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Monday, December 9, 2013

Tigress on the hill

In the Kisli Range at Kanha National Park in MP there are two hills famous for tigers. Dig Dola and Sal Ghat the latter is named after numerous Sal trees present along with associates and bamboo. Dig Dola is named after a rock balancing on another.  This mountain has more of bamboo but practically the topography is the same. 

Some water bodies intersperse these mountains and the dense canopy in the valleys provide ideal cover to the tigers. The dense canopy also makes tiger sighting difficult although these areas are dominated by big males. Sub adult males sired by the dominant tiger and few tigresses some with cubs inhabit these mountains. 

The climb uphill is a rugged jungle path which twists and turns precariously along the edge. The "S" turns make the road ahead almost invisible and you can be surprised by a big cat if not careful. Leopards also inhabit the area but they are very shy and rarely seen. 

The tree line begins right where the road edges and some patches of small grass are often encountered. The dominant tigers are often encountered on the road. Munna the present male is often seen here by people on  tiger safari. This tiger maintains a large territory in the Kisli Range which keeps on changing. The tigresses are shy and rarely seen. 

We missed a tigress on Sal Ghat as she refused to come out of the bush. We heard her calling as I have mentioned in my earlier blogs. This is the tigress I wished to see and one fine day the wish came true. We where climbing uphill from the Saunf Meadow on Dig Dola Mountain trek whence we came across a group of jeeps at the Siliari Tank. 

"There is a constant ring of alarm cries,'' the guide on other vehicle informs me. We decide to wait but in futility since the tiger was deep inside the grass near the tank.           

"Move on." I goad the driver. "Lets move"

I surmise that the tiger is too deep and disturbed to come out hence it is futile to wait. The tempting thought of empty road downhill is the second incentive to keep driving. And as luck would have it a couple of kms  and we see a tigress coming straight at us. 

This is the Dig Dola tigress that we missed so often. She is shy and nervous and strangely does not vanish into the forests.  A large cat she appears to be pregnant? "Surprisingly big for a tigress," I inform the guide and he too confirms that she is pregnant by the bulge in the belly. 

The tigress keeps coming towards us and warns whence we are too close due to steep incline. A terrifying grimace, but then eases down as sufficient distance is maintained. We maintain a distance of twenty meters and my guests from Slovenia have time of their life photographing the big cat. The tigers have markings that differ and this female has thin stripes on white brows.

After giving long moments of filming the tigress vanishes into the jungle. One last look and we move on to our luxury hotel in Kanha for a comforting accommodation. The tiger safaris are tiring mind you,
Tiger at Kanha By Uday Patel
the jeep ride can be excruciating at times.

The guests are extremely happy having got amazing pictures of the big cat in Kanha. The evenings are spent over drinks and bonfire both helping us to contain our joy and the bitter cold.               
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