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RATAPANI WILDLIFE SANCTUARY-Stepping into the untouched Wilderness!

30 December, 2015

Madhya Pradesh is a state known for running a conservation movement for flora and fauna in India. Talking about wildlife in Madhya Pradesh, we often get fascinated about the massive tiger lands like Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Panna, Pench and Satpura. There is agrowing trend of visitor interest in wildlife. Over the years, these national parks have become a major attraction so whenever we end up there, we automatically turn into tourists who sit on gypsies that are parked bumper to bumper and always rush to see the tigers. We click pictures all the time so that we don’t miss the moment, do few local inquiries with guides and head home. But do we have any places where we can take our own time, know the jungle and explore the hidden beauties of the forests? I suppose, yes!

I have been reading quite a lot about recent environmental projects in Madhya Pradesh and came across something called Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary. I am sure most of us have not heard much about this place. Few months ago, even I had no clue where this sanctuary is. It recently made noise in media when the National Green Tribune took charge and came up with plans to protect wildlife in this sanctuary.
Being an explorer, I was looking for that one forest which will bring me close to nature and wildlife and will allow me to have conversations with all its elements in a no hurry way. Because it was infamous as a tourist spot, I decided to go to Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary. I luckily got an opportunity to travel deep through the tourist prohibited area of the forest reserve in a SUV as recommended by the forest officials. Heading to the Forest Rest House through the narrow roads, I was amazed by the surroundings that were bleeding green. I was welcomed by the staff and they were kind enough to provide me a healthy Indian meal glazed with the earthy flavors of charcoal. The Sigdiki Roti is to die for. Later, I trekked down to the rocky terrains and water streams which were a playground for the black faced monkeys- Langurs. Their troops were scattered everywhere. I spotted a mother with an infant in her lap, two of them sitting against each other, one at the tree top on duty of watching the threat around, a few chasing each other, sipping water, and many others jumping from one tree to another. These jungle folks entertained me all through the day.

Let me tell you that these areas can only be visited after taking permission from the Range officer of that area. To stay at the rest house, you need to book it through the officer and inform prior to the caretakers about your visit. The contacts can be easily obtained from the state tourism website.
Talking in detail about this sanctuary, The National Tiger Conservation Authority has made proposals to upgrade it to a Tiger Reserve. Spread across both Raisen and Sehore District, this stretch is majorly covered with Teak(Tectonagrandis)trees. It is a rich forest reserve that harbors a wide variety of fauna like tiger, wild dogs, chital, sambhar, nilgai, wild boar, langur, mongoose, lizards, and snakes. It is best known for bird watching and more than 100 species of birds can be spotted here. It is a home to Paradise Flycatcher- the State Bird of Madhya Pradesh!
Fresh water streams and the Ratapani dam built on Barna River are a major source of water for the wildlife and for people working in the forest area. One can also spot few springs during rainy season which flow across the rocky terrains. There are vast expanses of forest clad hills that touch the skyline.

Many of us may not be aware that the world famous pieces of history known as the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters are very much a part of the Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary. There are over 700 rock shelters that present the early hints of human evolution through the marvelous paintings; rock cut beds, stupas and ShankaLipi inscriptions in the tunnels and auditorium. But only 12 are open for visitors. These structures give evidence of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Period; the Stone Age which are dated to nearly 100,000 years. The caves also exhibit the earliest evidence of dance in South Asia. The name of this place is derived from Bhima, a character from Mahabharata and thus, Bhimabaithka means the sitting place of Bhima. It was declared as a world heritage site in 2003.
Delawadi is another place within the sanctuary that runs jungle camps which include trekking and animal watching. It gives a beautiful space to have a one-day picnic in the dense forest with fresh air and aroma of the wildlife. There are many options for accommodation and food to relish the taste of nature.
From Nature and Wildlife to History and Ancient Art, there is so much to experience in this untouched wilderness. It is hardly 50 km from Bhopal. So just get away from the city traffic and step into this quiet space that is eagerly waiting to surprise you!

Nikita Kothari
For mptravelogue.com

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