There is a lot of anxiety in the heart and minds of safari lovers about what could have transpired in the national parks when they were closed for monsoons. I addressed this query and booked my self to do a Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh in October 2017. The zones were pre-booked, and the camera gear ready. I reach Bandhavgarh early morning of 6th October after a drive through the night from Kanha. Usually, I do not drive in the night, but a desire to maximise my safaris led me to it. I did my evening safari on 5th Oct in Kanha and drive direct to Bandhavgarh after that, stopping for dinner en-route at Mandla.
My 6th-morning safari was in Tala zone. Though the forest is pretty right through the year, but after the monsoon when the soil is still settled on the tracks and not flying onto the trees. And when the trees have drunk a lot of water right up to the crown the look of the forest is very healthy and reverberating. The trunk, the branches, and the leaves all have a satiated and a happy look. They are ready to give their best to the herbivores for the next few months.
I entered the forest with my all-time favourite Raghu. In one line I would describe Raghu as a man with a sixth sense to track Tigers. His cool demeanour is soothing, and light sense of humour keeps you entertained. The jungle knowledge of flora and fauna is engrained in his cells.
Safari in Tala zone – Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh
We entered the Tala zone on 6th October in the morning. In about half an hour we started following the pug marks of a couple of Tigers. Yes, the pug marks were of two cubs and the mother. Raghu said this has to be the Rajbhera Tigress as we are in her area. It was a wait of just about 10 minutes before we got the sight of the first female cub. She was in the bush on our right and decided to go and meet her brother who was on the opposite side.
It is interesting to note that the sub-adult animals are cautious while crossing the tracks, especially when the safari vehicles are around. And rightly so. This was a sub-adult cub and just before crossing gave an expression which people might see as an unhappy Tiger, but it is a sign that you stay put, I am crossing the road. We obeyed, and out she came.
She soon met her brother, they played around for a while. One of them climbed a tree, and stay put there for a while. A perfect opening safari is what i would call it after the monsoon break. Got back to the hotel rooms, and like always went through the images I had got especially with the cautionary expression captured in the image above. Happiness to the brim.
Safari in Magdhi zone – Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh
When the beginning of a safari is so good, the expectations rise quite a bit. Our afternoon safari was in the Magdhi zone. This is the zone that one enters and heads directly to the water saucer. The weather was overcast, and I was hoping it does not rain. Though I was equipped in case of the downpour. We reached the Tadoba saucer, and not to my surprise we saw two cubs playing in the water. Delighted I picked my camera and was about to start shooting when it started to rain heavily. While I continued shooting, Raghu, our guide, and the driver got busy in covering me. I was not letting go of even a single frame of the two cubs playing. Such occasions happen rarely so no ways I was going to miss a frame.
The playing cubs – Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh
These were the cubs of Jr. Kankati. The third one was sitting in the bush, and waiting for the mother to come. He was not interested in playing.
The rain did not stop, neither did the cubs, but I had to as it was about two hours that we had been there and it was time to come out of the park. With a heavy heart started from there. Took a small video of the last cub we saw.
Came out of the safari absolutely thrilled. Did few more Bandhavgarh Safari, and then got back home. It was here that real sad news came in.
The mother, Jr. Kankati is no more
Yes, this was heartbreaking totally when I heard that the department had found some remains of a Tiger. The reasons for death unknown, forensic investigation is under process but the cubs have lost their mother. What future beholds for cubs is uncertain. But the department has put them in an enlarged enclosure, and that seems to be the only viable option for them.
Wondering about the ways of the wild as it was within 2-3 days that a new Tigress, named Solo came across and captured the area of Jr. Kankati. Nature takes over, nature does not stop, nature never fails, we do. My Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh in October 2017 had come to an end.
Best wishes to you on your next Safari in India.
– Sharad Kumar Vats