India is an incredible country, home to the Western Ghats & the Himalayas & more. We have got Alpine, Rainforests, Tropical & Subtropical forests & more. 50,000+ species of plants & 40,000+ species of animals stay in India. So, yes, India has got gorgeous forests & must-visit tiger reserves. You don’t even have to be a wildlife enthusiast to enjoy the forests. Just a couple of visits & you would forget your beaches & mountains for a while especially if you are a kid from the 90s who’s grown up watching Discovery & Animal Planet.
Because a jungle (forest) keeps many secrets, which you can hope to discover bit by bit with each safari. And some of us like a treasure hunt!
When the jungle safari begins, your mobile phones lose signals. Unfortunately, precisely then, many people lose their minds & sanity. Maybe they mean well, or they don’t. Either way, some things are not done. And some actions are just not jungle-appropriate behavior:
1. Tigers don’t plan their day as per your schedule – Stop asking Tiger kahan hai, Kahan hai Tiger(Where is the Tiger) every 10 mins. While you & I might have to go to work on a Monday & we might have to keep a deadline, the Tiger cares two hoots about it. Yes, there are tigers in every Tiger reserve, but the Tigers don’t wag their tails or chase safari jeeps (no offence to our furry friends).
They go where they want to go. They sleep where they want to sleep. And they move when they want to move.
Yours and my existence mean nothing to them. And they won’t come out and show their faces just so we can believe that they exist too. if you want proof, make do with pug marks. On a good day, you simply hear the call & try to trace the movement. Because you get to sight the Tiger only on the best days.
2. Jungle is not your local zoo – There’s nothing wrong with going to a jungle for the first time. It’s perfectly understandable that you had seen animals only in a zoo before. Probably this is why you got away with a lot of stuff as the animal was locked inside a cage. But this is a jungle. That behaviour won’t fly here.
What that means is that you don’t whistle at animals like it’s a Kaali Peeli. You don’t throw stones at the Night Jar just so it can move & you certainly don’t invite the animals to your jeep. Let me tell you a secret – this animal that you had just invited to your jeep hasn’t attended a single soft-skills class in its life. It’s got no etiquettes. What it’s got are – paws, nails, teeth & horns. And it won’t think twice before using it.
3. Jungle is not your drawing room either – Please don’t shout, scream or sing inside the jungle. Your talents belong onto a stage, not inside the jeep. The noise disturbs the animals. And who has come to listen to a fellow Homosapien anyway?!
Is it not what we do every day? Countless social media posts, movies, news, podcasts, and what not?! We are always listening to the words of our species. How about mixing it up a little? Listen to a bird for a change. Or a deer. Or a langoor. Or a peacock. Or something else that I don’t know the name of. Why? Because I couldn’t hear it since someone was talking in my jeep.
4. It’s a Jungle, not a disco – dress appropriately pls. Avoid bright colours if you can. Bright colours distract & disturb animals. You could choose Grey, Black, Brown or any dark colour. Also, while it’s good to be fashionable elsewhere, it’s wise to cover your limbs inside the jungle. Because it decreases your chances of insect bites. In any case, camouflage is a better idea.
5. Whatever grows in the Jungle, stays in the Jungle – I am also a believer of Finders, Keepers. But that doesn’t work in a jungle. So, the next time, if you spot a deer’s antlers, don’t try to steal those. Not even pebbles. No, not even peacock feathers. I know, all of that stuff is just lying there. You might make use of this stuff. But please don’t. That belongs to the jungle. We are their guests. And guests don’t just pick stuff from their hosts’ houses.
6. Leave the Guesswork, ask the Guide – The guide might know more than you which is true in most cases. So, keep your expert opinions to yourself. And it’s a jungle. You will spot animals playing, fighting or engaging in a mating ritual. If you spot animals engaged in a mating ritual, click photos or simply watch the beautiful act. Don’t keep guessing the animal’s next move.
And if you can’t enjoy it, please keep quiet. Nobody wants to listen to your running commentary. If you have a question, ask the guide. Period.
7. Don’t litter please – It’s wrong on so many levels to leave your water bottle, chocolate wrapper or the empty pack of Lays inside the forest. While it’s understandable that you might want to carry food on the safari, littering is just not done.
India is one of the 10 most forest-rich countries, the only country in the world with Asiatic Lions & indigenous Bengal Tigers. By the way, we had Cheetahs too (but we killed them all). And of course, you know that India has got everything – from snow-clad mountains to deserts to rainforests to coral reefs to mangrove forests – the best biodiversity. And not just that, 33% of the world’s species are endemic to India, which means they are found nowhere else in the world. Can you believe it? Your own country, this is.
And have you heard the term, ‘megadiverse countries‘? Megadiverse countries are home to majority of the Earth’s species and are therefore considered extremely biodiverse. Congratulations! India is one of the 17 biodiverse countries in the world. There are 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world, and out of those, 4 are in India alone. And don’t get me started on birds of India because we are slaying on that front.
This is your country. And it’s amazing. Be proud of your country. And show some respect. The next time if I see you on a safari, I don’t want you to talk to me. Just nod your head, and give me a look. I will know that you know that jungle is more important than exchanging pleasantries.