Get­ting up close and per­sonal with an­i­mals

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - Live - - My City - GEETIKA JAIN geetik­a­glo­be­trot@google­

Of­ten, I’ve dis­cov­ered that a sa­fari con­tin­ues well after I’ve re­turned to the lodge after ca­reen­ing all over the jun­gle or bush in a jeep. Wilder­ness camps and the ar­eas sur­round­ing them are re­plete with nests, hol­lows, hives and dens. Some wild crea­tures are lured by the smells of the kitchen and garbage. They might feel safer around peo­ple. Of­ten, they’re drawn by sim­ple cu­rios­ity.

Hav­ing a good look a res­i­dent wild boar up close at Dhikala lodge in Cor­bett Na­tional Park was an un­ex­pected de­light, as was ob­serv­ing Percy, the jun­gle cat who in­vites her­self to the fire­side chat at Sher Bagh, a lodge at Ran­thamb­hore Na­tional Park. Steps away, a hand­ful of enor­mous wa­ter mon­i­tors have moved en fam­i­lie into the warm boiler room. And, mon­goose are reg­u­larly clapped away from the kitchen.

Tara Lal, a con­ser­va­tion­ist, said she’d wake up in the mid­dle of the night at a South African lodge, spooked by the eerie swing­ing of the lamp over her bed. She fig­ured out, to her ex­cite­ment, that a bush baby crawls in through the roof thatch to hunt in­sects.

An­jali Singh, a wildlife photographer, re­mem­bers be­ing en­thralled by a pair of spot­ted genets that glide along the sus­pended roof beams of the din­ing room at Ndutu camp, Tan­za­nia.


Re­cently, at Mokombe’s House, a wooden lodge in north­ern Serengeti, I spent hours one af­ter­noon with a fam­ily of rock hyraxes. They lived in and around the wooden deck. The mother and young­sters hud­dled close to­gether as I ap­proached, but stood their ground.

Din­ing un­der the stars at Sasakwa Serengeti Lodge a few days ear­lier, a heart­melt­ingly lov­able, dark, furry crea­ture with a bushy tail and enor­mous eyes qui­etly ma­te­ri­al­ized on a ledge be­sides our ta­ble. It was a greater galago.

‘The pair live on this tree and they drop-by at din­ner­time,” said Stu­art, our guide. Be­fore long, its mate joined the feast and we found our­selves lav­ish­ing moz­zarella sticks, fish frit­ters and vast gi­ga­bytes of film on them. “They’re prop­erly spoilt,” said Stu, adding, ‘Th­ese in­sect eaters have de­vel­oped a taste for fresh cream and pana­cotta, and will by­pass many left­overs on the ta­ble to get to the dessert.’

Not ev­ery­one is so wel­com­ing of wildlife at the ta­ble. At break­fast at an­other camp in Botswana, a large, male ba­boon once made off with a mas­sive wheel of Swiss cheese and clam­bered up a nearby tree. We couldn’t help laugh­ing at his ban­ditry. Hor­ri­fied with the rob­bery and an­noyed at be­ing out­wit­ted by his arch-neme­sis, the man­ager swore at him an­grily and then placed a stuffed lion on the buf­fet to scare him from com­ing back.

Mokombe’s House, Serengeti, where a fam­ily of hyraxes lives un­der the deck

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