We reached this wild life sanctuary located in the North Chhattisgarh late at night and though we could see the tall trees all around us, but there was not much that we could make out. We crossed several barriers or entry points into various ranges in the forest, but we stopped only at the Amadob resort where we were staying. Before calling it a day I had a small conversation with the manager of the resort and he told me about the important spots in and around the Achanakmar wild life sanctuary, which is also a Tiger Reserve as part of project Tiger. An anecdote says that a British man was killed by a sudden attack of a tiger at this forest and hence the place came to be known as Achanakmar or the sudden attack.
Got up early in the morning to see the ground full of dry leaves of Teak, Sal and Mahua trees, Patjhad or the fall had just gone by. Even the slight wind creates a rustle and as I walked on these leaves, I felt as if the past is beneath my feet as the looked at the new leaves sprouting from the branches. Leaves were dotted with small pale yellow flowers of Mahua, lying face down on the dried leaves. We were told that this is the season of Mahua and all the locals collect these flowers through the day during this season. The Sal trees had bright green leaves coming out, and at lot of places stood in contrast with the bright Orange of Palash, the red, pink and yellow of the trees I could not identify. Some Sal trees were also laden with white flowers. Tall trees across the sanctuary were a visual delight and made the place soothing even when the sun was bright.
Achanakmar is one of the 11 wild life sanctuaries in Chhattisgarh. Spread across 555 Sq Kms it has a hilly terrain surrounded by Maikal hills of Satpura mountain range. It is classified as Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest and is linked to the Kanha national park in neighboring MP. It is supposed to have tigers, leopards, hyenas, jackals, sambar, neel gai, gaurs, and wild bisons but we could not see anything except a glimpse of a deer in the Lomani range that we explored. We did see a whole of Langoors and monkeys jumping and playing on the trees. There were herds of cattle grazing in the forests. Similarly listed trees of the forest are Sal, Saja, Tendu, Bamboo, Dawda, Haldu, Gooseberry, Jamun, Bel and Karra. Sal definitely forms the major chunk of the trees. Bamboo was seen sporadically like gooseberry. Lot of villages are being moved from the core area of the forests to the outside the core area and you can see the mud houses and the ponds that the villagers left behind.
We met another legend while on a safari in the Achanakmar jungle. There is this old Sal tree, which was struck by lightening in 1990 and in 1955 it was 155 ft high and 6 ft in diameter. About 25-30 ft long but almost hollow trunk remains even today. The locals worship this tree to date. You have to take your shoes off to go near this tree and if you observe, locals would bow down before the tree before they introduce you to it. They believe that their revered deity Budha Deo lives in this tree. This belief makes the tree a living temple. Like in most tribal areas, tribal people live as the protectors of the forests. They even practice shift agriculture, where they do agriculture on a piece of land for limited period and then move on, allowing the forest to regenerate. Some tribes do not even use the plough as they think of earth as mother earth.
Best way to visit this may be to stay in Bilaspur and make a visit to the place, as the places to stay within the forest are limited as are the other facilities.