Mystical Jungles of Dudhwa National Park
The problem with Dudhwa is that it is far from Delhi so few people from Saadi Dilli venture there.
Actually, wait a second, let me rewrite that sentence.
“The Good Thing About Dudhwa is That it is Far From Delhi, so Few People From Delhi Go There. 😉 😉 ” Got it?
Oh, I am going to curse myself for days to come to write this post. But I am pretty sure the distance between Dudhwa and Delhi is not going to reduce anytime soon so only REAL Wildlife lovers will venture to Dudhwa. With the partition of UP in Uttrakhand and UP, the more accessible Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve went to Uttrakhand and UP was left with Dudhwa, made famous by hunter turned conservationist the indomitable Billy Arjan Singh, may he rest in peace.
Let us first get the distance out of the equation.
How to Reach Dudhwa National Park?
Well from Delhi you can drive in about 8 hours based on my sources, but we drove from Lucknow and it took us about 5.5 hours from there. Dudhwa is about 238 km from Lucknow and 410 KM from Saddi Delhi. You can also take trains till Dudhwa (4 km), Palia (10 km) and Mailani (37 km), but your best chances to get a fast train are till Lucknow.
Anyways now with mundane things like Distance, etc. out of equation let us enjoy the beautiful grasslands and jungles of Dudhwa.
The logical next question is
What birds and animals are found in Dudhwa National Park?
Luckily Dudhwa retains mystic of a virgin forest, with topography ranging from grasslands to swamps to woodlands dense enough to stop every single ray of light to fall on the ground. The vast expanse spread in 1200 Sq KM allows free roaming of tigers, wild elephants, Swamp Deer aka Bara Singha or the Deer with 12 Antlers.
And the pride of Dudhwa has been a successful reintroduction of One-horned Rhino from Kaziranga and Nepal. The topography of Kaziranga and Dudhwa are similar though the Rhino was hunted down in Dudhwa, they were reintroduced between 1979 and 1984 and now as per the latest census, there are about 35 one horned Rhino roaming wild in Dudhwa. But, but in order to ensure they remain safe not only from the danger from humans but also to keep a close eye on them, they are in a fenced area or about 40 SQ Km surrounded by an electrical fence where you are allowed to enter only on Elephant back.
And that is exactly we did, thanks to our hosts UP Tourism and personal interest in conservation by Chief Minister of UP Sh. Akhilesh Yadav, we were taken on an elephant ride inside the special Rhino Area as the invited media guests of UP Tourism and good folks from Lonely Planet Magazine.
Let me confess here, when I learned that the Rhinos are in a fenced area the first image that came to my mind was a ZOO and the sorry state of affairs most zoos have. Luckily my fears were unfounded and the fenced area in Dudhwa for the one horned Rhino is actually a true jungle with the Fence only kept to keep the Rhinos in and humans out. 40 Sq KM may appear small on papers but it took us more than two hours to actually find the Rhinos inside the Rhino area. The Rhinos roam free and do not have any kind of radio collars on them. Their territory has swamps, grasslands and truly represents the wild side of Dudhwa. The Rhinos truly roam wild and are not given any kind of food or water from the forest department so that they retain their wild nature.
We went on 3 safaris in Dudhwa, two on Jeep and one on Elephant back, inside the Rhino area. As you enter the Dudhwa National park you realize how different Dudhwa is from the so-called popular national parks. As there was no rush of jeeps in the park we could not only drive peacefully with anybody trying to overtake us in their mad rush to spot a tiger first (Yes idiots in a Rush visit Tiger Reserves also, luckily we did not encounter any in Dudhwa ).
I also liked to climb the watch towers, inside Dudhwa and we visited a few of them where you are allowed to get down from the vehicle ( in the supervision of a Forest guard ) and climb the tower to watch the surroundings. Most of the swamp deer we watched were from these watches towers only. The Deer at a distance in the swamp somehow instinctively knew that we were no danger to them so while we were busy going “Ah and OOhshs “while looking at them, they were busy chomping on the juicy grass growing in the swamp.
Some of the other animals we spotted inside Dudhwa are Crocodiles, wild boar, monkeys, spotted Deer, Swamp Deer etc.
But the most memorable experience will remain the Elephant Safari in search of the Rhinos in Dudhwa. This was my first time to look for Rhinos in wild and I was pretty excited at the opportunity to spot a wild Rhino, more so considering they were once extinct in Dudhwa and the reintroduction is bearing some fruits. But let us keep Rhino’s aside for a moment for I want to dedicate a post to Rhinos, in this post let me talk about experiencing the jungle.
Even before the crack of dawn we reached the gates of the Dudhwa National Park and were greeted by still half asleep Sun who looked at us lazily from behind some trees but warmed up soon to our presence and enthusiasm to look at the flora and fauna of Dudhwa.
As the first golden rays touched the dew laden blades of grass in Dudhwa we were surrounded by millions of sparkling diamonds some on leaves some on spider webs and others clinging on dragonflies unable to fly due to the weight of frigid dewdrops on their wings. Now you know where those guys at Swarovski Crystals get their inspiration from?
As the sun warmed up the grassland we started noticing activities all around us, crested serpent eagle opening eyes to our presence, a Kingfisher fluttering pretending to meditate while keeping an eye on the placid waters below his perch and a wooly necked stork looking at us suspiciously.
But wait what did that just crossed the road in front of us, too fast for any of us to recognize it, we debate what it was – I was not sure as I only saw something Orangish quickly vanish into bushes. Our friend from Mumbai declares “ It was a deerish kind of thing !!”, but our hawk-eyed guide Mr. Naseem is sure it was a Tiger that hurriedly crossed our path and we missed it. We wait for some time and then slowly reach the spot from where the Orangish creature crossed the road, and we see some pugmarks for sure, not very clear but Pugmarks for sure. Another missed the opportunity we tell ourselves but that is Jungle.
“ If you see a Tiger once in the Jungle it means the Tiger has seen you 100 times ” is an old Jungle saying. Suddenly a chill runs down my spine as I realize somewhere in those tall grasses two sharp eyes are focused on our each and every movement. But then I also feel lucky that we smelly dirty humans are not the breakfast of choice for His Majesty The Tiger. Thank God for That.
But then a beautiful mystical Jungle like Dudhwa is to to be enjoyed with or without Tiger sighting, and soon the jungle mesmerizes. Sparkling God rays filter from the canopy and light and shadow play in the undergrowth, the Spotted Deer looks at us from distance with a puzzled look and then is gone in a blink. How fast these creatures bolt is anybody’s guess.
The jungle starts speaking in a hundred languages simultaneously and it is an expert guide like Mr. Naseem and enthusiastic naturalist like Sonu Dudhwa Liladhar who was accompanying us who translate the language of the jungle for us.
Tak Tak Tak – Oh that is a Woodpecker chiseling a tree for some juicy insects, look on your left on that tree.
Rustling leaves? No this is not because of wind; look there is a Rock Python slithering down from a tree looking for a sunny spot I think to warm his body.
Alas, a Jungle Safari lasts only for so long and soon it was time to head back to our hotel. But I promise you that I will be back with stories about our search for Rhino elephant back.
About Pictures in this blog post about Dudhwa: I lost all my Dudhwa and Lucknow Images at the Benaras Airport during Security check. The pouch containing the SD card and my camera remote slipped somewhere during the check when my bags were opened. I only realized this on coming back to Delhi. But lucky me I requested fellow photographer and wildlife love Mr. Gurdeep Singh to share some of his images for our readers and he kindly agreed for the same.
About the Photographer: Gurdeep Singh is a skilled wildlife photographer and a naturalist from New Delhi. He has traveled across the various national parks in India, photographing wildlife and landscapes. His images have been appreciated at various forums including National Geographic Traveller. He likes capturing wildlife landscapes and has a special interest in macro and miniature photography. As Geography being his favorite subject, Gurdeep has done Masters in Geoinformatics from ITC, Netherlands. His mission of life is to travel across Indian wildlife sanctuaries and reveal the beauty of nature.
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