Kanha National Park is very special and a Tiger sighting in Mukki will compel you to think, what is more beautiful Kanha as a park, or Tiger in Kanha?
I was doing an evening safari in Mukki zone in Kanha National Park on 12th December 2015. Habitually, I am the first to enter the park. Reason behind this is simple, i rather compromise on 15 minutes of sleep and be the first one to enter the park, as it opens more possibilities of some unique Tiger sighting in Mukki.
We entered and in about 15 minutes reached the spot on the main road between Chotta and Bada Chattapatra. Naren stopped the vehicle for a moment to hear some alarm calls, nothing. Took a turn towards Chotta Chattapatra (CC). We turned and saw fresh pug marks of a Tigress. The pug marks were so fresh that we thought we will see her walking ahead of us on the road.
Slowly and silently we followed. A Jungle fowl alarm call ensued, and the pug marks disappeared to one side. The alarm call continued. We thought the Tiger had heard us and had moved into the bush. We switched off the engine and waited. A Jeep coming from behind had a very ecstatic guide, Umesh, who said the Tigress is on the main road behind us, the area from where we had turned left, she was on the right curve. We turned swiftly. I ensured my camera was on.
We reached the spot and heard lot of alarm calls of Spotted Deers, and Sambar as well calling. The Tigress was on the move. Hearing the calls few more Jeeps assembled in the area. Two Jeeps before us had seen the tail of the Tigress before she moved in. We moved on to the Bada Chattapatra (BC). The alarm calls were coming from the valley on our right, we continued to move with a hope of seeing her emerge from the bush somewhere.
Then, suddenly a very loud, “Aaaaooooooommmm”. Distance wasn’t more than 20 metres. People who have heard a Tiger in the wild will understand what goes through the mind, heart and soul when they hear the Tiger roar. Before I could turn around and tell my daughter to keep her camera ready, she roared again, much closer, closer than I expected. Suddenly I heard the crushing of the dry leaves by her walk. The sound of crushed dry leaves was getting closer, and our heart beats faster.
Three Jeeps in the area, all silent. But anxiety got the better of one driver, he switched on the engine, wanting to go ahead of us. Hearing this the Tigress changed course. I sensed it as i heard the crushing of leaves sound go away. She turned into the valley. She stopped roaring. The alarm calls continued, but now they had started to fade away signaling that she was moving away, she had changed course. Tiger sighting in Mukki did not happen on this occasion.
My daughter’s face fell, Naren and me were disappointed as she had moved away. But the important aspect about experienced naturalists like Naren is that this disappointment lasts only moments. Yes, we missed one opportunity but safari was not over. Tigers had not left Kanha and gone away. Now we decided to move towards Duke road where we anticipated she would come out from.
We reached Duke road, and in no time the alarm calls of the Sambar deer started. The movement of the Tigress was on, and she was again coming towards us. I lifted my camera as I anticipated her to make an appearance in the fire line in front of us. It would have been a great image of the Tigress walking in the fire line. Then suddenly again a very loud, “Aaaaaooooooommmm”, and it was clear that she is heading straight towards us, still in the deep, the roar resonated. It was not clear from where she will emerge, but emerge she will for sure. And again, another “Aaaaaooooommmm”.
She was about to come out, any second, any moment, my heart was racing, and so was the time to exit the park. It was time to start the journey back to the exit gate. Her roaring continued, how desperately i wanted time to stop for a few minutes…alas, it does not, would not, and did not.
This time we had to start our engine, to exit towards the gate. While we changed gears, my head kept looking in the direction from where the Tigress was roaring. My eyes kept on searching for those majestic stripes which I hoped to see maybe just for a fraction of a second, but it was not to be. A momentary sadness engulfed me. Sat down in the Jeep, put my camera to rest, closed my eyes, and in my imagination saw the Tigress emerge out of the tall grass into the open.
I wanted to stop the vehicle right there, turn back again, go back to the spot, for I knew she had made an entry, but did not due to lack of time. One deep breath, I opened my eyes, and smiled looking at the sky. Yes, I did not see the Tigress physically today, but I did hear her roar, I saw her fresh pug marks, she was close, very close, and yes, I saw her clearly in my imagination. Oh, what a super Tiger safari it was.
This is what is special about Tiger sighting in Mukki. This zone always keeps you on the edge, you know Tigers are all around you. There is enough of evidence, enough of pug marks, growls etc. Tiger sighting in Mukki has been the highlight of Kanha National Park for the last two years.
Returned to the Lodge, the first question from everyone is, ‘Sir how was the safari”, I smiled, and they knew that I had seen a Tiger.
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