Tadoba Andhari National Park had well-tarred roads where we moved in our jeep while one side of the forest had slightly caught on fire.
The temperature soared at about 40 degrees, even if it was the beginning of March.
The smoke from the forest fire drove out the langur, sambar deer, and some spotted deers. "Will the tiger come now ?"
Our very first safari and I had already asked this for the tenth time to our guide.
I had high hopes on Tadoba as many people have talked about a sure sighting of Tiger here. "Madamji, once a tiger chased a biker on the road because he came in between the mother and cubs, and she got so angry!
So, if you are lucky enough, you can spot it on the road near the gate itself, or it may not show up at all.
Let us see your luck!" Luck!!
I wouldn't say I like that word.
The Sambar deer ensured her fawns waited till the jeeps passed by and then crossed the road.
We were on the lookout for Sonam and Madhuri with their respective cubs. The cubs were around 8 to 9 months old, but still, cubs of this age will be with their mother, and hence it will be a delight to watch.
"Wagdoh is the biggest male in India!
However big he is, he is the best father one can have..",
there was an obvious pride seen in the face of the guide when he said so.
"Tiger and best father, how is that?"
"Well, he is one Tiger who will not just mate but come back spend time with kids even if the kids are from multiple mothers!
Never shows any partiality between his children from different mothers."
I stopped to figure out the logic, but well, a good father is all that matters.
"Possible to see Wagdoh?" my mind had only one question, when will I get to see the Tiger?
"Wagdoh has now moved to buffer zone. He has become old, so he gave up his territory and went off to buffer. Tigers keep changing their territory."
We stopped by a lake to find a crocodile basking in the sun. And then suddenly came the barking of the deer. Deer alert other deer of tiger or leopard movement by barking.
"It is barking, and deer are barking!"
I looked excitedly at the guide, who didn't seem any interested. "It is mating call madam, not alert call!" Sigh... I sat down in the jeep. The deer kept looking for a mate for a long time. As the sun was going down, my heart sank that there was no tiger sighting in the first safari...
We decided to come around Telia lake as one last round before leaving. Nope, nothing to be seen. When we passed the lake and went to a clearing, there they were, so many jeeps all lined up waiting for Sonam and her cubs. They had spotted the Tiger moving!
The beauty of Tadoba is there are plenty of plains that you can spot Tiger. And there came Sonam walking cautiously. She was miles away, but we could very well see her.
She turned around and then came out two playful cubs. They kept playing around that I couldn't even take a clear pic of the three in my point-and-shoot camera.
After a good ten minutes of the show, they decided to hide in the bushes. I was still not content and was greedy. "Bhaiya, can the tiger come near our jeep?"
I asked with puppy eyes, and the guide turned back with a sarcastic look, "I'll ask the tiger to come by the jeep tomorrow morning, madam!"
The next day safari was through the buffer zone! And this time, we were looking for Maya and Sharmili and their respective cubs.
Isn't this awesome!
Tadoba is flourishing with tigers and cubs... Maya's cubs were even smaller, and I wanted to see them run along with their mommy. The buffer zone was the best.
Thick bamboo trees leaning on the way, bushes and trees and branches bending down to say hello to your face (watch out for them) give the natural forest feel.
And if at all we spot the Tiger here, it has to come directly on your way, out of the thick jungle. Otherwise, it is pretty tricky to spot. The deer was still on the lookout formate. The jungle fowl was constantly irritating us. Occasionally peacock decided to chime in. Since it was the mating season, peacocks still had their long feathers, and watching them flying from one branch to another is such a splendid sight!
A wild dog crossed by and then a Mercedes Benz! To spot Benz inside Tadoba was a sight; private vehicles are allowed, and guess what? Wagdoh gave darshan to Benz waalon. Poor people like us on jeep just kept waiting and waiting, and Wagdoh did not come out for a drink.
Spotting All The Tigers At Tadoba
We were back in the core zone hunting for the Second look of Sonam and to spot Madhuri. Choti Tara was spotted in the morning, and we decided to spot others as well. It is one of the tigers which is collared, and its activities are monitored. Our guide took our jeep straight to a pond and stopped there, hoping Madhuri would come for a drink. Soon other jeeps joined; someone had spotted leopard.
An old Gaur walked in slow motion, reached the pond, and had its drink. The birds did their job of pecking the Gaur. Poor deer had stopped barking and now had interlocked their antlers and were fighting crazily while the female didn't even bother and was grazing peacefully. More than an hour passed, a lot of jeeps added in. Boars came in for a drink, and then langurs came in. And then there were hoards of flies which were appointed specially to irritate us.
Whether they couldn't differentiate between the Gaur and us was the topic of debate. The sudden uproar and all of us were standing on top of the jeep seat. There she was, one of Madhuri's cub had come down to cool herself. She drank, settled in, and looked at us as if she watched jokers putting up a show for her. After a good 15 min, she got up, struck a pose, and moved up. "Bhaiya, will the tiger come near our jeep?" I once again put up my puppy face.
"You na, you should have come during the time of Pasha! He would have come directly to your jeep!" said the guide. "Oh, where is he now?", on our fourth safari, I had settled down with no expectation cos buffer zone is a little difficult to spot. "Pasha has this attraction to white color jeeps. Every other Tiger, we need to wait to spot it... But with Pasha, he will spot you and come towards you.
Once a tourist got so afraid of Pasha that they cancelled all their other safaris and went home! Now he has moved to different territory, and it has been long since we saw him!" Oh! Why oh why! Why can't Pasha or Wagdoh or Maya or Sharmili just come walking towards me.. Plzzzzzzz...
"Sharmili is named so because she is timid," the guide added as we stopped near a lake. Pink-legged stork spread out its wings to get it sun-dried. "Sshhh.. silently look there!" I looked past the tall, dry grasses to the other side of the shore of the pond, wondering if the Tiger had come for a drink. I took my binoculars when the driver exclaimed, "here, right here!"
I looked in closer vicinity, and there she was right there, just a few meters away, walking cautiously, looked up just for a moment, and then walked into the bushes. It was the moment!
The Tiger so close for just a minute that only we could see her, and other jeeps were not even able to spot her. And that, that made my entire trip! Beautiful Sharmili below...
As our jeep left the park and drove out of the gates, I looked back and wanted to spend much more time there. Maya and her cubs, Wagdoh, Choti Tara, Pasha; it was like you hear so much about someone you want to meet and greet them. "Bhaiya, there is still chance no, the tiger comes on this road also no sometimes!" I exclaimed, yup, greedy me! My friend nudged, and I sat back in the jeep. Well, see you next time Maya and Wagdoh.
Hopefully, we will get to see you on the next trip... Of course, there will be the next trip, what were you thinking?
Oh, btw that deer was still looking for a mate as we drove out, poor thing !!