| Face to Face with Tiger
Face to Face with Tiger
It was 6am on 2nd April 2005, Ientered the gate of Bandhavgarh National Park,
sitting with my driver cum naturalist Sanjay in a 4X4 wheel drive open Suzuki
vehicle. Along with me were Ms Lanis Petrik, from Brookfield Zoo, Chicago Zoological
Society, and her photographer husband, Thomas Petrik.
We had gone only
about 300 meters when we saw a couple of Jeeps standing close to a forest Elephant.
It signified that a Tiger had been located close to the road. I spoke to the Mahout
and he signaled towards the area where the Tigress was sleeping in the tall grass.
It was about 15 meters from the road. Within minutes couple of other Jeeps also
closed in. I learned from Sanjay that this Tigress was pregnant, and would deliver
in another 2 weeks probably. He also mentioned that she will now get up and cross
the road in front of us from left to the right, as it is there that there are
a couple of dens where she might deliver her litter. I asked him why was he sure
that she will cross. He said the sun is becoming stronger and the disturbance
from the vehicles will encourage her to move towards her den.
a long wait, an anxious wait, soon I saw there were about6-7 vehicles around and
no sign of the Tigress thinking of changing her temporary residence from the tall
grass to the safer dens close by. Every second seemed like an hour and every minute
like a day. But isn't that what Tiger Safari is all about. Exhilarating experience.
Something in me said not to wait there and instead go for Challenger, the
big male on the western side of the park. Somehow my previous experiences with
Challenger have been very satiating as far Tiger Photography is concerned. He
is a young male of about 4 years, strong shoulders, has gone on his father B2
who is the dominant male of the entire tourism zone of about 105 sq kms. Challenger
had a territorial dispute with his father and lost a part of his left ear to his
father. Ever since he was named Challenger. The urge to see him again after a
gap of one month was very strong. So I asked Sanjay to move towards Mahammen Pond
area. Sanjay did not quite like the idea, coz to leave a Tiger so close who can
be up any moment to go in search for someone whom you know not much about was
not a great idea. I insisted and Sanjay reluctantly agreed.
We left to
go for Mahammen. En route we met Tirath (another very capablenaturalist cum dirver
of Tiger Den Resort, Sanjay also works for the same resort). Tirath said that
he has noticed pugmarks of a big male in area about 3kms from Mahammen pond. The
pugmarks had left the road and then no clue whatsoever. We moved on. Took a complete
round of the area of about 10kms and came next to the Mahammen Pond area.
No pug marks, no alarm calls. We stopped, sun had come out, it was about
8am. No sign yet. Day was warming up. A Jeep came in, exchanged notes. It is a
very nice channel of communication, when the drivers ask each other of any signs
of His Highness. The other Jeep told us that they saw the Tigress, which was sleeping.
She had got up after about 20 minutes and crossed the road in front. Sanjay looked
at me with the expression "I told you, she will", but he said nothing.
I was not hassled at all to have missed the Tigress. We waited for some more time.
Looked at our watches it was about 9am. In the meanwhile Thomas Petrik and I were
discussing what made me leave a very comfortable career with the Taj Group of
Hotels and start on my own in Wildlife.
Then Sanjay said, "Sir we
have waited for one hour now, max we can wait for 15 more minutes as the park
gates close at 10am, and the drive from here till the gate is about 45mts".
I said fine. My eyes were incisive, penetrating the surrounding bushes. At times
a distant movement of a spotted deer would also seem as if it was the King of
the Jungle. My ears were getting edgy, and fervent to hear some alarm call of
the majestic predator. In the meanwhile Tirath had also come and stood in his
Jeep close to us.
Suddenly we heard an alarm call of a spotted deer.
My heart missed a beat. The call repeated. I stood up on my seat. So did Sanjay.
I looked at him and he had a smirk on his face. The alarm call recurred another
4-5 times. Now we were certain the King was up and about to give Darshan (sighting).
Looking through the tall Sal trees and some Bamboo bushes I saw some
movement. I pointed in the direction, and yes, it was none else but his majesty.
Sanjay and Tirath have exceptional skills to menouver their vehicles when the
big cat is around. I told them not to start the vehicles till he emerges on the
road. Now he was clearly visible between the 2 trees approaching us. I clicked
and the focus of the shot went on the trees and a pale shadow of the robust male
( See Photo 1 )
I was not disappointed, I knew I am close to a Goldmine of shots.
Within seconds Challenger crossed in front of us. He went to the pool, ignoring
us royally. For him we never existed on this planet. He entered the pool of water,
and started to drink, while enjoying the attention that he received from us. I
simply freaked, and soon I realized it was a good decision to have two cards of
1 GB each with me and another 512MB card in my digital camera. He enjoyed the
water for about 15 minutes. ( See Photo 2 )
when he emerged from water, I noticed his belly to be full. He had been enjoying
a hearty meal of some denizen of the Jungle. He looked away from us and walked
to the near by tree to catch if there was any other smell of any new Tiger in
his territory. Then he looked at us, sprayed on the low tree branches and started
to walk towards us with his tail at 90 degrees up.( See Photo 3 )
Never before on my numerous Tiger Safaris in Bandhavgarh
have i seen a big male do this. He came about 4 metres from our vehicle and turned
left, paused looked towards his right shoulder as if telling us lesser mortals,
that you now have been given permission to walk behind me. We followed his command.
We kept a distance of about 4 meters and cruised behind him. He simply wasn't
bothered at all. Those magnificent black stripes on the Golden yellow fur were
simply mesmerizing. My camera was clicking faster then my heart. For once it seemed
eternity was right here. ( See Photo 4 )
He looked back once
again but continued his casual walk in front of us. In between he went aside and
yet again marked his territory by smelling and then spraying on the tree. Sanjay
reminded me it was 9.30am, and we need to go back to the gate. How rude it would
be to leave such a wonderful creation of God and go back. But I had to leave,
we turned, but he did not. I looked back at him and some more shots. Sanjay started
our journey back to the gate.I looked at Sanjay and he said "Thank You Sir,
this was better then the sleeping Tigress
It was now that Lanis Petrik
finally said, "Sharad we never thought we will see a Tiger in the Wilds,
so near, so close and for so long. Thank You"
Sharad Vats ---
Bandhavgarh National Park , Tour Booking Form