Tuesday 08 November 2005

It was much harder to get up this morning and I’m sure it was much colder too! I put an extra layer of clothing on (total of 5 layers!) and I am glad that I did, wish I had something warm for my knees! We were a bit late arriving for morning tea, coffee and biscuits, and Joe and Anne had already left.

We went to meet our driver not too long after 05:30. There had been a problem with his jeep so we had a different one. The seats were set out different though and there was absolutely no leg room. When we arrived at the gate we were luckily able to exchange it! (This brought other problems tho which I will come to later!)

Joe and Anne also had problems with their jeep – they were in the queue just ahead of us with a flat battery. They had several guys pushing the jeep back and forth trying to get it started again – luckily they succeeded! Soon we were off and through the gate.

We stopped first to see a very large stork standing in the water. Then we headed off to the central point to collect our token for the elephant. When we arrived there, apparently there had been no sightings of the tigers yet. We had seen footprints of the male tiger so knew he was in the area somewhere. The mother and her cubs were also near.

We drove to the area where we stopped for breakfast yesterday. The Forest Official was there and apparently there had been a sighting. We set off to look and just seconds later saw a shape moving in the distance. Heiko said “Tiger” first, then “No” since he thought it was a deer, but our driver and guide also saw and confirmed a tiger. It soon disappeared tho and I was not quick enough changing the lenses on my camera!

We then drove really quickly to an area where we thought the tiger would go to (driving over an area of the track that had been closed off with branches due to repair work – the driver and guide didn’t seem to bother about that and just drove around the branches, quicker than the diversion! Other vehicles also did the same). We didn’t see anything though but when we stopped back where the Forest Official was we noticed the jeep was smoking out of the vents near the glove box. The driver and guide lifted the bonnet to look but couldn’t see what the problem was.

Then a sighting of a tiger meant the bonnet was closed and we were off again, but we broke down half-way up the hill and started smoking again. We were also blocking many other jeeps so tried to manoeuvre out of the way. The bonnet went up but the driver and guide were still unsure of the problem. The other jeeps then came back down the hill. We managed to get going again and went back to where the Forest Official was and had our elephant safari confirmed. Apparently a guy in the first jeep up the hill had seen a tiger in the distance then shouted and waved his arms scaring it off so many others were not happy since they missed the tiger.

We drove to the area where the elephants were. We were the second to go on and were joined by another couple. We went through a very dense part of the forest (which was excellent in itself) then we heard two cubs snarling. WOW! But that was not it; we came to a dip which was like a basin shape. At the bottom we could see two tiger cubs, there may have been a third one also there but the area was very thick with foliage so it was hard to see.

*As I am writing this I am speechless, just no words! We had such an excellent day!*

One of the cubs was lying under a bush when we approached but got up and took quite an interest in us. He (or she) walked around to the other side of the ‘basin’ – this meant the cub was much closer to our level and since we didn’t want to be pounced on, the elephant moved away to a slightly higher level and the cub returned to its place under the bush. It was unbelievable, really amazing and we just couldn’t stop smiling as the elephant made its way back to the jeeps. Just out of this basin area though and the elephant decided he wanted to sit down! We slid backwards a bit but he was in trouble with the rider and was soon on the move again! That was so fantastic to see the cubs so close, and one was moving around instead of hiding, excellent!

We pretty much returned straight to the gate after that, probably because there was this unknown problem with the jeep! We relaxed for a bit and downloaded our photos then went for breakfast with Joe and Anne. Anne was feeling a little dizzy (and had been suffering for several days with this but had now got a little worse) so she had decided not to take the elephant safari for fear of feeling much worse. Joe wasn’t going to go without her but she persuaded him to go and he saw one of the cubs roll over! The magic wasn’t there for him without Anne by his side though, it was a real shame she was too ill to join him.

Anyway, we all remembered to ask for a light lunch, and then went back to the tents for a long nap. After soup and toasted sandwiches we were off back in the jeep – yet another new one!

Our driver took us straight to a place where the domestic elephants are kept, and there were two baby calves there too! We fed them treats – a kind of flour bread. I fed a baby, and Heiko fed its mother. Excellent again!

We then drove back to the area where we saw the tiger cubs earlier. A little further away we came across several jeeps reporting they had seen a tiger, and watched for over half an hour, walk across the road, spray, sunbathe, but of course having so many jeeps around it soon got fed up, snarled at one jeep that got too close, and wandered away, so all these jeeps were now leaving the area. By the number of jeeps driving past it seemed that all but our jeep had been there!!

We continued on anyway and so glad that we did. There was the tigress, the mother of the three cubs, and she was huge! She was walking behind the bushes and trees ignoring all the jeeps – there were only about four jeeps at that time – every now and then she walked through a clearing. We followed and followed…. It was really amazing. We couldn’t believe it, this was exactly what we had come to India for, now all we hoped for was for the tigress to cross over the track and sure enough she did. Fantastic! Absolutely amazing! So incredible! We watched her disappear into the forest after taking hundreds of photos then we drove further round since the cubs were supposedly not far away. We stopped the jeep and watched for movement and listened. We couldn’t see anything of the cubs and we drove on and soon arrived back at the gate.

I commented that the dusk hour seemed much warmer than yesterday and neither of us had put our jackets on – was probably the adrenaline! It had been such an amazing day – perfect!

Before we went back to the resort we were driven to a gift shop. There were some amazing silk paintings and we ended up buying one of a tiger’s eyes. Don’t know where it will go but it must be put up and not kept hidden away! Back at the resort we wrote a thank you note for our driver (his name: Nareesh Kumar Singh). He said he would email us next time he was with his brother since his brother has an email address, and we will send him some of our photos.

Joe and Anne were just finishing up their tea and biscuits when we arrived back and they showed us some of the photos they took of the tigress. We then went to have a shower before dinner since we felt really grubby with the dirt. This time my shower did not go cold! And the lights didn’t go off either (they were off for ages whilst we were having tea and biscuits). At dinner another group had arrived and since there were so many guests there was a buffet for us all. The food was delicious once again (and we’re now so full). We also showed Joe and Anne our photos that we took of the cubs and the mother, and also some of the elephants.

On the way back to the tents we had a look at the moon through Joe’s binoculars. Heiko couldn’t find the moon for ages and could only see black so I mentioned to first find our tent, and then move upwards – and yes he soon could see! I had a look next and you could see all the craters – so much detail!

Back in the tent we had to pack everything and clean our camera gear. I had finished packing my big suitcase then realised I had left my tripod out so I had to repack! We have an extra hour in bed tomorrow. We will probably leave around 07:00-07:30 to reach Kanha National Park for our 14:30 safari. We have the same driver that drove us here from Khajuraho.

So here’s to some much needed sleep! And hope we find Kanha just as amazing as Bandhavgarh!