The Jungle Book
Trip Start Jan 08, 2006
24Trip End Apr 07, 2006
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Where I stayed
The hotel was fine, but they shined by securing me on a safari by jeep that afternoon. (There are two safari times a day: one at daybreak, and the other at dusk--prime animals spotting times. The National Park Service regulates the number of people/vehicles in the park, and what section of the park you go to is prescribed by the Service as well
It was worth the extra price for the jeep, in my opinion, and it was a great late afternoon/dusk. We saw an owl; many deer; other, deer called 'samva'; several of an Indian sort of antelope, huge and even vaguely blue, called 'nilgai'; monkeys; other lovely birds...but alas, no "panthera tigris". A tiger had made a kill near the path the day before and was staying near it, but it had dragged the carcass off the road the night before. We parked there for a good long time, knowing that it was very, very close, certainly watching us from the tall grass and jungle, but we had to leave without seeing him/her.
The next morning, before daybreak, I got on another jeep with a nice group: a father and son from London, and a very friendly Parisian couple on their hoenymoon. At the gates to the park, the Park Service directed us to Area 1. No tigers had been seen there for a few days, but that didn't mean anything, we were told my our guide. (Every jeep has a driver and a guide.) What a VERY cool area to explore! It really was very Jungle Book: the jungle was pretty thick, but from everywhere, the landscape was dominated by a huge--I mean monstrous!--ancient, crumbling fort high on an Acroplis-like rock. And it being the fourth day of the new moon, barefoot pilgrims were walking along the dirt paths around the fort in the jungle. (I bet THEY were hoping *not* to see a tiger!) We drove around, into the thick of the jungle, out onto plateaus, across open, grassy areas... At seven o'clock AM sharp: TIGER!
It was far off at first--one of two male cubs born to the area's female about 18 months before...so it was no longer a cub, but a pretty big boy! Good news for the population of local Royal Bengal Tigers: they need more males. (One female's range is about 15-square miles; a male about three times that.) He didn't stick around long. We only saw him a few moments, and at a distance, but it had been worth it.
Then, just a few minutes later, quite startlingly, the female adult mother, about six years old, appeared right beside our jeep, crossed the road in front of us, even waked down it for awhile just less than 15 feet/3 meters away! It was THRILLING! She was beautiful, and terribly majestic...sleek, controlled, and totally unconcerned by the humans and their vehicles. It was like we weren't even there! At one point, she suddenly went into stalking mode, like my own cat does when he spots a moth at the window--she frooze, hunkered down low in the short grass, and edged her way towards something we couldn't perceive at all. Probably a deer. She gave a short dash, but didn't give the impression she was trying very hard, and missed whatever it was. She finally just walked off into the higer grass and that was it, we never saw her again. It was SOOOOO worth all the backtracking and reticketing I went throught to get there!
The rest of the safari was good--we saw a jackle, that walked a circle right around our jeep--but of course, everything else felt subdued after sharing a few minutes with Mama Cat.
I left that afternoon to return to Jaipur (where I would stay a couple of nights again and then catch a plane to Mumbai).
Now, as a side note on the photography:
I took many pictures on the safari, but it was towards the end of my trip, so I didn't get to burn them to disc in India. And when I got home to Japan, I dowloaded them to my mac--which a few days later CRASHED, a Mac hard drive problem, and I lost everything before I backed up my last week in India's photos. Luckily, I had emailed a few to some friends, who could send them back to me. So I am afraid that I only have a single shot of the mother tiger, but I am thankful to at least have that. (Ditto for the upcoming pics of Mumbai--the next and FINAL part of my India blog.)