Well, Safari in India.
Obvious step, if you are looking for a wildlife Tiger sighting.
As the sub-continent is home of 57 Tiger reserves the trip has to be well thought out.
Quickly we find with “Wild World India” a renowned tour operator.
They finalize a nice trip for us:
arrival in Delhi and overnight
3 days Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra (6 drives)
3 days Kanha Nationalpark in Madya Pradesh (5 drives)
finally 3 days Bandavgarh Tiger Reserve also in Madya Pradesh (5 drives)
First Indian surprise: we were only allowed to change € 75 cash per passport and week into Rupies.
Okay, we´ll have to find ATMs then on route.
After arrival in Delhi we were picked at the airport by Abhishek, a representative of WWI.
He again explains the itinerary to us, while we check in our airport hotel for the first night.
The night is short, at 5.25 our flight to Nagpur will leave Delhi, so it´s wake-up time 3.30, a foretaste for the safari times.
Second Indian surprise: on the airport they take all of Claudia´s lighters due to security reasons.
This starts great.
In Nagpur we meet our guide Rajan Jhariya, who will be with us the whole trip. He´s normally Naturalist in Kanha NP, but he´s often booked by WWI for overland Safaris. It´s good, that he´s our guide.
His first task: get a lighter for Claudia!
At lunch time we arrive in Tadoba.
Our Lodge is the Svasara Jungle Lodge.
The state of Maharashtra does not allow the sale of alcohol. We knew that in advance, we took precautions:
2 small 100 ml drink boxes of wine for each night.
In the afternoon we go on our first Indian safari.
We find out quickly, that they are different to the kind of African safaris we were used to.
The used vehicles are little Jeeps, they call “Gipsy”. They are comparable with Suzuki Vitara, we know in Germany. Just no roof and 3 rows (with the driver’s row).
It is a very tight business, not really comfy.
Our driver in Tadoba is Raju, a small man, who, like we will find out, tends to erupt like a volcano on occasions. None the less, he´s a very nice guy.
Safari times here are:
6 – 11 in the morning
14 – 18 in the afternoon, not a lot time to relax in between
At the entrance of the Park we get assigned to another National Park guide. Now we are five in the small vehicle, which is not that as bad as it sounds as the driver and the guide are in the driver’s row and Rajan is taking care of us.
Before we left home, we discussed how many Tigers we might get to see. I interposed a sporty 10 Tigers, while Claudia betted on 3.
After a few minutes we find out how a safari works in India.
In Africa you mainly use your visuals to find animals, be it with binoculars or tracks on the ground.
Due to the dense forests in India this is much more challenging here and there are not so many wide open spaces. Besides looking for tracks you mainly listen to sounds: alarm calls of deer and monkeys. If the guides here these sounds they follow the source as good as possible.
We have spent hours on this trip just standing still listening to the sounds of nature.
After a while, we were able to recognize these calls and could match them to the animal.
From time to time we were wrong as it was just a mating call of an animal.
Or do I confuse something and we were from time to time right?
The next method to find the animal are the other guides. There is a lot of stopping and discussing with others about what they have seen or heard.
There are not many roads in Tadoba, only 20 % of the Park is open for tourists (like in all Indian parks). In relation there to there are about 60 cars allowed in the Park, then you get to see others quite often.
While we are driving, stopping and listening we see the first Indian wildlife:
Chittal Deer, Langur
Gipsy road block.
There must be something interesting.
There she lies in the distance: a Tigress well known under the name of Maya.
She´s taking a nap.
Rajan and Raju are not agreeing with each other where she will go, when she gets up.
Rajan wants to stay but the Volcano is impatient and wants to use another place. So we drive around the “block” and end up at the end of the line of Gipsys.
Too stupid that Maya decides to cross the road at exactly the place we were before.
Maya is bugged by all the vehicles and loud lamenting people and decides to disappear in the forest, which is at Tadoba for 70% bamboo.
That´s the kick-off for an Indian rally. All rev up there engines and drive.
Where has she gone?
After approx. 500m we turn left up the hill.
We reach an open area and all of a sudden: there she is. How did she get up that hill so fast?
3rd Indian surprise: Tigers are no Lions (really?).
Compared to their African cousins they are highly mobile. They really cover ground, even during the day. Rajan explains, that females cover about 20km, the males about 25 km the day.
In the Indian jungle, there is always something to do, it seems.
Maya(or T12) marks her territory and disappears again.
It´s getting late now and we have slowly to get out of the Park,
On our way down the hill:
Precautionally I ask Rajan, if that is Maya again. No, no, this is now another Tigress.
Her name is Choti Tara (or T7, as they numbered all Tigers for good reason, otherwise you could get confused).
Focussed she marches up the hill, just were we left Maya.
Tigers are very territorial predators, they defend their territory to the bitter end if necessary.
We should really drive to the exit as the clock is ticking, but Rajan wants to see if something´s happening between the 2 cats.
All others are already on their way but we take the opposite direction.
And then they come walking side by side, you can really feel the tension between the rivals.
They take a loop over the open area and finally disappear.
Now it´s time for us.
We speed to the exit.
As we are the last car, we eat the dust of the others, but that was well worth it.
Back in the lodge I show the employees the pictures of the 2 cats together and they are very excited.
Seems that no one before has photographed them together, whatever it´s worth for.
The evening in the beautiful Svasara Lodge ends quickly.
We are happy and to mark the occasion we enjoy 2 packs of wine each!