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March 2, 2020 / catherinebwrites

6. INDIA – TIGER TIGER BURNING BRIGHT

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If you’ve ever seen a BBC programme about tigers, it was probably in Bandhavghar*. The area used to belong to a Maharajah who, with his wealthy friends rode elephants into the forest to hunt tigers. Now it’s a conservation area and you need a permit to go in. We kept reminding ourselves that we might NOT see a tiger but we’d definitely see lots of other interesting wild life.

We were up at 5.30 that first morning. It was bitterly cold as we climbed into the open jeep. Yikes! However, our hotel** provided us with hot water bottles and blankets and off we set.

The first animal we saw was an elephant, a captured wild elephant which was being trained to work for the forest service. The forest rangers use them to check for wounded animals, paths that need repair, vegetation that threatens to take over and, of course, poachers.

We saw spotted dear by the cartload. They are incredibly pretty and…

…they hang around with Hanuman monkeys. The monkeys too are pretty, especially if you see them against the light with their silver coats glowing like auras.

These animals stay together to help one another. When the deer scent a tiger, they bark an alarm. But, if the wind is blowing in the other direction, the monkeys up in the trees can see the tiger and call the alarm. And not only that, the monkeys feed the deer! They tear leaves from high in a tree where the deer cannot reach and throw them down for the deer to eat. We saw it happen.

Then there’s the peacocks. They’re all over the place. You get blase about them!

We saw tiger paw prints and we saw tiger droppings. We heard deer bark alarm calls and heard tiger growls but not a even a glimpse of the tiger itself. Oh well.

We set out again that afternoon. We saw plenty of deer, monkeys, peacocks, and variety of birds. We stopped to listen for alarm calls. We drove to places tigers frequented then suddenly, we rounded a corner and saw two elephants crossing the jungle path with park Rangers guiding them through the trees. Ahead there was another jeep and the driver was signalling that there was a tiger close by.

We pulled up and waited and then a huge male tiger ambled slowly out of the bush and crossed the path. Wow! And a minute or so later two more tigers emerged, glanced around at the gathered jeeps and and sashayed off into the trees.

I cried tears of joy. Seeing these magnificent beasts in their natural setting does something to you. It seems to expand your whole being.

Ram Milan, our driver, revved up the jeep and started a race through the jungle. We held on for dear life. He knew where the tigers were were likely to go. By this time there were about fifteen jeeps in the race. When any jeep spots a tiger, the driver and guide let all the other jeeps know the location.

The three tigers we’d seen were brothers who were just on the point of leaving their mother to find their own range. Young tigers like following elephants, they’re intrigued by the swish of the elephants’ tails. They even play with them just like your pet cat at home will swat at anything dangling.

We pulled up near a clearing beside a wadi. The jeeps were jockying for the best positions but Ram Milan kew what he was doing. The elephants arrived.

And, several minutes later, the tigers ambled into view. They disappeared in the grass and re-appeared at the water-hole. They lay about and snoozed and stretched and we watched and watched and watched.

Wasn’t it William Blake who wrote,

Tiger,Tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night

Clearly, he’d only ever seen one in a Zoo. They sure do burn bright in sunlight, in the open, vivid orange and yellow and black. But, once they step into the trees or the long grass, they disappear. When it comes to camouflage, Nature knows what it’s doing.

*THIS IS THE AGENCY WE USED

The Holidays (Unit of Indus Excursion)

Head Off.: C-3, Kachnar City, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India

Email: info@indus-excursion.com  indusexcursion@gmail.com

**THIS IS THE HOTEL WHERE WE STAYED

Aranyak Resort, Tala

Email: aranyakresort@gmail.com

WE WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND BOTH

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