My Love Story with the REAL King of the Jungle.
In the winter of 2016 after some serious coaxing by a friend, I went on my first “jungle safari only” trip. Before this, any safaris I had done were a small part of some other trip, packed in amidst other to-do items. I honestly thought the only things you do see on these safaris are deer – lots and lots of deer. And I had no interest in these docile herbivores. So even as I made my way to one of the famed jungles of central India, I wasn’t expecting much.
To say that Kanha was breathtaking is an understatement. In the foggy winter morning with dappled sunlight just beginning to peek through dense foliage, Kanha was living poetry.
I was just happy being in the jungle and didn’t really much care for the tiger. Since I hadn’t seen one on my previous safaris to other jungles, I didn’t think that the Beyond Wild team would be able to do anything different than pointing at pug marks and telling us that a tiger just passed by. But boy was I wrong!
As we rattled on, at 5:30 in the morning, deep into the jungle on the famous open Gypsy we stopped to hear the Sambar calls, check in with the other drivers, and track the pug marks. And then suddenly, we ran into a bunch of vehicles, every person stock still, waiting, watching, and listening. Just like that, the bushes opened and out stepped Chhoti Maada, the tigress ruling the Mukki area, walking right at us! She didn’t care that there were almost 20 vehicles surrounding here, she didn’t care that there were so many people pointing, whispering, taking her pictures, and trying to get close. She just walked on, unconcerned, like the queen she was. And my life was never the same again. I was hooked, and I wanted to experience that moment again, and again, and again. The thrill of the tiger walking head-on towards you. The thrill of looking the wild into the eye and live to tell the tale.
I have to admit that I have never met anyone who is as good at tiger tracking as Mihir. After that first trip I have gone on many more Beyond Wild safaris and they’ve never disappointed. I’ve now seen 14 unique tigers many times and have beautiful captures to tell their stories. I’ve spotted a tiger on my own, before anyone else. I’ve waited hours in the heat and amidst a swarm of flies for the beautiful Maya to show herself. I’ve worried about 4 tiger cubs who were hungry for days since their mother wasn’t able to hunt big game. I’ve shed tears over a sub-adult tigress whom I saw in her last days, who succumbed to her injuries after a particularly savage monsoon.
The jungle calls to me now, and not being able to answer its call fills me with restlessness.
I guess that’s a price you pay for love!
Cannot wait to see my next tiger…once this lockdown is over. Till then, it’s time to savor the stories.
August 20, 2020
To say that Kanha was breathtaking is an understatement.
In the foggy winter morning with dappled sunlight just beginning to peek through dense foliage, Kanha was living poetry.
August 12, 2020
A safari is just like life, with its many ups and downs, joys and sorrows, hope and despair, ecstasy and misery!
Confused a bit? Read on!
August 7, 2020
Here’s a riveting account of a jungle experience many years back, which completely transformed the author’s lookout on life, for the better.