Beasts And Bureaucrats: A Trip To Satpura National Park

30/06/2015 8:21 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Ajay Sood

You would be all-too-familiar with the traits of a typical wildlife enthusiast. His ears pricked like an Alsatian's for the real or imagined call of a monkey or a swamp deer, his eyes would darting around like a sleuth's, spotting the slightest movement in the environs.

His parched tongue and dry lips go unnoticed, his skin, sensitive to the gentlest brush of a grass blade, impervious to the extremes of the elements. His speech is limited to sudden inhibiting shush once in a way, punctuated upon sight of a pugmark perhaps by incoherent whispers to no one in particular - "Last night's!"

He is happy to retire in a claustrophobic tent with a dim flashlight, or in a camouflage hideaway that has none.

Though I love wildlife, I do not belong in the wild. Roughing it out is not my idea of fun so I have often eschewed India's national parks where you are more likely to be following a trail of tiger poop rather than actually watching a deer hunt in progress. The parks of choice for me, thus, have been Masai Mara, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, Pilanesberg, Seal Island (South Africa), Phillip Island (Australia), and the likes.

Expectedly, they spoil you with their abundance of the exotic. During the day, you are surrounded by large herds of the flamboyant -- giraffes, zebras, ostriches, wildebeests; comfortably spot the majestic -- cheetahs, lions, rhinos and hippos; and once in a way cross paths with the rare -- porcupines, pythons, crocodiles and leopards.

"Our [boat] safari went down the tube because of a bureaucratic hijacking."

Evenings at a resort here often offer spa treatments, Jacuzzis swirling with "just right" water, a choice of game meat and crackling, fragrant bonfires.

Understandably, mention of a visit to Satpura National Park in Madhya Pradesh found me nodding only perfunctorily at the prospect. While the Corbetts, Kanhas and Kazirangas were oft referred to in my circles, my memory failed me regarding any allusion to Satpura.

Still, I travelled to Satpura. Following a hellish train journey on a wintry night, initial impressions during my approach to this destination did little to cause excitement.

The road leading to the resort challenged one's driving skills; the journey itself was rather dull; and the reception area of the resort nothing to write home about.

But once we were ushered into the resort, I started to wonder if my first impressions were well-founded. Denwa Backwater Escape, a Pugdundee Resort, is spread over 10 acres in the buffer zone of Satpura National Park. River Denwa separates it from the core area of the park.

While the food was ordinary, the ambience was luxurious. Our cottages at the resort were well appointed. The resort landscaping, along with natural ponds on the property, complemented the rugged looks of the jungle and its buffer zone.

That afternoon, we went for the jeep safari. We crossed over to the core zone in a boat, all set with hats and cameras. But we faced the usual, our interaction with wildlife limited to false alarms and pugmarks. On our return, we realised ours was the only jeep to have not spotted a leopard, or a tiger, or both. But then, that is luck!

In the evening, the resort was romantically lit with streetlights of kerosene lanterns. And the calls from the wild provided congruous music!

The next morning, we discovered that Satpura National Park offers five types of safaris -- jeep, boat, walking, elephant and night. A boat safari here gives you an opportunity to spot crocodiles on the banks of the Denwa. Unfortunately we had time enough to try only two of these options.

One was going for a walk in the park, where our group was within 150 yards of a tiger hunting down a langur! We did not have any time to click an image but I still get goosebumps when I think about it.

Our second planned second safari (boat) went down the tube because of a bureaucratic hijacking. The Secretary Tourism, MP, happened to be visiting at the same time us and thus got rights over the only boat available. While being deprived of our rightful access to the boat safari left a bad taste in mouth, Satpura National Park left us fascinated!

As and when you plan a visit, do ensure that you avoid the train and book a flight to Bhopal instead. Make online bookings for your safaris to avoid heartaches there (by the way, they do not allow an online boat safari booking as of now). Also, though summers are very hot and uncomfortable, plan your trip then for best wildlife sightings.


A curious sambhar


A gaur in Satpura


A scenic path through the park


A walk in the park


Clarion call of a fresh dawn


Kayaks for some river fun


Main block of the resort


Resort streetlights - all set for the evening


Room with a view


Sunset over Denwa


View of Denwa Backwaters Escape

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