It was a day in winter a friend of mine who is an avid wildlife enthusiast and a photographer asked me if I was interested in doing a wildlife tour with him to Kanha, one of the most beautiful Tiger National Parks in central India.
I, having spent some time in and around local birding habitat with my newly acquired DSLR and a suitable lens was eager to hop on this welcome opportunity and I immediately agreed for this adventure.
So, armed with all the resources to the hilt & filled with expectations of seeing a Tiger in the wild was unfolding as we made to the gates of the Kanha National Tiger Reserve. The December morning cold was biting and teeth clattering for me as I come from the latitude close to the equator and a temperate climate. But, the thrill of the unfolding events kept me warm inside my layered clothing.
At twilight we were seated in the open top gypsy and the gates of the forest opened. We slowly drove into the forest inhaling every ounce of the fresh oxygen and the mystique calm of the jungle with the chirping of the birds over took me and I was in a trance. I was asked to be vigilant on either side of the road because you could spot the tiger in any nook and corner, hidden in the bush or else graciously walking on your drive path.
Some time into the drive the early morning sunlight started to weave its magical moments combined with the cold and the misty forest environment. I witnessed one of the most beautiful torch-light effects of the sunlight shinning through the tall tropical trees creating a colloidal effect of the mist drifting through.
As we were driving and having a hawkish eye & sensitive ear to the surrounding we heard an Alarm call of the Spotted deer Indicating the presence of the predator somewhere in the surroundings. Tracking the call which went on for a while we zeroed in on a part of the forest near a water body expecting the tiger to come out for a drink.
We waited and stood calmly as we could, even controlling our sneezes and heavy breathing sounds…With the mist still hanging in the air hundred meters away from me we could see a movement on the periphery of the tank which is shrouded with thick bush and shrubs…few seconds later I could see the stripes strolling towards the water hole. My mouth went dry and eyes in disbelief took some time to register this tiger out there in all its splendour striding for a dip. I was armed with my DSLR to capture this wildlife moment for ever.
There she came dipped herself in the water hole sat for some 30 seconds and lifted up. I could get the images of a wall of water dripping from its underbelly as she walked backed to the bush again…
My eyes wide open from this drama and a grin from ear to ear, as I was checking the images, we took a chance to move ahead in the anticipated direction of the tiger movement…We stopped our vehicle a few hundred meters ahead of it s anticipated emergence… It’s really a chance, as she can come out from anywhere she wants; the forest belongs to her.
My fingers on the camera trigger, I was in rapt concentration I was looking back …and behold…It just emerged out from my left with its majestic cat-walk. The sun had climbed up a little and the play of light and shadows on the forest was magical.
From here on she walked behind us for more than 15 minutes in and out of the forest giving me ample opportunity to capture some great wildlife moments of my life. By this time her face was engraved in my memory with those penetrating eyes and the striking stripes. As she walked she left a dominant pug mark to say…she had walked this route and I was lucky to witness and photograph the moment.
The last we saw her was when she was distracted by a presence of a Barking Deer…she immediately veered off course with a leap and the rest was history.
There are days you go dry without a sighting…But, when it happens it’s a flood gate. So be ready mentally and armed with a cam to photograph the event to tell the story.
Last but not the least it is important to comply with the ethics of nature and to preserve it. It is easy to destroy but very difficult to make it over again.
This is one of my wildlife moments out of many such I have come across.