Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve was our next stop. We came to India to photograph tigers and so far we were having really good luck. Kanha was a larger park than Bandhavgarh, and with many more tigers. I also found the scenery at Kanha to be completely different. It was very diverse and beautiful.
The forest was denser here with fountain like sprays of bamboo shooting out of the ground every few feet. There were broad swaths grasslands and dense forests of Sal trees. Some of the Sal trees were quite ancient and we saw one tree which may have been a thousand years old. There were also working elephants kept by families of Mahuut which are the traditional elephant owners and trainers in Indian society. They are very careful to treat their elephants humanely.
I asked our naturalist Partha what the difference was between a forest and a jungle. He explained that it was controversial and while both seemed to be forests, jungles had denser undergrowth and thicker vegetation. I began to see the wisdom of this distinction as we traveled deeper into the older parts of the park that had been less disturbed. The sounds and the atmosphere changed and you felt as if you had entered another world.
Partha had two field guide sitting atop the dashboard of our jeep, one was “Birds of India” the other “Mammals”. As a biologist I was curious about the various species and habitats seen in the region so I chose “Mammals”. I saw that there were two species of bear, one being the sloth bear of Kipling’s “Jungle Book” fame. These sloth bears were extremely rare and sadly we did not see one in the wild, although we sat for quite a while at one location where we thought there was either a tiger or a leopard. Turns out, based on the tracks, it was a very shy bear.