Although any time is a good time to be away from the maddening crowds and blaring horns, but a winter visit to an Indian national park is something really special. Nature is at its best as it transitions from the luxuriance of the monsoon to the sucking heat of the summer when fodder and water become a luxury. Although the scene changes every day as winter peaks in January and then fades into the autumn-spring-summer continuum, all four months of winter, from November to February, present their own special pleasures to the beholder.
Photo Courtesy : Jagpreet Pabla
Most parks open to visitors either in mid-October or November when there is only a hint of winter and young people drive into the forests with, or without, light jackets. Entire landscape presents a lush green picture broken only by the flowered grasses in the meadows. Seasonal streams are still flowing and you hear the pleasing music of a flowing brook or a dripping spring.
Once you are in the park, all wrapped up in warm clothes, you forget all the hassles and enjoy the chill, scenery, sounds, suspense and wildlife. In an open jeep the chill can be really severe. Dew or frost on the grass, and smoking brooks and marshes, add a strange, mystic, awe to the environment. Often one starts seeing spotted deer, sambar, nilgai, chinkara etc. as one enters the park, depending upon which park you are in, but even the veterans keep looking for the elusive tiger, leopard or the bear behind every bush. When the parks were not so crowded, visitors could even go tiger tracking on elephant back, starting well before day break. And in winter, strangely, your bladder would start troubling you as soon as you are onboard, especially when you are expecting a tiger nearby.
One starts peeling off layers of clothes as the day warms up. Most lodges have very sunny environments so that the city dwellers have a rare chance to sun themselves between the morning and evening safaris. Most lodges organize a campfire in the evening and invite local cultural troupes to perform for the guests. By the time you finish your dinner, you are dead tired and sleepy in anticipation of another early wake up call.
This is the first part of our four-part Gypsy Shack Special Series on a Winter Visit to a National Park in India by Dr. H.S. Pabla. Dr. HS Pabla, a former IFS officer, has spent the best years of his life in and around national parks in India observing them closely. Through this article he reflects on the landscapes, wildlife encounters, and a provides detailed description of what to expect in National Parks during the winter months.