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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Memorable Moments from the Satpura National Park

“Will we see a tiger?” was the first question Samhith asked, when I told him we were going to the Satpura National Park in Madhya Pradesh. “No”, I replied. “We might not see a tiger, and in fact, we aren’t looking for one. We are going to see the forest, and experience what this particular one is like.” It was quite a lecture, and I don’t think he really got it, but he did come along, I am sure, hoping secretly that we would indeed see one! Well, to cut a long story short, the tiger stayed well hidden, but the forest left us with enough memories to last a while… Let me share with you, some special moments…

Colour changing lake

On our first jaunt into the forest early in the morning, we came to this lake, covered with algae, the rising sun turning the surface a rusty shade, which made for some wonderful photos…

We came across the same lake on our evening safari. And, what a change there was! the rust was now a bright green, glinting in the setting sun!

There is apparently a very scientific reason for this – the algae in the water, which, during the day, absorb the sun’s rays to form chlorophyll, which turns them green. During the night, as the cholorophyll is used up, they turn red, which is how we had seen them, the first thing in the morning, before they had their morning dose of the sun! However, science apart, it was a fascinating sight, yet another proof that nature does things so much more beautifully than man ever can!

Hordes of gaur

We have seen Gaur (Indian Wild Buffalo) before, but never in numbers as we saw here. At various times, and at various places during our safari, we saw groups of easily a dozen and more Gaur in groups. They seemed least bothered about us, and continued munching away peacefully even as we happily clicked away. The pic I have chosen to show you has just one Gaur in it, but his brethren were busy eating, and this one seemed to pose so well with the sun and the path in the background! This is one of my favourite pics from the entire trip!

Giant Wood Spiders

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that we are big fans of spiders. When we see giant ones which weave webs across trees from one side of the path to another, we go nuts trying to capture them on camera! The forest here seemed to be full of these spiders, considering we saw them everywhere we went! After trying unsuccessfully to capture them while on the jeep safari, we finally managed some decent shots when we went on a walking safari!

Owl in the daytime

Neither of us had seen an owl before, which is why spotting this huge one (It is either an Indian Eagle Owl or an Eurasian Eagle Owl; I am not sure which) was such an excitement! Kudos to our guide for spotting it, sitting peacefully (and probably sleeping before our arrival) on a rock! It took us a while to actually spot it, so well was it camouflaged! Getting a photo was just a bonus!

Birdwatching on the river, a hot cup of tea in hand!

Photo Courtesy : Anuradha Goyal 

We have gone birdwatching in boats before, but have never had chai while doing so! Height of luxury, it was, and not something we are ever likely to forget!! And yes, we spotted loads of water birds – ducks, stilts, herons, and terns, but more about them in another post. The tea on the boat was the highlight here!

Bears and birds in the night!

When we headed out for a night safari, I left my camera behind. We hadn’t seen wild animals during the day, and we weren’t likely to see any at night. It turned out to be one of those occasions when I was proved wrong, and acutally happy with it, because we ended up seeing a pair of bears, and a number of nightjars! The bears were sheer luck! We were following the sounds of an owl, and two pairs of gleaming eyes from behind the bushes alerted us to the presence of the bears. One then obliged by crossing the road, and giving us a better look! As for the Nighjars, we first saw one, sitting on a perch atop a short tree. Then, we saw another one, on the road, then, another flew past, and then, yet another one! Oh, and we even saw a stork sitting in a nest atop a tree! Never have I regretted not carrying my camera more! Even though I doubt I would have got any decent shots with mine!

Two months have passed since, and yet the memories remain fresh, even for my tiger enthusiast son! But, with moments like these, it isn’t surprising, is it?

I was invited to Denwa Backwater Escape by Pugdundee Safaris in November 2014 to explore the Satpura National Park. We went on two safaris inside the national park, followed by a boat safari, a walk into the forest area, and a night safari in the buffer zone.  Note. Children below 10 aren’t allowed inside the national park on foot. 

  • The Satpura National park is located in Madhya Pradesh, and the backwaters of the Denwa river from the Tawa dam marks one of its boundaries.

How to Reach:
  • By Air: The nearest airport is at Bhopal (176 Km)
  • By Rail: The nearest major railway station is Itarsi (70 Km), which is well connected to all parts of India. Other accessible railway stations are Pipariya (50 Km), Sohagpur (19 Km) and Hoshangabad (50 Km).
  • By Road : There are a few local buses to Sohagpur, but there is hardly any regular public transport to the sanctuary itself. It is best to hire a car from Itarsi or Pipariya.

Where to Stay: There are plenty of hotels in the vicinity of the sanctuary to suit all budgets. We stayed at the Denwa Backwater Escape, which is certainly one of the best options in the area. The forest department also has accommodation near the entry gate of the sanctuary.


  1. Satpura looks wonderful. Nice post, Anuradha.

    1. It certainly is beautiful, Niranjan. you must plan a trip sometime.

  2. Wow.All photos are superb.Especially I like the colour changing lake.Definitely a must visit place.
    Please look at our website in your free time.
    Krithiga S

  3. Dear Anu.
    Don’t know how you do it but you hit the bull’s eye of my travelling fantasy! No matter the six lane highways or the unconquered path among the clouds nothing compares to the joy and thrill that clutches the aorta while wheeling down those two parted trails taking us into the wilderness. The lake must have been the day’s favorite I guess. Keep travelling and don’t forget to write and amuse me. Cheers!

    1. Thanks a lot, Revathi. Good to see you here, and hope to see you more often!

  4. Anuradha This is an excellent stuff, i love your post too much


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