Monday 07 November 2005

We both woke up a few times during the night to check on the time. Then the alarm went off at 04:45. We were quite alert really for the time we got up! The owner came along at 05:00 to make sure everyone was up. We had tea, coffee and biscuits with Joe and Anne who are from Australia (we later learned Joe is originally from London but moved to Australia when he was 28), then at 05:30 we all went off to meet our drivers.

We were one of the first few jeeps at the gate (which is only a couple of minutes away since we are staying at the nearest resort to the park). We had to wait in the cold till 06:15 which is the time the gates are supposed to open – it was actually a bit later than this when they opened the gates. Our guide joined us and we were given a route to follow to reach the centre of the park. We saw a few wildlife on the way: spotted deer, sambar, wild boar, monkeys (langurs), kingfisher, vultures and several tiger spoor of adult and cubs! And we saw claw marks in the tree – more defined than the tree we saw yesterday! The tiger chooses trees with sharp bark to scratch and does this to sharpen the claws and to clean them after a kill. We made our way to the central rest point, once there we received a token for an elephant safari. An elephant safari is only possible if there has been a tiger sighting.

We then drove to an area where tigers had been seen earlier this morning. Here we could see the elephants. We drove down a road which is not normally allowed but since there was a tiger sighting the road was opened. The animals in this area are not used to vehicles being here and we scared off some spotted deer – they quickly bounced across the track into the distance. At the end of the road was the Park Official. We gave our elephant token to him and he confirmed our elephant safari was possible!! We then waited for the elephants then climbed onto their backs. There were only two elephants and we were first in the queue – very lucky!

We rode not too far from the jeeps and at the top of a hill, quite some way from us, first appeared one tiger soon followed by three more – WOW! Even though they were quite far away it was a very special moment. Since they were so far away the elephant safari lasted only a short time. When we were back in the jeep we travelled further and then walked up to see a 10th Century Statue, the God of Preservation, reclining in a bed of coils of the seven hooded serpent.

Just after we were back in the jeep, we heard a whistle – this meant one of the other jeeps had come across a tiger. They were not far from us and we were the second jeep there and WOW! A lone tiger laying on a rock not far from the track! Cameras went instantly into action, it was amazing! Was very hard to hold my 100-400 zoom lens still, especially with the movement of the jeep, so often I just held down the shutter hoping at least one would be in focus (checking later I’m very happy). We were soon surrounded by many other jeeps; we definitely had the best spot! Unfortunately, someone made a sound and the tiger moved away. What an amazing experience! We then all drove back down the hill to allow the tigers (who are very shy) to come out again.

On the way back to the gate we saw a sambar deer with a huge gash in its side – wonder if that was a tiger’s doing?! Oh, almost forgot, at the gate we had a look at the shop there and bought a set of 12 postcards for Rs240 (they are amazing images) and also bought some magnets for Rs60 (one for Neal as requested!).

Back at the resort we went for breakfast, and once again the meal was a feast! So we requested something small for lunch since otherwise it would be simply too much to eat (but the food is very good). So at lunchtime we only had soup. We were joined by Joe and Anne, and after the soup they were brought a whole range of foods and were wondering why we had none – they were impressed by our sneaky trick of asking for something small whilst we were at breakfast – they will be doing the same tomorrow!

At 14:30 we went to meet our driver and was taken to the gate where we were joined by a guide (he rarely spoke to us though; maybe his English was not good since the driver spoke to us quite a lot instead). We went straight away to the place where we saw the tigers earlier and listened for any alarm calls but we were unsuccessful. There were plenty of monkeys (langurs) around us though so we took quite a few photos of them! On our route we saw a large group of wild boar with young ones too. That was really all we saw (apart from the usual spotted deer and sambar).

When we arrived back at the resort we met Joe and Anne for tea and coffee with biscuits. They had asked to see our photos earlier so we took the Flashtrax with us. All the lights went out at least twice and of course it is really dark then! We all wanted showers before dinner and wondered if the lights would go out during the shower – they didn’t tho! Afterwards we sat around an open fire with some drinks and snacks. We ate our dinner quite late really and were very full going to bed.