When East Africans meet, they often greet one another with the phrase “Habari za safari?”, which translates as “How was your journey?” Indeed, the word safari is Swahili for journey or travel.
In non-Swahili languages the word safari has been adopted and carries a more specific meaning. “An expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat”.
The term safari is used for travel adventures where one goes to observe or hunt animals. I hope that everyone will limit their hunting of wild animals using only a camera. Camera is much easier on wild animals. As these aimals desperately need our protection in this age of ecological threats).
By the fall of 2009, I had already undertaken safaris in East Africa, Southern Africa, and Australia. I remember reflecting on the many African Elephants, Lions, Hippopotamuses, Rhinoceroses, Zebras, Wildebeest, Antelope, Giraffes, Wallabys, Cocakatoos, and Platypus I had seen on these adventures. And I thought about what I really wanted to see next.
The Tiger immediately came to my mind. I assumed that the best place to see wild Tigers would be in Russia. It is here that fabled Siberian/Amur Tiger reside. Thus my on-line search began for a proper Tiger safari provider in Russia. These searches revealed that reliable safari providers in Russia were few. I also discovered that trying to see wild Tigers in Russia was a difficult undertaking likely to end in failure.
The by products of these internet searches was the Royal Bengal Tiger. FOr that i had to do an India Wildlife Safari. These providers seemed to assert much greater promise for seeing the iconic Tiger than the Russian Tiger safari providers. I realized that India was the destination to travel to in order to see the great striped Cat. So beautiful and yet so endangered in the wild.
I emailed one company, Nature Safari India, and stated my desire to see Tigers and Asian Elephants. To my utter surprise a complete reasonably priced Tiger safari itinerary was emailed back to me the next day. The company seemed to indicate that seeing Tigers was a strong possibility. A little bit suspicious of such a claim, I asked for three references. I was promptly provided with two in the USA and one in England. All references spoke very highly of Nature Safari India and I thus decided to make the down payment for my first Tiger safari in India.
Arriving in India in late May of 2010, Nature Safari India tour guides first took me to Jim Corbett National Park. Here Asian Elephant sightings were guaranteed and Tiger sightings were a possibility. Upon entering Corbett, I was completely awestruck with the beauty of this wildlife refuge. Set in the foothills of the Himalayas and containing thick 400-year old sal forests interspersed with grassy meadows and boulder-strewn dry river valleys. I had never seen a more beautiful area of the world. This opinion has remained unchanged in my returning to Corbett park three times during the past 5 years.
The most memorable part of my first Corbett experience was seeing the Asian Elephant herds and the desire to see my first Tiger. It was adrenaline-laden enthusiasm that my ears heard the words of my guide Sarbjeet. He said that, “A Tiger is in this area of the Ramganga River, just off the road. We must wait for it to emerge from the tall grass on the side of the river.”
We waited but no Tiger showed. It was soon 11:00 a.m. and time to return to the Dhikala Lodge. But I was determined. I told Sarbjeet that i wish to stay in the watch tower near the river so that I could see the Tiger if it emerged from the grass.
Sarbjeet sensed my determination and he did not dissuade me to sit out in the very hot sun. He sent his jeep back to Dhikala Lodge with another driver and joined me in the tower. This tower ascended a good 20 meters or more at its third and highest level.
After about an hour, Sarbjeet noticed something in the river. He told me to come to the second floor of the tower and look through some trees. The leaves mostly obscured our view of the near shore region of the Ramganga River. As the wind blew, it created a brief window in the tree branches. There lying right in the cooling waters of the shallows of the Ramganga river, I saw a Royal Bengal Tigress.
It was one of the most amazing wildlife experiences I have ever had. I watched the Tigress for two hours. Took plenty of photographs when the trees branches moved. The image of the Tigress’s black stripes set amidst a rich orange and white background. Simply an amazing initiation to viewing wild Tigers.
I was hooked. Tigers are the most beautiful of the big Cats and now I wanted to see them even more. Though I saw no more Tigers in Corbett National Park on that first safari. But I did see about 10 more tigers and some of these at very close range in Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks. All of these were very memorable experiences.
It was now i realized on this first Indian safari that I loved India. And Indian wildlife even more. I would rate it to be the very best wildlife I had seen in any of the nine countries of Africa I had previously visited. This impression was assisted, no doubt, by the fact that I also saw large herds of Elephants, Spotted Deer, Wild Pigs, Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, Indian Monitor Lizards, Leopards, Indian Wild Dogs/Dhole, and a good sampling of some of India’s 1,300+ Bird species. Many of these species are the most striking Avian species to be found anywhere in the world.
In addition, there is a certain quality in the Indian cultural climate that casts an ambience. An aura that adds what can only be termed a spiritual dimension to the whole wildlife experience there. The Hindu stories, for example, speak of the important roles played by the Tiger, and other animals in the history of this great land, India.
Somehow the reverence the people of India hold for these animals is communicated to the foreign traveler. One understands the respect Indians have for these animals. Then one realizes why there are still wild Tigers and Lions in India. While these animals have disappeared from so many neighboring countries. Indeed, these predators are not seen as dark, fearsome forces of nature. Rather they are seen as critical elements that have their rightful place in the natural order of the world. They are entities to be revered and protected as they represent an important aspect of that which makes life complete.
I would also state here that there is no better safari provider in the world than Nature Safari India. I have returned to India on six occasions and each time Nature Safari India has been my host. On three of these occasions, I brought university safari groups to India. These groups comprised of 20 to 30 individuals. On each occasion, Nature Safari India always delivered well beyond my highest hopes. I give them my highest recommendation. Also i would urge you to book your future India Wildlife safari with Nature Safari India.