Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cheetal Walk : A wild life lover’s paradise!

If you are a true wildlife buff and want to cozy up in the lap of nature then this is the place to be in! Wake up to the shrill cry of the peacock, bask in the melodious jungle jingles, and get startled as wild-life saunter by, oblivious to your presence!

“Cheetal Walk” also known as “Jungle Trails” is home to Mark Davidar, a self-confessed wild-life lover, who would rather prefer his jungle chums to boisterous urban homosapiens! He is the son of well-known conservationist E.R.C Davidar who built this jungle dwelling at the foot of the Nilgiris more than three decades ago. Situated 7 kms east of Masinagudi, in the Mudumalai forest, this modest, no-frills private residence is only meant for serious wild-lifers and bird watchers.

Visiting Cheetal Walk

Even if you manage to book yourself at “Cheetal Walk” by telephonically persuading Mark, it is not until he is convinced of your dedication to nature and wild-life, and approves of you and your ‘mannerisms’ that you are allowed to stay. Any ‘wild-life unfriendly’ demeanour at “Cheetal walk” spells doom for you! If you expect 5 star luxury, cannot resist the urge to play music, keep fiddling with your mobile, love to talk and wear loud colours, use a lot of plastics or want to keep driving in and out of “Cheetal walk” it is in your best interest to avoid this place lest you incur the wrath of the ‘lone wild-life crusader.’

In my excitement to capture a majestic tusker on camera I forgot to switch off the flash and found myself at the receiving end of Mark’s terse reprimand. Nevertheless, it cured me of my urban egotism.

Wild-life viewing

A good pair of binoculars and love for wildlife is all you need to relish and cherish this abode. As you relax in the arm-chair in the verandah, you have a cinemascope screen in front of you. A clearing in the forest forms a ‘corridor’ where wild-life which wander or cross over, can be visualized without being obscured by trees or bushes. The Segur stream gurgles past just a few feet away from the verandah, where animals visit to quench their thirst.

Your patience hardly ever goes unrewarded in this splendid wild life haven.

Wild-life Sighting

During our 3 day visit in August 2007, Cheetal walk offered us a visual treat! We sighted herds of elephants, crossing the ‘corridor’ or on a visit to the stream. A bold tusker, lured by the irresistible flavour of ripe jackfruit that Mark had placed on a few trees in his courtyard, ventured almost till the doorstep forcing us to scurry inside to safety.

A pack of 6-7 wild dogs (Dhole) trotted downhill probably looking for a kill. They seemed restless yet reluctant to move ahead. It was after a while that we realized they were waiting for the rest of their pack-mates to join them for a chase. Finally when the pack count was 14, they moved on.

We observed many Sloth bears foraging for food unmindful of the surroundings,Gaur which patiently stood in a same spot for hours, innumerable herds of Cheetal frolicking at the salt-lick, sambar deer and of course the Gray langur which were omnipresent by sight and sound in the vicinity of Cheetal walk. The magnificient leopard which had evaded us in every jungle that we have dared to venture so far, too offered us a royal glimpse, to vanish soon enough.

Several wild-boar ventured close by. One piggy however ‘hobbled’ too frequently near Cheetal Walk and looked quite ‘at home’ despite many attempts by Mark’s dog to shoo him away. It was later that Mark narrated to us the harrowing experience piggy had gone through. It was an unfortunate victim of a crude bomb disguised as a ‘meat-ball’ by farmers who are wary of boars which destroy crops. Piggy was not so lucky to be killed instantly as expected. A part of his jaw and face were shattered turning him blind in one eye. It was a miracle piggy had survived the ghastly act, partly because of Mark nursing him back to health.

Several peacocks sashayed down the ‘corridor’ in all their elegance and splendour.. Jungle fowls and hens, spotted dove, red-vented bulbuls, cuckoo shrike, spotted grouse were some birds that we spotted.

We also kept hearing the call of the Malabar giant squirrel, but it was elusive as ever.

We spent a few hours on the Machan built on a tall mango tree towering on the Segur river. Mark recommends the Machan for serious birds-watchers.

One sunny morning, Mark’s pet dog emerged victoriously from some jungle shrubs with a prized catch that he displayed pompously. On close scrutiny it turned out to be the head of a hare, the remains of probably a leopard or civet cat kill made the previous night.

The deep silence of the night was punctuated by elephant grunts, indicating that these frequent visitors were moving close by. But a sneak peek through the glass windows did not reveal the pachyderms in the pitch dark night. Being aware of the proximity of these elephants, it took us a while to coax ourselves to sleep!

To view Trip Photos - click here


ARVE said...

I think i must visit this place with my team....

P R PRAVEEN said...

I will be there on 27th Sept 2013 to 29th