During our first trip to Kerala we spent a few days in the National Park in Periyar staying at the Spice Village Hotel.
After the mandatory but very disappointing boat trip around the Lake, we were advised by Shibu Bhaskar, the hotel Naturalist, to take a walk inside the park accompanied by a local guide, who would be able to find wildlife, saving us a great deal of frustration and time.
|The Forest Canopy|
So, at 06:30 the next morning, and along with Shibu, we met the guide at the Park gates, and set out on foot into the forest.
We quickly found sambar Deer, Wild Boar, giant Squirrels and a myriad of bird-life
|Malabar Giant Squirrel|
|Malabar Grey Hornbill|
but the highlight came about 90 minutes into the walk.
As we were walking down a forest path our guide suddenly froze in front of us, and motioned us to do the same. He pointed into a gully on the right, and we could see two large grey mounds, one of which was moving – Elephants, about 50 meters away.
|Herd of Asian Elephants|
We stayed for about 15 minutes watching them, and as we did, several other mounds appeared, one a young calf, probably a couple of years old. They were grazing on the move, and passed us without even acknowledging our presence, but obviously aware we were watching them. Following them at a distance, they continued down the gully, but suddenly they changed direction and started to come up the hill towards where we were standing.
From their direction it was evident that they were coming onto the path we had used, and would probably want our bit of it to carry on their journey. They finally reached the cleared path, and turned towards us, about 60 meters away. The warnings posted at the gate “ELEPHANTS ARE DANGEROUS” flashed into my head, and immediately a second thing started to alarm us. Not only was there a two year old, but in between the matriarch's legs was a tiny calf, probably only a couple of weeks old. “Mother Elephants are extremely dangerous” was now closer to the mark, and we started to become very worried!
Our guide, either very brave, very stupid, or hopefully, very knowledgeable, motioned us to step into the undergrowth, and crouch down, while he went and stood in the middle of the path, to show them where we were, and that we didn't pose a threat. The elephants stopped immediately, now about 30 meters from us, and the two senior females came forward to study him. They carried on a conversation in their deep penetrating rumble for a couple of minutes, before deciding that perhaps we were not a major threat and slowly continued towards us.
We were about 3 meters off the path in the bush, crouched down and trying to look like a rock, or tree, or anything other than a human, but also trying to record the scene. Try taking a photo while you are shaking so much you almost drop the camera!
|Waiting for the elephants to move on|
They moved slowly towards us, pushing the two young calves to the other side of the path away from us, never taking their eyes off our direction, and passing us not 7 meters away, one almost close enough to touch, if anyone had been that stupid. They then continued their slow, quiet walk down the track, leaving us to catch our breath, and to relive one of the most amazing incidents we had experienced on our travels.
After that, everything else paled into insignificance so it was back to the hotel for breakfast and to look at the images we had recorded.
|Showing some of the pictures to the guide|
Not bad under the circumstances, although of course they didn't go anywhere to showing the emotion of the moment.
Lynn & Brian Scott
Brian Scott is a wedding and portrait photographer, based in the picturesque Ribble Valley of North Yorkshire. He has a lifetime’s experience in photography and is a member of the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers.
Shibu Bhaskar, former naturalist at CGH Earth has worked in Coconut Lagoon and Marari Beach Resort is a talented photographer and an activist in conservation of nature.