We read a lot about the night walk at Taman Negara before we left India. Most people said that it was a waste of time and money and that all you could see were spiders and insects.
That did not deter either of us. Honestly, I did not expect to see an elephant in the jungle at night, and I cannot imagine why anyone would. Isn’t a walk through the rainforest at night thrilling in itself?
At every forest we’ve visited, we’ve tried to spend time with the guides listening to their stories. Often, guides tell different versions of the same tale, embellishing it and adding drama that I love. I’m never on the hunt for “facts” there; I’m just in search of a good story!
Taman Negara was no different, but I couldn’t help smiling at the anecdotes our guide chose to retell – for me, they highlighted how rare a ‘sighting’ is during the night walk.
“In 2010,” he said, “we saw an elephant here. And in 2004, there was a tiger …”
At Tadoba and other jungles I’ve been to, guide tales focus on how narrowly we missed seeing something – ten minutes ago, just this morning, last evening … Remembering sightings that took place eight years ago was new!
Everything about the night walk was new. Armed with torches and large hotel umbrellas, we walked through pouring rain. I know this probably sounds nightmarish to many. For us, the experience was incredible.
I must admit, though, that I was uncomfortable – not because it was raining, or because it was night-time, or because we saw “nothing”. I was uncomfortable because the guide poked creatures with sticks to point them out. He shone his torch on scorpions to make them fluoresce. The very idea of shining torches on all these nocturnal creatures disturbed me.
We’re such a bundle of contradictions, though, aren’t we? Even though I hated the poking and prodding, I marvelled at the creatures we saw. The Huntsman spider hiding under a leaf to protect its eggs. Scorpions scuttling away from light. A giant millipede – over six inches long – which the guide took in his hands. Giant ants and lizards. We went up to Tahan Hide, a lookout point, where we experienced true darkness and the noises of the night forest. All this through pouring rain.
45 minutes later we were back in the safety of our hotel. In the middle of the night, I woke up to thundering sounds on our roof and could not resist peeking out of our window. Was there a creature there?
There wasn’t, but I shivered happily and went back to bed. The next day would bring more joy.