Bheema: The Peaceful Warrior of Kanha National Park passes away

Bheema the peaceful warrior of Kanha National Park
Bheema in Kanha National Park

It was in September 2016 that I wrote of the The Big Four Tigers of Mukki in Kanha. These Tigers had attracted the attention of all the Tiger lovers worldwide in the last 3 years. The most commonly sighted Tiger amongst them was Bheema, the peaceful warrior of Kanha National Park.

Bheema the peaceful warrior of Kanha Nationa Park

Almost everyone was beginning to reconcile that the Tiger behavior was changing in Kanha. Their belief stemmed from the fact that the four big male Tigers had accepted each other in a small area of under 300 sq kms. There were skirmishes on and off in the last couple of years. They all got injured, and recovered too.  But deep down few knew that Kanha Tigers are fighters and not quitters. They live and die like Tigers in territorial fights. It was a matter of time before they would show their true colors. Come October 2016, and we saw departure of Rajaram in a fatal territorial encounter with Umarpani male. You may read the same in the below link:

Rajaram (Kingfisher) Tiger dies in a territorial fight in Kanha National Park

Umarpani male is a huge and a powerful Tiger in his prime with some extra-ordinary lineage. You might like to read about him here.

People were still coming to terms with the death of Rajaram when Bheema was found in a condition bordering death. The Mahouts found him gravely injured while patrolling on their elephants. Such was his condition that the department could not even think of tranquilizing him lest he succumb to his injuries. He was lifted and placed on a stretcher by the forest department while conscious. I do not recall any incident when a Tiger has been lifted without tranquilizing in the wild or even in a zoo.

He was taken to a natural enlarged enclosure where he was put under observation and treatment. Apparently the damage to him was considerable, and he was in no condition for a surgery. A team of expert vets were summoned from across the country.

Bheema was born in July/August of 2011.

His father was Kankata and mother was Budbudi. He was one in the litter of four. One of his siblings Bajrang is still doing well in another zone of Kanha. Bheema was frequently sighted in Mukki and Kisli zones. He was one Tiger who was not shy of tourists, and gave ample photo opportunities, sighted almost twice a week if not more in his peak days, i.e. until summer of 2016. Usually his sighting was not just a glimpse. He was often seen walking on the vehicle tracks for kms. After his sighting the tourists would go back satiated and delighted always.

My personal experience with Bheema; the Peaceful Warrior

It was 11th June 2015, an afternoon safari. I had just finished an amazing sighting / session with Umarpani male which lasted about 30 minutes when we decided to go and wait at the Babathenga waterhole. We had zero expectation of any sighting. The weather was a bit humid, and suddenly we hear a sambar alarm call. For a moment I did not believe my ears, I looked at Naren on the wheels and the second alarm call.

Now, when a Sambar deer calls it is most certain that he has sighted a Tiger. And if he calls twice in succession then it means that the Tiger is active. We started our vehicle and headed just 50 meters ahead from where the call came. As we reached the area, the sambar called again. We switched off the ignition and waited.

Anxious moments…

I always advise my guide, and whoever accompanying me in the jeep never to stand up, just stay seated. Reason being, that more often than not the Tiger would see the standing eager people before the people will see him. When everyone’s eyes are eagerly searching for the big cat, there is a lot of nervous energy around. The Tigers are highly sensitive and would usually change direction when they notice anxiety. Hence everyone was seated, calmly active and actively calm in my vehicle.

Then Raju our guide pointed in one direction and murmured the most anticipated word, “Sirji Tiger”. His face was seen  from the tall grass. As everyone was seated in the car, the Tiger found a conducive atmosphere to make an appearance. We waited for him to come completely out of the grass. Once he did we started our vehicle and turned right where we expected him to follow us. Sure he did like an obedient son.

Bheema the peaceful warrior in Kanha National Park
Bheema coming out of the grassland near Babathenga

Tete-a-Tete with Bheema

Then started my vigorous clicking. We maintained a safe distance. I kept giving him mental assurance that “i love you my handsome boy”. He followed us, and did everything that a Tiger on his territorial round would do. Scratching, marking, spraying, flehmen, sit, roll, everything. In about twenty minutes that he followed me i clicked close to 400 shots. He was not leaving our trail. Finally Naren said, “Sir, it is time to go, we have only 30 minutes left for park closure time and we must move”. With a heavy heart i confirmed and we changed course.

On our way back, i started to think of various safaris i had done in my last 27 years in India. Two memorable sightings are, my very first Tiger sighting in Ranthambhore in 1990. And, second would be this sighting. Though there are many memorable ones, but getting two different male Tigers, and both head on for a considerable time in less than one hour is unusual.

Why i called him the Peaceful Warrior;

I called him the Peaceful warrior because he peacefully carried many combat medals (injury marks) on his shoulders with pride of a warrior. If I was to compare him with Link 7 aka Chotta Munna, or Umarpani male, Bheema was the most peaceful Tiger. He never unnecessary challenged any other Tiger for territory.  Stayed mostly in his own territory, and defended it pretty well till almost the last 3-4 months of his reign. His skirmishes with Chotta Munna in 2015 were quite one sided where he chided him away comfortably.

Bheema the peaceful warrior in Kanha National Park
Bheema carrying the trophies of many battles he fought and won.
Bheema the peaceful warrior in Kanha National Park
Bheema with many injury marks on his shoulders was a warrior who fought many battles.

But Chotta Munna has genes of Munna  (a legendary Tiger of Kanha). At 15 Munna is still fighting, and surviving. Chotta Munna started to give Bheema some tough time toward middle of 2016. On 1st October 2016 when the park reopened for tourism Bheema was sighted with a limp, and it seemed he had lost considerable amount of weight. He looked a much smaller version of his former self. Subsequently his sightings reduced.

Was he unable to hunt? Was he carrying some injury? Or, was he ill? There was nothing of consequence visible on him. There is no protocol to interfere in the lives of wild Tigers in India. The department only intervenes when they feel that the injury is serious and can disable the Tiger.

The passing of the Peaceful Warrior

On 4th December he was found by the patrolling forest staff. He was frail, his forelimb badly eaten by maggots. And he was found in the territory of Umarpani male. It is possible due to the constant disturbance by Chotta Munna he left his area and ventured into Umarpani male’s territory. I have always maintained that Umarpani male is the biggest surviving Tiger of central India right now. Not only in size, but in strength, and confidence also he is unmatched. The fact that he has dominated Mukki practically since 2011 speaks volumes about his demeanor.

Bheema was also not a diminutive Tiger by any yard of imagination Afterall he was given his name Bheema for a reason. He would have been a dominating Tiger in any other landscape besides Mukki. It was unfortunate that he got stuck between the two sons of Munna (Umarpani and Chotta Munna), else he would never have gone in his prime.

His fans including me were praying that he survives. But when i heard that the chances of survival are minimal i prayed for his ordeal to end.

Having seen Tigers for some decades now, i think, Tigers are born to fight. They survive because they fight. Choice is either they fight or they die. The end is mostly they fight and they die. Such is the life of a Tiger.

Sharad Vats

 

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Thirty Three (33) different Tigers sighted in Kanha since park reopened in October 2016

Different Tigers sighted in Kanha
Tigers of Kanha

Is it true? Yes, it is true, and speaks volumes about the efforts by the forest department in conserving Tigers and wildlife in Kanha. While many talk about the number of Tigers poached this year, very few discuss the number of different Tigers being sighted. Thirty Three different Tigers, including 11 cubs, is a healthy number, and that too just in the tourism zone. Please remember that these are not the numbers given by the forest department. But these are the Tigers sighted by the tourists. There is a documental evidence of the same. Significantly, this has been recorded in just 45 days. Besides, it is also reported that there are two pregnant Tigresses in this list, hence this number of 33 Tigers is bound to go up further soon. These many different Tigers sighted in Kanha is indeed good news for Kanha.

In October 2016 we heard about two Tigers getting poached and one Tiger dying in territorial fight. While nothing can be done about saving Tigers in a territorial fight, but in poaching it was done. The poachers of one Tiger were caught within 30 hours of the Tiger being found dead. Such a prompt action by the department is commendable, suggests dedication of the team towards the cause. Four people involved in the crime were arrested. On investigation it was revealed that they were local villagers who had laid a trap to get a wild boar or some large herbivore. But the Tiger walked in the area and was trapped. Unfortunate but true. The second poaching case is being investigated still. It is a matter of concern but i would still like to compliment the department for keeping these numbers to minimum.

With 22 adults, and 11 cubs the times ahead for Kanha look good. These are only the tourism zone figures, and the tourism zone is about 20% of the total area of Kanha. The latest camera trap census estimated that Kanha has over 110 Tigers as on date.  Of the total 22 adults sighted in the tourism zones of Mukki, Kanha, Kisli and Sarhi, there are 9 male Tigers. So the male to female ratio though not ideal, but it is close to being ideal. These are positive signs for the Tigers of Kanha.

Some experts had indicated that even if the Tigers disappear from rest of the protected areas, Kanha will still be amongst the last bastions of the Tiger besides Corbett. This forecast has been true so far, and i think it will remain true until something untoward happens.

List of Tigers sighted since October 2016 in Kanha include:

  1. Rajaram aka Kingfisher (died in a territorial fight in October 2016)
  2. Chotta Munna, aka Link 7
  3. Umarpani male
  4. Bheema
  5. Bajrang
  6. Jamun tola male
  7. Karai ghati male aka Dabang
  8. Junior Kankatta
  9. Supkhar male
  10. Munna
  11. Choti mada with two cubs
  12. Mahaveer feamle with 3 cubs
  13. Dhawajhandi female
  14. Umarjhola female
  15. Distt line female
  16. Neelam (pregnant)
  17. Link 8 female (pregnant)
  18. Link 7 female with 4 cubs aka Mundi Dadar female
  19. Unknown female with two cubs near Indri camp
  20. Female near Chimta camp
  21. Budbudi female, and
  22. Jamun Talab female

Conserving Tigers is not an easy task by any yard of imagination. Tigers roam free in large areas without boundaries, and with no technological surveillance yet. It is heard that soon there will be Drones to monitor them. With many villages around the parks, highways, inadequate forest guards, bio mass dependancy, forests and wildife are a soft target. But the forest department works relentlessly. They risk their lives from dangerous predators, stay away from families so that the forests can be preserved. Their sacrifice is hardly seen forget being appreciated.

I pray that you are able to sight many Tigers on your visits to Kanha. But a humble request to you all that please enjoy the park in it’s entirety. Yearning for Tigers alone can be a tad disappointing, hence appreciate the smell, sight, and sounds of Kanha. Trust me, it will leave you enthralled.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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What to do when you encounter a Tiger on foot in the Tiger country?

At the onset let me warn everyone that a Tiger is a perfect killing machine. So the best way to fight him is, not to fight him. This is a note from some personal past experiences, and wisdom of locals who occasionally meet the Tiger on foot in their own backyard.  It is quite possible that on your safari holiday you might also encounter a Tiger on foot inadvertently and unintentionally.

Please do not be anxious on how this might happen. Quite simply, the national parks of India do not have any fence, or walls. The Tigers move in and around the national parks to mark their territory, and in search of food. So often they come out of the forest and visit the outskirts of the resorts and the villages.

What to do when you encounter a Tiger on foot?

It is important to know that generally a Tiger is not interested in human beings. It is often noticed that he will leave the trail if he hears or sees you on the same trail. Having said this, it does not mean that you throw the caution to the winds. Also there are times that a Tiger would do a mock charge, i.e. come half way fully charging, then stop, turn around, and run away. These are serious and life threatening situations, so you cannot take any charge lightly, hence it is best to be prepared, and remember the below points if you happen to remember, when you encounter a Tiger on foot.

Stay calm

If you happen to sight a Tiger first then stay mum. Be breathless if possible. It is not easy not to get nervous, but your stillness before he notices you is your major chance of escape. If he has not noticed you, then stay quiet, wait for him to move on, and you later move in the opposite direction. Escaping should be the only motive, and avoid being foolishly heroic. Your anxiety can force a Tiger to take a step which he is not inclined to, i.e. attack you.

Pray

Whether you are a believer or a atheist there is no better time than this to start praying.

Stand up tall when you encounter a Tiger on foot

If you happen to be sitting on the trail, please stand up gradually, and stand tall. The Tiger must see you as a human being and not any unsuspecting prey animal. Tigers usually attack their prey from behind, specially when they happen to be sitting. He will mistake you for a small prey animal and charge. Hence stand up. By doing so, you have cleared to him that you are a human, and not his natural prey.

Signs that a Tiger is upset with you

If the Tiger is upset with you, he will show it by a growl, or he might take a stalking position. Now, what is a stalking position? Basically before a Tiger attacks, he crouches, his ears roll back, he freezes, focus on his prey, snarls, and charge. If he is taking that position, then you need to start backing up. Do not show your back to him, rather slowly and steadily just back up. When you love a dog his ears roll back, but not so with a Tiger. So please do not mistake Tiger’s rolled back ears that he needs to be loved. It is a clearcut warning to you, that he does not like your presence. Hence keep backing off slowly until the Tiger is well out of sight.

encounter a tiger on foot
Ears rolled back of a Tiger.

Never run

When you encounter a Tiger on foot, never run. Tigers are trained to chase anything running, and kill.

Encounter a Tiger on foot
This image was taken in Dudhwa National Park, when i was in a Jeep, and the Tiger decided to mock charge.

You will need to excuse me for the shake in the above image. This was the best i could get when i had a Tiger growling and flying towards me. I somehow feel it could have been lot sharper had other people in my Jeep not got hassled, and decided to shout and jump at the same time. Perhaps that did the trick and he abandoned his pursuit and turned back, but i lost a sharp image. This image perhaps needs another blog post altogether, so i would restrain myself from digressing further.

Climb a Tree

If there is a tree nearby, and the Tiger is a bit far, and you know how to climb a tree quickly, then go ahead. But be sure to reach at-least 15 feet high before stopping, as Tigers can jump upto 15 feet comfortably to get you down. Imagine how much is 15 feet, close to one and a half floor. So do it quickly if you can, else do not attempt.

If you encounter a Sloth Bear or a Leopard then the option of climbing the tree is out as they are both expert climbers, more so the Leopard.

Encounter a Tiger on foot
Forest guard who fought a Sloth Bear while patrolling.

I met the above forest guard in Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary, have forgotten his name, but will never forget my encounter with him. He had a bare hand fight with a Sloth Bear while on his patrolling rounds. The Sloth Bear stood on his hind legs, and fought with him for good 10 minutes. He did not loose hope and kept fighting. The Sloth Bear inserted his claws in the skull of the guard, but he kept on fighting. Perseverance, self belief, and not giving in saved him, but left him badly injured.

Make noise

If you have some metal, or something in your hand which you can make noise with, do it now. But do this only if you see that the Tiger has made up his mind to charge. If you have nothing on your hand, and Tiger is charging, then shout as hard and as long as you can.

Fight if you must and have no choice

When push comes to shove and you are not left with any choice then it is best to use presence of mind, and when a Tiger charges and jumps at you do the following:

Get as close as possible to him when he attacks you.

Hug him tight. Do not give him any breathing space. Hugging a Tiger can surprise him. All carnivores prefer distance, the fact that even while mating Tigers growl at each other, and avoid any physical closeness suggests that they avoid physical contact. Even Tigers fighting with each other keep distance. Initially they would slap each other, and wait to take a bite at the jugular vein on the neck of the opponent. Hence keep your neck away.

It is your weapon vs his claws and canines

Pick whatever you can, stick, branch, rock, and use it to protect yourself by hitting him.

Remember his weapons are his claws and canines, so stay away from them. Your weapon is whatever you get or have in hand. With his canines and claws he can hurt fatally. Tigers avoid fights. But if they get into the fight they will go for the kill, until and unless they are surprised by you, and just want to escape.

Continue to shout, and be as close as possible to him. Avoid his fatal bite, as not only it can kill, but it can give you some serious infection as his canines have lot of bacteria.

His weak spots could be his eyes, and nose, so strike hard there if you can.

If there is a water body close by, or a river, do not get into it until you have won a gold in the Olympics. Tigers are great swimmers, and will outpace you much sooner that you suspect.

Last but not the least continue to pray, and give in your best. Your best chance of survival will be the swiftness and shrewdness.

Let me end by saying what i started with, that the best way to fight a Tiger is not to fight a Tiger.

With prayers from me that you never encounter a Tiger on foot in the Tiger country.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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How to choose good accommodation in National Parks of India?

Once you have finalized the national park you wish to visit, the next big question is how to find good accommodation in national parks of India. Where to stay? The average length of stay in a national park can be 2-7 nights depending on various factors. If you are on a specific mission, i.e. following a story, or a specific Tiger, then the length of stay can be even higher than 7 nights.

You might ask who am i to give guidance on this. Well, having worked with the Asia’s largest Hotel chain for 11 years. And subsequently setting up Wildlife Lodges in few national parks, i think i have gained some experience in talking about this subject.

Important points to keep in mind before you choose your accommodation in national parks of India:

Budget

This is entirely your call. There are Jungle lodges of all kind of budgets near the national park. There are branded Lodges, value for money lodges, boutique, and basic lodges.

Location

It is important to know the location of the Jungle Lodge that you are choosing. Is it close to the national park? If not, then is there any other attraction nearby, like a waterbody, hill view, river, farms etc.

Nearby zone

This is the most important point. You must find out near which tourism zone is the resort located? Whether you have access to other zones from this location or not? If yes, how far are they. For example, in Kanha if your resort is near Mukki zone then the other gate is 50kms away, and reaching that gate can take well over an over. Similarly in Tadoba, Pench, Bandhavgarh, find out the nearby zone and accessability.

Month of travel

Staying in a tented camp is a great idea. But not so if you are traveling in peak summers or peak winters. However good the insulation of the tent might be but the moment the mercury touches 40 degrees it becomes a furnace. Likewise in winters, when the mercury plummets to 5 degrees you will feel like you are sleeping in a deep freeze. So it helps to find out the type of construction of the resort.

Recommendations

You must find out the ratings of the resort on forums like Trip Advisor. Read about the quality of food, cleanliness, safety, safari experience etc. Yes one can manipulate the feedback on such forum, but not considerably nor consistently. If the reviews are fake, someone will figure it out, and mention on the same forum again. But such short cuts are practiced by some Lodges which don’t take them far. Do not take the feedback lightly or for granted while choosing your accommodation in the national parks of India.

Ownership

It helps to know who are the owners and promoters of the Lodge. Is this Lodge their primary business, secondary, or is it promoted by a wildlife lover? Depending on this one can gauge the quality of the resort.

Reservation process

The reservation process of the resort will provide you an indication of the quality of the resort you are choosing. If the process is smooth, seamless, prompt, precise, be rest assured you are getting into a good place. This will give you an insight on how professional and personalised the processes are. It is a very important aspect while checking on good accommodation in national parks of India. Afterall this is the first link to the resort. The professionalism will reflect in the very first reply to your query.

Social Media presence

Social media presence is the norm of the day. If the resort is serious about it’s quality, then the same will reflect on it’s website, facebook page, twitter, instagram etc. The images on these platforms though can be manipulated but a discerning traveller can make out what is fake and what is factual.

My recommendation is to do a thorough research on the above for couple of reasons. Firstly it can make or mar your experience of the destination. Secondly, it can have a important dent on your purse.

Does it sound like too much of research? Oh yes, it is. But you are spending your hard earned money, so i suggest do sufficient research. If you have less time then leave it to your trusted tour operator to handle it for you. Give him your suggestions, and wait for his confirmations to check on the accommodation in the national parks of India. But how do you choose the trusted tour operator? Another blog for that i guess.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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Ganges Dolphin census in state of Uttar Pradesh.

A survey is underway since October 2016 in the river Ganges in Uttar Pradesh to ascertain the number of Ganges Dolphin. It is being carried our in two phases. One from Bijnor barrage to Narora, approx 225kms. And the second from Kanpur to Fatehpur about 175kms in length. So a total length of 400kms along the river Ganges is being surveyed.

Apparently the numbers of Ganges Dolphin have reduced over the decades due to lack of habitat. They are mostly affected by the barrages, dams, pollution, and irrigation projects. A typical story of importance being given to economy over ecology. Ganges Dolphin live in the most densely human populated area of the world (Uttar Pradesh). Hence the immense pressure for survival and development is reason enough for Dolphins to be threatened.

Their total population is between 1200-1800 individuals, which is less than the wild Tigers in India. But the Tigers happen to get all the attention in the world to themselves. While millions is spent on their conservation, not even a fraction goes for conservation of the Ganges Dolphins. Their was a time when the Ganges Dolphins were found in large schools. Not any longer.

Just about 15 years back i was on a visit to a small town called Garh Mukteshwar on the banks of Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. This is located about 100kms from New Delhi. It is considered auspicious to take a dip in the holy waters at Garh Mukteshwar. While i was crossing the river to go to the other side which was more peaceful, i saw something just come up in the river and go down. Not knowing that one can expect Dolphins here, i curiously stayed focussed in the region, and their in a span of 15 seconds she comes up again. My delight knew no bounds on having sighted the Ganges Dolphins.

On my next visit to this town which was about 5 years later, i again expected to see this beautiful sight, but no luck. I asked the locals, and they said that for last 3 years even they had stopped seeing the Ganges Dolphins.

New threat to the Ganges Dolphin

A new initiative just might be a death knell for the Ganges Dolphin. Our Government has come out with a unique plan to use the rivers waterways to transport goods. This will threaten the Ganges Dolphins. Unfortunately not many rivers in India are big enough to transport goods. But Ganges surely is, and hence it must pay the price for it’s grandness.

Even if the census shows marginal increase in the Ganges Dolphin numbers it will be no reason to be happy as the waterways to transport goods will not be good news for the Ganges Dolphins. Why is it that man forgets that he inherited this planet with so many species to live with, but we don’t seem to be leaving a better planet for our next generation. Sad, but true.

Hope the Ganges Dolphin survives.

Sharad Vats

http://www.naturesafariindia.com

 

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Tiger Sightings and precautions to take during a Safari.

Tiger Sightings in a safari
A flying Tiger

Most of the people go to a National Park for a Tiger sighting. Whether they might succeed in photographing a Tiger or not, but the Tiger sighting remains embedded in the memories forever. You will not forget a Tiger sighting till you are alive. Believe me not? Ask someone who has seen a Tiger in the wild. They will vividly recall the sighting like it happened yesterday.

Types of Tiger sightings in order of excitement with the l0th as highest in term of adrenalin rush.

  1. Tiger in the bush. This is a common Tiger sighting.
  2. Sleeping Tiger, either on the track, or on side of the road.
  3. A Tiger crossing the track, maybe he will give you a cursory glance, and if you are fast enough you will take a shot or two. Considered a decent Tiger sighting.
  4. Tiger sitting on the track looking towards you in a majestic pose is a delightful Tiger sighting.

    Tiger sighting in a Safari
    Royalty personified
  5. Tiger walking in front of your Jeep, away from you. He might walk  a mile or more. When he walks this much he would stop by, and do some marking on the trees, maybe scratch etc. Lot of opportunities to take photographs during such a Tiger sighting.
  6. A Tiger walking towards you on the track, and your driver reversing the vehicle for miles at times. This gives a big high to photographers who can trade off a part of their body to get the head on shots of a Tiger (me included in this category). This required great skills from the driver.

    Tiger Sighting in a safari
    Tiger Head On in a Safari
  7. A Tigress with her cubs, either sitting on the road, or playing in water. Again something lot of people would want to see, and it is a very satiating feeling once you see Tigress with cubs. The playfulness, the innocence, the care of the mother, all an be witnessed together in such a Tiger sighting.
  8. A Tiger stalking prey. The whole episode can last from few minutes to much longer. Caution is that you must remain silent during such a Tiger sighting.  Disturbing a Tiger while stalking or doing anything else is never advisable. Would you want to see an upset Tiger?
  9. A Tiger successfully managing to bring down his prey, and do a kill in front of your eyes. What a joy for photographers, and all tourists. It is one adrenalin pumping Tiger sighting.
  10. Two adult Tigers fighting. This does not happen often in the open for tourists to see, but there have been occasions when people have seen this. When the fight is happening, it can be very scary, as Tigers roar loudly which reverberates in the Jungle. It can turn bloody, and if the fight is over the territory then it can last long too. Tigers tend to move a lot as well while fighting. It is best advised to stay clear and away from them. An epitome of a Tiger sighting.

You may see any one of the above Tiger sightings, so be prepared, and be equipped with your cameras.

When you sight Tigers in the National Parks of India, it is imperative you take some precautions. I have listed four most important for your benefit.

4 important precautions during a Tiger sighting

  1. Silence is the biggest  caution that you can undertake during a Tiger sighting. It is advised to keep the enthusiasm under complete control, as it can go against you, cause if the Tiger gets disturbed by your energy levels he can just decide to go away. Who is the loser? So stay quiet. Camera click is the only acceptable noise.
  2. Distance from the Tiger is very important, maintain a safe distance for yourself. Remember you are in the territory of the Tiger, so give him distance and respect too. Stay far, stay safe.
  3. Listen to the guides and the drivers who go through this routine regularly so trust them. Do not impose your decisions on them, let them decide what is best for you. Please do not lure them by tipping, and wanting to get close. Remember Tiger is a super predator.
  4. NEVER, EVER, get off the vehicle in a national park during a Tiger safari. It is not permitted, and it is illegal. There are only some spots / camps where the driver and the guide will tell you to get off the Jeep for a small break. Tiger sighting is not a selfie moment, always remember you are in presence of an apex predator. Your safety is in your hands, and no one else is responsible for the same. Neither can you sue anyone at a later stage if you do not like what a Tiger does.

Tiger Safari is a vacation for some, and vocation for some, but not a picnic for anyone. Respect the Jungle and the laws of the Jungle in your own interest.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

http://www.naturesafariindia.com/wildlife-tours/diverse-habitat-of-tiger-tour.html

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Tigers vs Snow Leopards..is the duel on?

For the First time…Tiger and Snow Leopard at the same altitude in India..Is the Safari on?

Absolutely true…a Tiger camera trapped at the altitude of Snow Leopards. Is the duel inevitable now? Who will win the contest? The dark ghost of the Himalayas or the roaring beast of the plains? What if there are more Tiger and Snow Leopard in the area? This possibility cannot be ruled out as of now. Is it really a good news? Well, not bad either. Most noteworthy would be to go on a Tiger Safari in the area and see the Snow Leopard.

Having excelled in staying in the deltas, dry deciduous forest, almost desert like conditions, in rain forests, now the Tiger has been camera trapped in the regions of Askot in the upper reaches of Pithoragarh district in Uttrakhand at a height of 12000 feet. Sometime back Tigers were tracked at an altitude of 13000 feet in Bhutan. While the highest altitude the Tigers got in India was at 10000 feet in Sikkim. A male Tiger’s pug marks were also seen in snow near Jelepla in 2009. Occasionally Tigers are sighted at 6000-8000 feet in Sikkim. While in Nepal Tigers are found at an altitude of 12000 feet or above as well.

But why Tiger and Snow Leopard are moving to higher altitudes?

Is there some change happening in the territorial patterns of the Tigers? Maybe yes. But why, is the next logical question. Simply due to immense bio-mass pressure on their home in the plains. Tiger habitat is shrinking and they need to adapt to survive. Let us not forget the fact that the Tiger is a fast breeding and a highly territorial cat. When it doesn’t find enough space to share with other Tigers it wonders around in search of new home.

One must also realize that state of Uttrakhand is mostly hilly, with sparse population. Hence big cats find peace, prey, and parking space much easily here compared to lower altitudes.

Just few months back Snow Leopards were camera trapped in the upper reaches of Uttrakhand. This simply suggests that the Tiger and Snow Leopard are happy with their new found home in the upper reaches of Uttrakhand. After all, the forests of Corbett, and other areas below are crowded for them as far as Tigers, and tourists are concerned.

Though the Tigress has marked her new found home as taken, i pray there is no untoward incident with humans, but livestock with be in their radar now.

 

Tiger and Snow Leopard
Tigress marking her territory

Hope the Tigers and Snow Leopard thrive in their new found home.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

  • *P.S the above image is of the Tigress marking her territory in Kanha National Park. Image of the Tigress marking her territory at the high altitude are not available yet.
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Understanding alarm calls in the Indian National Parks during a safari

Understanding alarm calls
Tiger safari

Tracking predators in the Indian National Parks requires a lot of experience. The veteran drivers an guides know their national park well. But even that is not enough at times. It is the knowledge of understanding alarm calls which determines your chances of Tiger sightings during a safari.

As a first timer tourist it is not easy to understand what alarm calls are. It is only when you start hearing them during a safari that you understand their importance. How the drivers, and guides at times change directions in 180 degrees after listening to the alarm calls suggests the importance of understanding alarm calls.

There are direct signs left by a predator which help in tracking them, like, pug marks, scratch marks, spray, droppings or growls. Then their are indirect signs like an alarm call which also helps track them.

In simple words, alarm call is a call by a prey animal to alert rest of it’s herd about the movement of the predator. This call is high pitched, short, and intense. There are occasions when you see a prey animal give a call in front of you. Then there are times when you just hear the call coming from a distance. Usually the prey animal is either able to spot or smell a predator, and it immediately alerts the others in the area.

It is said that a Sambhar deer’s call is the most accurate when it comes to tracking Tigers. If the Sambar deer has called twice in succession it means the Tiger is present in the vicinity. Monkeys give alarm calls from the tree tops. They can spot a Tiger or a Leopard from a considerable distance. Interestingly a monkey’s alarm call is different when it sights a Tiger, and different when it sights a Leopard. As a Leopard can climb a tree and pick on a monkey hence the intensity and fear in his call is much more when he sights a Tiger.

Understanding alarm calls..explained through a Video below

There are few things that cannot be explained by words, one needs a practical demonstration. So i thought of explaining what an alarm call is through the below videos i shot myself during a safari.

We were tracking the Link 7, a popular male Tiger of Mukki Zone, a.k.a Chotta Munna son of legendary Munna of Kanha. We heard the alarm calls, and i decided to do a small video log on what an alarm call is all about, and how does it sound.

There are no professional cameras used, no tripods, no script, no take, retake, an on the spot impromptu decision to express. Shot using a small handy-cam held by myself while doing it.

To see more video explanations, you may visit my youtube channel on the below link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsjLWm4Xr5tgoGKxO84lPcg

Best Regards

Sharad Kumar Vats

 

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Spiritual and a Birding tour in Rajasthan

Birding Tour in Rajasthan
Black Buch in Tal Chhaper Sanctuary
Birding tour in Rajasthan
Demoiselle Cranes in Kheechan, Phallodi

I had heard a lot about the efforts of a man named Ratan Lal, in the village of #Kheechan (Rajasthan. Apparently he had started conserving the #Demoiselle #Cranes. To keep himself busy he would feed the pigeons and peacocks. Once he noticed some Demoiselle cranes come on the feed. He continued the feed regularly over the years. Gradually their numbers increased to hundreds, then thousands, and today more than 20000 Demoiselle cranes come to this village.

This is an interesting conservation story which i wanted to see with my eyes. One fine day I set out by car to discover this spot, and do birding tour in Rajasthan. The drive was long hence we planned a small detour to include another birding spot, namely #Tal #Chhapar in the district of Churu.

It was a fogged out December morning, so could drive only at a speed of about 20kms per hour. We stopped at a small dhaba for breakfast. Here we were told of a holy spot of Salasar Balaji Dham, a temple of the Monkey God Hanuman. It was en route so we decided to stop at this place.

Balaji Dham is located in a small town of Salasar near Sujangarh in Churu district. It is considered to be a Shakti Sthal (seat of power). There are 51 Shakti peeths in India. Thus it attracts millions of worshippers round the year. A very peaceful place with strong vibrations, how one hour went by at this spot we did not even realize.

Tal Chappar

Then we drove onwards for 45 minutes to Tal Chhapar. Located on the fringes of Thar dessert, it is a flat saline depression. The nearby village is named Chhapar and the flat sanctuary is known as Tal, hence Tal Chhapar. We entered the sanctuary within minutes of reaching there.

The beautiful flat grasslands of the Tal are picturesque, and some visible horns of the walking blackbuck added to this painting like surroundings. We drove inside the sanctuary in our car, and soon realized why it was not a good idea to have an open vehicle for a #safari here. The dry sand covers you and the vehicle in minutes of entering this sanctuary. Hence a closed car is advisable. So when you spot something, stop, roll down the windows, and silently observe or photograph quietly.

The blackbucks and the birds here very shy due to lack of human presence. You stop and they walk. Open flat grasslands with some trees interspersed give a feeling of a savanna.

Though the size of this sanctuary is small, but the complete eco-system it houses is amazing. The main attraction here is the Black buck. It is also a passage for the migratory birds, which come here in October and stay until March. The Marsh Harriers, Lager Falcon, Common Krestel, Tawny Eagle, Short toed Eagle are amongst many birds that you can spot here. Best time to spot these birds is late evening, just before sunset and sunrise. This is the time when they are less active and seen mostly on the ground, or at times perched on the trees. As the sun comes up, these birds become active, and the action begins.

Morning in Tal Chappar

Next day we were woken up by a loud chanting on a loud speaker at 4am, coming from the nearby village, the first reaction is not so positive, but soon we started to enjoy it. Mahendra told us that the entire village gets up at 4am, visits the local temple, then they all go and feed the birds, and start their day. They have these fixed places around the village, some 3 feet tall platforms surrounded by iron grill, and they leave the grains for the birds to come and feed. Every family in the village does that daily. The love and concern for mother nature could not be better seen.

After a quick breakfast we went to #Gaushala, (Cow shelter). We were told that this is the place where one can find the Spotted Creeper if lucky. Our luck was not with us that day. The place is called Gaushala as in monsoons when the rains flood the entire village, the cattle of the area gather here as it is a bit high, and here they have a lot of grass to feed. Currently we saw lot of Buck here, some #Egyptian #Vultures and some #Harriers.

Then we went and saw the Salt area close by. Some #Pied #Avocets, #stilts, and an Eagle Owl with the young ones was a welcome site. Mahendra was very happy to see the young ones and he said that now their population will increase from about 10 to 13, and in few years he sees this area as the most favorite place to see the Eagle Owls.

Demoiselle Cranes in Kheechan Phalodi.

We hit out for our next destination, #Kheechan in #Phalodi district to see the most spectacular avian sites for last 40 years. Started by Ratan Lal by feeding a couple of dozen cranes, today over 20 thousand Demoiselle Cranes visit the area. A local Ngo has been formed where people donate to get the grains for the cranes.

Today almost 2.5 quintals of grain is being fed to these birds daily. I would recommend every birder visiting the area to donate towards this cause. While standing there suddenly all the cranes took to flight. We noticed a stray dog had come close to the water hole. One villager came running towards the area and drove the dog away. Gradually the birds settled down again near the lake. This was one of the most beautiful birding sites I have seen in India.

Brahma Temple, Pushkar, and Dargah of Gareeb Nazaz in Ajmer

Having spent a couple of hours here, it was time to hit the road again. We decided to visit the Brahma Temple in Pushkar. Reached Pushkar by late evening. Next day morning, we explored this clean city of Pushkar. Every November there is a big cattle fair here, and the entire city is packed with foreign tourists and photographers. Colors on display are seen to be believed.

Visit to the Brahma Temple was a transcending experience. Hardly any tourists or pilgrims, the place was peaceful and levitating. Moved on the 2nd most popular pilgrimage of Muslims, the Dargah of Gareeb Nawaz at Ajmer. My second visit to the Dargah in less than 6 months was an overwhelming experience. There is something special about this place that gets people of all religions and faiths. Having offered a chadar, we reluctantly moved on. Light heart, and heavy eyes is what one experiences when here.

It was now time to get back home, and we hit the road silently, but happily.

Sharad Vats

 

 

 

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Mode of safaris in National Parks of India?

safaris in national parks of India
Jeep Safari

For first timers traveling for safaris in India, it is important they understand how the safaris in national parks of India operate. What types of vehicles, and what are the benefits of each type of vehicle. Does the vehicle serve your purpose of safari? If you are an amateur or a professional photographer what type of vehicle is good for you?

Below are the various types of safaris in national parks of India.

  1. Jeep Safaris
  2. Canter (open safari bus) Safaris
  3. Boat safaris
  4. Canoe safaris
  5. Walking safari
  6. Cycle safaris
  7. Cycle Rickshaw Safari
  8. Elephant Safari
  9. Camping Safari

Safari timings

In almost all the national parks in India where tourism happens there are 2 safaris in a day. Except in Gir National Park there are 3 safaris in a day. In certain bird sanctuaries you can be inside doing birding from sunrise to sunset. The first safari starts at sun rise, and is usually of 4 hours. In Kanha the morning safari is 5 hours. The afternoon safari commences about 3pm and lasts until sunset.

Depending on the sunrise and sunset timings the safari timings change practically every month. So in winter the safari might start at 0645hrs, while in summers the safari might start at 0545hrs. Similarly as sunset in summers is late, hence the safaris start around 4pm until 7pm, and in winter from 3 till 6pm.

Some parks have full day safaris as well, these safaris cost almost 4-5 times more than a single safari. You are allowed entry 20 minutes before sunrise, and you may exit 20 minutes after sunset. Photographers generally prefer to experience full day safaris. But i will recommend these safaris for either professional photographers, or people who wish to experience how it is to be inside the national park for full day.

Gir national park has 3 safaris in a day, the first one starts at sunrise for 3 hours, the 2nd one immediately after the first one ends, and the 3rd safari at 3pm for 3 hours.

Jeep Safaris

This vehicle is ideal to experience the safaris in national parks of India. The model used for safaris in most of the parks is the Maruti Gypsy. it is a 4X4 vehicle, very silent, and comfortable. In some parks Mahindra Thars are also used for safaris. They are diesel vehicles, hence a bit noisy. But they are also all terrain vehicles and comfortable. Maximum 6 people are allowed to sit in the Jeep besides the guide and the driver. But as it is a bit compact hence ideal for 4 guests. In case of professional photographers carrying camera equipments just two guests are recommended.

Safaris in National Parks of INdia
Jeep Safari in Ranthambhore

Some Lodges have recently started a modified version of a Jeep also. It is much more comfortable than a Jeep as it has bucket seats. But it is a slightly bigger vehicle, so not so easy to maneuver in the safari. But this also seats 6 people only.

Please see the video i shot in the park to understand this vehicle.

Canter Safaris

In some busy parks like Ranthambhore, Nagarhole, Corbett they have Canter safaris. Lately this has started in a very limited way in Kanha and Bandhavgarh also. Canter is a open safari bus which seats 12-20 people depending on the model and park. There is only one guide in the canter. For a serious wildlifer this is not the ideal way to do a safari. But if there is a group of friends, or family, then Canter works very well as it keeps everyone together. To avoid getting a canter safari you must book yourself atleast 120 days before the safari. But if it is a last minute booking, then you will have to be content with the Canter. Interesting part is that wildlife does not discriminate between a Jeep and a canter, it shows up nevertheless. But a Jeep is far less disturbing to wildlife compared to a canter.

Safaris in National Parks of India
Canter Safari in Ranthambhore

Elephant Safaris

Kaziranga, Corbett, Dudhwa, Nagarhole, Satpura, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Pench and a couple of more parks have Elephant safaris. These safaris are of one to two hours duration. it is worthwhile to experience atleast one such safaris during stay. It is an amazing way of seeing Wildlife. For guests who have never experienced an Elephant back ride, it is a great experience you must do atleast once. It is very fruitful in Kaziranga, and Dudhwa when you go for a safari to see Rhinos. Best part about an elephant safari is that it cuts through the Jungle. These pachyderms do not follow any fixed routes, hence you experience a Jungle in it’s true sense.

Safaris in National Parks of India
Elephant Safari in Bandhavgarh
safaris in National Parks of India
Elephant Safari in Kaziranga.

Walking Safaris

Satpura National park in Madhya Pradesh has walking safaris too. One goes on a trail of 5kms to about 10kms. A forest guide, and a couple of hotel staff also accompanies you as you are entering the Tiger country.

Cycle and Cycle Rickshaw Safaris

These are best for bird watching in Bharatpur. You can hire a cycle for yourself, and go around the sanctuary cycling and watching birds. This is perfect when you do not need guides, and you are an accomplished birder yourself. But if you need a guide, then Cycle Rickshaw safaris are the best. Most of the rickshaw drivers have been working in this sanctuary for decades. They know exactly which bird is in which area, which tree and which branch.

Safaris in National Parks of India
Cycle Rickshaw Safari in Bharatpur for birdwatching

Boat Safaris

These are commonly done in Chambal, Dhaulpur, Bharatpur, Ranganathithu, Katarniaghat, Nameri, Panna, Nagarhole, Pench, and Satpura. The boats get close to the birds, and then the boatmen cut the engines for you to peacefully spend time with the birds. If one wants to take photos then it is important to stay as still as possible, as the water does not make it easy for the boat to go still in water. One can also see Crocodiles, and Gharials in most of the above parks via boats.

Safaris in National Parks of India
Boat Safari in Dhaulpur

Camping Safari

This mode of safari in national park of India is used when you are tracking the Snow Leopards in the Hemis National Park. One has to camp on frozen rivers, valleys in search of this elusive Himalayan ghost. It is serious camping, hence precautions must be taken in carrying enough of winter warm clothings. One encounters temperatures of below 20 degree celsius.

Above are the various modes to do safaris in national parks of India. Should you have any further queries regarding the same, please write to us on info@naturesafariindia.com

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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