We were on look out for Sonam and Madhuri with their respective cubs. The cubs were around 8 to 9 months old, but still cubs of this age will be with their mother and hence it will be a delight to watch. “Wagdoh is the biggest male in India! However big he is, he is the best father one can have..”, there was an obvious pride seen in the face of the guide when he said so. “Tiger and best father, how is that?” “Well, he is one tiger who will not just mate but come back spend time with kids even if the kids are from multiple mothers! Never shows any partiality between his children from different mothers.” I stopped to figure out the logic but well, good father is all that matters. “Possible to see Wagdoh?” my mind had only one question, when will I get to see the tiger? “Wagdoh has now moved to buffer zone. He has become old, so he gave up his territory and went off to buffer. Tigers keep changing their territory.” We stopped by a lake to find a crocodile basking in the sun. And then suddenly came the barking of the deer. Deer alert other deer of tiger or leopard movement by barking. “It is barking, deer is barking!” I looked excitedly at the guide who didn’t seem any interested. “It is mating call madam, not alert call!” Sighh.. I sat down in the jeep. The deer kept looking for a mate for long time. As the sun was going down my heart sank that there was no tiger sighting in the first safari..
We decided to come around Telia lake as one last round before leaving. Nope nothing to be seen. Just when we passed the lake and came to clearing there they were, so many jeeps all lined up waiting for Sonam and her cubs. They had spotted the tiger moving! The beauty of Tadoba is there are plenty of plains that you can spot Tiger. And there came Sonam walking cautiously. She was miles away but we could very well see her.
She turned around and then came out two playful cubs. They kept playing around that I couldn’t even take a clear pic of the three in my point and shoot camera. After a good ten minutes of show they decided to hide in the bushes. I was still not content and was greedy “Bhaiya, can the tiger come near our jeep?” I asked with puppy eyes and the guide turned back with sarcastic look, “I’ll definitely ask the tiger to come by the jeep tomorrow morning madam!”
The next day safari was through buffer zone! And this time we were looking for Maya and Sharmili and their respective cubs. Isn’t this awesome! Tadoba is flourishing with tigers and cubs.. Maya’s cubs were even smaller and I really really really wanted to see them run along with their mommy. Buffer zone was the best. Thick bamboo trees leaning on the way, bushes and trees and branches bending down to say hello to your face (watch out for them); it gives the actual forest feel. And if at all we spot the tiger here, it has to come directly on your way, out of the thick jungle. Otherwise it is pretty difficult to spot. The deer was still on the look out for mate. The jungle fowl was constantly irritating us. Occasionally peacock decided to chime in. Since it was the mating season, peacocks still had their long feathers and watching them flying from one branch to another is such a splendid sight! A wild dog crossed by and then a mercedes benz! Now to spot Benz inside Tadoba was actually a sight, private vehicles are allowed and guess what, Wagdoh gave darshan to Benz waalon. Poor people like us on jeep just kept waiting and waiting and Wagdoh did not come out for a drink.
We were back in the core zone hunting for a Second look of Sonam and to spot Madhuri. Apparently Choti Tara was spotted in the morning and we decided to spot her as well. It is one of the tigers which is collared and it’s activities are monitored. Our guide took our jeep straight to a pond and stopped there hoping Madhuri would come for a drink. Soon other jeeps joined, someone had spotted leopard. An old Gaur walked in slow motion, reached the pond and had it’s drink. The birds did their job of pecking the Gaur. Poor deer had stopped barking and now had interlocked their antlers and were fighting crazily while the female didn’t even bother and was grazing peacefully. More than an hour passed, lot of jeeps added in. Boars came in for a drink and then langurs came in. And then there were hoards of flies which were appointed specially to irritate us. Whether they couldn’t differentiate between us and the gaur was the topic of debate. Sudden uproar and all of us were standing on top of the jeep seat. There she was, one of Madhuri’s cub had come down to cool herself. She drank, settled in and looked at us as if she was watching jokers putting up a show for her. After a good 15 min she got up, struck a pose and moved up. “Bhaiya, will the tiger come near our jeep?” I once again put up my puppy face.
“You na, you should have come during the time of Pasha! He would have come directly to your jeep!” said the guide. “Oh where is he now?”, on our fourth safari I had settled down with no expectation cos buffer zone is a little difficult to spot. “Pasha has this attraction to white color jeeps. Every other tiger, we need to wait to spot it.. But with Pasha, he will spot you and come towards you. Once a tourist got so afraid of Pasha that they cancelled all their other safaris and went home! Now he has moved to different territory, it has been long since we saw him!” Oh! why oh why! Why can’t Pasha or Wagdoh or Maya or Sharmili just come walking towards me.. Plzzzzzzz..
“Sharmili is named so because she is very shy”, the guide added as we stopped near a lake. Pink legged stork spread out it’s wings to get it sun dried. “Sshhh.. silently look there!” I looked past the tall dry grasses to other side of the shore of the pond wondering if the tiger had come for a drink. I took my binoculars when the driver exclaimed, “here, right here!” I looked at closer vicinity and there she was right there, just few meters away, walking cautiously, looked up just for a moment and then walked into the bushes. It was theee moment! Theee moment! The tiger so close for just a minute that only we could see her and other jeeps were not even able to spot her. And that, that made my entire trip! Beautiful Shamrili below..
As our jeep left the park and drove out of the gates, I looked back and wanted to spend much more time there. Maya and her cubs, Wagdoh, Choti Tara, Pasha; it was like you hear so much about someone that you want to meet them and greet them. “Bhaiya, there is still chance no, tiger comes on this road also no sometimes!” I exclaimed, yup greedy me! My friend nudged and I sat back in the jeep. Well see you next time Maya and Wagdoh. Hopefully we will get to see you in the next trip.. Of course there will be a next trip, what were you thinking 😉 Oh btw that deer was still looking for a mate as we drove out, poor thing 😛