May 27th - Afternoon Safari
Well, I am trying to remember the sequence of events from the afternoon of the 27th to the 30th but my brain just wont cooperate. I will have to start looking at the time stamps from the photos and try and patch together what happened.
We had another shot at the Tala zone on the afternoon and this time we decided to take a different route in the hope of seeing the Kankatti tigress and her cubs. The tigress named Kankatti by the locals go her name, after a fight with another tigress left her with almost no vision in her left eye. Her last litter of cubs had grown past 1 year before being killed by a rival male tiger who hoped to propagate his genes.
Nevertheless, Kankatti has apparently given birth to a litter of 3 cubs who were about 203 months old according to the local guide. We were hoping for lady luck to be by our side as she had made a kill (or probably a bait was kept for her given her disabilities?) a few days back and most of the groups who had taken this route on earlier safaris had their share of luck in spotting her with the cubs.
We decided to stop at the location she was last seen and not take other detours like the other groups did. It was just a game of wait and watch for us. The afternoon sun was pretty merciless and the only sights I had for the first hour were of spotted deer feeding in the open meadows behind us.
I had just about given up hope of seeing anything when my friend Vallish, spotted the tigress descending from the woods to the thick grassland to the left of our jeep but a fair distance away (probably 150-200 meters). The next several minutes, are etched in my memory as she settled down in the grass and made a series of calls to her cubs. Through the 100-400 mm lens I could see the three little cubs make their way out from the thick cover of elephant grass to their mother. As a nature lover these are literally the sights you'd do anything to see and experience!
The tigress gently rolled on her back and began feeding the cubs and although I would not have close up photographs of the event to show, the experience was well and truly a magical one for me. The magic lasted for about 5 mins post which, she led her cubs back into the cover of the elephant grass and that was to be the last sighting I would have of her and the cubs during the trip. I cannot wait to get back to see the cubs next year!
Perhaps the only regret I had was not carrying my video camera with me. Lesson learned though!
We did not see much for the rest of the evening but I the sight I had witnessed was enough for me!
Photos: Kankatti and her cubs
Lens: Canon EF 100-400 USM IS
May 28th - Morning Safari
We found ourselves at the Tala gate once again at the crack of dawn on the 28th. We decided to take the same route as we did the previous evening in the hopes of seeing Kankatti and her cubs, hoping for a closer look this time. We rushed to the spot we saw her the last time around and waited for 10-15 mins when the driver received a call informing him about a sighting of a large male tiger in another part of the park. We decided to try our luck and were soon rushing to the spot which was a good 10 kms away from our present location.
The prospect of seeing a male tiger was excitement enough for me and when we reached the spot a good 20 mins later, we found several jeeps on the main road with camera shutters clicking away at a patch of grassland to the left of us. We drew up closer to the group and were blessed with the sight of the Bumera male, possibly the largest male in the park, sitting on the grass, relaxing after what appeared to be a big meal!
Sightings of Bumera were hugely popular with a lot of folks, I was told and there were photographers and film makers who who came to Bandhavgarh only to photograph him and no one else! Vallish did not like him too much as he was a "lazy" tiger who preferred to patrol the fringes of the park close to the outlying villages, in the hope of landing a easy kill in the form of a cow or a buffalo. He wasn't a real tiger in Vallish's books!
He was also responsible for chasing away the mighty B-2 male (Charger and Sita's cubs) from his territory when he was in his prime. B-2 I gathered was Vallish's favorite tiger and this only made Bamera the villain in Vallish's books!
There were several park officials barking orders at the jeeps to go back after 5 mins and I did not understand the reason behind this. Three hundred rupee notes were passed on to the official and this meant we could linger on for however long we wanted. The magic of money works even in the deepest of jungles I wondered.
I took several shots of the big guy but could only get his face as his body was camouflaged in the grass. He finally got up several minutes later and I was able to get some full shots of him. He was certainly a pretty "fat" cat! He walked up to a bamboo thicket and made himself comfortable for the next 10-15 mins before more jeeps came into the area and the noise was annoying enough for him to finally get up and move across to the other side of the road. He almost brushed our jeep in the process and I could feel the hair in my arms just shoot up at the sight of seeing fully gown male tiger walk past you with nothing protecting you! Just 4-5 feet of space..that's all!
We saw a couple of barking deer on the way back out.
Photos: Bumera Male
Lens: Canon EF 100-400 USM IS
....to be continued!