Wild encounters

Wild encounters

A monkey call is a sure shot signal that a tiger is around, our guide informed us.

Scoring a perfect 10 at tiger sightings in the wild is no mean achievement. Mother Nature has showered her bounty on us whenever we have ventured into her lap at the various wildlife sanctuaries across India. 

Our very first trip to Corbett saw us waiting with bated breath on a dirt track as a monkey sat shrieking on a tree nearby. A monkey call is a sure shot signal that a tiger is around, our guide informed us. Soon, the magnificent creature sauntered down a hillock close by. The svelte feline stood in our path looking straight at us, his fiery orange coat glistening in the morning sun. It simply took our breath away.

We mounted the elephants to head into the thick outgrowth at Kanha. An ageing male sat with a kill while a young tigress waited close by for the patriarch to finish his meal so that she could feed herself and her cubs with the remains.

Next at Ranthambhor, two almost grown-up cubs sat frolicking in a stream nearby. We watched the brother-sister duo mesmerised for almost half an hour before they got bored of us and disappeared into the thicket.

The guide at Bandipur made us wait as he had some “more important” work to do. It was getting dark and we had lost all hope of spotting even a jungle fowl, leave alone the elusive cat. An hour of fruitless roaming around and we were heading towards our rooms, when the driver screeched to an abrupt halt. He had seen something! He reversed the vehicle and flashed the headlights on a young female in the bushes nearby, who sat down posing for us.

Back at Ranthambhor again, Sultan, a male, walked nonchalantly alongside our jeep. At another venue, two small cubs were playing near their mother, Noor. The frisky little ones engaged in mock fights, drawing loud gasps from the onlookers. Leaving the two hidden in the tall grass, the matriarch moved away.

As our guide strategically placed the jeep, Noor crossed our path. She almost brushed past our jeep, looked us straight in the eye, marked a tree nearby with her urine and strolled away to the other side. It was incredible. These were scenes we had witnessed only in documentaries.

Spotting a big cat every time has become such a habit with my son, that he declared, “There are no lions in Gir. It’s just a myth created to promote tourism,” hurt at having failed to spot the king of the jungle at Gujarat’s national park.

Such encounters are like medallions of honour bestowed upon by nature on a wildlife enthusiast. A great escape from the humdrum of daily existence, I am always game for trying my luck by chance at such beautiful moments. That’s what my wildest dreams are made of.

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