to a vibrant prey base. In my short trip there, I spent some quality time on the Umred dam, watching dragonflies flit back and forth from the water and a Black Shouldered Kite hover in the air, looking for prey. All these signs of a very safe and stable environment are music to the ears of any wildlife lover, and the tourism infrastructure in Umred is definitely gearing up and should be completely functional over the next few months. 

Pench (Maharashtra)


It's amazing how a change of attitude can transform a place so quickly. Pench (Mah) was the forgotten sibling amongst the two Pench's. The MP side had all the resorts, the jeeps and the tourists. And the Maharashtra side had squat. Though they're part of the same forest (separated only by an invisible state border) The issue - MP welcomed tourists and Maharashtra didn't. With Mr. Reddy taking on the leadership of these parks, it's almost like an overnight change - the whole place seems to have woken up from its slumber, the people are energized and the tourist profile is changing (from weekend party-types from Nagpur to wildlife watchers) And it's all being done with the participation of the local community and structured to provide them with the most benefit. For more, please check out www.mahapenchtiger.com

Racket Tailed Drongo

Dramatic Gaur
And the forest itself is spectacular. The classical beauty of the Central Indian forests is accentuated by the beautiful Pench reservoir and the terrain is more rugged than over on the MP side. Add the relatively low levels of tourism and you get a truly 'wild' forest. And yes, teeming with wildlife. We saw evidence of several tigers (pug marks and scat) and wild dogs and I personally was lucky enough to see two species on my 'must see' list - a proper 'photographic' sighting of a racket tailed drongo and a glimpse of a honey badger. The latter is a very nocturnal creature and seldom seen, so to see one zip across the road was thrilling to say the least - no photos of course!! 

We saw a lot of prey animals, pointing to a healthy eco-system and with reports of tiger populations higher in the Maharashtra side (than MP) Pench is certainly set for a lot of tourist action in the coming months!

Nagzira

Spider in the rain
The one disappointment of this trip. I'd had a memorable trip in May with wild dog and tiger sightings galore. This time two things conspired to make it something of a downer - one man-made and the other nature-made. Hurricane Neelam blew clouds all the way from South India's coast and caused it to rain over Nagzira. Which in turn threw everything out of gear. The second issue was a strange lethargy by the forest administration (surprising given how on-the-ball they seemed to be in May when Mr. Reddy was Field Director) - the park's route system was altered and the result was much lower coverage and two-way traffic on narrow (and wet) forest roads. A recipe for chaos (and potential accidents) The forest staff took 1 hour to issue our permits and generally seemed disinterested with things in general. 

We went into Nagzira in the morning, saw a family of Sloth Bears in thick bush and a couple of beautiful spiders, one struggling to build his web amidst the rain. Then we stopped off at an under-construction resort outside the forest where we spent an amazing hour with hundreds of beautiful butterflies. Really incredible to see so many of them flitting all around you. 


That afternoon we went to New Nagzira, a newly notified part of the Park and again, we immediately saw evidence of lax management. The guides were all young boys, who weren't' even trained. We were told that their 'training' was happening in parallel! So we got a young lad, who (not his fault) didn't really know the forest well and the result was that we went round in circles, till one of us figured that out and somehow got us back on the right path and out of the forest. It helped that we were all reasonably experienced 'wildlifers' and not fazed so we got out fine, but I can only imagine what a regular tourist could go through, lost in the forest in pouring rain, with the light fast fading and a guide with very little experience. It's time the Forest Department there woke up and realized that tourism is not just about issuing permits and setting 'rules'. They have to take responsibility to ensure that such fundamental errors do not happen. 

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

Signature Spider
The (current) crown jewel in Vidarbha's crown. I've written about Tadoba earlier, so won't dwell too much on it here, but suffice to say that it is truly one of India's best places to see tigers. Even in thick post monsoon forest with a lot of routes closed down, we saw one tiger family and narrowly missed a couple more. 

The first two safaris were memorable just because we were able to ride through lush green forests, refreshed by the recent rain. (thanks to Hurricane Neelam) Again, the arachnids were the highlight, including a beautiful 'Signature Spider', a species that leaves a tell-tale signature on a part of its web. 

Telia Cub

Telia Tigress

The night before the third safari, something told me that we would see tigers the next day and I mentioned that to my friend Nishit Pandey, also visiting from Mumbai with his family. And we arranged to be the first vehicles to enter the park the next morning. And sure enough, as soon as Nishit's jeep (which was the first) entered the road to Telia Dam, they saw all 4 of the Telia cubs on the road. The cubs then went into the vegetation and a couple stayed out briefly to give us some pictures. Then we heard them play for over an hour, growling and roaring in turn. Then, one call from their mother and they all fell into attention. The sounds vanished for a few minutes and the next thing we see is all 4 walking across the Telia dam with their mother. It was the first time I'd seen this beautiful tigress and brave mother of 4! They came to the water to drink and then disappeared into the jungle. Another great sighting of this wonderful family!

Bor Wildlife Sanctuary

Fresh Water Crab
Another little jewel around Nagpur, this one is to the South West, near Wardha. It is popular amongst the locals for the nearby Bor-Dharan Dam a popular picnic spot. But not many of them know that it is also a vibrant (albeit small) tiger forest.


We spent a serene day at Bor, wandering through beautiful forest, interspersed with rocky nallahs and open grasslands, topped by a lovely water body. Again, we saw lots of herbivores, especially Chital and Sambhar - more evidence of a thriving forest. We also heard reports of 2 different tiger sightings to two sets of tourists!

Most importantly, we saw more evidence of proactive work by the Department with more waterhole experiments. But the most heartwarming part was the improved facilities for the forest guards in their forest huts. Thanks to the efforts of the Wildlife Conservation Trust (founded by Mr. Hemendra Kothari and run by Dr. Anish Andheria) the forest guards have revamped huts with much better amenities - simple yet vital things like a cooking stove, water filters, solar lamps and mosquito nets. For the people with the toughest (and most thankless) jobs in the Indian forests, providing these basic facilities was long overdue and thanks to the WCT, these are now making a huge difference to the lives and morale of our brave forest guards. Check out more on WCT on www.wildlifeconservationtrust.org

Parakeet taking off
But our real adventure started as we left Bor. At the gate, we discovered we had a flat tire. And to our horror, the spare was also flat (the previous puncture hadn't been fixed properly) Rajnesh maneuvered the car to the forest department complex, and that blew the existing tire completely. He  then took the tire to the nearby village to get it fixed. When they got back an hour later, it was mixed news, the tire was fixed for now, but it was in bad shape! And I had a train to catch from Nagpur (60 mms away) in 2 hours. So, he had to nurse the car through forest roads in pitch darkness with a dodgy tire. And no mobile network. I don't know how he did it, but we entered the outskirts of Nagpur without a hitch. Then, the tyre blows up! I missed my train but was eternally grateful to the tyre for not blowing up in the middle of the forest! That would have been something else!

Anyways, a superb trip ended with some adventure! The 'Nagpur as tiger capital' debate is pretty redundant given the riches that surround the city. As for sightings, I'm sure the dry season will provide some serious joys to the dedicated wildlifer!  Till next time then...