We moved ahead and the forest was just amazing on an early morning at 5:00 AM. It was dark and the morning began by a brown large hare crossing our path, before we could even dish out our cameras. I don’t know like a black cat was it lucky or unlucky, but we moved ahead ! It was reaaly larger than what one can think of – around 1.5 ft in length without adding a feet long ears ! We moved further and as the day broke, that first scene is even yet fresh in our minds. The fog was just at 5 feet above the ground – it was a thing feet long layer, where you could see everything below the belt and above, a very rare scene and the pink sunlight breaking made it more picturesque adding the beautiful fragrance of the forest, differenciating it from the neighbor Bandhavgarh.
The same process of locating a tiger, by a call or pug marks began but nothing came our way till 8:00AM and then we knew its time to giveup for the morning as the big cat usually doesn’t roam around post the sun is up. The driver and guide were more disappointed than us, but that is what the difference between Kanha and BG is. In Kanha sighting a Tiger is a not as easy. The reason being the topography, the swaps, the long grass land which can easily camouflage the smart cat and more over the huge big jungle. But, on the otherside, it has so much to offer that we motiviated ourselves and moved ahead as the driver took us to a swapy area and there we saw the rare Barasinghas – not one but a group. It was a very different and beautiful animal, one can not even find anywhere else in the world.
We moved further to look closely the herd of Bisons and the driver asked us to click pictures fast and move fearing if they charged the vehicle. More than the tiger, these big animals could be dangerous for the Indian tourists, some of whom don’t even think twice before wearing some Govinda- Red or
Orange colored t-shirt and wearing some morethan required axe-effect (guess a tigress would go gaga over him ?) or eat some sandwich or paratha in the jungle and last but not the least cant stay silent without chatting loudly with co-passengers. God, a Bison should overturn one such tourist jeep, then some of the jokers would learn a lesson !
In our evening Safari, we yet searched for the Big cat. There were loud calls near a nullah (water stream like) . we waited there for an hour plus. There were other jeeps too. We saw the sambhars just in front of us shouting in a particular direction, which am sure was the Big cat, but there was no movement. The worst part was we heard a few roars, but seems the cat was sitting down and relaxing and would walk post it was dark. It was getting late and if we reach late at the gate their jeep permits and guide permits could get suspended for a week and these guys earn only in the 5-6 months when the tourists are around, that too when they get their names in turns. The monsoon months are to relax or alternate jobs. We decided to take a round nearby and comeback here, since if a tiger is there, it will not run or move that fast, we would spot it. Well, since we had read about the wild dogs or dholes as they locally say, we requested the guide to take us there and soon we approached a lake called Sravan Tal, where the chances of spotting a tiger is also easy especially in summers. We saw some deers and monkeys here, but little ahead, we hearing some running sound on the leaf and guess what some dogs – 4-5 of them were running. They were thin, reddish-brown and normal looking but strong. These were the wild-dogs, whom we followed for a while and then they vanished into the deep jungles. We then moved further and came across a cluster of jeeps looking at something, When we checked, we were told there are 2 sloth bears there. Everyone was showing us a black spot near a definite tree and we tried our best with the binoculars, 40x zoom handicams but could not see that black stuff moving. Post half an our – forty minutes wait we moved ahead on being satisfied at seeing the sloth bear which could be a stone too ! But the fact that there were honeybee womb near by and the bears like feeding upon honey and there were mahua trees which is the core diet of the fermented alcohol for the bears, the rest of guides were sure to have seen the bears here since a few days. Wish we could have seen it closer. We came back, but with bad luck for the second consecutive time. Guess, the hare shouldn’t have had crossed our path !!
The next morning and our last safari at Kanha – All our prayers made, we reached the gate. Checking around for some information from the forest guards about any movements, but no one would share anything. The RFO whom we told that it was our last safari and his jungle was so beautiful, but we would not want to go without the tiger sighting was kind enough to reveal that there is a possibility of a tigress near the swamps and his elephants have left early in the morning to track it. We directly, without wasting much time went towards the area where we could see the elephants. The Mahouts (rider) said, he saw some movements in the morning. The day broke and more jeeps came around. There were atleast 5-6 of them. Soon all of a sudden, we saw the elephants reacting and to our left was a mighty shiny tigress walking with all its pride, letting the elephants know to beware- she is here. The mahouts were right. And soon, the tigress went inside the grassland and sat. The elephant safari began and we with more excitement and cameras and handicams on boarded the elephant and moved close to the tiger and soon saw it just from a 4 feet distance – with equal excitement and equal fear, that if we fell or if the elephant got afraid and even sat down near the tiger, it was the last day of our life. We captured some amazing moments of a stuff-toy like tigress rolling on the ground, with absolutely surf-ultra white chest and stomach which we saw while she rolled. We were told, she just had her meal and hence is lazy. It was a great moment seeing here eye to eye and that too for minutes put together. Was not feeling like moving back, but this elephant safari also has a time line of a 3-5 minutes and we were back to the jeep. We tipped the mahout for all his efforts and courage.
As we moved ahead, we told the guide and the driver to take us to No. 7 ! The background behind number 7 was our information sought from the mahout (post tipping) on which one single place he recommends us to sight a tiger since it was our last day and he had said No. 7 tigress. Every tiger or tigresses are locally names after the area / territory they live in like Shravatal tiger ; living near the Shravantal or Siddh-baba tigress, spotted around the Siddh-baba temple area. Similarly, Saat Number or Number 7 was a tigress which had given birth to a few cubs a month back, so according to the mahout she would definitely be with her cubs and not too running or moving around, so we could chance seeing her. But the driver had a counter view that the same tigress in fear of her cubs getting hurt and being possessive had charged and chased a tourist jeep for half a kilometer and he would not want to risk it. We still persuaded him to take us there, but that bloody hare, we were yet unlucky this time too !
It was getting late and we had to reach back to the gate in time. I had seen almost all the animals in the wild till date, besides a leopard. Soon, as we were going out, there were very loud calls of deers and monkeys, maybe the loudest we had heard. It was sunny and the chances of a tiger walking was less, but who knows, there could be a tiger like me ! We stopped the engine and awaited. The calls were just coming from the front, 50 feet ahead of us and we could also spot deers looking towards a tree. Guess, what ? Thanks to Abhi’s binos and my 40x zoom handicam, we spotted the much awaited – Leopard. Though it was not very close, but it was a leopard, sitting beneath the tree and about to kill a prey, I guess. We were praying and wishing for the shiny yellow with black spotted cat to move closer, but on the contrary, the driver started the engine and asked us to quickly shoot pictures and he is about to zoom. The reason was that, unlike a lion or a tiger which would calmly and harmlessly walk a feet away from you, the leopard is one animal which could attack and kill humans and chase a jeep for long and at a 5x speed. We rushed away from the spot blessing the Hare which crossed our way to the first safari for such a pleasant sighting in the forest.