Batch 2 participants of the Bandhavgarh Wildlife Photography Tour lived memorable experiences in the wild, and through the images they’ve made of special moments, we share with you this heartening story.
The first safari of the second batch commenced in a rather explosive way in Bandhavgarh. Driving past Kannauji, the group found Kankati and her cubs at the chital kill she had made the previous day, some 200 metres before Arariya. She had dragged the cadaver — a big ex-stag — across the road to the left now, merely about 20 metres off the track, and having cleaned up much of the deer’s throat, was hungrily working through its rib cage.
Three cubs sat to her right, and one away from view. Just as the group began wondering where T37 was, chital calls thundered from around Arariya, and a few vehicles answered it by driving to Tadoba and finding the top cat sitting in all his chubby splendour on the road!
After a few minutes of portraiture, he quit the spotlight and retreated to the bamboo on the left, where he could be seen in royal recumbence. Meanwhile they had stayed back to watch Kankati and her cubs, and were rewarded with a most absorbing treat.
One of the cubs was intent on having a bite or two, but with its direct advances meeting with strong disapproval from its mother, it devised an alternative strategy. At first, it rolled on its back, suggesting at once both subversion to maternal authority, as well casualness of purpose and general indolence. Such benigness of occupation thus established, it crawled — literally — towards the remains like a seal (very much replete with a ‘puppy face’).
Next, it began toying with the antlers, hence conveying an intent nothing more serious than play. By now the cub was practically under Kankati’s nose, which made her bare her teeth at the cub’s cheek, but the cub took that as a cue to stop creeping and start eating, “like good children do”! Shortly, Kankati left the table, and the cub took over with a vengeance, tucking into the kill in right earnest, and pretty well tugging and pulling at it! After feeding for a handsome bit, it joined its mother and others in the bamboo.
The enchanted watchers left, hoping to catch the tigers later at Tadoba, and upon reaching Pateeha, learned of calls at the Bhool Bhulaiya junction. Waiting a while bore no fruit so they proceeded to check Sukha Talab but upon their return learned that Dotty had just crossed to the Salendha side.
Soon chital and langur went off in a frenzy, and the group fully hoped that she’d cross over to the caves until calls from Bhool Bhulaiya prompted them to back up, where the freshest pugmarks of the young lady evidenced her unseen exit from the scene that was until now hot with anticipation.
They waited a bit at the Talab to intercept a possibly, but not probably, early visit, but predictably, she did not grant it. So they breakfasted at Bagh Naka and drove back to Tadoba to find T37, Kankati and all the three cubs at the water!
The mother and the cubs had walked from the kill at around a half past seven, and T37 had crossed back from his bamboo retreat to reunite with them. Soon, he rose and eased his rear self into the water to keep his enormous form at non-dizzying mercury levels. Shortly before they left, one of the cubs moved out of the water while the other four remained.
In the evening the group went right back to coincide with one of the cubs returning to take a quick drink, and disappearing to the right of the fire line. They carried on to ‘join the dots’ but the tigress didn’t appear at Sukha Talab to the very end.
Instead, clouds formed, and a great breeze came, shaking up the leaves of the tall sals and the bamboo, and made such a terrific swish that at once it seemed as though it was raining invisibly, and that the only reason they couldn’t feel the water was that it evaporated in the heat before it could touch them. On the way back they were rewarded with the sight of what they surmised, albeit not verified, to be one of the Mahaman female’s male cubs, close to Bhadrashila!
A Morning of High ‘T’!
That morning they ventured to Tala for some hot T! Snaking through the paths of bliss they reached Mirchahni fire line with no sign of the desired variety of stripes, but as they turned into the Patpar road, a stroke of luck hit home, as Spotty and all the three cubs crossed before them in broadside glory, and confirming their gender configuration as all female!
The group stayed at it in Andhiyari, and surely enough, all four crossed again to the Mirchahni hill, starting with the mother, at 40-minute intervals! The first cub followed her mother’s footsteps nearly to the T (sorry about the irresistible pun!), and chased a jungle fowl while calling out to locate her mother, the second took the Jhiriya, and the third crossed behind, ultimately converging with the rest of the family that gave them on this day infinite joy. They finished off the spectacular morning with a visit to Shesh Shaiya and drank from the headwaters of Charanganga to round off a great safari.
In the evening, as the group basked in the warmth of evening while traversing the winding paths, the anticipation remained as earnest as ever to see the big cats again. And just as they were crossing back in the golden light, they saw two tiger cubs sitting among the trees as it was very cool in the shade compared to the rocky terrain around. Although the participants couldn’t photograph them, watching them wasn’t less of a joy, and they retired for the day from the jungle.
The next morning, the group visited the Tala zone. Spotty was found at Damnar, sitting in the dry part of the nallah in all her royal glory. This allowed the group some time to photograph her into memorable frames. A while later, she got up and began to cross. As she reached the middle of the road, she encountered a forest guard on a bicycle. She just stood there, her majesty, as dauntingly surreal as a tigress can be, and the guard slowly began to backtrack and went away.
The group watched this drama with nail-biting, heart-thumping respect and love for the big cat, and then moved on to find Spotty’s cub at a junction. Yawning and relaxing without a care in the world, the cub got up, walked towards the bushes and vanished.
But the group remained there, waiting for her to emerge again and emerge she did. She began to cross the same meadow back on the same road, and even posed while doing so! She went and sat at a puddle by the stream at the edge of the meadow. Spotty was still at Damnar, but the other cubs were found relaxing on the bed of rocks as though they were their thrones!
After a fulfilling morning safari, the group ventured into the depths of the National Park in the evening. This was to be their last venture for the Photo Tour in the Tala zone. Spotty was known to be at Damnar. The previous generation tigers were also known to inhabit the same parts of the rocky terrain of the forest.
In the buttery background of the forest, watching tigers with binoculars and photographing them can be an emotional affair. And that evening, the group found that two cubs had crossed from where the rocks were. With bated breath, they waited as the time ticked by, making them anxious in their waiting for something ecstatic to unravel.
Late in the evening, one of the cubs got up, walked a little further, right to the middle of the beautiful green meadow and seated herself there. From their prime position, the group watched the third cub from the rocks walking towards the meadow to join her siblings.
To the unexpected amazement of the group, the second cub suddenly seemed to stalk something and when they watched excitedly, they noticed that the little striped beauty was after a dove!
And then the cubs began to play around with each another, hugging and making the sister-bonding strong. The first cub that was a little far away also joined in, making the last safari in Tala the best one. But, that wasn’t the end of overwhelming joy in the wilderness of Bandhavgarh!
As the group was going back, like a breathtaking bonus, T42, aka ‘Solo’ (who was rumoured to have given birth) was found walking on Alu Banda Road! She had been walking on the road as they arrived on the scene, there were a couple of vehicles already watching and photographing her. Shortly she sat down and posed like she was the crowning jewel of the forest. Her swollen tits confirmed her motherhood, and after a while, she began to walk away like a dream becoming beautifully hazy. The evening couldn’t end any better.
On the last morning safari of the Bandhavgarh Tour, after checking Tadoba, one of the vehicles in the group went to Pateeha and then to Sukha Talab. But there was no sighting. When they took the road back to Sukha Talab to go towards the Pateeha Camp, they heard alarm calls at the Basahakhol junction, but no majestic creature of the wild turned up.
They came back to Sukha Talab and met the other group in the other safari vehicle. They went back to Tadoba and the second vehicle went to Pateeha Camp, and just as they went past the Basahakhol junction, they hit pay-dirt: the Pateeha female was walking square on the road! She sat down for a few precious moments before disappearing into the forest.
In the evening, the group saw two of Kankati’s cubs drinking at Tadoba, looking like adorable bundles of joy. With many a heartening, delightful sighting and photograph forming some everlasting memories for the lovers of the wild and wild beings, the Photo Tour saw a happy and content ending.
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