Done Jungle Safari as a BLIND person! Please read below about the experience and what did I learn-

It was a chilly winter morning in Bandhavgarh tiger reserve, MP, India and it had been drizzling all night. unfortunately the gypsy started off from resort with a hood (raincover) and the drizzle got converted into heavy downpour by the time we could reach the forest entry gate…I was sitting in the middle seat of a gypsy which is totally covered from all sides…it was dark inside and the attitude of rain assured that it’s not going to recede soon…My free soul was feeling caged in darkness of that gypsy and the reality of not being able to see anything around in-spite of being in forest shook me a bit! It was first time ever that I was feeling caged & blinded in the place that I love the most – Forest!

Before I surrender to the negativity around, suddenly a random thought popped up in my head – How would the forest feel to a blind personal? Can he or she also enjoy the jungle safari?

Now I was charged and thrilled to try this new experience. I immediately pulled my winter cap down…covered the eyes and my blind safari in Bandhavgarh national park started off…

Out of 5 prime senses 02 of my senses – Vision and Taste was cut off! The safari started with only one dominant sense – Sound! I started focusing on every possible sound that my ears could hear and brain could analyze in that moving gypsy. Struggled a lot initially…got confused between different sounds many a times but as time passed the focus and determination both improved and I could hear and analyse multiple sounds at a time.

After about half an hour the second sense suddenly got triggered when the gypsy was passing through a patch of soft sandy soil (I could guess that out from the typical sound that gypsy tyre made whenever it passed through a soft sandy soil). It was the sense of Smell. Smell of soil after it has been sprinkled by rain drops. Wow! What an experience it was to feel the essence of nature through my second sense!!

As we progressed I had already experienced 50+ unique things in nature so far, from calls of more than 35+ birds & mammals (Including Crested serpent eagle, Hawk eagle, Plum headed & Alexandrian & Rise ringed parakeets, Robins, Grey Hornbill, Peafowl, Brain fever, Langoors, Spotted deer males, Squirrel, Bulbuls, Drongos, Cuckoos and many other) along with a variety of sounds in the nature like rain drops hitting the gypsy metal or gypsy hood or tree leaves or soil etc, sound of the water streams and cracking of a tree branch, mixture of sounds that our gypsy made while passing through water streams, rocky surfaces, leaf clutter, hard soil, sand etc. Along with sounds THE different fragrances were putting up continuous smile on my face. Fragrance and smell of different grasses, shrubs, herbs, tree patches, soil, stones, rotten leaves, dead flesh, animal dung etc were complimenting for the complete forest exploration.

It must have been an hour by now and felt like the rain had relaxed a bit. My fellow travellers opened the gypsy hood and a new experience took me to the tip of ecstasy. It was my third sense triggered – the sense of touch upon feeling the love of mother nature on my face in form of the tiny droplets dripping from tree leaves atop…The tenderness of a tiny leaf could be well felt as it got stuck near my neck. I touched it, felt it and held in my hand upright only to let it go with the passing wind! I had given back freedom to the free soul of that tiny leaf…just the way these tiny experiences of nature had set my caged soul totally free once again in the place that I love the most – Forest!

It was one of the best safari among the thousands I have ever done in my wildlife and ecotourism career. It did answer to my fundamental question that yes, every blind person can enjoy the jungle safari experience and with some innovations in technology and Braille we can even make it a better experience where they can simultaneously feel the size, shape and texture of the entity they are experiencing. Would love to cater this experience sometime in my life to those who are ‘physically’ blind.
Moreover, this experiment taught me something bigger! It was the self realization that so many time we simply become ‘mentally’ blind in forest even after having all the senses intact. All we focus on is the joy “sighting”. What about the joy of enjoying forest as whole every single time you are in forest? Simply put if one isn’t exploring forest through at least 4 of the prime senses, that safari will be an injustice with himself / herself and the nature god as well.

Signing off today with a wish that in 2020 all of us would learn to explore and enjoy the forest and nature with all the senses active to make it a memorable experience every time we visit it.

Saurabh Thakekar
Co-founder and Wildlife Expert
Mumbai Travellers | Book My Safari | Go Travellism Pvt Ltd


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