We decided to leave the field centre earlier than planned, because it was going to take several days to track elephants at Bannerghatta and we had many places to go before our trip was over. So we decided to part ways with the A Rocha team and go to Nagarhole National Park which we heard was a great place to go to spot Asian elephants in the wild. We arrived at Nagarhole around noon, just in time for a beautiful buffet lunch at the jungle lodge where we were staying. We stuffed ourselves silly with crispy fried puris, spicy daals, vegetable curries and miniature bananas. Pure heaven. We met our boat at Gol Ghar and hopped on board with about 10 other people, an equal mix of locals and foreigners. River Kabini, which flows from the state of Kerala into Karnataka, passes through one of the most pristine wildlife reserves in the country. During the summer, the water holes inside the forest dry up, but the Kabini reservoir retains water even during peak summer, which brings herds of Elephants and other animals in search of water to the backwaters of the reservoir. Elephants congregate in such large numbers here that it is said to be the largest congregation of Asiatic Elephants in the world. But this great mecca of wildlife is under threat today, as human settlements encroach on the fragile forest habitat.
As we moved quietly through the waters, we spotted many different hued birds flitting around like Indian rollers and Osprey, followed by a large crocodile sunning itself in the distance. As we went further into the national park we saw a grazing herd of gaur, which are an Indian species of bison. Then some spotted deer. And finally, right along the shore, we spotted an entire herd of Asian elephants grazing. As everyone snapped photos, I remembered our field guide from A Rocha telling us how important it is to observe elephants without taking photos; to watch how they move, how they feed themselves, and how they interact with one another, as these things can only be observed with the naked eye.
So I took a deep breath, and just watched as they grazed, dug up sand to spray on their backs, wound up their trunks with one another and walked around. As I watched, my mind drifted toward the sacred meaning of elephants in Hindu and Buddhist religions, as well as their association with yoga and buddhism. It started to make sense to me why elephants are so revered. They are peaceful, loving, intelligent, compassionate, sure-footed, grounded, and strong. Aren't those all admirable qualities? Isn't the goal of yoga to cultivate these qualities within ourselves?
After a few more sightings, we headed back to the lodge for a wildlife documentary and some supper. We went to bed early because we had to be up at 5am for the morning jeep safari. I had a strange feeling we would be lucky again with more elephant sightings. This time, in the forest!
Stay tuned for Part 3, coming soon!
Photos: Adam Custins (www.custins.com)
In the past century, 90% of Asian elephants have disappeared off the face of the earth, with only 30,000 left in existence. To help ensure the survival of the remaining 10% of the population, we have partnered with an NGO called Elephant Family who works to secure vital elephant corridors across Asia. Corridors allow elephants to feed and move freely in the wild without being threatened by humans. 90/10 is our commitment to donate 10% of our profits to help save the Asian elephant, one corridor at a time.