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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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

 

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10 important points for Wildlife photography in India.

Doing a safari is not economical any longer. One spends substantial resources in doing the same. They say, that taking good photographs add value to your safari. The below points will help you prepare for Wildlife photography in India.

Wildlife Photography in India
Machli the Legendary Tigress in Ranthambhore National Park
  1. To hone your Wildlife Photography skills it helps to know the national park you are visiting. Read about it to know what animals you can expect to see, the type of terrain, temperatures, type of vehicles being used. Wildlife Photography in India is unique as the terrain and animals to shoot are different. Hence you must do enough research to know the same.
  2. Patience and perseverance is extremely important while doing safaris. Please see the above for the same.
  3. If you plan to shoot Tigers, then it helps to understand the Tiger behavior a bit.
  4. Listen to the guide and the driver of the vehicle you are traveling in, and follow the rules and regulations during the safari.
  5. Be as silent as possible. Murmurs are best when you sight something. Your talking, or excitement can push the wildlife back into the bushes.
  6. Avoid sudden movements when you sight anything. Sudden jerky movements of hands, standing up, disturbs the animal, and they can go away before you realize it.
  7. You must know your camera equipment well. Read your camera manuals once again before the tour. Avoid changing lens and memory cards when in front of animals. They should be done before sighting. You must know how many images your cards can store, and store surplus cards, and batteries.
  8. If you are sitting with other tourists in the Jeep, then it helps to coordinate with them in advance and ensure everyone is be able to take images. Avoid getting into any alterations with fellow tourists while the Tiger sighting is happening for want of better angles and a look. Everyone sitting has paid for the safari. (this point is usually for youngsters who get very excited during the sightings)
  9. Personal physical fitness is very important as well. You should be light on your feet, i.e. adjust the angles fast without being noisy. In a hurry to take images, do not move when others in the vehicle are taking images.
  10. Eat light. Avoid having heavy Indian meals before a safari, as the same can bring in a bit of laziness, and can induce sleep, resulting in you missing some possible opportunities.

For more personal guidance on how to shoot please feel free to write to me.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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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

 

 

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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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