Trailing the tiger

Posted by: Purvi Mistry on

This was an experience of a lifetime!

Trailing the tigers @ bandhavgarh & kanha tiger reserves in MP. Bandhavgarh is a 105 sqkm park which has around 30 odd tigers and a variety of other wildlife like deers, wild boars, and langurs. Kanha is the world's second largest and Asia's biggest National Park spread over 950 sqkm as the core zone and another 1050 sqkm as buffer area. Kanha has a variety of wildlife like tigers, leopards, panthers, wild boar, sloth bears, wild dogs, spotted deers, barasingha (present only in kanha and nowhere else in the world), and a variety of birds for the birders.

we started our jungle expedition wid bandhavgarh. the first day began @ 3 pm just after lunch so as to reach the park by 3.30 pm and be out by 6pm which is the park's closing time. to move about in the jungle you have an open gypsy only. to roam on foot is a strict NO NO. we were accompanied by our driver and the forest guide. the jungle was dense due to the just ended generous monsoons. it was abundant in bamboos, sal trees and tall grasses of 2 types - khas (which was white at the top) & elephant grass (which was brown at the top). the first view leaves you spell bound. you are seeing the jungle in its natural beauty and existence. no human interference at all. the roads have also been drawn up only due to the regular passage of the jeeps on them. you see no plastic no concrete! unspoiled and untouched! and the silence is blissful! no human chatter just the birds chirping happily, the insects buzzing, the wind rustling the trees.... the first day was kind of an orientation and we were not so hopeful of seeing a tiger that very evening. however, late in the evening when we were returning back we had a glimpse of the tigress' rear far away which had been spotted by several other tourists. this was a very hazy sight due to the fading day light and the distance. she had her 2 cubs with her as well but we were not able to spot the same.

the second day began @ 5am. We left our resort - tiger trails @ 5.30am to reach the park by 6am when the gates open for the day. whew the cold struck us big time but left us energised and refreshed to begin our second attempt at tracking the elusive and the mighty beast - the TIGER.

there was alot of energy buzzing around in the passing gypsies since many guides had already heard the alarm call sent out by the deer. we too heard the same and it sent our adrenaline racing. we kept driving around with bated breath! then a far away gypsy signalled the presence of the tiger and we zoomed up that path. we sat still with our jeeps turned off. and guess what ............................. a beautiful tiger cub leaped from the grass and crossed over to the other side. wow! it happened in the blink of an eye. no movie no pic was possible at this speed of the tiger crossing. the cub was no kid in terms of its size. it was almost 3 ft long and 2 ft in height with a good built!

this sighting left us wanting more. it was like our thirst was still unquenched. thus, we followed up this with an enthusiastic and hopeful evening trip the same day. we went on trailing the pug marks, trying to locate some fresher pug marks, hear an alarm call. and we were getting really disappointed. it was darkening and we had to be out of the park by 6pm. we were nearing 5.40pm and the evening light was fast fading. we had taken a very less travelled route which was very hilly and steep and realy narrow. we were zooming down a slope when all of a sudden our driver screeched to a halt and said shhhhhhhhhhhh.... we were dumbstruck to see the tigress right in front of our gypsy just a few feet away!!!! she was smelling away at some spray markings at the side of the road. dad was ahead in the gypsy and he stood all up on his seat to clik away at the tigress. the moment though was happy and exciting was equally scary at the same time..........all day we had waited to catch a glimpse and when it was right there it scared us all by its huge size. she was almost 6 ft long and 3 ft tall and mighty and powerful!!! she held us spell bound. we kept staring at her in silence when she started approaching our gypsy. just when we thought it would almost get atop it took a detour to our left into the bushes. i was on the left seat of the gypsy right next to the bushes and she was right in there staring at us with those unforgiving, unblinking eyes....then she moved ahead and came out again on to the road and started walking away from us all......we backed our gypsy and followed her.....her gait was powerful, it was confidence personified. wow! she even had the cheek to lift her tail n poop! then she turned the road corner and we no longer followed her but let out our breath that we had unconciously held so long lest she might hear us or smell us......

this was spectacular...........................................and words fail me.....the feeling still resides.....the feeling of excitement and the feeling of fear that she held us all in captivity by her mere presence....................

Kanha - we had big hopes of seeing more and more tigers! but our luck had run out. we spent 2 mornings and 2 evenings in kanha but could not spot a single tiger. the reasons - the huge crowd of tourists, the high noise levels, the vast size of the forest and comparatively lesser number of tigers. however, we got to see some rear speices like the wild dog, sloth bear and the barasingha. although we were disappointed by the tiger we had a great time enjoying the beautiful jungle...........

am sending across the photos for all to enjoy. you will not be able to see the clear pics of the tigress. our luck wasnt that great and the digicam let us down when we went on clicking the tigress at close range in the fading daylight. however i have one good pic that will be able to see and understand our position when we saw the tigress.

at bandhavgarh we stayed at the tiger trails resort where the service was totally homely and comforting. we heard nothing but tales of the tiger and varied experiences of the people there. we were treated to a tribal dance and barbeque dinner as well on one of the evenings.

at kanha we stayed at the wild chalet resort where the service was disappointing and made us rather unhappy that we left bandhavgarh. we had a great view of the banjar river from our cottage and of course all we heard again was tales of the tiger.

our days used to begin at 5am for the first round from 6am to 12 noon and then the second round from 3.30pm to 6.30pm. Thus, was our vacation with no TV, no noise, no pollution, nothing commercial just the nature and the wildlife. no worries no harm!

the resorts used to pack us a picnic basket full of - fruits, tea, juices, sandwiches and aloo parathas which we would enjoy in the morning in the midst of the jungle at one of the nearest check posts. to litter is a strict NO NO and we used to pack up clean post break fast.

am sure this was a very long email but thanks for reading through my experience and i hope you too wish to visit the tiger reserves once in your lifetime. it will change will teach you - patience (waiting for the tiger to come out of the bushes), silence (so as not to scare away the wildlife), cleanliness, respect of the nature and wildlife.....

here's me signing off for now.........