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Face-to-face with a King Cobra!

By Geetanjali Krishna
July 06, 2017 10:42 IST
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The monkeys can't take their eyes off the snake, and Geetanjali Krishna has forgotten to breathe.

King Cobra

*IMAGE: 'As we watch in awe, the magnificent snake rears its head several feet above the ground'.
Photograph: Kind courtesy Marathekedar93/Wikimedia Commons

At first, I think it's a thick log that has fallen on the forest floor near the pond.

Hundreds of bees are buzzing all around, their hive disturbed perhaps, by the monkeys overhead.

They are making alarmed sounds, as they are wont to do when they spot an apex predator.

Could they have spotted a tiger come for a drink in this blistering heat, I muse?

We decide to hang around by the waterhole for a little while, hoping to spot some action.

From the corner of my eye, I see the log move. And, just like that, we realise we're in the presence of a 12-foot-long king cobra, the largest venomous snake in the world and a creature even more elusive than the tiger.

The monkeys can't take their eyes off the snake, and are all standing on alert overhead.

But the bees show the king cobra no respect. They buzz around its head angrily.

As we watch in awe, the magnificent snake rears its head several feet above the ground.

The bees continue to buss, undeterred.

The apex predator finally realises that it won't be able to shake the annoying insects off, and disappears into the undergrowth.

We follow the monkeys' calls overhead, which tell us exactly which direction it is going in.

Finally, silence returns to the waterhole and I realise it's been long, too long, since I even drew a breath.

"King cobras are notoriously shy and very tough to spot in the jungle," whispers our trusty driver and guide, Kayun.

"Summers offer the best chances of spotting them when they come to slake their thirst in waterholes like this one."

The Indian pitta

*IMAGE: 'The Indian pitta is one of the most beautiful passerine birds I've seen.'
Photograph: Kind courtesy Shantanu Kurveskar/Wikimedia Commons

As our heartbeats return to normal, I become aware of how lovely Corbett Tiger Reserve is in the peak of summer.

Amaltas and gulmohars are in full bloom and the tendu tree (its leaves are used to make beedis) is laden with strange but tasty fruit we can't get enough of.

Above, vast flocks of grey and pied hornbills flit from tree to tree.

A golden oriole calls, another answers.

And then I hear it.

It's the unmistakable song of the Indian pitta, one of the most beautiful passerine birds I've seen.

Again, it's usually very shy and hard to spot.

Today, however, is our day.

It perches on a dry branch, allowing us to admire the blue, green and red plumage.

This is one of the many reasons why the jungles call out to me in the peak of summer.

The clean air and the lush aroma make the blazing sun and summer winds bearable, while even the smallest waterholes offer fantastic animal and bird watching opportunities.


*IMAGE: 'A tiger crosses the road, heading to a nearby waterhole.'
Photograph: Sonil Dedhia

As we return from the morning excursion, we're already looking forward to the afternoon safari to Dhela Zone.

Hats, scarves, sunglasses and sunscreen come out as the three o'clock sun blazes upon our heads. At a promontory overlooking the Dhela riverbed, we spot a herd of elephants including a tusker.

Ahead, we watch a tiny blue cheeked bee eater fearlessly attack a large monitor lizard hunting too close to the bird's burrow.

And then, when we least expect it, a tiger crosses the road, heading to a nearby waterhole.

All the sweat and sunburn forgotten, we watch it move towards the waterbody as the entire jungle comes to life in alarm.

That evening, we reckon we've seen more birds and animals in one day than we've ever seen before.

As the stars come out one by one, we swap stories about king cobras -- how they can rear their heads to a man's height; how their hiss sounds very much like a dog's growl and how they swallow their victims whole, just like pythons do.

I inhale deeply, for the evening air is redolent with the fragrance of mango blossom. For that moment, it seems as if all is well with the world.

Later, I read about the Japanese concept of Shinrin-Yoku, or Forest Bathing, according to which spending time in the forest heals the body and calms the mind.

Before I can read about the conclusive proof of the efficacy of Forest Bathing, I fall deeply sleep and dream of the next few days that I'm going to spend in the magical jungles of Corbett.

Kindly note: *Images published only for representational purposes.


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Geetanjali Krishna at the Corbett Tiger Reserve
Source: source