Located in the vicinity of the Kanha Tiger Reserve, Phen Sanctuary has led to some wonderful experiences for me. It’s an ideal place to view a host of wild animals and birds. For a wildlife lover like me, Phen provides the fodder for many memorable stories. Let me share what happened during two recent visits.
It takes about two hours to reach Phen from Kanha and I usually leave before daybreak. Its idyllic natural beauty is always laden with promises of adventure. Seeing the giant squirrel as it expertly jumped from one tree to another was definitely a highlight. It took us hours of scanning the trees for the squirrel. We saw many squirrel nests made of fresh leaves and after a while the animal was finally spotted. I marveled at its agility and the fact that it was such a lucky sighting.
The plateau called Jurji Dadar in the sanctuary reminded me of the Bamni Dadar in Kanha where my husband and I had spent countless days admiring the stunning panoramic view. A hike on foot through a forest trail led to an amazing discovery. We went down some steps and suddenly in front of us there was a small crystal clear water-body and a waterfall that was brimming with fish. It was so pleasant just soaking in the serene atmosphere, embellished by the sound of flowing water and the songs of birds.
Alarm calls of langurs suggested the recent presence of one of the animals they considered a threat and soon enough we noticed fresh pugmarks of a leopard. It was quite exciting! There was a troupe of rhesus macaque in the hills at one time which made me wonder who was more amazed at the presence of the other, us or them. Both parties spent a few minutes watching each other before deciding to move on. One of our visits also led to the sighting of two wild dogs mating. They are commonly known as dhole and found across this region.
Birding is one of my favorite activities and Phen Sanctuary is perfect for it. It boasts of more than 150 species of birds and we were very happy to see quite a few of them, 65 to be exact. There were quite a few varieties of jungle fowl, along with water birds like the Lesser Whistling Duck, Little Grebe and Little Cormorant. The Red-wattled Lapwing was quite interesting to observe due to its characteristic call. It sounds like “did-he-do-it” which has actually led to the Lapwing being nicknamed the ‘did-he-do-it bird’. We saw predatory birds such as the White-eyed Buzzard and Bonelli’s Eagle as well as the Black-winged Kite, with its intense red eyes. Small, brightly colored birds were abundant in the Sanctuary and they added to the already vibrant sights and sounds of the jungle. In a matter of just a few hours we were able to see many Swifts, Minivets and Flycatchers. The Purple Sunbird’s glistening feathers made him stand out from the green surroundings like a dark gem. The Lesser Goldenback woodpecker with its bright red crest proved that punk is not dead in the wild. I love encountering newer species on my birding trips and Phen has definitely expanded my repertoire of knowledge significantly.
A very remarkable incident occurred during one of my visits. We saw the pugmarks of a sloth bear, a tiger and a leopard in a single PIP (pug impression pad). PIPs are prepared using a thick layer of fine soil on often-used animal paths in the jungle to trace their tracks easily. Finding tracks of three big animals on one is quite rare and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have witnessed it. Another fortunate sighting that could have resulted in unfortunate consequences was when my naturalist and I spotted a burning tree on our way to Phen. We immediately notified the nearest forest officer and a disastrous jungle fire was avoided due to our vigilance. When on a jungle safari, you must keep a lookout for not only wildlife sightings but also anything out of the ordinary.
Every time I leave Phen Sanctuary, it saddens me that the trip has come to an end. Yet there is a little tinge of excitement at what awaits when I return. There are always newer things to learn, newer adventures to be had. As life continues, so does my passion for nature and wildlife. Try not to limit yourself to the concrete jungle. The real one is out there and it is spectacular.
MD, Singinawa Jungle Lodge