Tadoba - Part 6

Read earlier posts here - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5


The Chase


Time for afternoon safari. This time there was a longer queue outside the gate of the Reserve. Some private vehicles were also waiting there. It looks like the Reserve is open for private vehicles as well, as long as the official guide is accompanying. This was something different than what I had observed at Bandipur, where only official vehicles were allowed inside the forest. 


I also came to know that there are only certain number of vehicles allowed inside the reservoir and the forest department controls that number!! I didn't find the logic behind this...


Our safari started. Ashish was maneuvering the vehicle through the jungles, looking for trails. I was spending time in reading the signboards and peeping through the trees/bushes hoping I would be the lucky one to first notice the tiger. Mrunmay was at his task - sleeping!! Yeah, he had fallen into sleep in the morning and even now. Good for us, I thought. Ashish even tried to get onto some road/area which was closed until then. No luck.


We reached Khatoda Gate, which was kind of a mid-way spot in the safari. A checkpost and a toilet place. While we were getting refreshed, one of the passenger vehicles brought the news that they saw a tiger. Back in the lane - "Kavichi Lane" - through which we had passed in the beginning of the safari. Ashish was now charged up. He was hopeful that we would get to see the tiger. He hurried us up back in the Gypsy and we were on our way to "Kavichi Lane". I will not forget this drive. Anxious but excited, would we be able to get a glimpse? or the tiger would have left by then? The distance was just a few minutes, but given that the animals do not stay in open for long, there were less chances of we spotting the tiger at the same place. Nonetheless, we drove there. Once we left the main road in the jungle, Ashish and Vitthalbhau (the forest guide) started carefully watching the road. No signs on the crossroad. We reached the other end of the lane and suddenly Ashish and Vitthal look excited. We observed the road and we too were excited. We got the trail. Fresh pug-marks of tiger.. oops tigress. It seem the animal was a tigress and was a regular visitor of that area. We started following the pug-marks. They were going along the same road, which we had traveled earlier. And then the pug-marks disappeared in the grass and the bushes. The tigress had gone into deep inside the trees.


Vitthal bhau started doing some calculations. If the tigress has gone inside this area, there's only one way she could come out from. The reason - there was a water body on that way and the tigers usually don't "turn back" on the same road - Vitthal bhau said. We were contemplating of waiting at the same spot or going on the other side. even after a few mins nothing happened. No further signals, signs, calling ..nothing. So Ashish and Vitthal bhau decided to check out the other side. We were unlucky enough not have sight even on the other side of the kavichi lane. We were feeling bad to miss the animal, it was all possible that the tiger was actually following us when we were on that road earlier. It just so happened that we didn't look back!! 


The duo decided to take another chance at Kavichi lane. As we entered the lane, suddenly Vitthal bhau went calm. and so was Ashish. Nothing in the sight, we were wondering what happened. Suddenly we heard a sound - no it wasn't of the tigress - apparently of the "barking deer". The barking deer is known to make such a sound only when he sees the danger around. That surely meant the tigress was somewhere inside. The sound was close enough to guess the direction. We slowed down. Vitthal bhau whispered this is what they call "Calling". The calling continued at regular intervals - every 30-40 seconds. Went cold in between. But started again. The Gypsy was parked. The DSLR was out. The handycam was ON. The excitement was going up. We were patient. Listening to sound and if there's any change in the direction.


It looked like the calling was heard by few other Gypsies too. Few started coming in from the same lane. We moved forward a bit and adjusted the location near the water body, in the hope that the tigress would come to the water soon or at least after the hunt!! Would we get to see the hunt? My heart was beating faster.. Mrunmay was getting curious as he wasn't seeing anything but all of us sitting quiet. Meghana and I were whispering and telling him what's happening to keep him quiet and interested. The Calling was intensified. One of the other Gypsies decided to move forward and so couple more. And then came our bad luck. The other gypsies were making too much noise while moving forward. By the time those gypsies halted by advancing on the road... the Calling went cold. There was no sound by the barking deer. No other movements.. 


Still keeping patience. in the hope that tiger would probably be moving now. which direction? God knows... we decided not to move this time. but now time was against us. it was getting closer to 6, when we'd need to report back on the main gate for exit. With fingers crossed, the DSLR in the hand, Meghana was completely restless. Continuously looking into the trees.. no sign...


It was 5:45 PM and the duo decided to call it off. With heavy hearts, we started on our way back...


The pugmarks were fresh, there was calling sign, but still we were unlucky not to get to see the tigress, not even a glimpse... Ashish was comforting us that we have got some trail, there are equal chances that we'd get to see it the next day. The tigress would remain in the same area for some time now and the chances of sight are better.


It was absolutely thrilling experience. Just the thought that tigress was around somewhere in the bushes had made our hearts beat faster and pulse racing. What could have happened if we had actually got to see the tigress? This chase increased our interest in the safaris and all three of us were charged up for the next day's safari. In the hope that we'd get to see the tigress...


Continued...

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