Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday November 23

Got up at 4:45 AM to get ready by 6:00. The plans had changed to a full breakfast of toast, eggs, and coffee prior to leaving for the all day jeep safari.

The Lodge gave us Umesh as our naturalist guide. He spotted many varieties of birds, the most memorable was the Great Indian Hornbill. Sudip got some lovely photographs.

We also saw one Makhna, a lone male without tusks and are considered to be unpredictable and dangerous.

We then took a short break near a guard station and got a good look and close up pictures of a rhino. All of a sudden I got flooded with text messages on my AT&T phone and realized I was getting cell signal from BT Cell which was a provider out of Bhutan.
This of course didn't last too long and it was back to "no signal" within minutes.

Along the way the road was blocked by a tame female elephant and no amount of coaxing by our guard or driver would make it move. The mahout then came over and led the elephant away, it was a funny and a neat sight, this huge animal meekly following her mahout.

Saw a peacock on a tree and got some nice shots.

We arrived at Mathangiri, the guesthouse was built on a high ground overlooking the Manas river with the Bhutan hills in the back. A beautiful, tranquil and unspoilt beauty.

We took a break and had tea and biscuits while enjoying this beautiful scenery. Sudip took a tumble on the climb back from the river but fortunately no harm done. We continued on to the Bhutan border, which was marked by a simple bolder and trekked inside for about a mile or so before returning back into the jeep to continue our safari.

At lunch time, we came back to the guesthouse and had a simple but tasty vegetarian lunch. After lunch sat at the riverside admiring the scenery and enjoying chit chat with one of the guests there who is from Bolpur. Started on our way back after an hour or so, rather reluctantly leaving this beautiful area.

More bird spotting on the way, not being a bird person and being acutely nearsighted, it got boring for me. The highlight of the bird spotting for Sudip was Scarlet Minivet, both male and female. It was a tiny bird but because of the male's brilliant red color I did manage to discern the pair from the leaves easily enough. The color of the Minivet is difficult to photograph as it changes due to the reflection of the sunlight. The female is bright yellow. Both are very beautiful.

More bird watching on the way back, Umesh spotted a leopard mother and cub and Sudip managed to get a glimpse of the cub as it disappeared into the bushes. Found out later that Sudip had actually captured the pair on his camera, though just briefly as a "smudge".

We also saw some wild elephants or more correctly heard the noise of branch breaking and shrubbery moving as they walked and ate next to the road in the tall grass.

There was of course the inevitable rhino on the side of the road, for such a large area with only 10 rhinos, they are sure easy to find.

Came back to the hotel tired, dusty, but happy.

The forest here is beautiful but the animals are rather elusive and hard to spot. Everyone told us we should be coming in Feb/Mar time frame when the grass is burnt and the animals easy to spot. I am a little skeptical and leery about this, to me the beauty of Manas is its dense and lush foliage, I hate to see a barren land instead.

The manager Mr. Dutta has gone home for the night again, apparently he vanishes when the lodge doesn't have too many guests. Tonight there only 3 couples.

Packing and getting ready for our flight to Kolkata tomorrow afternoon. The other guests had gone for a night safari and had seen black panther and also the two leopards that we just got a glimpse of. They showed us the pictures of the leopard caught in the spotlight looking scared or so I thought. Not sure whether I like this method of spotting animals by shinning powerful lights in their eyes and almost blinding them. I showed them my two tiger videos, one of the guides got interested in the butterfly
picture and showed his collection of butterfly pictures.

Dinner at 7:30 pm was simple and tasty as the other meals.
Retired for the night shortly thereafter.

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