I am Aravind Rishikesh, working in SBI and also a wildlife enthusiast. I have been on wildlife journeys for the past 12 years. My hobby is to capture wildlife images and I've been publishing them in the name of 'Arali's Photography'. I love travelling, so I decided to go on a trip before the announcement of full lockdown. The destination was Amaravati, with a trek in the Chinnaar forest area located on the way to Munnar. My friend Dheeran, a professional photographer, accompanied me on this trip.

Deep into the forest of Amaravati

For every road trip, I always choose my trusty black Bolero. This jeep is like a best friend to me. I modified my Bolero especially for off-road trips like this one. We started our trip on May 1st from Chennai and had breakfast in a small eatery near Arcot. There are many small hotels in this area where they serve delicious food. But crossing Udumalaipettai we didn’t see a single hotel.

Deep into the forest of Amaravati
ARALI'S PHOTOGRAPHY

We registered ourselves in the Tamil Nadu Forest department check post which is located 23 km from Udumalaipettai. Crossing the check post, we reached the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. Across the check post in Kerala, and also Chinnaar Forest. On this side of the check post, we have the Anamalai Tiger Reserve.

Out there is a road for the Elumalaiyan Temple. It's the route that elephants take. The elephants' reproduction period is from November to March. During this period, we see male elephants with big tusks known as 'Tuskers'. This is one of the important routes from the forest to the dam. Through the way, we saw many elephant calves.

Deep into the forest of Amaravati

The next one is the Pungan stream bridge. The view from this bridge, which is used to cross the backwaters of Amaravati Dam, is gorgeous. Crossing the bridge we reached an S-bend. The place below it is filled with trees. This region has herbivores only.

This forest area is a paradise for elephants. Specially created by mother nature for the reproduction of elephants. Mostly, elephants are seen in mountain forest areas like Ooty, Valparai, etc. But this forest is flat. Most don't even know that there is a forest out there. Elephants love this place. Elephants give birth to their calves here, and stay till the calf grows to a certain age, for their safety. The popularity of this place for elephants is easy to access to water and availability of food in the area.

Deep into the forest of Amaravati
ARALI'S PHOTOGRAPHY

We saw a calf with a big tusk, which is a rare sight. We were lucky to see this rare sight during our trip. After some time, elephants went into the forest, we also left the place with memories to cherish and many photographs.

On our return journey, we saw one more rarity. Two male elephants roaming side by side in the forest. Generally, male elephants roam alone. Adult male elephants roaming the forest like friends is also a rare sight. We enjoyed the view but unfortunately were unable to capture it on our cameras since it was already dark.

Deep into the forest of Amaravati

Generally, male elephants are a bit dangerous. One male elephant is enough to make us panic, but here we got two tuskers. We were confused about how to cross the path, and what will happen next. But the tuskers were in a good mood! It felt like they gave a good farewell to us.

Apart from the elephants, we saw birds and other animals too. Among them, the 'Hawk Eagle' is most notable. This bird is known to change its colour according to the season. Peacock was on the roads in abundance, as there was less traffic due to the pandemic. We wanted to explore further but couldn’t proceed as the full lockdown was announced. Because of the lockdown, we were forced to return.

Deep into the forest of Amaravati
ARALI'S PHOTOGRAPHY

We took a day's rest and began our journey the day after. Our next stop was Bettikuttai, near the Bhavani Sagar Dam. The speciality of this place is that one can see a herd of 50 to 100 elephants. We were lucky to see the reservoir filled with water since there had been heavy rain for the past three years. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot a single elephant. But that is the charm of exploring nature, nothing is ever guaranteed.

The place is so romantic, yet a little bit dangerous too. We saw animals such as wild buffalo, wild dog, moose, leopard and tiger there. Also spotted a rare breed of wild buffalo in this place.

Deep into the forest of Amaravati

The next prominent mention is the Red-Wattled Lapwing. This bird acts as a guardian to other animals in the forest. If they sense an intruder in the forest, they make a sound and alert the other animals in the forest. If the bird sees any predator, it signals to animals like deer and buffalo about the arrival of the predator. The lapwing is a good flyer. But it doesn't lay eggs in a nest on a tree. It lays eggs in the waste of the elephants. It creates a camouflage to incubate the eggs.

Deep into the forest of Amaravati

It's so difficult to leave the forest. If anyone is planning to go there after lockdown, book your trip in 'Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary' online. They provide the basic needs. We must mention our best friend Mahindra Bolero ZLX on the trip.

One of my best journeys ends here. We saw many rare sights, many animals and birds too. Here we are again, waiting for the next off-road experience after the lockdown. Happy Tripping!

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