Friday, March 31, 2017

Tiger in The Brook

Mr. Sivaraman & Family USA + TN 
Guests Courtyard House Kanha

The move belied all logic. The stream was full of deer and langur. There was no sign of the magnificent tiger all was magical, serene and fairy tale like. After taking the morning round of safari at Sarhi Zone of Kanha National Park we were returning disappointed that the big cat had eluded us. 

I looked at my watch there was more than hour to go. Nobody was expecting a tiger now since the sun had risen the animal does not like heat as we all know. It arrived in India from somewhere in Siberia or China about ten thousand years ago. The animal could not reach Sri Lanka as the Island had distanced itself from the mainland and was too far for the tiger to swim.  

We where returning via Karai Ghati Road famous haunt of magnificent male tigers, Munna, Dabang, Dhamangaon male, Saunder male and new arrivals. The Budbudi female has been irrevocable etched in our minds by its presence at Budbudi Nala or the stream where we had come to a halt. 

We stood there admiring our surroundings, the enchanting stream full of life and the beautiful birds hidden in the shadowy crevices of dense leaves and twigs. That was all. 

Some jeeps arrived looked at us with a question mark. They did not bother to stop. Why should they with a bunch of deer and troops of langur all around the tranquil stream?

At Kanha the mornings are chilly even in summers but the heat of the noon makes all run to cosy comfort of climate controlled environs of the wildlife resorts.  

There was an air of complete despondency with no expectation. But we waited. Since the time was with us the guide did not force us to move.  We spent time watching the antics of langur babies and the deer enjoying blissful cool environs of life sustaining water in the stream.   

We at Courtyard House utilise full time in the park during the safari. This is an unwritten rule. Hence we waited. I was expecting some thirsty tiger, leopard or a sloth bear to arrive and quench.  Well if wishes where tigers I would jump with joy!

Well nothing happened for a long time till the silence was disrupted by two alarm cries of the spotted deer. In my mind hell broke loose. "Where exactly? I asked the guide. We drove right to the spot few yards ahead to the spot from where the cries had erupted.  Frantically I began peering into the bush containing bamboo, shrubs interspersed with rock and yes puddle of water. Still there was no expectancy. This could be call of the deer spooked.     

Well it was not to be. I was searching for a predator in the shades with puddle. Tiger! Tiger! I whispered with confidence which usually belies my circumspect nature.  For right in front of us I could see the yellow and black stripes. Heart thumbing with excitement, I pointed to the guest who were amazed as well as bewildered. Of Yes! The guide said.  

"It is a young tigress!"

When the animal raised its head to look at us we were all thrilled. It went back to quench in the brook in the cool shade. I could make out that the big cat was shy. It stared at us thrice but was so thirsty, it went back to gulp loads of the life sustaining liquid. It was an enchanting moment as we witnessed through the thick canopy of bamboo, vines, shrubs and trees, we were witnessing a spectacle most astounding.     

Our guest tried to photograph the moment but could achieve little in the shady brook. "Well this is how the tigers are always hidden and well camouflaged, and we were witnessing an activity in its natural surroundings."

"Not a cardboard cut out this," I appraised the guests in absolute wonder. The wild cat took long time to quench and then it moved uphill and was seen no more.  A sighting had been made for visitors who had never seen a tiger in the wild.  
Image By Blissons - France 

Leopard Surprise

Pete & Kay Sutton UK 
Guests Courtyard House
Kanha National Park India 

It was in the previous evening round that we heard clamorous alarm cries at the cross road that leads to Sarhi Zone on left and Kanha Zone to the right. We had waited for a long time but nothing materialised. From the frequency of cries we could surmise that the sambar and chital deer had spotted a leopard in the thick canopy.  

Nothing emerged after waiting a long time. Disappointed we left so as to exit the park in time. Predators as shaped by nature are extremely unpredictable and can rarely be spotted at the same place twice. Well there are exceptions. 

Next day morning we were at Kisli Zone and were on mission to find Munna the ageing but dominant male tiger. Tracking tigers is an ultimate test of patience, split second decision and experience that one gets with due time and sincere application.

We were at Nainsingh Nala a wooden bridge that runs over a dried stream but does sustain water a few feet away in the neighbouring canopy. This canopy has become a vital point in our search for tigers and with great success. Two males have been spotted after a long long wait.     

So far there was no sign of Munna, and as usual we decided to score the neighbouring area. 

"Let us go to the crossroad where we had heard alarm cries last evening!" I instructed. This was just a surmise that something could wait so long.  Never give up easily and utilise all the time allotted for each and every search that you can make during the tiger safari. Jeeps arrived and departed and we waited. Our surmise was strengthened by the fact that a leopard had been sighted on this morning  round here.  

As the clamour of the jeeps ended a stony silence pervaded. The jungle sounds are incredible and challenge your hearing apparatus like no other situation can. In the mysterious wilderness of the Indian jungles sound waves from distance skim weakly over surface, and throw a challenge to your hearing apparatus. Long wait for big cats can be tiring and boring at times. I regaled my guests with the distant sounds that emanated from the jungle around us. "That's a barking deer! Probably sighted a tiger and going all bonkers!" 

Well in immediate surrounding it was all pin drop. If you as much make a rustle sound shifting in the vehicle you can lose valuable audible clues. But we sat absolutely still. It was a long wait but we did it.      

Then the cacophony erupted, a sambar called frantically, and the sound resounded amongst the still tall stands that were the object of our gaze.  As the calls continued we began to gaze between the stands, and it was rewarding. Our guide spotted what appeared to be a mongoose. "Pl hand me the binoculars." "Its a leopard!' The magic words all naturalists like to hear.  I peered hard and spotted the second cub emerging from the bush and heading into another.         

Excited but in full control we decided to park at a distance from where we thought the big cats will emerge. The strategy paid off. Thinking the jeep had left the leopard family continued to approach the jungle road. "Keep an eye behind," I told the guests. They did, and within a short span of time they called in unison "leopard!"  

Images by Pete & Kay Sutton 

Leopard Mother

Pensive Look 

Leopard Cub looking at us  

Panther Cub 

Cub Scurring Past like a Mongoose

First to emerge was the mother. She came out, inspected the surroundings, and made sure that we were at a safe distance. She then signalled her cubs to continue following her. The first cub to arrive was probably male judging from its size. It stopped to gaze at the strange sight of the green monster.

This wild animal's threat perception is acute and ends up saving its lives amidst the tortured terrain of the dense jungles habituated by tigers. After a good look at us it began to crawl like a mongoose in order to enter the bush across the road.   

The second cub visibly smaller took no chances. It crossed over from a distance and scurried through. Cameras clicked. The wait was over. We had been rewarded with a magnificent experience that would take eternity to replicate.      

"Whew! Lets move on." And we did for another escapade in the wilds of Kanha National Park in India.