Meet Namrata Bhandari – the new breed of female naturalists

Taj Safari trained her to the highest standards over the last 4 years, before she moved to Singinawa Lodge in Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.  She answers some questions here.

We are interested in how you got into guiding?

I spent most of my childhood and student life abroad, schooling in the beautiful Alpine mountains of Switzerland before returning to India to pursue a career in animation & graphic designing, but having worked in various advertising agencies and animation houses in Mumbai I was missing the great outdoors so I finally decided to switch careers in 2015. Luckily I got an opportunity to train as a naturalist with Taj Safaris in Kanha before working worked in their other properties bordering the tiger reserves of Panna, Pench and Bandhavgarh before finally moving to Singinawa Jungle Lodge, here in Kanha in October last year.

What is your role as a naturalist at Singinawa?

We are trained to observe and to puts all the patterns of nature together, taking all the clues left behind and connecting them to understand the past, present and future of the environment we are showcasing to clients. We have this wonderful ability to watch, listen and carefully observe the surroundings around us for years, and throughout the seasons, playing a whole host of daily roles from being a storyteller to expert tracker, from bartender to bonfire specialist and even to babysitting.

What is your most memorable wildlife sighting?

I was driving guests on a game drive in Panna looking for an elusive tiger down below a rocky hill. As we drove down, occasionally stopping to listen to the distress calls of a spotted deer, I slammed to a screeching halt. On my right hand side, was a very rare Honey Badger attempting to cross the track on the blind curve and stopped in front on us mid-track. I was up and out of my seat and pointing wildly ‘Honey Badger, Honey Badger’ . It was the first time I had ever seen this elusive, large nocturnal and tough animal (that even tigers avoid) and my excitement was so contagious that my guests joined in the hysteria. The badger turned around and sprinted like a speeding bullet to disappeared down the hill. When we returned to the lodge, the guests were welcomed with a bottle of champagne, as this was the first time in the history of the lodge that these rare creatures are seen by both us and our guests.

Visitors jeeps in Kanha © Anish Andheria

What is so special about Kanha ?

The dense jungles of tall and noble Sal trees is a sight to behold. Winters, being my favourite season in these jungles, filling with mist through the night and as the sun rises, sunlight shafts through the trees, a magical transformation of the landscape reveals itself. Gods rays piercing through the canopies of tall trees as a beautifully camouflaged tiger walks straight towards your vehicle is something one really must experience in life.

What is the future you see of Naturalists in India?

In a world driven by technology, naturalists bridge the gap between the fast paced modern world and the natural world on which it all depends. We are the critical connection. With more and more people being exposed to nature through television our job is to interest and excite them when they travel to our fabulous parks, so they understand the need to conserve our natural world.

With the right kind of training and guidance, anyone can train to become a passionate naturalist just like me.