Jungle Bells, Jungle Bells, Jungle All The Way

Our Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

What a month – the build up to Christmas and New Year at Kipling was riddled with complexities and concentration. We had crates and crates of food come in from Jabalpur and Delhi in preparation. Sam made an all day trip to Jabalpur to do the shopping for   the necessary Christmas items, including huge red gold and silver stars and tinsel for the Shamiana which, once Babu, Ahmed and Babulal had finished with it made us feel particularly festive all of a sudden. Christmas cards were draped down the pillars and lights littered the ceiling and the walls thanks to Babu’s precarious but effective electrical work.

Christmas Eve at the Shamiana

Christmas Eve at the Shamiana

Huge boxes of goodies and supplies were brought down from Delhi with Anne and Belinda when they eagerly arrived. Belinda couldn’t contain her excitement when we unpacked Kipling team_3f1a4896 the sacred Christmas puddings. Sam was put under strict instructions to make the brandy butter (no pressure there!) and I was put in charge of the mulled wine. Both, might I say were big hits among the guests.

The camp was full to bursting for Christmas with guests and friends of the camp, hailing from Germany, America, England and of course Tara, BW & staff_3f1a4855Mother India. Everything was made especially exciting by the fact that we had two if not three tigers active in our area, alarm calls were frequent and urgent and everybody was on high alert. At the slightest bark from a monkey or spotted deer, knives and forks were dropped and ears pricked. The only one not excited by 3f1a4868all this hullabaloo was our dear Tara who was not impressed enough to be disturbed. However, when her day came she performed with her usual air of dignified enthusiasm…….I am   of course talking about her role as Santa’s mount. She and Father Christmas (Sam with pillow) came up to the Shamiana bearing gifts for all which were gratefully received.

We had a delicious, and rather large, turkey lunch with all the trimmings which was so good that Langur monkeys became noticeable in the trees above with wide eyes. Tiger sightings in the Park were plentiful over Christmas with Mona and one of Uma Pani’s male cubs both being spotted.

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However, more action was taking place in camp with pugmarks down the fire line and alarm calls from both leopard nulla and by our water hole. We felt confident that with Belinda’s new camera trap we would be able to get a picture of one, we tried several locations to no avail although we got plenty of lovely pictures of cheetal and a few of Kim the Labrador. Perhaps in the New Year we might get something…

New Year was excellent at camp, although several people almost missed the countdown to 2014 due to some ill-timed alarm calls. The most extraordinary and wonderful thing happened on the first day of 2014, at 8:40 pm on 01/01/14 whilst we were all having supper, or perhaps having one of Belinda’s favourite games of Uno, the camera trap took2014 Jan1_Tiger near KiplingCamp_Cdy00002 its first picture of a Kipling camp tiger! Here is that picture, taken about 150 metres from where we were all sitting. We were ecstatic to the say the least. On the first day of the year, surely this is a good and auspicious sign for tigers everywhere. Happy New Year!

Tom Smith

PS With all the excitement mentioned by Tom it might be just as well for their pulse rates, but sadly we are having to say farewell to both him and Sam as their three months at Kipling Camp comes to an end. Sam travels on to Australia for four months while Tom returns briefly to the UK before heading to South America. They will however be reunited in the autumn as they carry on their studies at Edinburgh University and arrangements have already been made at a local watering hole (!!) in the city with some of  our guests who hail from there. Good luck and thanks for all you’ve done guys.

Two new volunteers, Georgia and Juno, will be taking their place and no doubt will share their own adventures at Kipling in due course.

Charles

A new Season begins!

Kipling Camp has reopened for our 31st season. All the important things remain the same. Anne and Belinda are as welcoming as ever and our beloved elephant Tara is content and happy. The cheetal and langur are wandering through the Camp looking slightly irritated that their territory has been invaded again and all the staff members are in robust spirits having survived an exceptionally long and late monsoon. Our Honorary Manager, Charles Fraser, is back for a second year. 

View of the Shamiana from the office

View of the Shamiana from the office

But there are subtle differences as well; the trees and bushes are taller and greener, everything is wetter, the ducks are fewer (the result of active pythons during the monsoon). We have a fabulous new uniform and two new Gap year volunteers – Simon (Sam) Clutterbuck and Tom Smith – both of whom are enthusiastically practising their ‘cocktail of the week’.

The Banjar River lapping at the bridge

The Banjar River lapping at the bridge

It has been the latest monsoon on record with disruptive results. When Belinda and Charles arrived to set up Camp on the 10th and 12th of October respectively, the Banjar River was barely crossable with water breaking over the bridge, and at one stage in late September Mocha and Katia were cut off for nine consecutive days. As it was, no sooner had we arrived than we were threatened by Cyclone Phailin, which mercifully veered northwards as it approached the Orissa coast from  the Bay of Bengal and thus spared us the worst of its drenching.

Kanha's Sulcum River_img_0119

Kanha’s Sulcum River

Preparing Camp became a race against time, but with traditional Kipling fortitude, the staff were ready to welcome our first guests of the season (from Australia), who arrived the day before Kanha National Park opened on 16th October.

Since then we have had a busy few days with many and varied guests.

Early morning in the Park

Early morning in the Park

The strange weather has meant that the wildlife is somewhat subdued. Only the tigers seem unfazed and they have been making some wonderful appearances for visitors.

Outside the Park, Shukla and Sam came across four wolves on the road to Mandla earlier this week, which is most unusual.The rice harvest has started but is not yet in full swing.

So to all our former guests, our friends and followers of this blog, you can rest assured that life is very much as you remember it and we are delighted to be here to share our wonderful experiences with you.

Charles

From spring to summer

It has been a hectic but fulfilling time for us all at Kipling, and we have only just managed to draw breath after 33 consecutive days of visitors.There has been an amazing diversity of guests; Swedish, Canadian, Australian, Indian, German, American and British – all with fascinating lives and experiences. And, without exception, they have been thoroughly rewarded with all that Kanha has to offer.

vivid green sal trees

Vivid green Sal trees

The magnificent Sal trees, which dominate the Park’s forests, have reached their peak flowering. The sweet, lemony-elder smell  pervades every airspace. The Sal’s flush of vivid green leaves is a stark contract to the brittle, dry jungle floor and dusty meadows. Temperatures during the day are now in the mid to late 30°C.

We continue to have our own wildlife show; a sloth bear and a leopard sauntered through the Camp recently, and our numerous Palash trees – otherwise known as the ‘Flame of the Forest’ – have erupted with bright blood-red flowers on their otherwise leafless skeletons. Birds have been fortifying themselves on the intoxicating nectar of the Palash, so that they can pursue their relentless

The Lime Butterfly on a mission

The Lime Butterfly on a mission

courtship and chasing displays. The sky above our water hole at times resembles a scene from the Battle of Britain, full of vivid darting objects, whilst the accompanying chorus of song and flirtatious chatter is both intense and mesmerizing. Not to be outdone, numerous butterflies bounce erratically on the air in a ceaseless display of colourful flashes.

After two months, we were sorry to say goodbye to Rufus, who continues on his Gap year to Darjeeling where he is teaching in a school, and to Theo who is on his way to Nepal via Varanasi.

My own role as Honorary Manager has sadly come to an end and I must now reluctantly  return to a cold, belated British Spring. It has been a wonderfully exhilarating and fulfilling six months, and I leave Kipling Camp with the knowledge that the legacy and vision of Bob and Anne Wright continues through Belinda and the dedicated staff, to impose its principles, formula and magic on all who participate in its great story.

Charles Fraser

The Veteran

The Veteran

60 + 30 equals….. a great few days of celebration

There won’t be much about wildlife sightings in this entry I’m afraid, as I’m unabashedly recounting the happy celebrations of Belinda’s 60th birthday, surrounded by her family, friends and beloved animals. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been any – far from it, there have been many encounters both in the Park and around the Camp that have helped to celebrate and combine Belinda’s birthday with the 30th Anniversary of the founding of Kipling Camp by her parents in the 1980s.

Belinda with her mother Anne, brother Rupert and Kim plus some of the staff at KC

Belinda with her mother Anne, brother Rupert and Kim plus some of the staff at KC

There were many amusing and happy events of the week-long festivities, but the evocative photographic diary presentation of Belinda’s life, which she had put together and that featured many of the 30 or so friends who were gathered, was a definite highlight. There was also a Mamma Mia themed series of skits, including a hilarious performance by some of the otherwise very respectable male contingent, who donned Baiga ‘skirts’ and performed to the tune of ‘Dancing Queen’!

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Full house !

There were gifts and more gifts, food brought from Delhi and Calcutta, champagne and wine from acclaimed vineyards, 30 year old Malt whisky from the Scottish Hebrides, presents from the staff, kisses from Tara and Kim and much more….. So despite being in a certain amount of discomfort from her snapped Achilles tendon and hampered by the restriction of a wheelchair, there was nothing but laughter and smiles from (and for) the Birthday Girl all week.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELINDA

Charles F

The beauty of central India

The past week has seen some very untypical weather, with the temperature topping a muggy C 30°. There was too much moisture to sustain this, and it was followed by two days of heavy rain and thunder. The system has now exhausted itself, and we are back to

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The setting sun creates a halo above the Mocha mosque

Theo, Rufus and Shukla at the brickworks

Theo, Rufus and Shukla at the brickworks

bright blue, sunny skies, with an amazing sunset on Sunday, that cast beautiful violet magenta light over the village mosque and the surrounding countryside.

Despite this unseasonal climate, our guests have continued to be mesmerised by some fantastic tiger sightings, and the ever increasing crescendo of the dawn chorus.

The KC random school transport

The KC impromptu school transport

Shukla took Rufus and Theo on a tour of the area; they met a family of brick makers w

orking in the rich loamed fields beside a small nullah (stream) and lunched at their first roadside cafe or dabah – they both declared that the food was superb. They also gave an impromptu list to some school children, whose classmates showed unabashed envy at their arrival.

Avian & human arrivals

Apologies for the recent ‘blog silence'; we have been busy with guests. Two new volunteers have arrived, replacing Jack & Henrik who are now trekking in Bhutan. Rufus and Theo are here until the end of the season and have settled in to the rigours and demands of Kipling Camp life!

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Verditer Blue Flycatcher

Among our recent guests were three professional photographers from the mid-west USA. Their first day was uncharacteristically damp and murky, but they were rewarded with some fantastic photo opportunities in the Park including a wonderful sighting of a large male tiger; their photographs were on a different plane. Another pair of guests, wildlife environmentalists from the UK, spent time with two beautiful female leopards lounging on the limbs of a Mahua tree.

It has been a period of audio and visual supremes, with the migratory and winter resident birds almost at their peak. Around our waterhole, I was enraptured by this irredescent Verditer Flycatcher. Also in Camp I spotted a Brown-shouldered  Petronia, and the evening arguments between a pair of Black-naped Monarchs just outside my verandah have made compulsive listening. Our Jungle Owlets too provide endless contentment.

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Our Jungle Owlet outside the office

In the Park, Rahim and others saw the exquisite male Paradise Flycatcher, a White-rumped Sharma and a pair of exotic Malabar Pied Hornbills, all in the same drive!! The dawn chorus is almost too much to absorb in one go. To add to this the haunting sounds of rutting Cheetal stags now fill the jungle around us. In the Park, the male Barasingha have started their rut and are constantly bellowing to their hareem …..while in a distant bamboo undergrowth, a tigress commands her cubs with a long, low growl. Magical.

On the sporting front, our own Mocha village team won the three-week 36 team knock out Cricket Tournament beating Baiher,   a town three times our seize, in an electrifying final with a crowd of maybe 600-700. We provided the Winners Trophy in memory of Bob Wright who was instrumental in establishing this competition.

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Victory celebrations from the Mocha cricket team

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Cricket & other events at Kipling

Viren hitting to mid-wicket

Viren hitting to mid-wicket

As nationwide interest in cricket enters a lull – after India dispatched the England One-day team back to the UK in defeat – the void has been filled locally by our own village of Mocha hosting a 36 team Knock Out 20/20 Tournament. Viren, our nightwatchman, was the highest scoring member of his team (26) and despite being cheered on by the KC contingent (with our Asst. Manager Shukla umpiring, plus enthusiastic commentary by the Manager), it was sadly not enough to secure a place in the next round.

Half a Sloth Bear

Half a Sloth Bear

Meanwhile, wildlife sightings at Camp continue: a large sloth bear ventured down to the waterhole at 1.30 am two nights ago and yesterday morning two dhole skirted the boundary just after Kim and I had returned from our early morning jog.

Jack & Henrik were asked to present an award at the Republic Day Celebrations held at the Mocha Secondary School last Saturday. And to cap an eventful week, our very own “writer in residence”, John Elliott has returned from the cold and fog of Delhi, to finish off his long-awaited book (see Blog on 20th Dec).

Charles