All I can say is sensory overload, starting with the forest rest house built in 1926 and including the wildlife and spectacular landscape.
While catching up on some journaling, the first monsoon rain of the season passed over. Pre-storm, a family of bonnet monkeys silently scurried across the expansive pasture area in front of the rest house. They disappeared into a large stand of bamboo. They could be heard deep inside the bamboo, apparently well aware of the approaching storm. With the family safe they would wait out the storm.
The wind picked up, sky clouded over and the rain began, It was glorious. After about 30 minutes the storm passed and the skies cleared. A mature deer with a huge set of antlers was calling and then stepped into the clearing. He continued moving along the tree line, calling several times. He lifted his nose into the air, twisted it along with his head, scenting. Before long, female deer began sprinting across an open area, clearly nervous. Each adult female was accompanied by a very young calf. The bravest of the females led the way for others, who followed in the direction of the male.
Over the next few minutes a young monkey was seen collecting something edible, then disappeared back into the thick bamboo. This bamboo is mammoth. It grows in large clumps and I can’t begin to guess how tall it is. A giant squirrel was the next creature to catch my eye as he scampered along a tree branch, hesitated for a moment and then disappeared into the forest cover. A small woodpecker landed in a nearby tree and a baby wild boar, focused on his mission, ran with a very rigid gait across the front lawn toward the back of the rest house, toward the kitchen door.
Each forest I’ve visited is unique, as if it is its own person, related but individual from the next. In this forest, the giant bamboo creates a mystical feeling. The giant stands gave rise to the imagination; ancient times, undiscovered worlds, the land of bamboo, deep within the forest, reflecting dappled light, shaggy stocks snapped by wind or elephant, creating a memorizing aura, almost magic.
Finally it was 5pm — time to make the seven-kilometer drive to the elephant camp. The drive permitted time to assimilate to the special world shared by elephant and tribal caregivers. Leaving the modern world behind, entering Anaimalai Tiger reserve was like stepping into a parallel world.
I am told that 85 tribal families live in this village. Actually they make up the village which consists of mahouts, kavadis and laborers who assist with maintenance of the forest. These are indigenous people who traditionally have maintained elephant. The culture of society lived by these people is compatible with the culture of captive elephants. The two cultures mesh perfectly. It appears that when the tribals are well established and able to care for their families they provide a seriously important service for the elephant and the forest department. Without bull hooks, knives or anything more than a small branch they maintain a working relationship with their elephant.