Friday 11 November 2005

Our wake up call was at 04:25 this morning and we left in the jeep (with three blankets this time) just after 05:00. Although this morning was cold (5°C) we were much warmer than yesterday – I was now wearing seven layers of clothing and my polar buff, Heiko was wearing five layers and had borrowed my normal buff. We were both wearing pyjama bottoms under our safari trousers too! And with a blanket each around our knees and one across both our backs and shoulders we managed to fight off most of the cold air!

At 06:00 we were allowed into the park and a guide joined us. Our prime objective this morning was to see tigers by jeep! We visited the places where tigers had been spotted yesterday afternoon and drove through many different areas of the park seeing dense forests, steams and meadows… but all we saw was a changeable hawk eagle!

We were among the last to arrive at the breakfast stop. There had been a sighting of four tigers a mother and three cubs by the elephants and the elephant safaris were already taking place by the time we arrived. It was decision time for us – we had planned to miss the elephants since it was more exciting to see a tiger from the jeep and when you see them by elephant they are hiding in the bushes so its hard to get great photos.

We decided to take the elephant safari then had our breakfast and visited the museums and photo galleries at the rest point. Then we headed off to see the tigers (a mother with three cubs).

On the elephants we could only see two of the cubs; one was in bright sunlight chewing on some meat but partially hidden by grasses. When we moved round to the other cub, Heiko’s camera showed an error and wouldn’t take any photos! So frustrating! The second cub was being very sleepy but was a little irritated by the elephants and sat up partially – didn’t snarl though and I was ready waiting for it! We were a bit disappointed by there being so many bushes and trees hiding them all and especially that Heiko’s camera gave up. Shiva arranged for us to go again (I think he paid for us) and said to get good photos.

Well we were the last ones to go in the forest to see them. There were also two other elephants and they stamped on the bushes that the cubs were in and eventually they showed their faces – so gorgeous! Tigers are so beautiful! One of the cubs came to see what we were up to destroying their den and walked across a tree branch towards us – totally amazing, and so perfect for photos!

The cub took my breath away as it looked directly at us. Seeing the face so close through the viewfinder made my heart beat so fast and I couldn’t press the shutter! I took my camera down and gazed in awe, then carried on with taking photos. It was just so amazing!

We saw all three cubs (one went for a walk further into the forest) and also the mother. The mother didn’t move at all whilst we were there but two of the cubs were very curious and made excellent models! We gave a big tip to the rider of our elephant and climbed back into the jeep with huge smiles! On the way back to the gate we stopped to take some photos of a jungle owlet. Then soon we were back at the hotel for lunch. We had such a great morning and to think we almost didn’t go on the elephants! Now we know how the pros get such great photos!

On the afternoon safari Shiva didn’t come with us since he was greeting some new guests. We were at the park by 15:00 and a guide joined us. We soon saw monkeys (langurs) and spotted deer. We also saw our first wild boar in Kanha! We came across sambar (which seem to be rare here). We also saw swamp deer in the distance; they are kept in an enclosure to protect them from predators – the tiger – and poachers. We also saw pond heron and we saw a hoopoe – I was so happy to see one (and its apparently a common bird here) that I took ~120 photos! I’ve wanted to see a hoopoe since I saw its picture in a bird book when I was about eight years old!

We then caught up with a jeep that had been following tiger footprints and had heard an alarm call so we stopped and listened but heard nothing so we moved on.

It soon came time to leave the park but we were travelling on a very dusty track following the other jeeps and the dust wasn’t pleasant! So we turned off onto a track that wasn’t dusty but since it was a longer way to the gate, we had to go a bit faster in parts. Then we heard an alarm call from a deer. It was really loud and really close. Then on the other side of the track a monkey joined in, also really loud. They were both barking alarm calls for ages and we waited to see if something came – there could have been a tiger or a leopard close by! The time was ticking tho and we had to be at the gate by 17:30 so we had to get moving. Only wish we could have stayed there another half an hour or so!

Back at the hotel we saw Shiva and he asked how our safari went – I told him we’d seen a hoopoe! After a shower we changed into fresh clean clothes (our laundry had arrived!). When we arrived for dinner one of the Naturists (who uses the Canon 10D and 70-200mm) was showing some of his photos on a projector. Some amazing images and amongst them were some of the tiger cubs that we saw this morning!

After we had soup by the fire, Shiva showed us some prints photos that the other Naturist had printed to sell. Some were the same as he had showed us earlier on the projector. Shiva then wanted to show us the luxury tents they had recently built. They were fantastic, extremely luxurious! I would say they were for guests on honeymoon! There were 8 tents (4 double and 4 twin) and a bar/lounge/dining tent, and a huge outdoor swimming pool that backs out onto wildlife! Stunning!

We then had the rest of our dinner (the roasted vegetables in white creamy sauce were delicious – I’ll have to make that at home!). After dinner we went back to the room to pack our suitcases. Finally crawled into bed at about 23:00 and knowing we can have a lie in tomorrow is excellent!