Imagine a crocodile moving towards you, but your adrenaline rush is not frightening you, on the contrary, you are still there the whole time, it's trying to sneak up on you. Yes! that's exactly what happened with me. LOL
Yes, these are Gharials or also known as Gavials, the only crocodiles that gave evolved to eat mainly fishes. Hence the long and pointy snout. Gharials once found in plenty across Asia, is now endemic to only Indian subcontinent. Thanks to the fast depleting habitat.
The wildlife Sanctuary of Tikarpada in Odisha is filled with flora and fauna of all sorts. It's a huge ecosystem which I think is equivalent to Bhitarkanika, As a matter of fact, the latter might have more population of Crocodiles, but it is the presence of Leopards, Tigers, and Gharials here, that have made it a larger and more complex ecosystem than its elder and more well-known cousin, Bhitarkanika. The Gharials have been introduced in the Mahanadi river and conservation efforts are being carried out for maintaining a healthy population of the crocodiles and the gharials. This precious ecosystem lies just beside the Satkosia Tiger Reserve, where attempts were made to introduce tigers, but eventually due to poaching, the inability of the forest rangers to access the Naxalite areas, and owing to various other such factors the tigers either died or they migrated to other forests through various corridors available between these jungles. Leopards, however, owing to their excellent ability to survive and adapt themselves to any environment have survived here. But they are mostly nocturnal and can be seen very rarely if one goes into the core forest at night. Although, as their elder and stronger feline cousins, the Tigers, are absent here, they also move out in the daytime in search of prey and patrolling.
Our stay was arranged at the Satkosia Nature camp. We a gang of 5, reached there at noon. After a sumptuous lunch and a nap of 2hrs, at 1530 hrs we started for Tikarpada wildlife sanctuary. It was roughly a 25 mins drive. The way to the reserve was filled with fresh countryside air and one can breathe in tons of oxygen. I guess such is nature without the polluting machines of humans.
We reached the Crocodile Reproduction and research center, where the crocodiles are bred. It was adjacent to the river of Mahanadi where reside the float of crocodiles. There are stairs leading to a dockyard below, from where boat rides can be availed. It was here, just beside the dock, around 12-13 ft away, my eyes caught this beautiful and gorgeous lady, which I shall never forget. Out of my 5 mates, only 1 of them, an adventurer and a nature enthusiast, was with me and accompanied me downwards towards the dockyard, towards which I was pulled in by her beauty. She was a 10 ft approx long Gharial, resting along the bank of the river partly surrounded by reeds.
As we were stepping down towards the dock, towards her, my adrenaline levels rose. Such a majestic creature she was. We were now on the dockyard. I asked my friend to stay put 2 steps away from the dock. I can't let my adrenaline to cause any harm to someone else, especially my friend. He was at a safe distance. Now my mind was free from worry.
Our love story started unfolding now. As she saw me coming on the dock, she turned towards me. Curious, she started sneaking up on me little by little. I was well aware of the fact that gharials have never been known to attack any human, like their cousins Muggers or the saltwater crocodiles do. But I was also aware that after all these are wild animals and they should be given their spaces. Gharials however do not miss a good meal and have been known to eat human flesh of the dead that are floated on the rivers (according to several myths, post-death if the body is consumed by the mother Ganges, the goddess of the river, the sins of the individual are washed away!).
Her concentration was now absolutely towards me. The dock was 4 feet away from her. I was initially 4ft away from the edge of the dock, but as I went bit closer, around 2 ft more (And now I was 2 feet away from the edge of the dock) She moved in a bit more closer now.
I was a bit suspicious now, so I moved back a bit, around 2.5 ft approx. She was still moving in closer, but as soon as I stepped back, she went a few inches back and stayed there for some time.
Overcoming my fear, I stepped in again 1-1.5 ft, and this time we were only 3-4 ft away.
I videographed her for few more minutes. Her looks were so hypnotizing that I was unable to move away from that gorgeous beast. But it was already 18:40 hrs and even twilight was inviting the night. I shot some more pics of her on my retina using my 576MP lens.
It was time for me to take her majesty's leave.
An evening with marvelous gifts from Mother Nature, followed by a pristine twilight lay in front of us. What more gifts can someone expect from Mother Nature. Below You will find a link of a video recording of whatever happened above
We were then joined by another friend of ours who also happens to be a nature enthusiast and together we let ourselves drown into the the magnificient scape, nature presented before us.
After an hour at around 1900hrs when it was quite dark, we finally had to bid adieu to the abode of the mighty crocodiles.
Good Bye Tikarpada, Meet you soon.