We slept in the heart of Bhitarkanika National Park and Wildlife Refuge in Orissa, at a government guest house; but we are up well before dawn and back on our boat before first light. The night had been clear but moonless; and in the early hour, the eerie landscape reveals itself with equal measures of reluctance and mystery.
Brilliant white-bodied egrets and cranes are the first semi-vivid objects in the murkiness. Then, quite rapidly, the day imposes itself, lending color to the low-hovering sky and glassy waterway. The deep orange sun shadow-dances briefly behind the mangroves before emerging with restrained warmth.
Morning is the satin stillness of the water. Morning is fish beginning to skip along the river surface chasing breakfast. Morning is the ironic gracefulness with which ancient crocodiles glide from their resting spots on the riverbanks into the river as our boat passes. Morning is the dance of kingfishers from tree-to-tree. Morning is the beautiful faces of Yoo-Mi and Puru bathed in the subtle light of the low-angled sun.