JOURNEYS WILDERNESS CONNECT COURSE 2022

Article by: Marilyn Paul

JOURNEYS WILDERNESS CONNECT COURSE 2022

I might be one of the least traveled person around. Though too few and far in between for any social media fame, it is journey’s such as these that brings great happiness and contentment. A unique trip to soak in information and knowledge on the rich wildlife, conservation policies, local tourism and much more. Our days began with theory classes and ended with practical on fantastic trails by the khichdi river and surrounding forests. We learnt how to apply the lessons that were taught including how to identify animal trails, birding, scouring locations for reptiles and insects, survey methods for plant and animal diversity, wilderness / animal photography and so much more…

Image Credit: Girish Punjabi

Needless to say it was magical experience seeing new birds and animals for the first time from the painted grasshopper to the red breasted parakeet; on one occasion the crested eagle seemed to be guiding us on our first trail; another day evening we spent listening to the calls of the wildlife alerting the jungle to the presence of a big cat, watching jittery deer running to the river in fear of the cat under the full moon light.

Image Credit: Sushil Chikane

We barely had move 10 ft. to experience the richness of wild visitors to camp, for they were many-we watched the playful macaques take deep dive from tree tops into the pond in the campus on a hot day; the pair of owl that took us a while to ID and the lovely owlets, the monitor lizard and it’s baby by the pond; the keelback and macaques in the pond; a daily visitor- the silent water hen strolling the camp grounds, scorpions at night on the wall shining bright under the UV light. And the numerous birds around the camp at dawn and dusk. A Burmese python and assassin bug by bridge to identifying scorpion species possibly newly reported in the area thrills were endless.

Image Credit: Sushil Chikane

When we break for a rest we got to enjoy fantastic food and warmth of the hosts, hear about their struggles and stories of the forest guard to the local villager championing the cause of ‘responsible travel and tourism’

Image Credit: Sushil Chikane

We took a an evening walk one day hoping to sight some big cats and elephants crossing. The walk gave us a view of a glorious sunset instead. Behind the tall trees at the horizon, at the edge of a vast expanse of contrasting white rocky river bed- dry and yet dynamic. Witness to many a life.

Image Credit: Sushil Chikane

Just as we walked in we saw a couple of leopard tracks by the edge of the river, then a couple of deer greeting some jackals out on an evening stroll and then the wait…

Image Credit: Sushil Chikane

Some of us climbed up and sat ourselves perched on the unique colonial structures- equally spaced conical brick walls for openings on the irrigation canals beneath the river bed mesmerized by what seemed like a live painting of a beautiful lilac sky while some hopeful souls kept scouring the edge of the forest hoping to spot a big mammal.

Image Credit: Sushil Chikane

Not every surprise has to be big we learnt as we found a unique skink playing hide and seek with us by the rocks. Birds of all sizes, a flock of them settling on a distant tree against the setting sun or the eagle perched on a dry tree. Just as we decided to leave, was that a call of a peafowl we heard? We finally left quite happy with our evening sights when a couple of forest guards came around asking us to get back to the village warning us of a risk of leopard attack.

Image Credit: Sushil Chikane

A week seemed little and felt like a dream while it lasted. Thanks to two fantastic mentors Sushil and Girish who created this wonderful opportunity for a small bunch of wildlife enthusiasts like ourselves to learn so much in such a short time.. giving us the tools to making learning wildlife a habit. Hope we make you proud.

Image Credit: Sushil Chikane

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