“Good Morning Sir, this is your wake up call”. It was 4.30am, my last safari of this visit to Kanha. After five blank safaris, a thought crossed should I just relax today as I have an evening flight to catch? But I put the mind over mattress and jumped out of the bed, and in some time was sitting in the Jeep. The focus of this entire visit was to see Kingfisher male, a huge dominating Tiger in Kanha National Park.
At the park gate I met a guide who said that last evening he had seen #pugmarks of a male #Tiger going from #Andh Kuan to #Gorella. I shared this with our guide today and moved towards the direction. Reached the Andh Kuan #Camp no signs of anything. Asked the guard at the camp if he had any information. He said, about half an hour back he had heard a Tiger calling. Excitement showed in the eyes of Naren our naturalist, and the steering turned towards #Bahimarra road.
We had gone only 10 meters when another vehicle ahead of us, signaled us to stop, we did, and within moments we see a huge #Tiger walking towards us on the track. Both the vehicles started to reverse. It was about 7am. With mist in the background, and some dust of the vehicle in front of us, the Tiger walked fast, confidently, and with a purpose. We started to reverse. His speed only got us to reverse faster.
I settled at a spot in the Jeep to take some shots. Tiger’s hurried walk gave me a lesson on how to be ever ready in a Jeep. The shots taken in this 100 meters walk, are so representative of what Kanha is about, mist, sal, meandering trails, and peace. I will preserve these for eternity. It was now that Naren said, “Sir this is Kingfisher male”, my euphoria knew no bounds. This was the male Tiger I was trying to track for almost 6 months and get some head on shots. Finally, the moment had arrived. Perseverance pays as they say, sure it does.
He continued to walk with determination towards his destination. Seemed as if in search of something. From his gait we could make out that his tummy was almost full, and he surely did not seem to be in a hunting mode. It was now that he looked towards something in the bush and began to stalk. He entered the bush. We were a tad disappointed that he was gone, but not convinced that he was gone for long. Deep down the intuition said that he will be back. The eyes were yearning for him even more now.
We stopped, and waited. This is the most crucial time in any sighting. At times a wait for a few extra seconds can deprive you from another sighting. Suddenly the #Sambar #deer gave an alarm call from a distance, our hearts grieved. As the call was from a distance hence we thought that the Tiger had crossed over from the other side, and it was all over for the morning.
After about 30 minutes of waiting the guide Preetam suggested let us go and take a round of the area just in case he has come out from the other side. Reluctantly we started, hoping that he had not crossed, but one portion of the mind said, what if he comes out again and we are not there. This situation arises frequently during a safari. We decided to go ahead and check on the other side. We saw some pugmarks, fortunately they were of a Leopard, and we concluded that the distant Sambar deer call was for the Leopard in the area. But it was not long for us to guess that the Tiger most likely had moved into the bush as he had sensed, or smelled the Leopard perhaps.
We finished the round and almost reached the spot from where the Tiger had entered the bush. Suddenly we hear a Sambar alarm call, we braked, he called again, and then, the Tiger called, “Aaaaoooomm”. The excitement, the spirit, the energy was all back in fraction of a moment. When we reached the spot, the Tiger had just come out of the bush, and walking in front of us.
The break of about 45 minutes or a bit more had slowed down the pace of his walk. And yet again, he did not want to leave the road, this time we were behind him. It was after almost 50 meters that he went to the side of the road to do his territorial marking, and that gave us an opportunity to move ahead of him. Now we were in front and he was behind us All was same except that the light was more now, it was about 8am, and the sun was behind Kingfisher.
By now, some more vehicles from the other zones had come, and they were behind us. He walked fearlessly. I left my camera and just looked into his eyes, and he into mine. There was unsaid truce, love, and affection exchanged. His eyes said, “Alright, I don’t mind your presence as you have been quiet, and tolerant.” The vehicles behind us were slow, which also slowed our movement, and the Tiger closed in the distance a bit too fast.
I was left with no option but to now take out a smaller lens, and started to take some images. We had reached a nullah, and my guide said, ‘Sir, ab yeh is puliya par latega”, Sir” he will now do a marking on this pipe”. How apt was that. The Tiger lied down on the pipe as if making love with the pipe. One of the most unique sights I have seen. He seemed to be in love with the pipe. The expressions were so innocent, as if saying that I have found something smooth and cool in this whole rugged Jungle.
Having done that, he moved into the bush and uphill. It was curtains on today’s show.
I write this article almost 50 hours after witnessing this magnificent male Tiger of Kanha. The hangover is far from over, and I see no withdrawal symptoms yet. All I can say after this episode is that of all the worldly, material, and sensory pleasure that I have experienced in this lifetime this one has lasted the longest, second only to the joyful experience of communion with the almighty.