Steaming Hot Chai
Photo Courtesy: Jesse Jacobs
The day in most parks starts at around four in the morning with a cup of tea or coffee, varying slightly, depending upon how much time you take to finish your morning business, and how far your lodge is from the park gate, and whether you want to be the first or the last to get in. It is best to leave your bath till you return from your dusty safari. One should expect a long queue of safari vehicles in front of the gate in every important park. And if you have to buy your own entry pass in the morning, you might have to personally queue up at the gate even at 3 o’clock, and feel the Indian winter right inside your bones! Getting into an Indian park is not that easy now, even if you have the time and the money!
Although there are no stark breeding seasons among most ungulates of the plains, due to the relatively milder winters (compared with the extreme cold of the temperate regions), still one sees lots of fawns as their births coincide with the period of plenty.
Animals look healthy and well-rounded as they collect reserves of fat to survive the punishing scarcity of the summer. If you are in the gaur country, you might not see them often in the beginning of the season, as they descend to the plains, from their monsoon migration to the hills, only by the middle of December.
Tigresses with young litters become more confident as the cubs become accustomed to vehicles and humans around them.
Winter is also the season one sees the highest diversity of birds, as local avi-fauna is enriched by the winter migrants from far and near. Some come down from the Himalayas and some from far north, to enjoy our warmer winters. Apart from the flocks of waterfowl around water bodies, one sees beautiful sunbirds, wagtails, singing babblers, bubbly warblers, and raptors, sometimes even rarer vultures.
These days, visitor interest is not limited to mammals and birds.
Discerning visitors also appreciate butterflies, spiders, frogs and reptiles. These cold blooded creatures are less noticeable in winters as they pass the cold months as pupae or hibernating in obscure places. But as the season warms up, they become active feeders and become more visible. Bees and Butterflies abound towards the end of winter as the plants start flowering and producing nectar. If you have a good naturalist accompanying you, he can make a tiger butterfly sound as enchanting as the original owner of this name!
Birds and butterflies can be enjoyed better on a leisurely walk in the quieter parts of the parks, in smaller groups. One should never consider a park visit complete without a walk in the forest, even if it not in the core area.