Thursday 10 November 2005

The phone rang at 04:15 this morning – our wake up call! Oh it was early! And freezing too! We were very glad of the heater and the hot water bottles last night. Unfortunately, the cold still got to us and we didn’t sleep as well as we could have done. At 04:45 we met our driver and Naturist, Shiva, and clambered into the jeep where there were two blankets waiting for us. I had the blanket over my knees to keep them warm, it helped quite a lot! But even though I was wearing five layers of clothing I was still cold, and my head – with a buff and a hat – was absolutely freezing!

At 06:00 we were allowed into Kanha National Park and collected our guide. We hadn’t been in there very long when we saw fresh tiger prints. Shiva said to get our cameras ready “Tiger on the road”.

It was exciting following the tracks (driving pretty fast) and I was trying to switch my lenses so I had my 100-400 zoom on! We didn’t manage to catch up with the tiger tho! Apparently the footprints belonged to a large male tiger. Maybe the elephants would find him for us…! But when we stopped to collect our elephant token they hadn’t seen any tigers yet.

We drove back to the main gate where there are more elephants searching – they had found a female tigress so we collected our token and waited in the queue for ages, and ages, and ages! In fact we waited so long that we had our breakfast and drinks, baked in the sun till it got so scorching hot that we asked our driver to move the jeep into the shade. He parked it near an area where the monkeys (langurs) were playing so we put our cameras to work.

Then it was our turn on elephant back. We drove about 4km to meet the elephants. There was only me and Heiko this time and apparently Shiva had told the rider that we were photographers and would like to get good shots. And we did! This beautiful female tiger was lay down under a tree and we were clicking away whilst being moved into good positions then the guy rider started hitting the grasses and trees with a stick and the tiger opened an eye and pricked up an ear. Then she sat up and snarled at us! WOW! Didn’t catch it on camera but what a sight! We came back with some excellent photos!

We went straight back to the hotel after that since it was about 12:30. After lunch we got ready to head out again at 14:45.

Oh, forgot to mention earlier, we ended up taking lots of photos of birds this morning – a yellow footed pigeon (male), white-bellied drongo, white throated kingfisher, crested serpent eagle, and a changeable hawk eagle. We also saw a type of chat but they were too quick to get photos of. We saw a grey hornbill in flight too. And after stopping at the first rest point for the elephant safari, we drove out back into the park and came across a pack of six wild dogs, and that is quite a rare sight! We also saw a few swamp deer – they are extremely rare now and are declining in numbers so were kept behind fencing to prevent poaching and becoming prey. Of course we also saw lots of spotted deer and also saw on one tree, both old and new claw marks from a tiger (likely cleaning their claws after a kill). I looked up the monkeys in the mammal book I have, their real name is Hanuman Langur (much simpler and quicker to call them monkeys!). They were so close to us today that you could see all the detail in their faces and not just black – they’re really quite cute!

So this afternoon we were allowed into the park at 15:00 and went a new route through many different areas – forest, grass meadows, bush land and streams. It really is a jungle like you’d imagine it! We went through an area where many leopards are spotted but they were all shy today! We came across a strange looking rock which was nicely balanced on another, looked like one gentle push and it would fall over! Well we had no luck finding tigers; in fact most of the animals were in hiding. We only saw a handful of spotted deer and the monkeys (which is unusual). In fact there were hardly any birds too! (We did see a lapwing though). Our highlight of the afternoon was a male swamp deer – a rare sight. He was in the perfect position, light, everything, but refused to look towards us! Eventually he did though, but only briefly!

We had a snooze back at the hotel before showering. As we arrived for dinner we were called over to a table by some other guests and asked if we wanted to see some photos. They had seen four tiger cubs cross over the road whilst they were in the jeep – how bleeding lucky!! Absolutely amazing! They had seen a large herd of Indian bison (gaur) too! And what had we seen – basically one deer! Shiva was also there and we agreed with him not to wait around for an elephant safari in the morning and instead we would spend much longer in the park, in the areas where the tigers are often located. I really hope we get lucky. Tomorrow is our last day of safaris!

After dinner we made sure all the batteries were charged and got out the extra memory cards – I hope we need them! It’s 22:10 now and we have to be up by 04:15 so really its time to sleep now! Hopefully our laundry will be delivered tomorrow since it did not come tonight. I really could do with an extra few layers of clothing, and we’ve both run out of socks now!