Chattisgarh is blessed with beautiful gentle hills, thick forests and a network of streams and rivers. From here till western Maharashtra is a belt of forests which used to be called Dankaranya in ancient times. Parts of the Dandakaranya are still thriving and Chattisgarh occupies a part of this ancient natural paradise.
In Bijapur district of Chattisgarh, the last population of wild buffaloes survive in the Indravati National park. Sprawling 2800 square kilometers of rolling hilly terrain, with altitudes ranging between 117 to 599 meters above the sea level, on the bank of Indravati River is situated Indravati National Park.
The closest airport is Raipur, but we travelled by train till Jagdalpur station. It was dusk already and therefore we decided to spend the night in Jagdalpur. Next day break we started our journey to the Indravati National Park.
The drive was a treat to the eyes. Tall jungles with thick undergrowth that looked impenetrable. I was sure even light wouldn’t reach the forest floor. The long winding road seemed a bit dangerous at times with hairpin bends and steep curves. The cold air was fragrant with the smell of the jungle and mist floated among trees giving it a dream like feel. Streams and rivers crossed paths regularly and we went over small charming bridges.
Idu Mishmi and Adi are the predominant tribes of this area. For thousands of years they have lived in harmony with these jungles; surviving on the wild game, fruit, roots and nuts from the forest, using the material for building, decorating, tools, just about everything. Unfortunately, human greed set in and the demand for wild game increased and indiscriminate killing began. Wise elders and some sensible youth chose to join the Reserve as guides and security personnel, to protect their natural wealth.
Our guide knew this jungle like the back of his hand, all its paths, flora and fauna. He was very proudly sharing his wealth of knowledge with us.
These tropical forest are characterized by tall trees of Saal, Teak and Bamboo. Most common trees were Tendu, Seemal, Haldu, Ber and Jamun. The forest is sprinkled with patches of grass lands making it an ideal habitat for the wild buffaloes and other herbivores like Chital, Barking Deer, Nilgai and Gaurs. We spotted groups of Chital, very common here and Neelgai. We also came across cute piglets with yellow stripes on their backs running after their huge mama to cross the dirt road.
With herbivores around, the predators cannot be far away. This reserve has Tigers, Leopards, Wild Dogs and Striped Hyenas living in packs. We saw some Langurs and Rhesus Monkeys in the treetops, doing what they do best- monkeying around! Spotted a couple of Flying squirrels jumping between treetops. We were told that there are Pangolins and Porcupines too.
The park is crawling with Monitor Lizards, Chameleons, Kraits, Rock Pythons, Cobras and Vipers. Being in a jeep we missed out on seeing any of them.
The area was full of bird chirpings, calls and whistles and we did see a large variety of birds. The most important being Hill Myna. This large Myna looks fascinating with its green glossed black color, yellow beak and legs with yellow wattles on the nape and under the eyes. It makes loud shrill whistle along with a variety of other sounds.
Though the guide showed us tree barks where the tigers have sharpened their claws and pugmarks too. But we did not spot any.
Drained and yet reinvigorated we returned, craving that we humans lessen our greed and the tribal wisdom of harmony with nature prevails.