About Me

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Hyderabad, AP, India
I used to be a bit of a drifter, still am partly, but life is getting more and more organized recently due to a special someone. I love playing and watching cricket, I have recently realised that I have a very big interest in wildlife and birding. I work for a blue chip company. I am well and truly blessed! No complaints there :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Luck multiplied 3.5x :-)

With the peak tiger season almost up on us, the wife and I had decided to make a quick foray to central India for a chance at meeting the king of the jungle. We selected the relatively long Good Friday weekend to visit the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. This was the place where I first got hooked on to photographing wildlife (I still vividly remember coming across the tigress called Dhoom Kati with a cub during that earlier visit!). So with mounting anticipation we boarded the Nizammudin Express to Chandrapur, the nearest drop-off point from Hyderabad. After an un-eventful train journey, we duly arrived at the Serai Tiger Tented Resort on the periphery of the national park at around 8.30 AM. After breakfast and a bit of a rest, we headed in to the national park for our 1st safari of the trip at 2.30 PM.

Safari 1, 22nd April - 2.30 PM
The first safari began with us heading towards the Teliya Dam area under relatively hot sunshine to see if any predator was near the water body for a drink. But due to the late noon heat, we saw very little fauna around the banks for the lake. While circumventing the lake however, we did come across a spot where a Green Bee Eater was sitting on a beautiful perch. While we stopped to take a few pics, the actually flew a short distance and plucked an insect literally mid-air and returned back to the perch. Though I did not manage to get a flight shot or a shot of the hunt, did manage to get some shots of the bird with its prey.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


With no luck with the predators near the Teliya Dam area, we slowly made our way back to the main road to try our luck near the Andheri river. News of sightings of 2 tigers (male and female) around this area the previous day increased our hopes of sighting the king. While driving on the main road we came across a very co-operative Indian Roller (Blue Jay) which we photographed for close to 10 mins. Rollers that you find near cities are generally a bit jittery and shy and do not let humans approach at such close distance, but this one was different and did not flinch when we got close.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


We went off-road after this point and headed straight to the Andhari river. We first traversed the left bank of the river looking into nothing but dense bamboo shoots. I imagined a tiger in my head at every corner as the shoots were playing tricks with my mind due to their orange-tinged stems with black bands. But with no real sighting this side of the river we proceeded to the opposite side and duly ran in to a posse of gypsies (around 10 in all - I am still wondering how we managed to park at a location so narrow) with folks eagerly awaiting a tiger. You would be surprised at how fast news of sightings spread in a forest and the earlier sighting had by no doubt reached more people than we had imagined. Along with this crowd, there was also a filming vehicle parked nearby and the ranger inside that was absolutely sure that a tiger was sitting on the far bank (the spot from where we had originally come from!). So we decided to wait it out withstanding the commotion all around us due to the narrow confines. A couple of other rangers who came by on foot moved towards the river bank to ensure that there indeed was a tiger inside and came back with good news of a tiger lying down on the far bank. Within another 10 mins the tiger slowly came by to the little rivulet to drink and the commotion levels just went way above acceptable levels.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr


With everyone jostling around in their vehicles and their seats, photography proved to be extremely difficult. Due to the noise that all of us had collectively made, disturbing the peace and quite of the king’s neighborhood, he decided to walk away in a huff. But not before snarling at all of us, especially the rangers on foot, for good measure.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr



With a sighting happening on our very first safari Shaon and I had a sense of deja vu as the same thing happened to us late last year in Pench. However, the downside was that we never saw another predator throughout that earlier trip. Hoping and praying that this one would also not go down the same road, but with adrenaline pumped up from the recent sighting we headed back on to the main road. Nothing else happened for the rest of the evening and we duly headed back to the Serai Tiger Tented resort for a well-earned cup of tea and relaxation

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


Safari 2, 23rd April - 7.00 AM
Though we had left the resort relatively earlier in the morning (5.45 AM to be precise), we still had to spend close to 45 mins outside the main gate waiting for our tickets to be verified. Definitely room for improvement there! With the disappointment of entering the park later than what we had hoped for hanging heavily over our heads, we all felt that we were off to a bad start. But within a km from the Mohurli gate we ran in to a pair of Indian Wild Dogs (Dhole), considered to be one of the VIPs in Tadoba and slightly above the tiger in terms of rarity in seeing them. That's how things happen in the wild, you can go in to nooks and corners of the jungle without seeing a single being, but you can also run in to a wild predator right next to the main gate of the national park.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


Along the way we also spotted a Woodpecker that was flitting about before settling down for a brief minute to provide a chance to photograph it and observe its beauty.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


Heading onwards, we spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle’s nest in the distance just off the main road. Though we could spot the bird inside, due to the height, light and dense foliage, I could not get a decent picture of it. We proceeded off road to see if we run into any luck with a sloth bear or a some more bird-life as we were traversing a small nala. We ran in to an Asian Paradise Flycatcher right next to our vehicle and before we could react and stop the vehicle to take pictures it vanished like an apparition in to the bushes. Round the bend we noticed a relatively large bird sitting on top of a nice perch. Heading closer we confirmed it to be a Crested Serpent Eagle, probably the mother of the earlier bird we had seen in the nest and it was quietly looking out for a prey. The bird showed no sign of alertness or alarm at our presence and continued to pose for us for the best part of 15 minutes and did not move even when another vehicle approached from the opposite side.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr


With the sun now out in full force, we stopped seeing any other bird life out in the open, so we decided to head back out of the park.

Safari 3, 23rd April - 2.30 PM
After a quick shower and some much-needed rest, we got ready for the next safari with news that none of the vehicles in the morning saw a tiger. We were all hoping that with the heat now emanating from the ground, all animals would come out in the open to waddle around in the pools inside the forest. With renewed hope, we headed towards the park only to be made to wait once again at the entry gate for administrative work to get completed. After waiting under the blazing hot sun, we heaved a collective sigh of relief when it was finally our chance to enter the park!

This particular safari was one of the most difficult ones what with the heat and the dust making guarding one’s camera and lenses much more challenging! The wildlife that we saw was also relatively limited in nature and we did not come across even a single tiger even though we waited at Yen Bodi for close to an hour. On the return journey to the main gate we did see a wild boar at relatively close quarters and our luck with the wild dogs continued with one more sighting of this rather elusive creature of the Indian jungles. We also briefly saw the Sloth Bear just getting in to dense shrubbery on our journey back.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr


Safari 4, 24th April - 7.00 AM
With no overnight rains as we had originally predicted, the day dawned with the promise. Unlike the earlier days, most of the strategy was to clearly wait it out at one of the promising waterholes as against going all over the place. We picked Yen Bodi over Jhamunjhura due to the fact that this spot had enjoyed sightings of a tigress and her cubs in recent times. Also, this safari also turned out to be the most rewarding in terms of photographing birds as we spotted a Shikra, White-eyed Buzzard and an Yellow-toed Green Pigeon within the first half hour of our entry in to the park.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr



Along the way to Yen Bodi, we also saw the Streak-throated Woodpecker (needs to be cross-checked) and a relatively closer shot of a wild boar after in bolted across the road in front of us

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr



We got to Yen bodi with no further adventure and started our long wait there at around 8 AM in the morning. At Yen bodi, a rather friendly Nilgai was spotted near the vehicles and it started getting close to vehicles and was generally acting in a friendly manner. The forest guard present there explained that the animal had grown up in an enclosed environment earlier before being rehabilitated in the wild. The animal showed no signs of alarm or concern when our latest group of wild dogs showed up for a drink in the waterhole. Both Tejas and I agreed that the Nilgai, with its naivety did not stand much of chance in the jungle and would be consumed by one of the predators sooner than later. ‘

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr



Calls of the junglefowl happened around us heightening the anticipation for everyone. However after a wait for an hour and 15 mins, no predator showed up except for the Wild Dogs

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr


With a sinking feeling we all decided to move away from Yen Bodi towards the Tadoba Lake for a chance at some bird photography. We immediately had some luck with a couple of Open-billed Storks who were patiently waiting near the banks of the lake.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


After patiently photographing these for a few mins, we went further ahead and ran in to a pair of Oriental Honey Buzzards sitting on top of a tall tree. Though the light was relatively harsh, we still managed to photograph them before the driver pointed us towards what appeared to be a Grey-headed Fish Eagle. We moved closer to the bird and photographed that for close to 10 minutes before it had enough of us.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr



From Tadoba 2011 Apr



By this time it had again become extremely hot and we decided to head back towards the main gate. For most of the folks this was the last safari on their trips and they headed back with a bit of heavy feeling that we did not get to see any more predators apart from the wild dogs in the last 3 safaris. This feeling turned in to one of frustration and disappointment when we heard the news of the tigress and her 4 cubs being spotted crossing the road exactly at the spot we were waiting for her for the best part of the morning. To add insult to injury, we came to know that we had missed her by just 10 minutes. One gentleman on the gypsy with us was close to tearing his hair out and required a bit of philosophical counseling on the ways of the jungle before he regained his composure! The rest of the ride to the guest house happened in complete silence and understandably so...

Safari 5, 24th April - 2.30 PM
Our final safari in to the park happened more out of chance by than by choice. After the disappointment of missing the tigress and her cubs we were ready to throw in the towel with frustrated references to our earlier visit to Pench which ended on a similar note. Since our train back to Hyd was later in the evening, it was felt that we could squeeze one more safari. As luck would have it, our hosts at Serai Tyger were able to find us tickets for one more safari and it turned out to be the best of the lost as we were blessed with awesome sightings of a tiger, cub and tigress respectively. We hooked up with Subhash (guide - 08055257451) and his brother Narender (driver), both residents of Mohurli and entered the park along with Mr. Suez Akram, Managing Partner at the Serai Tyger resort.

Subhash had earlier mentioned that they had never missed out on a tiger sighting any time him and his brother had gone in to the forest on safari together. With hopes of another sighting at these words we headed in to the jungle first to the Andari River. No sighting here but loads of dust! We proceeded onwards to Yen Bodi and stopped briefly near the checkpoint to sign in. After this stop, we proceeded to take the first right in to Yen Bodi on a road which apparently had been closed until recently due to the presence of cubs. Within 5 mins of us entering on to this road, Shaon spotted a tiger just about to cross the road. With heart racing, I just managed to shoot a couple of pics of this tiger before it moved away in to the thicket. Subhash had a knowing look and a huge smile on this face!

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


With our spirits soaring we decided to try our luck once again at Yen Bodi. This particular trip was turning in to a gold mine and there was no reason not to try our luck with the elusive Yen Bodi tigress and her clan once more. Reaching Yen Bodi we saw a posse of Langur monkeys and Chital near the water body. With such sightings, we did not have high hopes of seeing the tigress but still decided to wait it out.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr



Within half hour of our wait, we started hearing Sambhar alarm calls and Subhash confirmed that the tigress would come out any time. The parody with sambhar continued for another 15 mins before the calls abruptly stopped. With bated breath we waited and very overjoyed when a little cub came out with tentative steps. Everyone went crazy with excitement, so much so that someone honked to demand another car to move out their way!! The cub could not take in so much excitement and duly went back in. At some level we felt sorry for the cub because we knew that it had come out for a drink and we had disturbed it in the process of trying to get a better view :(

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr


With some vehicles pulling out after this, we decided to continue waiting it out. Suddenly Subhash urgently whispered in to my ears and I looked up to see the glorious sight of a fully grown tigress just entering in to the water hole. She was duly followed by her cub who had earlier retreated after the commotion. I guess the cub’s thirst had overcome it to the extent that it forced its mother to come along for a drink. The tigress and her cub spent the best part of the next 20 mins frolicking in the water and gave us the best sighting that Shaon and I had witnessed so far in our journeys. After this, it was a mad rush to the gate, but our adrenaline levels were so high that we did not mind the bumpy ride one bit.

From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr


From Tadoba 2011 Apr



After duly thanking Subhash, Narender and Mr. Akram, we got in our cab to get to the Chandrapur station. The cab’s headlights caught a black-naped Indian Hare but since I had packed away all my gear for the journey, had to be content observing it through naked eyes. We proceeded on to Chandrapur and waited for close to 4 hours as our train had gotten delayed. Notwithstanding this delay, we eventually made it back to Hyderabad at 7 AM the next day with outstanding memories from Tadoba!

Would like to acknowledge the role played by Jungle Lore in making our recent trips in to the jungles memorable and peaceful! Also, the Serai Tyger Tented Resort deserves special mention for their great accommodation and generally friendly atmosphere!!

2 comments:

  1. wow... truly 3.5x.. great job Ajith.. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome Write-up and superb photos...Kudos Ajith!

    ReplyDelete

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