Flame of the Forest: Interview with the Manager

Arabella Lakin

05 Aug 2013

In Interview with the manager at Flame of the Forest in India

Isa runs Flame of the Forest with here husband, Karan, near Kanha National Park in India. We have asked her some questions on how and why she does what she does in such a wild part of the world, please read on to find out why Flame of the Forest can really enhance your stay in India.

Q1: My first encounter with a Tiger was in Bandhavgarh. It was my very first Safari in India and i did not know what to expect.

The jungle was silent. We were watching the Monkeys doing their mischief within the troop. It was very entertaining. All of a sudden they all ran up the trees and started waking up the Forest with their alarm calls. The situation was very intense and emotional at the same time. 

We tried to look in the same direction as the monkey who was performing alarm call, in order to see what they are looking at.

And there he was. A beautiful male tiger appeared out of the woods and crossed the road right in front of our jeep.

His aura was Majestic, his walk elegant and no doubt he knew no one could harm him in the animal kingdom. He was not bothered about our jeep or about the monkeys at all. He was oblivious to his environment. We were the only jeep at this time and so it was an amazing experience. He disappeared in the woods again and the monkeys came down and continued their mischief as if the tiger had never appeared. 

How did I feel: I felt very small and insignificant witnessing the immense beauty, strength and peace of this animal. I felt very privileged to see this animal in the wild. And i felt a strong urge to protect it. 

What got me hooked: It was not the tiger alone that got me hooked. It was the feeling of emptiness and purity once I was in the forest and this feeling stayed with me till now. When i enter the jungle I get engrossed in the forest/nature and i forget the world with all its troubles, worries and hectic energies. It’s like a strong detox and hence it provides relaxation to me. Besides that there is so much to learn and understand about this environment that I'm just too curious about. I feel i open a treasure box whenever I enter the forest. Karan and Mohan are experts and can explain the environment and I guess that’s what got me hooked. The mixture of immense natural beauty and acquisition of knowledge combined with a feeling of relaxation and regeneration. 

Q2: What is the essential kit our guests forget to bring?

I honestly think our guests are quite well prepared. We rarely get guest who are not prepared for the extreme cold during winter! But that’s 1-2 guests in a season. This year cause of the frequent rain, the guests were not prepared for rain, but we do have ponchos in the jeep. 

Sometimes there is a need for an electric adapter, but even this we do have at the lodge.

Q3: What is unique about Kanha? 

To me it is the size and the ever changing landscape. Our guests never complain about seeing the same thing every day even if they are here for longer durations (7-9 days). You drive to the park and you see thick bamboo, changing into open grasslands, transforming into old beautiful sal forest patches, climbing up hills to reach beautiful plateau, river crossings and dry patches of shrubs and bushes.

For one thing it is the beauty of it! The landscapes sometimes really are fairy-tale like and kind of unreal. Which is fantastic just to look at. But also there is so much learning behind it: You will find different birds and animals in different habitats. Bees for example always build their hive next to a water source. So where are the bees in Kanha? That guides me to the water source. When are they coming or going or are they with us the whole year? If we only see the hive but no water…is there really no water or is it only not visible for us?

Can the beehives help us in the dry summer times to track tigers, leopards and bears?

What kind of different habitats are in the territory of one tiger? Does he/she choose the territory with distinction, to have different pray spices on the menu card?

What is the difference between the deer in grass lands and the deer in the thicker areas of the forest? Of course the food habits but what else? The physical size? (sambar is much much bigger than a spotted deer) The numbers? (Sambar is mostly in a herd of 3-4 individual where sals spotted deer is in larger herds and so is the Barasingha) 

These are only simple questions but like this there is an endless number of question - answers games we love to play. 

Every drive is educative not only for the guests but also for us. Most of the time, people who are new to an area have the best and most objective questions!

The chances of seeing a tiger in Kanha is surly great. But the actual time you spend with a tiger is on an average probably 15-30 minutes (max) in 3-4 days stay!

So what is the guest looking at in the remaining time? What can we offer him besides the beautiful lodge, food and company to make his stay memorable? 

…knowledge, understanding and moments of great discovery!

And this is what Kanha is so special to me! Ever changing, constantly unfolding beauty and small miracles of nature!

Q4. When is your favourite (photos, good sightings, or weather) month for tiger encounters in Kanha? 

Most of the people will tell you: Summer! Because there is water scarcity and you will find the animals right next to waterholes. That's true no doubt about it.

So if someone is just coming for the tiger and is ready to take the heat: Summer is the time. 

The landscapes are golden and dry and the camouflage of the tiger is mind-blowing.

I personally love the changing of the seasons! Every season has a fantastic potential to see the tiger! In January, the number of tourists is in generally low and hence you have a better chance to be kind of on your own in the park. The sightings you get then are fantastic; thick winter coat, bright orange coming out of a lush green surrounding, even all the deer species have beautiful winter coats.

The sightings you get right after monsoon are also great and special. The animals where undisturbed for more than 3 month and hence the behaviour is slightly wilder then it would be in the middle of the season.

I do love all the seasons and the sightings are great in all the season!  Just tell your guests to bring time and patience with them and they will have a fantastic experience.

Q5. If you were to employ a new naturalist, what is the most important skill that they can possess?

Knowledge, tracking skills, honesty and great love and respect for nature are surely key skills of a naturalist. Without this skills its difficult to survive in the Jungles.

But what is an equally important skill is: to make people laugh and engaged in the safari!

Fine, my naturalist tracked a tiger, mind blowing experience…for a few minutes. And then? Is the naturalist boring my guests with dry knowledge? Or can he provide moments of discovery of small things to my guests! Is he sitting quiet in the jeep or driving around roughly just to get one more tiger? Or can he show the guests what fun it is to just sit and watch the monkeys? Can he understand the needs, likes, dislikes and capacities of my guests? 

Our guests are looking for a wildlife experience and not a tiger show!

A wildlife experience is a complex composition of joy, excitement, discovery, learning, tracking, nature conservation, cultural involvement, feeling important, feeling safe, feeling at home ...and seeing a tiger. 

If my guests come back from a safari and they laugh, chat and joke and look happy…i know my naturalist has done a good job.

We all are constantly doing our bests to unfold the wilderness with and for our guests.

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