“There is just something about seeing a tiger in the wild”. I had read and heard countless versions of this statement from many people and never paid much heed to it. Guess, I thought whats the big deal but little did I know that one trip to Kanha and I would join this bandwagon. Well let me rewind and restart. Earlier this year when I was setting my travel goals for 2014, I decided to include a jungle safari and hopefully catching a sight of the tiger to my list. And a chance call from Amit of The Detour Co, and I decided to join 14 other Tiger “aspirants” to figure what all the hoopla was about.
An overnight train and a 3 hour car ride later, we found ourselves outside the Kanha National Park in groups of 5 and all set for getting a glimpse of this magnificent cat. But while we drove around for a couple of hours, the tiger remained elusive to us that day. However we did get a chance to see the stunning landscapes of this sal tree forest and make an acquaintance of numerous other animals such as various types of deer, bisons, wild boars, langurs etc and a multitude of birds such as the woodpeckers, drongos, shikras, owls, peacocks, ducks, irises, etc. We also got a rare sighting of a sloth bear and a barking deer.
I also learnt more about tracking of the tiger through past sightings, observing recent pug marks, noting tiger territories, listening to warning calls etc etc. This too is a learning experience in itself. But more on all this in a separate post.
Undaunted and still hopeful we decided to call it a day and try again the next day. We ended the evening in a tiger resort called The Baagh and with some tigers. Not the actual tigers but with a beautiful documentary shot on a family of tigers in Kanha from mid to late 2000s. This documentary actually gave us a perspective on the lives of the tigers through the eyes of a tigress Laxmi and her 3 cubs, on their day-to-day living and their constant struggle for survival. It was quite an eye opener to realise that these tigers don’t have it easy either (they too have problems of their own) and the tigresses too lead stressed lives (just like human mothers).
The next day we all woke up bright and early and left our lodge at 5.15am to try our luck with the tigers again. And this was definitely our lucky day when we finally met them. Though the tigers were least concerned about our continuous staring or the frenzy of the clicking cameras, for me it was like love at first sight. It had the same missing of the heart beat, the same rush of sudden excitement and a feeling of like never before. I also realised for the first time how huge and enormous tigers actually are and how similar they are to cats. They are as moody, as playful, and many times as unpredictable.
We saw the tigers lying down, stretching, swaying its tail, playful but the best sight was the walk. Its like seeing elegant power in motion (if that’s even a word). Its walk is powerful yet lazy and there is a royal elegance with a seeming purpose in each step. I could have kept staring and babbling adjectives for hours, but the tiger finally had enough of us and decided to walk off.
We then went further on to explore the changing landscapes of this jungle from dense forests to grasslands, from hills at a distance to dried up river beds, to better understand how life moves in a jungle for various animals and birds. And then on our way back we saw another tiger and we repeated our staring cycle all over again till we decided to call it a day.
We also discussed with the guides about the Supreme Court regulations on tiger safaris and were so glad that a complete ban was lifted from these safaris. This entire safari and talk with guides also made me realise how vulnerable these creatures are and why they need to be protected. Though India has been their home since generations, there are ever increasing reports of the tiger population decling due to deforestation and poaching. I so hope we are able to save our tigers and not have them as just another extinct species in the text book of future generations.
We then went for another safari in the afternoon and apart from a tiger saw some other beautiful sights of the forest such as fighting deer, a deer dressing up a date, langurs holding a conference, a daintily dancing peacock, and many more. Since there was so much that I saw and experienced in these 3 safaris, I’ll write separate detailed blog posts and this one shall only be about the tiger.
Overall I had a fantastic trip and would like to thank Amit, Abhijeet and The Detour Co for a brilliant trip and for taking care of so many small yet important things. Loved the smaller details such as the information booklets, the tiger documentary and this new addiction for wildlife safaris and the tiger. 🙂 I so hope to be back again and cover all other national parks too 🙂