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Kanha National Park is a blog post from the Miscellaneous category.

Kanha National Park

Posted by Matt on

India is an incredible country – a vibrant, bustling place that overwhelms the senses. There’s nothing that quite prepares you for the noise, dust and heat that assaults you upon arrival and I came back from this trip more worn down than when I had departed. Having said that, India is a great place for photography. It may be one of the most densely populated countries in the world, but in terms of wildlife diversity it is also one of the richest.

A spotted owlet sitting outside its nest.

Kanha National Park is located in the Satpura Hills of Madhya Pradesh. Verdant Sal forest covers most of the park, interspersed by grassy meadows and rocky ridges. This is the area where Rudyard Kipling gained inspiration for his novel “The Jungle Book”. It’s easy to see how such a beautiful environment could have inspired Kipling.

A view through the beautiful Sal forest.

The aim of my trip was to photograph a broad selection of Kanha’s wildlife, but at the top of my wish list (like many other photographers) was the Bengal Tiger. It was a difficult prospect to try and photograph these magnificent cats within the limited time I had available, however I was lucky enough to see seven different cats whilst I was there. Photographing them was extremely difficult – often I just caught a fleeting glimpse of orange and black stripes melting into the jungle, or a tail flicking out of the long grass. In the end I managed to get a good photo of this tigress lying on the forest floor. She had three sub-adult cubs, which were resting out of sight.

A tigress resting from the intense midday heat.

Tigers are the top predators in their ecosystem, and have been a prominent symbol in Indian civilisation for centuries. It is a sad fact that tiger numbers have fallen by about 95% in the past 100 years and they only occupy 7% of their former range. I feel privileged to have seen this magnificent animal in the wild but I am greatly saddened by its current demise.

The birdlife in Kanha was amazing – the park hosts over 200 resident and migratory species. The 600mm lens and cropped-frame Canon 1D MK IV allowed me to get some great images of bee-eaters, owls and a number of other feathery creatures. Peacocks are a common sight in the forest, but you can never tire of their beautiful feathers and extravagant display.

A jungle babbler with a grass hopper in its beak.
A beautiful green bee-eater perched on a blade of grass.

Perhaps my favourite creatures to watch and photograph in Kanha were the langur monkeys. These playful primates provided hours of entertainment and fantastic opportunities for photographs. They live in troops that consist of around 20 or 30 monkeys, led by dominant males. They can often be a good indicator of nearby tigers or leopards, because they give a distinctive alarm call if a cat is spotted.

A langur looking out for danger from the top of a termite mound.
A baby langur feeding from its mother.

My award for “least favourite animal” undoubtedly goes to the Giant Honey Bee. Imagine your average honey bee and then double the size. Then imagine having two of these incredibly huge, notoriously aggressive beasts stinging the inside of your ear canal… for ten minutes… that’s what I experienced… and that’s why I don’t like them. To this day I still don’t understand why they launched an airborne assault on me when I was minding my own business! I certainly won’t be going remotely near a colony of giant honey bees anytime soon! However, I do appreciate the spectacular nests that they build on the underside of tree branches.

Common lime butterflies mating.
A magnificent barasingha stag.

After recovering from the bee incident (which included a visit to a local hospital) I was back up and photographing the spectacular animals around me. This included soft-ground barasinghas and an Indian leopard. Leopards are difficult to spot in India, due to their timid behaviour and highly effective camouflage.

An Indian leopard camouflaged in the thick forest.

Overall, I found my trip to Kanha extremely rewarding. It is a beautiful wilderness with a profusion of wildlife – a small haven in a country that is fast changing.

15 Comments

  1. Dev Wijewardane said: July 20, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Thanks for the write up Matt. Sounds like an unforgettable trip, bee stings and all! Photographing a tiger in the wild is pretty high on my bucket list.

  2. Wildlife Holidays said: July 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    You seem to have had one of the best times i have ever seen anyone have in Kanha and people usually have exceptional experiences here! Your pictures are amazing and i love the fact that you saw a young leopard

  3. steve purdy said: July 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    excellent photos as usual I do envy you what must have been a fantastic trip. Leopard favourite photo thanks for sharing
    regards

  4. fran del santo said: July 20, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Only in ones dreams could one go there the photos are beautiful. I could only hope to come up to that standard of photography with a few more years of schooling and hard work. thank you for letting us see part of your trip.

  5. annie said: July 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    The leopard is dramatic and the tigress at
    rest is just a deliight. Simply Eye Candy for the heart.
    As you mention, they are vanishing for a moment in time you were there!How wonderful.

  6. Fleur said: July 21, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Wow – such beautiful photos! I am headed to India next year..no idea where just yet but you have really inspired me and I shall keep that national park in mind! I’m an avid photographer and I’m just dying to get there!! The monkeys are just gorgeous! May I ask how on earth 2 bees managed to sting you for 10 minutes without you noticing?? Intriguing….
    🙂 Fleur

  7. Rahul said: July 21, 2010 at 3:07 am

    Glad to hear you had a wonderful trip 🙂
    If you happen to visit the south of india anytime again, let me know, I’d love to meet you.

  8. Megha Agarwal said: July 21, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    fantastic photographs..
    Next time when you visit India, you shall plan a trip to Rajaji National Park too… I will be very happy to accompany you.

  9. Matt said: July 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks guys, I appreciate all your comments!
    Fleur: I definitely noticed them in my ear – Unfortunately I was being swarmed at the time so I couldn’t stop them going in, and they went in so far that we couldn’t see them to pull them out!
    Here’s a fascinating clip about these bees from BBC’s Planet Earth.

  10. avidimages said: July 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Absolutely stunning photos, wish i was there!

  11. Warren Williams said: August 1, 2010 at 2:47 am

    Stunning set of photos! Had great memories in India also 🙂

  12. Lakhu said: August 24, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Have been visiting Kanha every year since the last 10 years or so and believe me i did not spoy a leopard even once but managed to spot one last year.Lucas is one hell of a lucky fellow!
    I can tell everyone that kanha is just magic..it is a place to cleanse your soul..my soul curry.

  13. Wildlife Holidays said: September 1, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I love the leopard picture, what a sighting! excellent story as well!

  14. Naina Hiranandani said: November 13, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Hey Matt,
    Just saw your blog. Stunning photos. I’m planning to go to Kanha next month and wanted to know when did you visit? Im planning only a 3 night trip and was wondering what’s a nice, budgeted place to stay at?
    This sounds like a barrage of questions, so if you do have a moment, it’d be great if you could drop me a mail.
    Best
    N

  15. Sandip Mishra said: December 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Matt,

    Wonderful pics and a nice description. I have visited Kanha six times and each time was a different experience. Frankly, I am jealous that you had the sighting of a leopard, which had eluded me till date. If you get a chance, visit the Pench Tiger Reserve and Tadoba Tiger Reserve(if you have not seen them). You can see some of the photos on my picasa page http://picasaweb.google.com/pupu1972.

    All the best

    regards
    Sandip

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