I have been visiting the forests of Kabini (Rajiv Gandhi National Park) since my early years since the turn of the millennium, and the forest never ceases to delight and surprise. This is truer in the winter months than any other time of the year. The combination of a blanket of fog, dew, still-green undergrowth, and the more vibrant winter coats of wildlife, Kabini truly transforms into a winter wonderland during the months of November to March.
This period is also as good as it gets in terms of wildlife sightings. The water holes begin to dry out after a couple of months of no rain, the undergrowth is less dense offering more visibility into the forest, and the animals are more active than ever owing to pleasant weather and the mating season for a majority of the species.
If I had to look back on my countless visits to the forest over the last 20 odd years, almost all of my most memorable sightings have come in the winter months. I can fondly remember the time I could hear the constant and loud sawing of a Leopard from a treetop practically 30 feet away but could just not sight it for over an hour until the mist lifted, the time we came upon a herd of spotted deer calling in alarm frantically could see a Tiger walking towards us on the forest track until it walked right up to the nose of the vehicle. It is also the time when the simplest of moments in the wild allow for the most breathtaking pictures – of a deer herd sprinting across the forest path, or an eagle perched atop a tree, or even just the beautiful forest landscape lit by a golden morning sun.
Moreover, the bird life is at its absolute best in the winter months, with winter migrants add more color and diversity to the already diverse avian population of the forest. One such special visitor is the Bar headed Geese which is the highest-flying migratory bird. These birds start their winter journey from Mongolia, flying at an altitude of 30,000 ft. where the temperatures reach -60 degrees, which can freeze our blood and kill us in an instant, all the way crossing the treacherous Himalayas, higher than the tallest mountain peak — the Everest, and reach the Plains of India, to spend their winter.
This winter, I call on you to set aside time for yourself, your family and friends to visit the picturesque woods of Kabini and experience the magic of this winter wonderland. Trust me when I say you wouldn’t want to go back.