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India: Mammals

Here's a selection of photographs showing some of the wonderful mammalian wildlife we saw. There will, naturally, be a separate post devoted to BIRDS (and also some reptiles, amphibians and insects), but for now here's a sample of the richness South India offers to nature lovers.

First up are India's version of gray squirrels: not the same species, but as seemingly ubiquitous. They're smaller and skinnier, and dash around in an even more frantic manner making them often hard to photograph. However, one morning at the place we stayed at in Badami, I saw one chilling out in the already-hot sun. It was then joined by a friend who set about giving it some quality grooming. Too cute!

Next we have some very fascinating and unpredictable creatures: I'm talking about the Rhesus macaque, generally referred to as "monkeys" in India and which are the bane of many lives, whilst at the same time being holy creatures. However, our guide at Hampi, Viru, was keen to point out they're not as holy as the Grey langurs, which are the incarnation of the monkey god Hanuman; we did see these too but my photos were terrible. The whole conversation about what creatures were, and were not, holy was interesting for us and also seemed to make him wonder about a few such as bees. Although dogs are holy, cats apparently aren't, which doesn't seem to follow the 'usefulness to humans' notion.
The guidebooks warn about the macaques at Badami where the following three photos were taken; while we had no trouble there, I did get mugged for an apple which I was foolishly walking along and eating at Hampi.

This one has a sneaky bit of archaeology in the background, that's featured in my post on the cave temples at Badami.

We also had a whole troupe of macaques come down very early in the morning to drink at and cross the Tungabhadra river where we were staying at the incredible Hampi's Boulders, somewhere I would totally recommend for anyone who wants a real 'bush' experience in India. The geology there also has to be seen to be believed.

For this one showing the whole troop, scroll right for full view.

The next location where we saw a lot of wild mammals was, unsurprisingly, the Nagarhole National Park in the foothills of the Western Ghats. Dry forest environments with a mix of brush and more open wooded areas have a very rich fauna indeed. We went on a drive through the forest; I would have preferred a walking safari but as there are TIGERS they don't let you. Don't get excited, I didn't see any TIGERS- although they're definitely there as other groups saw several, as well as leopards (grrrr).

But I did see a surprising amount of other animals including the shy sambar deer (and elephants!). Some of these photos are a bit dodgy as we were driving, but I'm including them to show the great diversity.

Spotted deer were very common inside the forest.

This is a rather blurry but still awesome Giant Malabar squirrel.

Wild boar, obviously the progenitors of the pigs that live feral in many villages and towns.

On the way back from the forest, we also saw a Flying fox, aka a fruit bat, trying to have a kip.

The other type of safari on offer at the Kabini River Camp where we stayed to access Nagarhole was a boat trip at sundown along the enormous reservoir. I wasn't that excited about this for some reason, having seen a lot of uninspiring photos online, but it turned out to be absolutely superb, especially for birding. But we also saw some stunning mammals.
The wildlife all leaves the forest as it cools down, and comes out to graze on the grassy expanses next to the water's edge, making for some really intimate-feeling encounters. There were many spotted deer, which were joined by boar and macaques. You can also see in the photos the huge size of some of the grasses/bamboos in this environment, as big as tall trees.

Boar and macaques.

Yes, a bird has snuck in here! This gives you an idea of the slight Eden-quality to the mixing of wildlife.

 I've saved the best for last (hopefully some people have read this far?!), which is of course the elephants. We did see some in the forest.

But the brush made it hard to see them clearly. When the boat turned a corner and we started to see massive elephants out in the open, eating grass in the setting sun, that was pretty special.

The same elephant cleans the dirt off the clump of grass just pulled up by giving it a kick.

As we made our way back and the light had deepened, more elephants had started to come and graze.

And to finish, and whet your appetite for the bird post (or maybe more than one!), here are elephants with a beautiful darter, a relative of herons and one of the most dinosaur-like birds I've seen (scroll right for full view).


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