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Books to read before an Indian Safari

Though there may be enough content on the internet to get you by, from travel bloggers and travel companies(like ourselves); however, the words of an author who has lived and experienced the time about which he or she speaks, can paint a wonderful picture which activates in our imagination the true essence of what we are about to delve into.
An Indian Safari is an adventure into areas where time stands till, where local people yet live off the land as their ancestors have – battling the forces of nature. Farm lands occupy most of the areas around the National Parks. It is a rural heaven, peaceful and calm – where happiness can be obtained from riding a discarded car tyre in a natural pond, creating a human pyramid to extracting the best Jamun(Blackberry) and cracking up at the sight of each others’ purple tongues!
Closer to the jungle, there are also stories which almost each villager will narrate stoically, about their close encounters with the Tiger – the gigantic yet shadowy presence which occupies the conscience of each man and woman there. The final outcome usually that the Tiger desisted, and either ran off or walked away without harming the protagonist who surely believed that he would never see his children again.
There are also ghastly encounters of people with Elephants around the country, yet these aren’t romanticised due to the likely event that the protagonist didn’t live to tell the tale. It may neither be the fault of the animal, nor the person whom it attacked(in self-defence), but a way of life in which, entering even the 3rd Decade of the 21st Century, there is a passiveness over human-animal conflict. A testament to the level of restraint of the Indian People – a strength and a weakness as History has shown us.

Field Guides of Indian Flora & Fauna

A thorough Traveler will refer and probably purchase essential Field Guides before embarking on a trip to the Indian Wilderness. We have compiled a short writeup of a few of the Field Guides to Carry With You before a Safari to India. It broadly covers Mammals, Birds and Flora of India.

Fiction and Non-Fiction Books about Indian Wildlife

There are a few must-reads, which take one straight into the thick of the action, to a different place in time where the rules were different, the conversations were something else and people wouldn’t imagine that the world was headed where it is headed today.
We try and compile a list of the Recommended Books to Read about Indian Wildlife before a Safari:
Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Jungle Book(1894) – Rudyard Kipling

Has to be on the top of the list, if one hasn’t read it previously or not since their childhood.

Each character displaying human qualities closest to their backstory as animals of the Indian Jungle.

The most beautiful aspect of the book is the emphasis of the Law of the Jungle, and the Weariness of Man – it is depicted beautifully as an eternal truth, relevant in today’s times.

Mowgli’s innocence, talent and empathy, Bagheera’s prudence, Baloo’s carefree but aggressive loyalty, the wisdom of the Wolves, Kaa’s cold-bloodedness and the legend that is Sher Khan – will cast you back to your childhood, and take you back to a place you’ve almost felt that you’ve been before…

The way of the tiger cover

Way of the Tiger(2001) – Dr.Ullas Karanth

For a factual, non-romanticised approach to learning about the Tiger – this is the go-to book. Written by Dr.Ullas Karanth, a well known Zoologist and Conservationist, who was the Director of Wildlifer Conservation Society in India. He was also the pioneer behind the use of Camera Traps to photograph Tigers and identify individuals to better ascertain their numbers.

The book speaks about the method of counting Tigers, their Habitat requirements, Behaviour, the Conservation scenario, Importance of protecting the Tiger and the future of the Tiger in India. It touches on the evolution of the Tiger as well along with anecdotal experiences Dr.Karanth has while in the field, primarily at Nagarhole National Park in Southern India where he has spent many years and done lots of scientific work for the area.

man eaters of kumaon cover

Man-Eaters of Kumaon(1940) – Jim Corbett

“Tigers, except when wounded or when man-eaters, are on the whole very good-tempered…Occassionally a tiger will object to too close an approach to its cubs or to a kill that it is guarding. The objection invariably takes the form of growling, and if this does not prove effective itis followed by short rushes accompanied by terrifying roars. If these warnings are disregarded, the blame for any injury inflicted rests entirely with the intruder”- Jim Corbett

A book which can instantly convert one into a Wildlife Lover, especially of the beautiful Jungles of India, it is Man Eaters of Kumaon by hunter-turned-conservationist Jim Corbett.

His way with words, based on real-life experiences in a time when safety of human life around the Kumaon Region on the foothills of the Himalayas was at the mercy of the Wildlife around it.

It contains 10 stories of Jim Corbett’s life hunting Man-eaters in that region.

The tales narrated do take you to another world, less disturbed by modernization, to a pristine civilization where the night was taken over by the sounds of the magnificient roar of the Tiger, bellowing of the Sambar and the cries of Deer. The nights were haunted by the shrieks of the Spot-Bellied Eagle Owl lending to the mystery which surrounds Owls in folklore.

Jim Corbett, though writing as a hunter, appreciates the beauty of the Forest and especially that of the Tiger and Leopard. A hunter has to understand the tracks and sounds, and his exploits on foot, any mistakes that he made, he would have to pay for it with his life. Where the locals feared a Cat they’ve been living around for so many years, he bravely, though admitting fear, walked in naked into the jungle – allowing himself to be exposed to the many dangers that lie within.

That he was spared so often by the weariness and gentleman-like nature of a creature far more powerful than any man, inspired him to turn into a conservationist and later spent his life trying to protect the very animal that he made a name of hunting.

Jim Corbett’s books, like other hunters of the times, are absolutely fascinating, a more graphical-version of Enid Blyton’s magical tales which spiral one’s mind into a parallel universe where one can picture themselves walking in the shoes of the protagonist.

the leopard in india cover

The Leopard in India(1996) – J.C Daniel

An animal overshadowed in size and fanfare by the Tiger, but no less beautiful, intelligent and powerful in its own right.

J.C Daniel has compiled several accounts of hunters and naturalists in this beautiful book depicting factual information and previously unknown behaviours of the leopard – the Ghost of the Indian Jungle.

Anecdotal evidence is provided from historic accounts of these individuals in their encounters in the field with leopards, which would be largely unknown if not for these compilations.

There anywhere between 5000-10000 leopards in India, many of which live perilously close to human habitation, showcasing tremendous adaptation and intelligence to survive in these difficult habitats.

A must-read, about an animal whose life in the wild is yet full of mystery due to its amazing elusiveness.

And as Jim Corbett famously wrote, “Those who have never seen a leopard under favourable conditions in his natural surroundings can have no conception of the grace of movement, and beauty of colouring, of this the most graceful and the most beautiful of all animals in our Indian jungles”.

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14th July 2024
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