A self-drive journey to absolutely lesser known forests of Chhattisgarh - in search of the state animal - Wild Buffalo aka Jungly/Von Bhaisa/Bubalus bubalis

Chhattisgarh, though located in Central India, still has regions which are of the most unexplored areas of this country - with amazing natural diversity, unexplored forests, caves, handicrafts and paintings, waterfalls and when one combines that with some absolutely friendly people with a unique cultural tradition.

With 12% share of India’s forests, Chhattisgarh’s 3 National Parks and 11 Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks are a major attraction. It has several virgin attractions in protected areas such as Kanger Valley National Park, Barnawapara, Sitanadi, Udanti and Achanakmar Sanctuaries. The endangered Wild Buffalo (Bubalis bubalis) and the even more endangered Hill Myna (Graculis religiosa peninsularis) are the State Animal and State Bird respectively.

The State animal of Chhattisgarh - Wild Buffalo

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There is much more to India’s wildlife than the widely-talked-about flagship species like the tiger, the rhino or the elephant. While conservation efforts dedicated to these flagships trickles down benefits to other species that share their habitat, certain species require more than just these indirect interventions for survival.

The wild buffalo (Bubalus bubalis arnee) population of Central India is one such example whose local existence is gravely threatened. Once found in abundance across northeast India extending to northern and central India, the species now has its last bastions in some pockets in northeast India and Chhattisgarh state.

We still fondly remember our fantastic drive-travel to the tribal lands of Southern Orissa and interior Southern Chhattisgarh, and seeing the full flowing Chitrakote falls. Do read about that travel over here :

Interior Chhattisgarh-Sourthern Orissa-> Tribes-Falls-Forests

With the year end coming up, and as usual with my work situation precluding any booking to a known touristy place - not that we wanted to go - I went pouring through maps and articles for a finding place, a place that will be reachable in around 14-15 hours of overnight driving, but also a place where very less people go - a place where you don't need booking even during the 25th Dec to 1st of Jan holiday weekend! Orissa has been one of my favourite remote-travel state, but that we have almost covered from the tribal lands to the amazing white sand-blue turquoise waterfall, the source of river Jonk, in the middle of an unknown forest.

So, our options started from the less travelled Jharkhand areas to Northern Bihar lands to looking out for some less known place in Andhra Pradesh. But then also crossed my mind was a booklet that I got at the Toursim Fair in Chhattisgarh about Udanti and Sitanadi Wildlife Sanctuary, but then when searched that place once a favourite travel place for people from Raipur, is now absolutely out of bounds for tourists, place that is an absolutely "liberated area" as we know in the media.

A few phone calls to the forest department of Sitanadi and Udanti we got the clear cut message of these places being out of bound for travel people, even during day time. Sitanadi was absolutely out of bounds, we can visit the wild buffalo centre in Udanti but stay options were not there and the last tourist to the only forest house was around 2-3 years ago.

So a tentative place decided [!] and looking out for an intermediate place along the journey, the option of going to another lesser known forest [not for people of Raipur] of Barnawapara on NH6 highway - made the perfect in between forest stop while going to Udanti. We were excited - this travel had all the signs of another great unknown trip that we had in interior Orissa, the trip where we discovered our own secret beach and waterfall! Read more about by this link:

Secret Beach and an unknown forest-Western-Orissa

Over the next 3-4 days, surely the travel itinerary came into shape - again a travel which required over 12-15 hours overnight drive through highways through unfamiliar terrain, the odd stop in dead of the night at tea shop, the stay in desolate forest rest houses, and ultimately a place where no one goes nowadays and seeing the wild buffalo as it is today in this age of tiger awareness.

Journey times and dates:

Dec 23, 2010: From Kolkata, night start at 8 pm - reaching Barnawapara Forest around late evening. A whole lot of time was spent stuck in the night on the Cuttack-Sambalpur road due to truck traffic jam and fog.

Dec 24-25: Barnawapara Forest, Chhattisgarh

Dec 26 , 27 - Udanti-Sitanadi Forest, Chhattisgarh

Dec 28, start at 4 pm after lunch for a 1100 km journey back home to Kolkata reaching home at around 7 pm, a journey time of 27 hours. Again got stuck on NH42 of Orissa due to fog and truck jam, a blessing in disguise, as we all dozed off for a quick nap of 1 hour, inside the Safari VTT itself.
So, we [wife, 5-year-old son, and me] and my good friend, Deba was the original team. Deba has accompanying me in some of our travels but soon enough we got three more passengers joined us - my wife's office colleague who never travels long distance in cars due to nausea feeling and my younger brother's wife with her 3-year-old son - as my brother was on an office trip.

With no bookings done and with places as hazy as the overnight fog that we encountered, I was worried - the responsibility is much more - the new members were all forewarned - a long, overnight drive in a car, no bookings and all info about the places we were headed was hazy as the highway fog that had us stuck - but as the trip ended, I have nothing but praise for them as they took all and everything in their stride - all have earned "thewanderers.in" badge!!

TheWanderers.in Chhattisgarh forest travel - the wonderful ladies and the children trip members!.

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Over the next few posts, will be bringing up the travel that we did along with the info about these forests - Barnawapara and Sitanadi-Udanti Forests, not to forget the absolutely friendly people of Chhattisgarh as we asked our way through the different state highways and places.

One more highlight picture, as I continue the trip log on the next post.

And with no tourists or anyone out here in Udanti for the last 2 years or so, nature is undisturbed. Exotic bracket fungi along an enchanting forest stream
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And of course, the travel transport: Safari Dicor LX 2.2 VTT-TMT [
The Magnificent Tourer [TMT]

Lost in a forest at night, somewhere in interior Chhattisgarh.
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