At your workplace you *have to stand out* from the rest to be successful. But in the jungle, you *have to blend in* with the surroundings and be almost invisible to be successful. I spent some time at a watering hole near sathyamangalam last week. On the first day, a few researchers & I reached the watering hole around near Sathyamangalam at around 3:30pm. A couple of minutes later 4 elephants(2 Adult females and 2 calves) came to the hole for a drink. Although very close to the highway, this is the only water source for mos of the animals in that area. The sun was a bit harsh, we hadn't settled down in a vantage point yet, being a Sunday there was a lot of traffic on the highway (visitors to the nearby Bannari temple) and the elephants were aware of our presence. With all this the chances of getting good pictures were quite slim. I did shoot a few picture but wasnt very happy with the results. The herd left quite soon and we waited for another 30 minutes before deciding to move on. We had to reach another village by nightfall. I'll write about that experience in another post.
A couple of days later I came back to the watering hole at around 1 in the afternoon. The sun was up and the temperature rising, and I was pretty sure the animals would need some hydration. I found a huge tamarind tree and sat under it. I was wearing camaflouge clothing and had seated my self on the ground facing the pond. But the most important thing is I sat *still*, for the next 4 1/2 hours. My back started to hurt, I had pins and needles in my foot, my neck and shoulders started to get a bit sore but it was all worth it. The experience was amazing.
It was like reading one of Kenneth Anderson's stories. The entire jungle was almost oblivious to my presence, there were birds, insect, mammals (small and larger ones) all of them at peace doing what they wanted to do and totally undisturbed by my presence. I saw some paradise flycathers, jungle fowls, bablers, flamebacks, mynas, caucals and a whole lot of other birds along with elephants, deer and monkeys.
A short while after I settled down under the tree, a herd of cheetal came for a drink. They are one of the most sensitive and shy animals in the south indian jungles. So wary of surroundings and ready to call alarms and flee at the slightest sound. They pay so much attention to detail and are always on high alert. When a herd of deer move across the jungle, they first check for signs of their predators and man is not a natural predator of these animals. So when a herd some, they dont explicitly check to see if man is present there. But then again, anything they cant recognise as safe is considered unsafe. So that's where humans scare them. Coming back to the pond, a herd of spotted deer or cheetal very cautiously approached the water with a couple of stags standing guard on either side while the other members move to the water. The stags came in last and kept watch while rest of the herd quenched their thirst.
The strain in sitting like a statue really paid off at that time, the deer was completely unaware of my presence and got really comfortable in the water. They came in groups every 15-20 minutes and I had the time of my life sitting under the tamarind tree. Each deer had such a distinct personality, some of them curious, some extra cautious, some responsible leaders, some playful kids etc.
Finally came the elephants and since they dont have very great eyesight, they didn't mind me stretching my muscles once in a while. As long as they were thirsty and I didn't make much sound they stuck around.
They came they drank they left. They left me a memory of a lifetime experience. So close with wildlife, it was unbelievable. I had a chance to observe these magnificiant animals from just a few metres away. I really wish these forests and animals last for future generations. Let our children not learn about these animals the way we did about dinosaurs. Save forests & wildlife.