To most people, the word jungle conjures up images of dense, lush tropical forest with torrential rainfall, huge trees festooned with creepers, and infested with dangerous animals, snakes and insects. In its Sanskrit origins, the word jungle denotes any wild country, untamed land, and a wilderness. How many trees grow on it and how tall, and what and how many creatures live in it makes no difference. The semi-arid thorny scrub of Yala in Sri Lanka is no less a "jungle' than the steaming jungle of
Manas in Assam in Eastern India.
The Indian subcontinent harbors a great variety of wildlife, the large assemblies of animals seen so often in the African bush are not seen here. Most jungles of the Indian subcontinent are thick and dense, with poor visibility. Animals living in such closed environments are generally shy and retiring, and live in small scattered groups, or even as solitary individuals.
Perhaps it is also necessary to explain why so many more birds than mammals are seen. Mammals are largely nocturnal, retreating into their hideouts during the day, and are usually silent.
On the other hand most birds are diurnal, not so shy of man and quite vocal. Moreover, there are far more birds than there are mammals - India alone has about 1200 species of birds against 350 species of mammals. So, while spotting a hundred species of birds in a day is not unusual, a mammal list of even 10 species is considered good. But the mystique and the romance of exploring the jungle here, perhaps for this very reason, is greater than anywhere else in the world.