Spotting a tiger in the wild in India is quite challenging. Seriously.
Tigers need space. Infact, this animal on top of the food chain needs lots of it. And space(habitat) is really hard to come by thanks to widespread deforestation and forest encroachment.
There has been an impetus for protecting tiger population and conserving their habitat. Project Tiger, which was started in India in 1973, gave an estimate of 1411 tigers in the 2008 census and subsequently estimated an increase in population to 1600+ in 2010. I seriously think that this is a gross overestimation. I feel there are far fewer than 1600.
Wait a minute, this is an optimistic post! This post is about having seen them and having some faith restored. I can now proclaim to have seen at least 4 of them in the wild. This is by no means a trivial event for me. In fact seeing 4 of them on 1 day after having visited numerous national parks almost 10-11 times to get a glimpse. This day was a red-letter-day.
After having set off in a friend’s brand new car, we reached Nagarhole and started spotting the usual fauna. We were destined for Kabini, but there was some confusion with the bookings(cough.cough.. bullet bala) and we settled for Nagarhole (blessing in disguise No. 1) .We enquired with the forest office at Nagarhole and that was booked out as well.(blessing in disguise No. 2). We got out of the park and booked ourselves into this place.
We drove around the park and spotted quite a lot of wildlife on the way. We were greeted by an elephant charge. [ The tiger story is at the end, btw]
Followed by wild boar.
Deer at full gallop.
A few bison
A cat stalking birds 🙂
Macro’s are not my thing, but this one was too prominently out there and begged to be clicked with that vibrant green b/g
A herd of elephants frolicking
This was the usual stuff that everyone sees. We were there for the tigers. Expectations will nil. We set out on the last safari for the day. About 10 mins into the safari, we heard exclamations of a tiger spotting. We looked and saw a tiger, about 15 feet away, majestically seated under a bush. With the loud exclamations and the sound of the engine, it got up and slid away into the bushes. It took about 3-4 seconds to bring up my camera , 2-3 seconds to focus and by that time, it was gone. All I could manage is this picture. You can see just a little bit of the tiger. This is the only picture that anyone has of the sighting!
Content after our first tiger sighting in years, we moved on. Exactly after 3 minutes, we saw another tiger leaping across the safari track, leaping a few feet to high ground and disappearing. We were elated to say the least. The safari ended and we made a log registry entry of the tiger sighting at the forest office. We were lucky.
We had received a tip from the forest range officer that there is a temple about 20kms away and the road to reach it passes through the Kerala side of the forest range and a sighting is possible as the forest cover there was very thick. The thing about Kerala is that they don’t restrict vehicular movement in the night in the national park. Karnataka, on the contrary, does not permit vehicular traffic in Nagarhole between 6pm and 6am. Since we were there for sighting the tigers and since we had nothing else to do at 7pm and we were officially in Kerala, we drove in anticipation. Similar to the safari, about 15 mins into the drive, we saw a tiger and a bison engaged in a fight. The tiger sped with the light of the headlamps while the bison stood there looking in the direction in which the tiger sped away. We were elated. We all thought we should buy a lottery ticket and we would have won in that as well. We reached the temple (in the middle of nowhere with a couple of small eating shacks) , had dinner, and started back. It must have been around 10pm or so when we reached the intersection of the temple road and the road to the guest house. There was a fork in the road and the other side of the fork was a road down south to kerala. We set ourselves a time limit of 30 minutes to drive down that road before heading back. All this while , we were still in the kerala side of the forest range. As we drove along the fork, we spotted another tiger at around 10-20pm walking parallel to the road. This tiger kept walking parallel to the road for about 2-3 minutes. We were amazed. Our fourth sighting for the day! The last was the best. We had a good 2-3 minutes view of the tiger.
The whole experience was insane! On earlier trips, when the expectations were high, the experience was very forgettable! With zero expectations came the experience that will not be forgotten!
Date of sightings: 16th June 2012.