This was my 42nd safari in Dudhwa National Park, in less then 6 months. During the safari we reached Bankey Taal, the hotspot of Dudhwa National Park. This is one place where you can see few dozen species of birds, swamp deer, elephants, and if you are lucky the Tiger too. Today, i wanted to see the male Barasinghas (swamp deers). It was this curiosity to see the Barasingha, that i climbed the Machaan pretty fast. We reached half way, and were mesmerized by the mist on the water hole, and chirping of the #birds. And at a distance we could see the swamp Deer , a small herd busy grazing. Mostly we could see only their antlers as their heads were into the grass.
Toward my right were some #Lesser Adjutant #Storks, and just below our Machaan were a few Indian peafowls. I was merrily focused on clicking the birds, when suddenly the Peafowls flew out together. My head and camera direction both turned towards the side, the birds had flown. But my guide asked, “Sir, why did the birds fly together”. He took out his binoculars and started to scan the tall grass in the area. I tried doing the same with my tele lens. Nothing. Kept looking in that direction, nothing. After a few minutes my attention was back on the flying Lesser Adjutant Storks, one flew past me at the eye level, and landed. The second flew, did the same, the third, the fourth, and I got busy clicking the flying LAS.
Suddenly, a Tiger roar, just under my feet. The heart paced off like Usain Bolt in a 100m dash. My lens shook, the legs trembled, heart beat raced like a formula one car, we both looked at each other. Then we looked around 360 degrees for the Tiger but no sign. Looked around, still no Tiger in sight. Safety was not a concern as we were on top of the Machaan. But eagerness to spot the stripes increased by every passing second. Another #Tiger roar, even louder. This time my heart beat was Usain Bolt at the finish line to pick the gold medal by breaking his own world record. Again 360 degree spin, moving from one side of Machaan to another, looking underneath, on the track passing along, in the water hole closeby, did not know where all to see, a pair of eyes was less.
We both decided to look in the opposite directions. Then an Indian Peafowl alarm call, felt like telling her, you are lat, we already know he is around. My guide said, maybe he was here to drink water, the peafowls flew then, and after roaring he has moved. Might be walking on the road, should we go down, get in the Jeep, and on the road? Mind was in two minds, should we wait, or should we go down to our Jeep and try and track him on the road.
What if he comes out in water, we just might see something spectacular with so many birds in water, and #Tiger also alongside. Logic said, the chances were less at this early an hour in winter morning. We decided to take a chance, and stepped down on our toes, holding our breath, no sound whatsoever. Once down we tip toed towards the Jeep, silently climbed on, placed our cameras without any noise.
Started the Jeep, and thanked Maruti for such silent vehicles in the Jungle. Slowly cruised around the area hoping to find the Tiger walking on the road just ahead of us. Reached the second Machaan, no luck. But noticed the Machaan stairway was smashed by the Elephants in the area. Their fresh droppings suggested they were here only a few hours ago. Just yesterday we had climbed this Machaan and saw the herd of Elephants, and today there was no way we could do this as it was broken.
At this moment that eerie feeling that something is watching me from behind, slowly i turned my neck to see two spotted deers on the track. A sigh of relief. It was time to move out of the #Jungle. Began our slow and rather long journey back, with the disappointment of the sprinter missing the Gold medal by a whisker. Not always does one spot a Tiger during the Safaris, but the thrill of being sighted by a Tiger is no less.
Of the many safaris i have done in Dudhwa National Park, Tiger sightings have been much fewer but every safari has been very memorable. Dudhwa National Park is special. It is not only for the Tiger lovers, but i would say it is a park for serious nature lovers. See you soon Dudhwa.