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

Please follow and like us:

The Biggest Tiger of Central India; the Umarpani Male of Kanha National Park

Tigers of Kanha are known to be big in size. And, i am putting my neck on the block by making such a statement. But having observed Tigers for close to 28 years in many nationals parks (specially in the Central India highlands) i think this guy has it all going for him as far as size, strength, and stealth is concerned. Umarpani male, slightly premature to crown him as the future King of Kanha as there is some serious competition on the cards from Chotta Munna who is taking his father’s legacy very seriously.

A lot of this has to be dedicated to his genes. His forefathers have been dominating Tigers in Kanha for past generations. Let us see which lineage does he come from.

The lineage of Umarpani male:

Father is Munna, the legendary Tiger who has CAT spelt on his forehead. At 15 years of age, Munna is still controlling the main tourism zone of Kanha. The world knows him, and he needs o further introduction. Munna’s father also known as the Limping male was one of the dominating and a huge Tiger before Munna.

Tigers of Kanha
Limping male, father of Munna, and grand father of Umarpani male
Tigers of Kanha
Munna, father of Umarpani male, photo by Naren

Mother is Umarpani female, the daughter of Banda, the dominant male Tiger of Kanha before Munna, and Sonapani female, who in turn is the sister of legendary Laxmi (not same litter). This is the reason for her size. Her size confused people with a male Tiger quote often. So her genes come from dominating male and popular Tigresses of Kanha.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpnai female, daughter of Banda and mother of Umarpani male,. Photo by a past guest of ours.

Umarpani male:

He was born around Nov 2009, they were two brothers and sister in the litter. The other male cub was even bigger than him. He was shaping up well until about 2 years old when tragedy struck. When and where he disappeared alongwith his sister none know. Umarpani male is the smaller of the two brothers. At times i wonder if his brother was around what would have been his size.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpani male in 2014 (5 years old)

My first sighting of Umarpani male was in December 2014. I mostly followed him from behind, and only for few seconds i was able to take some of his side flanks. He was about 5 years at that age. His muscular build was very obvious.

Tiges of Kanha
Umarpani male in June 2015, 6 years old

Then i saw him in June 2015. Behold, I was in a state of shock when he turned to look at me. I skipped a heartbeat or two. Never before any Tiger seemed so big to me. From close quarters lot of Tigers look big. But this fellow’s largeness was evident even from a distance. It was not only his size that stole my heart, but his looks, and presence are of a killing machine. I am not sure how many people have had the opportunity of photographing Umarpani male for 30 minutes or more. But after that sighting i thought if i do not see Tigers for next 2 years i am fine, as i thought i had seen the best.

Who is bigger Munna or Umarpani male?

Today when i sit back and compare both these big Tigers, Umarpani male outshines Munna very comfortably in size, and semblance. And this i am comparing Munna in his prime. The skull of Munna is big, but Umarpani male’s skull is bigger, wider, and with a larger circumference. Though the height and length of both would be similar, but sheer compactness and crassitude of Umarpani puts him in a class of his own. His overall bone structure, bigger limb bones, and wider skeleton puts him on a pedestal where his huge father starts to look minor in size compared to him.

After all Umarpani male has the advantage of his mother’s genes as well. She was one of the largest Tigress of Kanha ever.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpani male; the sheer size of his skull is matchless

Umarpani vs Bheema

Bheema is thinner, infact much thinner compared to Umarpani male. They might seem to be of same height and length but girth wise Umarpani male outclasses him. Bheema’s bone structure is lean, smaller frame compared to Umarpani. And his skull lacks the monstrosity of Umarpani. Bheema weighed 225kgs when he was just 2.5yrs old  (vs Jai 220kgs full grown). Bheema with his winter coat would be 280kgs plus, and yet Umarpani male outmatches him in summer. Now again for a moment think about Umarpani’s brother who was even bigger than him. What a loss to Kanha by his mystifying disappearance.

Tigers of Kanha
Bheema, June 2015

Umarpani vs Rajaram (Kingfisher)

I have been a fan of Kingfisher too as he was a peaceful Tiger who in terms of size looked similar from a distance. He like Chotta Munna gave ample opportunities to tourists to see him from close quarters. But as one would look at him closely he seemed like a Tiger on steroids. He was shorter in height compared to Uma male. Maybe hence he lacked the core muscles and his belly literally touched the ground. Length-wise also he was smaller than Bheema and Uma male. When someone saw him with a full belly he looked like a big Tiger, while he was actually a big belly Tiger. Also from the Tiger point of view he did not have the cuts and contour of a competitive cat. He seemed to be lot of fat, and lacked muscular manifest.

The fatal fight, October 2016: Umarpani male vs Rajaram

Umarpani had a close skirmish with Rajaram in January 2015, wherein he got Rajaram to retreat. Though both seemed to have some injuries, but Rajaram left his area, and stayed away. So Uma male had a measure of him from the past fights while Chotta Munna did not. So had it been Chotta Munna in the territorial fight even he would have sustained injuries. But Uma male had the knowledge of the mass and might of Rajaram so it was most likely him, and only him who could have given the fateful bite.

Another point that would point towards this direction is that the fight most likely did not last long. Uma male nailed him fast and furious, cause had it lasted long even Umarpani male would have sustained injuries, which he did not. He was sighted a couple of days later moving quite briskly by the forest department.

Tigers of Kanha
Rajaram aka Kingfisher male
Tigers of Kanha
Rajaram and Umarpani male in a territorial fight. Photo by Naren Malik

Above fight between the two was in January 2015.

No one has any evidence of the fight of October 2016, as it was seen by none. But the past records, and strength of Umarpani male tilt indication towards him. He usually avoids limelight, and prefers giving the tourist vehicles a skip. Uma male is mostly sighted crossing the tracks, even if he follows a vehicle it is not for a great distance. But this behavior might undergo some change now and people might start seeing him more. As killing Rajaram has given him extra expanse in territory, and confidence for sure.

Umarpani vs Chotta Munna (Link 7)

This will be the comparison for the future, or fight for the No 1 slot. Chotta Munna has the attitude of his father. He has gained in size over last 4-5 months. But being younger to Umarpani male would most likely be a tad deficient in strength as on date. But Chotta Munna seems to be catching the eye balls of everyone as he is one tourist friendly Tiger. On the contrary Umarpani male is shy.

Tigers of Kanha
Link 7 Tiger Photo by Naren Malik

With Rajaram out of the equation, it is but natural that Umarpani and Chotta Munna will expand their territory. It cannot now be ruled out that Kanha might witness another superiority sparring between these two males in the near future. It is unlikely that anyone will lose easily without giving the other some serious agony. I would pray that they both survive in case such a situation arises, as both are very strong contenders to be the next Legend of Kanha after Munna. May the strong genes of Tigers of Kanha prosper far and wide.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpani male

I would like to thank Minh Ha and Naren Malik for providing some crucial information on lineage, and Naren for some images as well. A special mention here for Minh Ha whose knowledge on Tigers of India is nothing short than encyclopedic. He is an inspiration to many.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

 

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us:

Night Safaris in Kanha

Kanha national park in central India is starting Night Safaris in the buffer zone. Only time will tell if this is a good, bad or an ugly decision. Let us not jump the gun in ridiculing the step, neither let us support it with closed eyes, let us try and understand the pros and cons of starting Night Safaris in Kanha. This has been tried in Satpura and Pench National Parks already, and now being brought to Kanha.

Night safaris in Kanha
Safari in Kanha National Park

It is always better to know the negative and flip side first, followed by the positive side too.

Negatives of promoting Night Safaris in Kanha

Having personally done a night safari of about 2 hours in Satpura i know for sure that it is not easy to sight Tigers, or any other wildlife with naked eyes in the pitch dark of a forest. Either one needs to go in with the night vision glasses, which are not easily or cheaply available, or one needs a search light to see the animals. Please note one needs a serious search light in the night of the forest. Now, what do you think will this powerful search light do; it will make tracking animals easy, and it will hurt the animal eyes for sure, resulting in temporary blindness. So, we need to ask this question, is it worth it, is it required?

What if poachers also book these safaris in the buffer zone, to try and pick on the animals? Hopefully the forest department has thought about the repercussion and has a solution for this.

Will the night safaris not change the behavioral aspects of the animals? It is a known fact that the herbivores usually come out in the grasslands, or in the fields of the villagers in the buffer to feed on the crops. So when the flashlights start running around in the night, will they be able to eat in peace? The counter to this is that herbivores eat during the day in the grasslands. But not so in the buffer zones. We see them eating in the grasslands in the core zones of the forest as they are usually not disturbed in the vast grasslands of the core zone. But in the buffer area, the grasslands are not as big, the fields near the villages are small. So my gut feel is that the night safaris might disturb the feeding habits of the herbivores.

Positives of Nights Safaris in Kanha

  1. I recently read news that some poaching has happened in the buffer areas of Kanha. So the night safari will deter the poachers to stay away from the buffer zones for sure. It is a noted fact that most of the poaching happens in the buffer. While there is regular patrolling happening by the forest department and also the tourist vehicles, there is no patrolling but the tourist vehicles in the buffer zones. Hence these zones are far more susceptible for poaching. Hence any movement of tourism in the buffer zones will be a deterrent to the poachers. If done and controlled well, this can be the trump card of the forest department to curtail poaching.
  2. It surely will be a revenue generator as well for the forest department and they can utilize this revenue towards conservation of the flora and fauna.
  3. There are plenty of buffer areas in Kanha, like the Baisan ghat area, Samnapur area, area between Banjar river and Bamni. There is presence of Tigers in these buffers, hence any safaris during the day or night here will be only beneficial.
NIght Safaris in Kanha
Sambar Deers in Kanha National Park

Suggested steps if taken by the forest department may optimally utilize the night safaris.

  1. The tourists will need to be briefed about the code of conduct in the night safaris in Kanha.
  2. There must be standardization of search lights that should be used.
  3. Ideally a forest guard must accompany the tourists to ensure discipline during the safari.

Hope this initiative of night safaris in Kanha is a huge success in conserving the flora and fauna of Kanha.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

 

Please follow and like us:

Bandhavgarh of bygone times.

There is a lot of history hidden in the forests of Bandhavgarh. The Bandhavgarh Fort inside the national park is considered over 2000 years old. There is a mention of the Bandhavgarh Fort in Narad Panch Ratra, and Valmiki’s Ramayana. It is said that after killing the demon King Ravana, Lord Rama stopped here. He asked Nal and Neel, the two monkey architects to make this fort. It was these two who had also made the bridge to go to Lanka in the Indian ocean. The idea to make this fort was basically to keep an eye on Lanka from here, as this is one of the highest hills of central India. He made his younger brother Lakshman as resident deity of the fort. So the fort gifted to a brother (Bandhu in Hindi), came to be known as Bandhavgarh. Lakshman is also called as Bandhavdeesh after this.

Bandhavgarh Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort entrance
Bandhavgarh Fort
Inside the Bandhavgarh Fort

History of Bandhavgarh

Around the fort there are caves dug in sandstone which are over 2000 years old. One can see the Brahmi inscriptions on the walls of these caves. It is said that many saints and sages meditated in these caves. The Maghas, the Vakatakas, the Chandels inherited the seat of this fort. Finally in the 12th century the Baghels laid their claim on this fort, and until 1969 the Royal family of Rewa ruled this fort. The Royal family played a big role in conservation of Bandhavgarh. Though they did some hunting in this area, but they overall protected it as well. Once it was declared as a national park in 1969, they vacated the fort. Inside the fort one can still see the remains of the court, the treasury, the temple, the horse stable, and the school etc.

You can also see the statues of the Dashavatar (the ten incarnations) of Lord Vishnu here. There are two big lakes in the fort. The story goes that the water from these lakes seeps in, and then emerges from the foot of a 32 feet reclining Vishnu statue at Shesh Shaiya. Thereon this stream is known as Charan Ganga which flows through the Chakradhara meadow, alongside Siddbaba, and out of the park).

Bandhavgarh Fort
Brahmi inscriptions considered over 1000 years old
Bandhavgarh Fort
Caves where the saints meditated few centuries back
Bandhavgarah Fort
The Statues in the Fort

Kabir in Bandhavgarh

The famous mystic poet saint of 14th century, Kabir also spend quite a few years in the fort meditating, and writing his famous Dohas (the couplets famously known as the Kabir Vaani). There is a Kabir hermitage in the fort. On my visit here i was shown a secret escape from a room in this hermitage which apparently Kabir used often to move out from the fort. This escape used to take him to Kashi (Varanasi) to meet his Guru (Master). The Kabir panthis (followers of Kabir) gather here in the month of August every year for a two day celebration. This is the largest gathering of Kabir followers worldwide. They walk on foot till the Fort, stay put there, and come back after two days.

Bandhavgarh Fort
Kabir Ashram (hermitage) inside the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
Matsaya (Fish) Avatar Statue in the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
Varaha (Wild Boar) Avtar statue in the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
The Kurma (Tortoise) Avatar Statue in the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
The Buddha Avatar Statue in the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
The workmanship

It is indeed sad that after the Supreme Court decision in 2012 visit to this fort has been prohibited.  The reason is that this fort is right in the heart of the core zone of Bandhavgarh, and to go up to the fort one has to trek about 25 minutes from Shesh Shaiyya. Needless to mention that there are Tigers and other wildlife in and around the fort, hence it is not considered safe to walk up. Besides it does disturb the wildlife too. I have personally seen Sita with her cubs close to Shesh Shaiyya way back in 1996-97.

Meeting B2 enroute to Bandhavgarh Fort

For me a visit to Bandhavgarh was incomplete if i had not visited the Fort. Way back in 2004, once while trekking up, i encountered B2 in his early days on this route. There were four of us on foot, and at a bend, we see B2 come up from the valley on to the track of the fort. We froze right there, and so did B2. He paused for a moment, gave us a glimpse, and without bother left the track to go down the valley. What seemed like eternity was actually just 5 seconds.

This was my first encounter on foot with the Tiger in his own backyard. I breathed a sigh of relief. The trek is steep so the camera was around my neck. With B2 looking into my eyes from about 10 meters in front of me, i forgot that i had a camera, so clicking a picture was totally out of question. But the image imprinted on my mind of that moment is still fresh like it happened yesterday, thought it was almost 12 years ago.

The Temple priest

From 1997 till 2008 i trekked upto the fort atleast 4-5 times every season. Not only I loved the hike to the fort, but the view from the fort, the feel of the fort, and more than anything else it was meeting and talking with the resident priest of the fort that i always looked forward to. A very old man, tall, with a broad frame, deep voice, and an intense look in his eyes. How he stayed in this temple all alone in this national park always surprised me. No company, no radio, television i doubt if he ever knew it existed. He would give Charnamrit (tulsi water) pronouncing the sacred Sanskrit shloka:

अकालमृत्युहरणं सर्वव्याधिविनाशनम्।
विष्णुपदोदकं पीत्वा पुनर्जन्म न विद्यते।।

Meaning, “whosoever takes this sacred water is protected from any accidental death, deadly diseases, and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death”. This chant in his deep voice in the corridors of the temple would resonate in my ears for a long long time.

His story

He would walk down to the Tala village to secure his provisions and by late evening he would get back to Bandhavgarh. Once while going back he had an encounter with a Sloth bear. It is said that a Tiger emerged from the nearby grass, and fought the Sloth Bear away. Then the Tiger walked with the priest for some distance to ensure that he reached the temple.

Bandhavgarh Fort
Bandhavgarh Temple in the Fort

He once told me, “the Tigers are my family, and I know all the Tigers of the area around the fort”. We would sit in the corridors of the temple, and he would make tea for us. Then we would share our lunch with him. There were times we just slept off in the corridor of the temple. As he grew quite old, he became unwell, and was brought down from the Fort much against his wishes as there was no one to take care of him inside the Jungle.

What all is bygone, and will those days return?

Though Charger, Sita, B2, have all gone, and they have been replaced by many beautiful Tigers of today. But the enigma of the priest, the temple, and the fort cannot be replaced by any. For people who have seen the Bandhavgarh Fort miss it still. And those who have visited Bandhavgarh after 2012, know not what they have missed.

Bandhavgarh Fort
Yes, this is true. Just two Jeeps entering the Tala zone for a safari

The above photo is not photoshopped, yes there was a time when Bandhavgarh hardly had tourists. I recall sighting 10 different Tigers in 2005 in one morning safari of 4 hours. But the popularity of the Tigers and wildlife photography through social media has made wildlife tourism a big business everywhere.

Many resorts have sprung up in the area, Tala a small village now is a place where you will get everything you need, including a broadband, wi-fi, and a spa treatment. Do not expect the standard of the Spa to be anywhere close to a city hotel. To an extent if handled well, tourism can be a big conservation tool, but if gone awry, it can be a very disturbing factor for wildlife. So yes, those silent, peaceful days of less tourism are also bygone.

The rush of tourism has been regulated to quite an extent by opening of some more zones, and also buffer zones. Yet, one thing that has not reduced is the kind of Tiger sightings that are still taking place in Bandhavgarh. There was a lull year when there was a marginal drop in the Tala zone, but it seems the golden years of Bandhavgarh are almost back as far as Tiger sightings are concerned. The Tiger sightings of Bandhavgarh will never be bygone.

Sharad Vats

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Online safari bookings open on 22nd August 2016

Online safari bookings
Spotti in Bandhavgarh National Park

This is to inform all safari lovers of central India parks that online safari bookings for season starting 1st October are opening today. Bookings are available to be done for the next 120 days. For the first time there will be a quota of tickets for last minute bookings too. The details of the same will be out in the next couple of days.

In Bandhavgarh all the three zones, i.e. Tala, Magdhi, and Khitauli will be open for online safari bookings from 1st October. But in Kanha just Mukki and Kisli will be opening from 1st October. The other two zones, i.e. Kanha and Sarhi will open for tourism from 16th October. Reason for this partial delay is the black clayey soil of Kanha. Normally the monsoon gets over by mid or end of September, occasionally there are a couple of late showers in 1st week of October as well. This late rain hinders the track repairing process, and the black clayey soil being very slippery does not help matters either.

Similarly in Pench all the three zones, i.e. Touria, Karmajhiri, and Jhamtara will be opening from 1st October. Satpura will also see the opening of Madhai gate from 1st October, and Panna will also open the Madla and Hinouta gates from 1st October. Go ahead, plan your dates, and do your online safari bookings now.

General information for post monsoon opening.

Online safari bookings
Sambar Deer in Bandhavgarh National Park

Post monsoon is a great time for wildlife photography. Nature is at it’s best. The colors are deep, and thought provoking. There is lot of water in the forest, thus plenty of undergrowth, and lot of food for all the animals. October is also a busy time for birds, thus good for birding. Migration also tends to starts by end of October.

Only word of caution is that one must be careful with falciparum malaria. Certain areas of central India, in particular Kanha has this mosquito active in post monsoon time. Hence take precaution, carry anti-mosquito sprays and cream, wear full sleeve shirts and trousers, avoid T shirts and shorts.

In the first week of October there could be an odd shower or two, hence take precaution to keep your photography equipment safe. Carry some plastic covers to protect them.

This year has seen heavy rain in the state of Madhya Pradesh, so the road conditions in October might not be very good. The time taken from the Airport and railway stations could be a tad longer than usual.

As the national parks open after 3 months of closure, hence even the regular guides and drivers will not know the whereabouts of the predators. It takes a week of two for them to assess what is happening in which area of the park. So higher degree of patience will be good for you.

The days will be warm in central India in October. but mornings and evenings will be pleasant. If it rains, it can get a bit cold and misty in Kanha.

So what are you waiting for, book yourself now. Click on the link below to book direct.

https://forest.mponline.gov.in/Index.aspx

Have a great safari season.

Sharad Vats

 

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us:

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.
Please follow and like us:

Safari in Satpura National Park

Safari in Satpura National Park
Satpura National Park

It was month of June, i thought of making a quick tour to Satpura National Park in Madhya Pradesh. I boarded the  Shatabdi train from New Delhi at 6am to Bhopal. Comfortable train with a comfortable seat, fortunately with good company of a young Indian IT engineer and time flew faster than the train. THe train reached Bhopal station at 2pm. From there i drove 180kms to Satpura National Park on a smooth highway.  Stopped very briefly en route at Bhimbhetka.

Finally reached Reni Pani Lodge at 6pm.  Met up with Aly Rashid the man behind this beautifully run Lodge. He briefed about the range of activities that i will encounter in my brief stay. Early dinner was proposed and accepted. It was followed up with night safari to explore the buffer area of Satpura National Park.

I did not carry my camera for the night safari as i just wanted to get a feel of the night safari whether one see anything at all or not. But, the guide, and Aly both surprised me pleasantly, they were spotting things out of nothing. The permission to do limited night safari is a very good idea by the forest management of Satpura National Park. It surely keeps the poachers at bay, as i could see Jeeps from other Lodges also in the night safari. It was a nice experience though we missed a Leopard very closely. But we saw everything that Satpura National Park has on offer, except the big cats.

Satpura National Park
Satpura National Park Landscape
Satpura National Park
Satpura National Park

This park derives it’s name from Satpura hill range. Satpura was declared a National Park in 1981, and is spread over 1400 sq kms. Satpura, Bor and Pachmarhi combined become a part of central Indian highland ecosphere. For people who have done Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench will be pleasantly surprised as Satpura is a very different park.

Morning Safari in the Satpura National Park

Next day i got up early for the morning safari. I was served  a wonderful green tea, and then i was all set to go on a safari with Aly.  The drive to the park commenced. As the darkness started to wane, and the park came close, the beauty of Satpura range started to unfold in front of my eyes. It was a beautiful sight of the #Denwa river in front and the Satpura range in the backdrop. The sky was turning pale orange as sun was about to show up. The birds were out chirping. Cows had also started to sound their bells. But men in the village still slept. I could see the women folk on work already, the choolah was lit already.

We parked the Lodge Jeep just before the Denwa river, boarded a motor boat, and crossed the river. There was a Jeep on the other side waiting for us for the safari. The local guide joined us, and his first question was, “What do you want to see Sir”. My mind was set for Leopards and SlothBear, and so i conveyed. Tiger was not a priority for me having seen many over the years. “So, shall it be”, a confident reply from my guide got me a bit nervous. I checked my camera settings to ensure all was set, as the confident voice of the guide conveyed that it was  matter of minutes before he shows them to me.

Flora and Fauna of Satpura

Entered the park with no hope for Tigers, idea was just to experience Satpura. Serene, light wind, some deers on the waterhole near the entry was a perfect beginning. I stopped for a few moments to internalize this beauty of Satpura National Park. After a while we met a Jeep that was coming from another direction with happy tourist faces. It was evident that they had some wonderful sighting already. On being asked, they said, just two minutes back a sloth bear with two young ones on her back had crossed their trail. Happy that they saw, and not disappointed that we did not.

The impression so far was very positive. This was not a run of the mill Tiger safari park. One has to have patience, and zero expectations about the Tiger for sure. Only a true nature and wildlife lover will appreciate Satpura. This is not a park for the masses, but for the classes.

Over 250 species of birds, 38 mammals, which include, the Tiger, sloth bear, Leopard, Indian Gaur, Dhole, Jackals, Cheetals, Sambhar deers, Hard Ground Barasinghas, and more, over 65 types of butterflies, plenty of reptiles, this park has a lot to offer to a serious nature lover.

Activities in Satpura National Park

Apart from the regular Jeep safaris, one can also do a boat safari, a canoe safari, a walking safari, an Elephant safari, and a night safari. Variety of activities is as diverse as Satpura bio-diversity. We stopped in a camp to have some delicious Aloo Paranthas packed for breakfast by the Lodge. As this was peak summer, so we saw some work going on in the park to replenish water holes. A very thoughtful step indeed. Came out of the park after seeing practically everything except the big cats.

Safari in Satpura
Waterhole Satpura National Park

On the way back i thought of visiting other Lodges to get a feel of other good Lodges in Satpura National Park. Apart from Reni Pani Lodge which i would rate right up there for a great overall experience, #Denwa Water Escape, and #Forsyth’s Lodge are also very good Lodges in the area with good product and management.

Lunch with the naturalists was very informative. Most of the naturalists were very experienced in rest of the parks of central India as well. So a very good discussion followed until it was time for the afternoon Safari.

The recent introduction of the Hard Ground Barasinghas from #Kanha National Park has been very successful. The breeding has happened, and the next generation of Barasinghas have already adopted Satpura National Park as their homeland. Tiger population is also on the rise. The rest of the wildlife is fairly commonly distributed and seen.

Satpura National Park
Grey Langur in Satpura National Park

Best time to visit Satpura National Park

Good time to visit Satpura National Park is from October till April. May and June get very hot in Satpura National Park. Temperatures reach about 45 degrees an above. So the months of May and June are best avoided. During this time the rocks in the park get hot and radiate heat in the evenings. This repels the Leopards, and the Sloth Bears, who move into the areas which are less rocky. Therefore it is not a good time to see Leopards in these two months.

Due to shortage of time, i could not visit the Forest Rest House in Churna, but some of our guests in the past have experienced this rest house, and have come back happy with the experience.

The sun was setting, and much against my wishes i had to come out of the park. Sunset on the Denwa river was very picturesque and serene. A great discussion on future of Wildlife tourism followed with the naturalists of Reni Pani Lodge. In a brief stay of less than 36 hours, i could make out that this Lodge has very good operations, and less carbon footprints. Wish my stay was longer, but my favorite Kanha was tugging me. Next day it was a long drive to Kanha which i was looking forward to.

For any queries on Satpura National Park please feel free to write to us on info@naturesafariindia.com

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

 

Please follow and like us:

When is a good time to see Tigers in India?

A very important, and an often asked question to me by almost all guests wanting to do safaris in India. is “When is a good time to see Tigers in India. My answer is, “Depends on what is your motive?

Good time to see Tigers in India
Tiger in morning golden winter light in #Kanhanationalpark.

If you are a wildlife enthusiast, who really enjoys nature, and is wanting to see maximum wildlife, then anytime from October till June is good to see Tigers. All national parks in India are closed from July till about September for monsoon.

Good time to see Tigers in India
Misty winter evening #Tiger and an #Elephant in #Dudhwa National Park

If you are a nature photographer and wants good light to photograph Tigers, then December and January is perfect. As the morning golden winter light is perfect for Tiger and nature photography. The morning mist also adds to the beauty of the image.

Good time to see Tigers in India
Tiger in water in peak summer month in #Ranthambhore National Park

If you are a serious amateur or a professional photographer, then  April to June is fantastic. It gets hot in the these months, the mercury soars above 40 degrees celsius. So if you can personally handle such temperatures during the safaris then you will be rewarded by some amazing Tiger sightings. June is also onset of monsoons. Most of the national parks would get some pre-monsoon showers in early June.

Is monsoon a good time to see Tigers in India?

The national parks are closed from 1st July till Sept. Infact Corbett is closed from mid June until mid November for monsoon. Some parks open their buffer zones in the monsoon. The beauty of a national park in monsoon is pure magic. The colors in these months are intense. It is like the national park has just undergone some spa treatment. The green backdrop in the sal forest with Tiger in front is a dream image for many.

You can do safaris in the core zones even in June when the park is open. But if the pre-monsoon shower is heavy then the national park can be closed for the safari to avoid your vehicle getting stuck in a slush. Not all national parks close in showers. It all depends on the type of soil in the park. For example light showers in Bandhavagarh will do no harm to the tracks. But in Kanha due to black clayey soil, the tracks become slippery, thus making it risky to do safaris. Therefore the park authorities close down certain routes in the park. Hence it is important to know all this, or book with them who all this so that you get maximum returns for your resources and efforts.

So when you choose your safari operator be sure that they know when is a good time to see Tigers in India.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

www.naturesafariindia.com

 

 

Please follow and like us: