“A flying squirrel just landed on the tree!” called out Rajini, with excitement. The clock read 7:30PM. Anuroop and I had just returned to our cottage, exhausted, after a long walk. Exhilaration took over as we catapulted from our beds, grabbed headlamps and followed Rajini with a camera and tripod in tow. The full moon that had just risen lit up the landscape. As we scanned the canopy, Rajini narrated fascinating encounters he had with black panthers on the very same trail we were treading on. The faintest rustle in the bushes would make us wonder if it could be the elusive leopard. The sheer thought that we were sharing space with a black panther and flying squirrels gave us the chills. Soon, a shrill call from a few blocks away broke the silence and in no time we caught a pair of shining eyes glaring back at us. It was a big, bold Brown Palm Civet. He settled down on a branch and we got a good look at him.

The rare and elusive Brown Palm Civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni), also known as the Jerdon’s Palm Civet

All along, we hoped to get a glimpse of the flying squirrel as well, but we weren’t lucky that night. Nevertheless, Anejhari was now officially, one of my favourite camps! Nestled in the heart of Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary, Anejhari Butterfly Camp is one of the new properties run by Jungle Lodges & Resorts. River Souparnika meanders gently by the camp. The manager Rajini, with his immense knowledge of the wildlife around the campus, helped us plan our activities.

Wooden cottages at the Anejhari Butterfly Camp

While Oct-Dec is the ideal time to watch butterflies, our visit was in April, which happened to be the best time to witness the territorial and mating displays of Southern Flying Lizards. At noon, when there was sufficient sunlight in the camp, is when the dracos were most active. 

A Southern Flying Lizard (Draco dussumieri) displaying its dewlap and its wings at the same time

Males engaged in fierce territorial displays, flicking their long yellow dewlaps and occasionally spreading out their skin to show off the brilliant patterns on their patagium the loose skin that act as wings while the females evaluated them. We noticed that the males had patterns of different colours on their ‘wings’. Most of the drama unfolded right outside the Golghar. Having never seen such a display by a draco before, we were mesmerised, and this was easily the highlight of our trip.

Brilliant patterns of the patagium – the loose skin that act as wings

A draco, sans the display

The trees in the property were also home to several species of lizards and geckos. Roux’s Forest Lizard (Calotes rouxii) and Elliot’s Forest Lizard (Calotes ellioti) were in their prime breeding season too. At times, we would have to look hard to spot them due to their excellent camouflage, and we would also end up seeing a cicada or two. We could have spent the entire day watching them, but Ashok, the naturalist, reminded us that there could be a trogon awaiting us along the nature trail.

True to its name, the Common House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) was quite common within the campus

There are two popular trails around the property, the Butterfly Trail and the Trekkers’ Trail. While we explored the latter on our first day, we decided to try out a completely new trail on our second day. Both trails run along the river. They are short and easy, taking not more than a couple of hours at an easy pace.

One of the two popular trails to explore within the campus

In the leaf litter, a Rustic (Cupha erymanthis) catches a glimmer of evening light

Stork-billed and Small Blue Kingfishers were a common sight along the trails. Funnel web spiders dotted the entire stretch while the constant strum of the cicadas kept the forest alive. Wild flowers were in bloom and butterflies were busy mud-puddling. Langurs entertained us with their antics in the canopy.

A Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon) busy mud-puddling

A curious langur peeps out of the canopy

While we scanned the trees for the Malabar Trogon, we would not pass an opportunity to capture any interesting subject that came along our way. Like they say, there’s never a dull moment in a forest.

Ixora polyantha Wight, one of the wild flowers that adorned the trails

Back at the camp, our favorite pastime was to laze by the river and keep an eye out for otters. A lone cormorant went about its usual rituals unperturbed by our presence.

A Little Cormorant (Microcarbo niger) perched by the river

One of the best spots to see otters from the camp

The trees that dotted the river were perfect hangouts for the Indian Giant Flying Squirrel. Rajini was sure that we would see one if we observed this area between 7 and 8PM. After all, it was the same spot where he saw the squirrel the previous evening and it was the same spot from where he watched them every evening. We decided to try our luck too. An hour passed by, and just when we wondered if we should give up and head back to the room, we saw the unmistakable flight of a squirrel. It must have glided almost 50 meters before landing on a tree right ahead of us! Watching a flying squirrel glide is an experience like no other. We got a good glimpse with our headlamps, and snapped a quick record shot. We couldn’t have expected a better end to our day!

An Indian Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista philippensis), a mammal that flies

At sunrise, the camp was abuzz with activity. The melodious singing of the Malabar Whistling Thrush signalled the break of dawn. A pair of Malabar Giant Squirrels actively fed on the fruiting Flacourtia. Malabar Grey Hornbills, Racket-tailed Drongos, Common Hill Mynas, bulbuls, woodpeckers, flycatchers and a myriad species of birds made good use of the bird bath and a few fruiting trees around the camp.

A Malabar Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros griseus), endemic to the Western Ghats

One of the resident Malabar Giant Squirrels (Ratufa indica), seen right outside the Golghar

This was my first visit to Anejhari, but definitely not the last. While it was the abundant wildlife that stole the show, it was the enthusiasm and the hospitality of the entire staff that made our stay even more memorable!