Bandhavgarh Experience: As nature was painting yet another perfect day, our hopes were skyrocketing. The Tiger usually comes out for a good long stroll, once he’s been cooped up during the monsoon. The sharp alarm calls by the deers were enough proof that he was close. There was chatter amongst the treetop birds and Langoors, warning everyone on the rugged tracks that the beast is looking right at us. The pugs, which I first picked up in the slush of the footpath, were certainly impressive; if the rest of the Tiger was in proportion to these, he must be one of the best specimens I had seen till date. The type from the chirps and resounding calls would have been justified.
My luck was turning around fast. Walking on dead leaves and crunching steadily closer to our jeep, he now seemed only a few yards away. I then hear him move, as he starts to pad forward with more caution. This tall and beefy looking sub-adult, 2.5 years of sheer awesomeness, The Darrah Male, was standing in front of me. He was looking straight at me, sniffing me curiously. 120 electric seconds pass, and I feel his stare and sniff digging deeper, for something was new to him. I could have been an unusual jungle scenery, or it could have been the months of monsoon; he wasn’t used to seeing safari jeeps and big lenses around. When the Tiger had gazed for several minutes, he turned away calmly and passed from in front, walking like he owns the trail. He practically does, it is his jungle, his home, his humble abode.
He continued a slow, steady pace as he walked away. The crunching from his pads suddenly died. The Tiger had stopped abruptly. Our only question was where and when is he going to come out again. The deer alarm call followed him till a distance to ensure that he was well out of sight, and the Jungle orchestra which had touched the high octaves had come back to normal.
Such is the experience at Bandhavgarh National Park, one of the few remaining havens for the pride of Indian Wildlife – the Royal Bengal Tiger.