3 months of monsoon flew past, whenever the parks close on 30th June, there is a lot of anguish among the Tiger lovers, they do no know if there loved Tigers will remain alive when the park reopens on 1st October. Even I had the same feelings when I did my last safari on 26th June 2006 in Bandhavgarh National Park.
I was eager to get back to Bandhavgarh. Reports came in from our naturalists, that the Big B2 had been spotted on 2nd October, also Bokha the other dominating male in the southern and western areas of the park had left behind his pug marks suggesting that he was still incharge of his territory. And the Tigresses with all their cubs were doing well as well. This was real good news. All the Tigers of Bandahvgarh intact. Great job done by the park authorities.
Some other news also filtered in, not so good one though . The Tigresses near Pator, had killed 2 men in the buffer zone, she was eventually tranquilized and is now housed in the Bhopal Zoo. Also another park Tigress, the Sidh Baba female has developed a liking for Tala Village, she spent a full day on 4th October full day behind Tiger Den Resort in Bandhavgarh. The area was cordoned off by the forest authorities to prevent any mishaps as the Tigeress was with her 2 one year old cubs. No harm done she went back. But subsequently she has visited the area twice. Good news or bad news, cannot say, Good news for sure that the park Tigers are doing well, and she in an effort to find her territory has started to move out of the park. Bad news can be a potential man-animal conflict.
Something we are not very unfamiliar to, this normally happens when the humans get close to the parks, Tiger knows no boundaries, they will move in search of food, and territory as they are very territorial in nature. It is time we realize that we humans should not get too close to their home.
Hence, I did not waste much of time, and positioned myself in Bandhavgarh on 6th October. Eagerness was written all over my face, and I entered the park a bit late with a couple of friends. We moved only about 2 kms inside the park and lo behold, the Chakradhara Tigeress had decided to give us Darshan. She was coming down from the small hillock and wanted to come over to the meadow. She was being followed by 2 out of her 4 cubs. She wanted to cross but lot of jeeps and vehicles around, and she was cautious. Sanjay my driver very meticulously positioned our Jeep right in front from where she was to cross. Raghu another of my naturalist, mentioned that we should stay where we are and dare not try to get any closer at all, as she might charge as she has her cubs close by. Listening to advise from Raghu our most experienced naturalist, Sanjay stayed put and waited. Chakradhara Tigeress made her intentions very clear, she did not want any obstruction en route, neither were we wanting to provide one. She growled, and emerged from the tall grass, anger written all over her face, an expression deeply imbedded in mind still, my 2 friends with handycams in their hands never expected a Tigress this close, and growling, they were lost seeing her, idea of shooting the same on the camera came only when she had passed a few metres.
Raghu was constantly whispering I my ears to see the male cub sitting at a close distance, but I ignored his calls, my focus was clearly on the Lady of the most beautiful meadow of Bandhavgarh, the Chakradhara Meadow. Only once she had passed I turned and saw this male of about 18 months, coolly sitting about 7-8 metres in the grass with his back towards us. It was time to get back to the camp as it was time for the park to close.
Next day morning we got route E, this is considered to be real good route, as you cross territory of 5 different Tigers. Happy to get the route we bean our journey again. The first territory was Sidha baba Tigress, no signs of her, then Chakradhara Tigress, no signs of her as well. But we spotted very fresh pugmarks of this Tigress along with her cubs. Then suddenly we came across pugmarks of B2, the big male, but no sign of him. Moved on and crossed the territory of Boka and big male, but no luck. Finally we were in the area of Jhurjhura Tigress and her 2 cubs. No luck. About to lose hope we were near the Rajbhera meadow in the southern area of the park. When suddenly we noticed on a bend the 2 cubs royally sitting right in front of us on the road. This was an awesoe sight. To males enjoying the early morning fresh air.
On noticing our Jeep they got up and moved on the side, and sat. The male cub was closer to us and the female cub slightly inside. We go busy clicking. The cubs were totally uninterested in us. While clicking the male cub I noticed that he has turned is head and was eagerly noticing something. I looked in front and I saw a herd of spotted deers crossing the road and heading in the direction of the cubs. Oh dear, was our expression, and we waited. The cubs were alert, and started crouching, this was my first occasion of seeing a crouching Tiger so close. Both of them got up and very carefully started to move forward. A very intense moment, our heart beat had picked up, only denizens who were cool were the Spotted Deers. The real meaning of the famous old adage “Ignorance is Bliss” finally descended on me.
The wind gave way, the Deers smelled the Tigers, and one of them let out an alarm call. This was a sign that they had noticed some predators in the proximity, hearing their call, even the common langurs started to call. Now this guaranteed that the Predators were moving. Normally Langurs call only when they see a Predator move, they do not call when the big cats are sleeping (they do not want to disturb them, as disturbing them is asking for trouble). The Spotted Deers stood their ground, and waiting to see some movement. These were young cubs, still learing the art of hunting, not an expert on this yet. The deers noticed the movement and they did not have any further patience to wait, they leaped and were out of ours as well as Tigers frame of sight, and mind. The Cubs returned to where they had started their journey, it was getting a bit sunny now. They wanted some cool shade for the day, so they moved interiors, we wanted some refill in our tummies so we returned back to the Tiger Den Resort after a successful sojourn with the Tigers of Bandhavgarh.