09
Dec 17

Tiger Safari Bandhavgarh India

We arrived at the jungle in the heart of India in the dark, and we could hear and smell the sound of the insect and animals, grasses and vegetation all around us. We were warmly greeted at the Samode Safari Lodge by the wonderfulful Priyam and Naturalist Anshuman and taken to our room. There would be a 5AM wake up call and we needed to be on wheels at 5:30. The goal was to be in the Bandhavgahr Tiger Preserve by 6AM. The morning was not as cold as we expected even with the wind whipping at our faces in the open air jeep.

Sunrise. Bandhavgarh, India. 2017

Bandhavgarh is a fairly large tiger preserve which lies in the heart of India and by all accounts, it offers the best tiger viewing in the wild in India. Tigers are native to India so I suppose that makes Bandhavgahr the finest place to view wild tigers in the world. We were informed by Anshu that there were over 60 tigers in the preserve and their population was growing, this was fantastic news. Tigers are beautiful animals and my favorite of the large cats. Last year we were very fortunate on our tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park in Northern India to see a spotted deer kill by a young female named Arrowhead. This was very rare and we were honored to experience it. We shared this information with Priam and Anshu as well as some of our photographs and this set the bar fairly high, but Anshu was confident we would have a great experience on our Bandhavgarh safari.

On our first full day we spent 13 hours in the field, drove over 200km and didn’t see any cats. The activity of the cats was unusual, there were very few signs of activity from any of them. The naturalists and local guides were discussing this and speculated that there had been a large animal kill up on a ridge and the tigers had congregated there and would stay put for the entire day. We did however see Giant Wood spiders, Golden Jackals, monkeys, bison, a hunting cat and a Kingfisher. All beautiful and wonderful to see.

Leaping Tiger. Bandhavgarh, India. 2017

Our second day began similarly with a 5AM wake up call. We were up and read to go in record time. We were positive and certain this was the day we would see tigers. It was a colder morning and I had to wrap my hands in a blanket to keep them from stiffening up and getting too chilled. When we entered the Preserve, Anshu saw that there were fresh tracks so the tigers had come down off their perch and things were looking up. Knowing this information, we decided to head over to a water source that a family of tigers was known to frequent. As we drove up there were a handful of safari vehicles full of people photographing like mad.

Sisters. Bandhavgarh, India. 2017

The tigers were here! Anshu spun our jeep around and backed into the group, we were slightly to the side and uphill of the tigers and we had great light. There were four tigers, a mother named Spotty and her three female cubs. It was an incredible sighting. We watched and took photographs as the tigers jumped and splashed and played for several minutes. When they were done playing, the tigers leisurely walked by us, sprayed a tree to mark their territory and disappeared into the jungle.

We didn’t see any more tigers which was a little disappointing but it was all right because we had had such an amazing experience. The day was beautiful and just being out in nature enjoying the jungle, fresh air and sunshine was wonderful.

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21
Dec 16

The Tigress of Ranthambhore

We traveled half way around the world to photograph tigers at Ranthambhore National Park. This fantastic location in Northwest India offers some of the best tiger viewing in the wild. Even so they can be elusive, we had heard stories of photographers coming here and not having a single tiger sighting for several days. We were with one of the best guides in the park so we felt good about our chances. A good guide and a positive attitude make all the difference.

Spotted Deer. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Spotted Deer. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

On our first outing it was really quite beautiful to see a large buck, standing up to it’s shoulders in a lake munching aquatic plants and herds of spotted deer. Beautiful but not why we were here. We also saw monkeys, wild pigs and the occasional crocodile. As the afternoon wore on, the light became magical. In combination with the animals and 10th century ruins that dotted the landscape, the light helped created a fairytale landscape. Darkness began to fall and we’d had no signs of the elusive tigers.

The next morning we were up before dawn. Our jeep was the first through the ancient stone gates and into the park. Almost immediately we were greeted with fresh tiger paw prints and the alarming howls of monkeys. Monkeys are the first to see these predators due to their high vantage points in the trees and excellent vision.  Our guide was very methodical in tracking the big cat. Judging by the prints, it was a female, a tigress. Stopping every few minutes to examine the ground and listen to sounds, he narrowed the search to a section of jungle that was inaccessible to our jeep. Maybe she’ll continue to move or maybe she had already had her morning kill and was bedding down for a nap. For the time being we set off in another direction to explore other known tiger territory and discussing our options.

Borrowing a little from William Blake and a little from Hindu religion, Christy came up with a mantra in an attempt to induce a tiger to reveal itself.

“Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, Carry Durga Day and Night”

Stalking Tigress. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Stalking Tigress. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

We all joined in the chanting. Within a few minutes we came across another guide stopped in his jeep. A tiger had been spotted about a kilometer up the road. We kicked up a big cloud of dust as we took off toward the sighting. Slowing to a crawl we pulled along side two other jeeps. Their camera shutters were clicking away, lenses pointed across a gulley through the jungle undergrowth. I didn’t immediately see her but with some effort I spotted her head at least 50 yards away half hidden in the tall grass. She was intently watching a heard of spotted deer. Several minutes passed, then she stood and began to stalk, like lighting she was gone into the trees.

Christy, myself, the guides and the driver all looked at each other and chanted.

“Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, Carry Durga Day and Night”

Tigress with fresh Spotted Deer kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Tigress with fresh Spotted Deer kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

A minute later she reappeared, carrying a small spotted deer in her mouth and she was walking right toward us!

“Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, Carry Durga Day and Night”

Tigress cleaning her kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Tigress cleaning her kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

We all held our breath, pressed our shutter releases and marveled as she walked past our jeep and continued down the road. She settled under a tree a little further along and began licking her kill. She stayed there for about five minutes before moving further away into denser cover. It was the most marvelous experience we had ever had. Our guides agreed and told us this was only the second time in 10 years they had seen this happen. Jai Durga.

Tigress with fresh kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Tigress with fresh kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

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