Tips and Techniques in a Jungle Trek
During Vasota trek,I came to know some new tricks when you are trekking into a area infested with wild animals.
About Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and Vasota
Koyna Wildlife sanctuary(Koyna WLS) is an area spanning around 400 square kilometers with major parts of Satara district(Talukas Medha,Wai,Patan) ,some parts of Ratnagiri(Khed,Chiplun Talukas) , Raigad(Poladpur Taluka)and further this wild life sanctuary is linked to Warna-Chandoli Wildlife sanctuary thus from Varandha-Mahabaleshwar to Gaganbawda till Amboli,there is a continuous dense forest cover in Sahyadris
Currently Koyna WLS has around 13 tigers,70 Leopards,200 sloth bears and around 250 Wild Indian Gaurs(Raan-Gava in Marathi) and the other animals like Wild Pigs and Foxes,Wolves and Hyenas are also abundantly found.
Wild life at Vasota:
Vasota or Vyaghragad(The fort of tiger) has the most dense forests in the koyna region and as the name Vyaghragad suggests,out of the 13 tigers in koyna WLS,3 are supposed to be found in the area of Vasota alone.Also almost 35 Leopards,80 bears and 125 raan-gava are found in this area itself thus in Koyna WLS,areas around Vasota-Nageshwar is definitely a home for these wild animals
From Koyna dam,Vasota is 400 to 500 meters in height(Almost like Sinhagad) but one has to walk around 8 kms in forests filled with wild animals thus it is a 2.5 hour trek.It do not have very steep climbs hence Vasota is a good trek for people of all ages but since it is in a reserved forests,precautions needs to be taken
Be in a group.If you are large group,divide yourselves in small group of 4 to 5 people and one group leader in between the two groups.Please take care that the distance between 2 groups is not more than 10 meters .
If anybody wants to see animals in the forests,dont use deodrants/spray perfumes.Due to these perfumes,animals usually stay away and cannot be sighted
Do not put hands below stones because there are possible chances of scorpions and snakes below it.Keep a piece of turmeric with you while trekking.Turmeric/Halkund repells almost all variety of snakes except banded krait(Aagya Manyar in Marathi which is present mostly near water sources)
Avoid wearing shorts if trekking in rainy season because leeches are present abundant and are very dangerous especially near Thoseghar,Koyna forests,Warna,Sangameshwar and Gaganbawda region of sahyadris where there is heavy rainfall.
When you see huge amount of dried leaves piled in between,dont walk through it.Try to judge what is in.Generally in forests of Koyna,King Cobras are present and they lay their eggs in a piled up dried leaves thus a giant king cobra might be present there.
Dont try to eat/taste fruits of Jungli Kadipatta tree.The juice of its fruit tends to crack and break our teeth immidiately.
Tackling Wild animals
Tigers and Leopards usually don’t attack humans unless provoked but remember that a tiger or leopard never comes in front of you.In case if a leopard/Tiger comes in front of you,you need to retreat few steps behind and just watch it from some place,Remember that if a tiger/Leopard comes in front of you,its intention is not to harm/attack you hence it is expected that we also should not attack them otherwise they can easily defend.Only do is that you should try to shout as loud as possible to drive away them.
About Sloth Bears
Sloth bears are the most dangerous animals found in forests.While in the teritory of forests having large number of bears (areas like Vasota),please take care that you must not talk loudly.When you talk loudly,definitely other animals like tigers,leopards,wild pigs,foxes etc run away but bears never run away.Infact bears are attracted towards loud noise created hence if you are making too much noise then it is likely to attract bears
In case when a bear comes in front of you,try maximum not to look into eyes of a bear.A bear cannot look clearly beyond 25 to 50 meters but it can smell anything from few kilometers. If you look into eyes of a bear ,then definitely the bear feels challanged and it will attack you.Thus when you encounter a bear,don’t make loud noise and try to show the bear that you are neglecting him,don’t look into eyes of bear or don’t do anything which will challenge a bear.Never challenge a bear.In case if still the bear is coming forward towards you,then one option is spraying chilli powder into his eyes and on his nose.There are many Chilli-Pepper sprays available in market which can spray with perfect aim from even 5 to 10 meters.One spray available in 175 rupees is from Defensive enterprises a company near Thane.Bears generally are vegeterian but they can eat flesh also in exceptional cases.
Regarding bears near Vasota,there were varoius stories of bears told by one person at the forest office near Vasota entrance gate wherein one person told that one women was going to collect firewood in jungles and while coming,she encountered a bear and she immidiately started running towards the forests and the bear was following her.The bear came in a striking distance and just pierced his nails into skull of that women and in minutes,the head of that women was smashed into pieces.Such were the stories heard by us right from Bamnoli,from the boatman and the persons in the entrance checkpost at Vasota.Bears can run at a speed of 50 to 60 kms per hour(Olympic gold medalist in 100 meters running also is very very slow when we compare its speed with a bear so just imagine what is the case with other animals like tigers/leopards.They are much faster than a bear)
Regarding Wild pigs ,their smelling power is too much but their eyesight is very weak.Wild pigs cannot see beyond 10 to 15 meters but they can smell from 500 meters to even 1 kilometers thus in case of encountering a wild pig,be in a group and make as much noise as possible.Also in jungle don’t wear bright red /maroon and even white color clothes because bears,wild pigs,Wild bisons(Raan gava) and elephants catch up with these colors quickly.Always wear clothes of colors green,brown,gray and light yellow
Beware of deers also.Reason because though deers are not harmful to humans but when a deer is frightened,it runs anywhere thus it can seriously injure anybody with its horns
Indian Wild Gaurs or Raan-Gava are very dangerous and it is the largest animal found in jungles of Sahyadri forests especially Koyna-Warna,Dajipur near Phonda ghat and Gaganbawda regions of Sahyadris.There are few instances where wild bisons have even killed a tiger.Its smelling power is maximum.Our group was hardly 1 kms from a group of 4 wild bisons near koyna and they sniffed and were looking at us and ran away.But it must not be assumed that wild bisons will always run away after seeing humans.If provoked,they wan attack also and their attack is tremendous that it is very difficult to defend.
How to identify whether any animal is nearby
When you are travelling in a forests,always observe whether there are flies roaming nearby.Because the flies in forests indicates that some flesh eating animals are present in that forest.Also try to get smell in the forests.
Tigers dont tolerate wild other animals in their teritory .There are many cases where tigers have killed leopards and bears also.Tigers can kill and eat leopards and bears also.
Leopards generally hunt and eat monkeys.
Bears eat jackfruits,grass,honey,termites and ants and they also eat fish.
Wild pigs eats grass and termites present in soil.Many times it has been seen that wild pigs also have ate remaining bones of dead animals which are hunted by tiger/leopards.
If the smell in the forest is stinking,then definitely it shows presence of bears nearby maybe some bear is staying nearby reason is that bears have a habit of eating fruits like jackfruits which are abundant in sahyadris forest.Bears usually don’t come out of their hiding places during rainy seasons hence they eat abundant jackfruits or any other fruits and vomit it in a cave.Thus they make storage for food during the period when they don’t come out of cave during extreme seasonsThus in a forest,if near to some cave if you find stinking smell,definitely bears will be present there.Also while travelling in such forests,observe marks on the trees.If they are scratched also indicates prescence of bears
Always keep watch and listen to sounds of animals like monkeys and signals given by them.If a peacock signals sound like “ko~ook ko~ook” or if a monkey sound comes like “Khack~ Khack~Tik” with repeated pauses in between then definitely some animal like Tiger/Leopard is present there.I experienced a leopard some 50 to 100 meters away while descending Kulang fort near Kulangwadi village and at that time a monkey on top of tree was giving same signal mentioned above.Also at Ajoba parvat,one monkey was giving a same signal and I heard a thunder/lightning sound from some 200 to 500 meters.
Also observe the sound of a bird "Titvi in Marathi.I dont know what it is called in English".This bird gives signals useful to anyone.While coming from Vasota,this bird was constantly roaming around us and giving signals in a shrilling voice and in 2 to 3 minutes,we came to see a group of wild Indian Gaurs(Raan gava)
About this a detailed description about identifying animals based on signals given by birds and other animals is given in a book by author Shri Maruti Chintampalli in ”Aranya vachan” a marathi book
A typical “Khurrr~ Khurrr~ ” spontanueous sound associated with a sound of brisk walking in dense bushes on dried leaves is of a wild pig whereas a continuous “Khuss Khuss” sound on dried leaves is of deers/palm civet ( udmanjar in marathi) and if the sound is continuos then it is some reptiles like snakes are crawling
Noise on dried leaves are not generated when Tigers/Leopards walk hence you cannot make out these animals based on sound of walking.Bears make sound on dried leaves .Initially the sound is discontinuous but later on the sound is spontanueous when they run
Where are the animals located
For that you need to understand the structure of mountain.Generally mountain is having a structure like foothill,upper plateau,shoulders,arms,top,ridges,cols,top plateau etc
Foothills is the starting point where villages are located
The upper plateau is the place where after climbing some part of mountain ,one or more plateau is present in between(example:-Kulang,Kalsubai,Siddhagad,Ratangad,Salher etc).There can be one or more than one upper plateau for a mountain or it may be not present
Shoulders are situated on any mountain when there are two or more arms descending down gently from the top and at a certain point,descent is very steep(Torna,Rajgad,Ajoba Parvat,Pratapgad,Ghanchakkar-Muda etc)
Top Pleateau is situated on a flat mountain top (Raigad,Sudhagad,Vasota,Raireshwar,Alang,Avandh-Patta,Ghanchakkar etc)
Arms of the mountain is generally a sharp descent descending down from the shoulders of the mountain and coming directly to the foothills/base village(Kalsubai,Kulang,Torna etc)
Now where the animals resides
Wild pigs,rabbits resides near the foothills and the upper plateau where water and grass is ample.Almost all wild animals are present between this area from foothills to upper plateau
Wild animals like Tigers and Leopards are also present on the top plateau of mountain.Since tigers,leopards are the fastest in the forest hence they can be also seen nearby top of mountain.
Foxes and wolves are present everywhere but they prefer to stay near the upper plateau
Wild gaurs or Raan-Gava are located mostly near water source but they can be also present on the mountain top plateau.