Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Dancing Queen of Kanha

Tigress Safari at Kanha National Park in India. 

We first noticed her pug marks on Link Number Nine mid way towards the Kanha Meadow. It was the guide who first heard the faint alarm cry of the langur near the Link Number Nine at Kanha National Park in India.  I was busy scoring the grassland in front of us. "Call from behind," the guide whispered.   "Move" I tell the driver. We move few paces to a spot at the junction from where we could see all the intersecting roads. 

Earlier, while passing through the meadow a small herd of doe and fawns had scurried across the road. There was trepidation sketched all over their countenance and their tails were erect . The driver paid no heed but the guide and me both old hands at Kanha did. We continued towards the Kanha Meadow and stopped to hear the alarm cries.  But still, there was suspicion lurking in my mind and I wanted to go back

"One alarm cry only" the other jeep driver told us. "Santosh move back!" I told our driver. "Yes Sir," the guide barked with excitement too. The driver was hesitant..."Move Back" I said in a commanding voice. We reached the spot and waited, many jeeps passed by us, one or two stopped and the rest did not believe us. 

The monkey warning call, our reverse movement, the emergence of the tiger from Link No.9 all happened with lightening speed.  "Tiger!" I shouted. In a split second Elizabeth turned around and clicked. I was stunned by her speed and alacrity. "Here have a look," she told me, "I got it."     

It was a dainty tigress but confusingly small. "Lovely lass" I whispered much to the chagrin of this beautiful lady. Unnh Uhoon! I could make out the meaning he! he!

We moved a short distance on road to Kanha Meadow and waited. By now some more jeeps had lined up in expectation.  We kept a significant gap in between from the jeep ahead. By chance the tigress emerged in front of our jeep and scurried across the road. She danced through the lazy bushes and vanished. Elizabeth from Sweden could take more good pictures by now.   

We than proceed to the meadow junction and waited. The tigress did not emerge. "By now it should be on that other part of the meadow" I whispered to the guide. The guide did not need any suggestion. The alarm cry confirmed my deduction and we had a good look at the tigress moving across the bush in the Kanha Meadow. Much to our surprise she was joined by one of her heavily striped cub. By this time a large number of jeeps had lined up and tourists were enjoying the sight of the beautiful tigress and her cub prancing across the grassland.  

Thermo-regulation that's what kept the big cats in the grassland. After a bitter chilly night, fog and mist the lovely Sun had emerged. We were all basking in the Sun's glory along with the big cats. This was a picturesque setting  and wonderful, ethereal, moment.

Tiger safaris can be thrilling but not always. This one was, and our guest at Courtyard House, Elizabeth had a whale of a time shooting the small family of tigers. But there was a hint of worry, and I wanted to make sure about the other cubs. They were not there, but I hope all have survived since tigress's give birth to a litter of three or four cubs. In subsequent trips we will discover. The best I could make out was the tigress was probably with her first litter and cub was about a year old.

This is all tiger tracking is about - split second decision, understanding of tiger movements and associates. A highly sensitive sensory apparatus. What not!He!He!

(Photographs awaited).