4 safaris, 8 cats! Kabini Wildlife Photography Tour has remained true to its name – The Leopard’s Lair – and has been offering so much more for wildlife enthusiasts.
On the first day of our Kabini Photo Tour in June, participants and Skippers gathered together by lunch time. After a session of introduction and briefing on the Tour by Skippers Phillip Ross and Harsha Narasimhamurthy, the participants were excited about exploring the forest and trying their luck with the big cats.
Based on his recent experience of leading a Personalised Tour in which the clients were able to see three tigers and a leopard, Skipper Harsha decided to venture into Zone B of the Kabini Forest where a lot of sightings were reported from. The safari vehicles kept moving on the 5 Km Road, expecting some stirring in the bushes or even a sudden sighting.
However, when they learned that another safari vehicle had seen a tiger near the Power Line, they left immediately, and a beautiful young female tiger was seen walking in the bushes, parallel to the road. She even stared out towards the vehicles before disappearing into the bushes. Although participants weren’t really able to make images of the tiger, they were thrilled to see the striped wonder on their very first safari.
What the group didn’t know at the time is the reappearance of the tigress after waiting for about 15 minutes! This time, she not only reappeared but also crossed the road, giving the group a great photography opportunity before she walked on towards Zone A.
On the way back from the 5 Km Road, the group was also able to photograph a lot of birds and a few elephants. The first evening safari was thus productive, and the happy participants were later ushered to a session on photography.
The next morning, although the weather in Kabini was cold, the participants were filled with the warmth of wildlife sighting anticipation. The safari vehicles decided to go to Zone A. Before entering the park, the Skippers wanted the participants to keep their cameras ready with the right settings, and to cajole them into doing so, they jovially mentioned how unfortunate it would be not to have the correct settings and the black leopard looms into their vision when they’re least expecting it!
And at the periphery of the forest, Phillip’s vehicle drove towards the KV Tank and Harsha’s vehicle towards the Tiger Tank. A few elephants and Indian roller birds were watched and photographed.
When Harsha didn’t hear from Phillip’s vehicle for a while, he made a guess that they would be somewhere between Balle and KV Tank where the phone reception is bad and that they might have had a sighting there. He wasted no time in taking the group of participants he was leading to the place and Phillip’s vehicle was seen at the venue, and much to the overwhelming surprise of everyone, there was indeed a black leopard on a tree!
While participants in Phillip’s vehicle got more than an hour’s time to watch and photograph the black phantom, the group in Harsha’s got more than 20 minutes. During the time, the leopard, which was initially sleeping on the tree, woke up and looked directly at the direction of its admirers, giving them a great time to photograph it.
Super-excited about the sighting of the Kabini black leopard, the participants returned to the lodge for breakfast followed by a session on photography.
All participants boarded one big vehicle for the third safari that evening and ventured into Zone A. The Skippers decided to go to KV Tank to try their luck again with the black leopard. A few other vehicles had also stopped there in the drizzle, waiting for the elusive black cat to show up but there was no movement.
They drove to Bisilwadi Tank where a huge herd of spotted deer stood enjoying the drizzle. And the forest, soaked in the monsoons, looked magically green and wet. While the lovely green shades were enchanting the onlookers, the vehicle came to a sudden halt! A beautiful young leopardess was almost ready to pounce on the spotted deer but changed her mind and walked back into the bushes! All in what seemed like the blink of an eye! It was a second later that the forest trembled in the warning calls of the spotted deer.
Somewhere between Barbolle and KV Junction, people in an approaching safari vehicle informed our group that they had seen a tiger at Tiger Tank. When our group went there, a female tiger was found sleeping on the tank bund. Guessing that she would be relaxing there for a while longer, the group left her there and went to explore the temple area.
They crossed the temple and saw a safari jeep parked ahead of them as they approached the temple tank, and they learned that a tiger had just disappeared into the jungle. Meanwhile, Harsha heard spotted deer alarm calls from a distance and decided to drive towards Sunkada Katte. They stopped the vehicle at regular intervals to listen to the alarm calls carefully and track the sounds.
A huge male leopard, handsome and bold, was seen walking right ahead of the safari vehicle and they had to carefully drive in reverse gear as the participants had a great time photographing the spotted charmer called ‘Torn Ears’. The Leopard’s Lair Tour continued to impress the wildlife enthusiasts and Torn Ears walked into the thickets of Kabini after a while, his elegance still keeping the group enchanted.
The group decided to go back to temple tank and when the drivers switched off the engines when they reached, the male tiger that had eluded the group earlier was seen! Although he is known to be shy and elusive as compared to the other big cats in Kabini, the group still managed to see and photograph him to their heart’s content.
The tiger even seemed to be comfortable and the group itself had to leave him behind. As if this wasn’t enough to make the group happy, they even got to see the female still sleeping at the Tiger Tank on their way back!
The group later met for a session on photography followed by a delicious dinner that night, recalling all their sightings of the cat with an unrelenting passion.
The last morning in Kabini began with a safari to Zone B. On the 5 Km Road, the group was able to photograph birds. While the safari vehicle led by Skipper Harsha was at one end of the road, the one led by Phillip was at the Kabini backwaters where they were the participants were photographing elephants and gaurs among other animals.
Harsha helped participants make some stunning images of an Indian roller perched on a beautiful tree branch with gorgeous green background of the forest. The group even saw a few ever-adorable Malabar giant squirrels.
Just when they thought that this was the perfect epilogue for the highly productive Kabini June Photo Tour, the group saw two tigers – siblings – on their way back! The two striped wonders were seen crossing the road near the Power Line. One of them even looked at them slyly from behind a blade of grass, and then they both disappeared into the forest!
The happy bunch returned to the resort, had breakfast and took a customary group picture to mark the end of a glorious wildlife Photography Tour at Kabini.
One day before the Kabini Photo Tour, Skipper Harsha Narasimhamurthy had taken two Toehold patrons to Kabini on a Personalised Vacation. The personalised tour began in Zone B. After exploring the forest for about an hour, Skipper saw a blob of orange behind a tree and asked the safari driver to stop the vehicle. They discovered that it was a sub-adult tiger, who had been napping, unnoticed by the safari vehicles that drove past him because of how well he had camouflaged himself in the thickets.
The Skipper and clients waited at the same place until the striped wonder woke up, had a fun time rolling on the green grass, before going back to sleep again.
When they learned that a tigress was seen further down the 5 Km Road, they drove there and found the beautiful tigress sitting on the bridge. She gave the group a lot of time for photography and later walked away from them and disappeared into the bushes.
While the other safari vehicles left, Skipper Harsha considered the tiger returning, which is why he advised that they drive a little further ahead and check for her presence. As anticipated, the tigress was found there, sitting on grass by the road – just a stone-throw away. The group made some beautiful portraits of the female and also some wide-angle shots.
They returned to the lodge and met for a session on photography. After delicious dinner, they called it a day.
The next morning, they left to Zone A anticipating the sighting of the black leopard and a tiger that was seen a day before at Double Salt Pit. They decided to drive towards KV Tank via Sunkadakatte main road, where they saw and made images of a gorgeous peacock perched on a tree in the golden morning light.
At KV Tank, as they waited, they heard a distant call of a langur and decided to go to KV View Line. The langurs then started calling frantically, and the group wondered if they could see the black leopard who was known to have been frequenting the place. After a while, an elegant leopardess walked out of the forest thickets and took a leap to cross the road before her admirers, vouching for the fact that the cats are shy and elusive. It was a delight to watch the spotted beauty in the fragile morning light against the green background as she disappeared.
Though the warning calls persisted, the group had to leave the forest as the safari time was ending. The happy group returned to the lodge, after watching the exotic wild beings in their natural habitat and making some stunning images of them.