Travel story contributor: Amit Sengupta
I could vividly listen to the rustling of the dead leaves falling on the trail. There was also the sensational yet exciting chirping of the birds which fell on my ears occasionally. Most surprisingly a wagtail would always be around our path leading us inside the verdant greenery, where I could succumb to the alluring charm of the sanctuary.
We were inside Chhattisgarh’s Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary and it was a chilly morning in the winter months early this year. I was gleefully ignorant of the cold and just wore shorts with a pullover and jacket. As expected for the initial one hour or so, I was shivering atop the safari jeep, till the morning sun rays pierced through the tall teak and sal trees of the forest to lend some warmth to my cold self.
Wildlife and forests are a way of life in this state of Chhattisgarh. Though the state is not well known in the touristy circuit or popular with travelers or backpackers, its wildlife or nature will never fail to surprise you. Barnawapara sanctuary tucked away at about 120 km from Raipur, capital city of Chhattisgarh is flanked by the historical town of Sirpur which is roughly 40 kms from the entrance gate of the park.
You can comfortably perch yourself at the government owned property, Hareli Eco-resort at the sanctuary by making a request through their tourism board. Once in, I could feel, I am thrown in almost inside a middle of a forest with wild calls, birds flying around, peacocks whom I could touch and feel all my myself, monkeys flying around from one branch to the other. These priceless views, all from my balcony in this resort, which lies at the frills of the forest.
I woke up at dawn to venture into the greenery, in the hope to catch a rare sighting of a wolf, the Indian Bison or a leopard. We went inside the sanctuary after driving through a kuchha road, got our papers checked at the entry gate and veered into the wild wanders. Meanwhile, our guide, a local of the nearby village, Himendra joined us and took charge of the safari guiding us throughout interesting insights of wildlife.
Within a short and quite drive, we located a rare wagtail and a jumping giant squirrel which hanged from one branch to the other in endless excitement. The wagtail was flirting its tail fleetingly while I was trying to capture it through my lens. And then, we stopped. All of us went quiet and heard the guide say, ‘There. The wolf.’ It was just about 5 meters away from our jeep. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It stood there, stared at us with its riveting sharp eyes, gave a pose and started walking.
Feeling excited about this rare sighting, we went inside to test our luck. Within a few moments, I could see a proud peacock flaunting its wings and tails basking in the morning sun. It was putting its tiny legs quite softly on the ground and marching towards the pond, giving us all in the safari a look as if it was trying to say something to us! Elated , we went close to the water body, but not before catching hold of a beautiful herd of spotted dear. They were attentive and were staring at us throughout. Some of them grazed to satisfy their morning hunger and we let them be and drove towards Pakshi Vihar which is a shallow marshland.
This marshland is a veritable paradise of rare species of birds. The sanctuary, we are told hosts about 150 species of birds and we couldn’t miss this opportunity to witness the avian paradise. The marshland was a huge swampy water body with an exotic and romantic aura. I wondered if any Bollywood films will ever be shot here. The landscape was perfect – tall trees, dense foliage, langoors jumping around and an unmatched sighting of birds. One could spend hours here, just sitting and staring at the flora and fauna in the wild. I spotted Black Ibis, greater racket tailed drongo, green bee-eater, egret, eagle, parrot, swallows. Sometimes a hushed silence was disturbed by a loud cheer from a bevy of peacocks.
Our jeep was comfortably parked in the road and I got down and walked over the dried leaves which made a rustling sound. With the camera in hand, I slowly marched towards the edge of the water body. Within a moment, I realized, I disturbed the langoors who were spending their quite morning outing munching some forest produce. A silent apology to them, I continued my adventures. There’s a watch tower here and I moved in to see if I can get a vantage point to photograph some beautiful avian species. Within moments, an eagle flew up from nowhere and perched itself on top of a wobbly tree branch. It sat there for quite some time as if it was keeping a watch on the forest. Perhaps it was looking for its next prey. Perhaps not! As it flew away, so did we, bidding adieu to the Barnawapara Sanctuary.
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