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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You're a Tiger, Baby, You're a Tiger!

Ok. Now that I am officially back in Oz I can finally finish these tour notes on my blog. Sorry for the delay everyone! Now...where was I up to? Oh yes. Kanha. Wow...Kanha.
Kanha National Park is a tiger reserve in the remote and rural part of Central India.Covering 940 square kilometres it has plenty of room to house the variety of wildlife that resides within its borders. Among these are the beautiful tigers that roam wild in this beautiful jungle. People come to Kanha from all over the world to see...tigers.
Arriving in Kanha was not a simple matter of getting into our bus and driving. In fact, we said goodbye to Mr Singh and his bus at this point. We had become so familiar with him and his bus too. But now, things were changing. We took an overnight train from Agra, which is never easy. Sleeping on trains with other people in your booth is....interesting - especially if they are complete strangers who enjoy turning all the lights on in your cabin at 4am. When you finally arrive in Jabalpur, it is another 4 to 5 hour drive to Kanha itself by car. The roads are difficult but the countryside becomes less polluted and more beautiful with each passing kilometre. You notice also that fewer signs bear any English at all. Everything you have become used to about the India you thought you knew slowly disappears as you drive. Its quite interesting.
We arrived in Kanha in the late afternoon. We quickly freshened up and then ventured out in open Jeeps to see what we could find within the reserve. Within minutes we had spotted a tiger in the soft light of dusk. He was about 100 metres or more away and photography was useless. But his roaring could be heard for miles. With the light fading, we headed back to The Baagh (our accommodation was fabulous!) for dinner and a deserved rest. After all, it was going to be another sunrise to wake to in the morning.
The entire next day was spent driving through the National Park. We saw it all - Sambar Deer, Langur, Gaur, Peacocks...but no tigers. It was a great day but unfortunately no tigers. The rain didn't help either. Dinner conversation that night was lively, which was not unusual for our group, but there was a little bit of negative talk about seeing any more tigers. It had to be quashed.
"You know what?" I said, addressing my wonderful group. "Tomorrow, not only will we see a tiger, but that tiger will come out, sit down, smile and say 'Here, take my picture!' " I smiled to the group and returned to my rice and lentils. I had no idea that I had sent a message into the universe.
The next morning I spoke with our wonderful guide to see if it could be arranged that we have a brief stint riding on the elephants that roam the park looking for tigers. He said he would see what he could do but no promises. Fair enough. You can't always get what you want. Didn't somebody sing that once?
So once again, we loaded up into the Jeeps and began our search to photograph the wildlife. After a few hours we found ourselves on a back road. Ahead were some elephants and their mahouts, their drivers and masters. These fellows search through the park on elephants reporting tiger locations. It seemed that they were having a break.
Our jeeps stopped and we were invited to climb the ladders to the platforms atop each of these magnificent creatures. Nathan and I got into one together and we all headed into the jungle in which the elephants forge paths for themselves by simply ripping small trees out of their way with their trunks. It was a whole lot of fun.
I thought we were just getting our obligatory elephant ride, the one I had requested for the group earlier that day.
Suddenly, we began a descent into a creek bed. Nathan suddenly gasped and said in excited undertones "Dad! There's a tiger!" In disbelief I looked to the place he was pointing. There she was, sitting on the other side of the creek bed not twenty feet away, unperturbed by the presence of the elephants or their riders. She sat their for some time, not minding the whirring and clicking of excited cameras and the gasps and whispers of photographers who knew that this was one of those moments in your life you will never forget. After all, who gets to photograph a wild tigress from atop an elephant in the Indian jungle? Not many. Not even in this park. We were among the few to be ever so privileged. For several minutes we simply sat and watched her as she tired of putting on her show for us and lay in the bushes, moving only to yawn in signal of her indifference over our presence. She was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Nathan and I looked at each other with our hands on our hearts as if to check that they were still beating. Or, perhaps it was to ensure that the moment never escaped their excited chambers as long as we lived.
As you can imagine, the dinner table was filled with the vocabulary of a very different conversation that evening. We all knew that we had been given a special gift. And, as you can imagine, I reminded everyone that I had predicted it. Well, I have to take credit for something, don't I?
If I only have on regret it is that I didn't use the old Austin Powers line that would have made this moment even more perfect.
"Come on Baby! You're a Tiger! You're a Tiger!"
Somehow, I think she knew that already anyway...


S.E.M. said...

Welcome home!
Your adventures sound so exciting!
It's greatwhen such unique opportunities present themselves. Must have kept your cool in all the excitement as the photos are great.
Susan M.

Indus Excursion said...

Kanha is always first choice for wildlife lovers as one can find everything in Kanha in its best form like Barasingha, Indian Gaur, Large group of wild dogs (Dholes), large herds of spotted deers, scenic beauty, large area for safari to visit new are in each safari and glimpse of tribal culture on adjoining villages. Reaching Kanha is now not so hard as their is direct flight from Delhi to Jabalpur and regular taxi service is available in Jabalpur which take 03:30hrs to 04:00 hrs to reach Kanha (Kisli-entrance) and Kanha (Mukki-entrance side) it take 04:30 hrs to reach. Most of the visitor are un-aware of Ram-nagar forts & Chougan village i.e. close to Mandla city (15kms), we pass through while going to Kanha. With introduction of Taj Safari Lodge : Banjaar Tola, one can find world class accommodation facilities in Kanha.

Now you have no more excuse to visit Kanha Tiger Reserve.

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller