After the initial celebrations, our cat luck cooled down a bit. We did a couple of safari’s in Tala zone. It really is a beautiful zone with really enjoyable forest. Unfortunately for us (mainly Abhishek vaidayanathan and me), the zone was quite and there was not much wildlife movement around there. We also did a couple of rounds of Khitauli as well. Bird life in Khitauli was much better than other zones.
The temperature was dipping and cat activity was dwindling. However this lull in activities made us enjoy our time in B’garh even more. We spent a whole morning trying to locate a Tiger’s pugmarks, and we found it amazing to see how long can a cat travel in just one night. We would stop at various FD camps for a quick bite and tea. We also bumped into some really fine people. Dhritiman Mukharjee (One of the very few professional nature photographers in India) was there on an assignment. It seems cat luck was in short supply everywhere.
As a result of falling mercury, we were given hot water bottles to hug for morning safaris. One of the best thing was that in one of the jeeps the middle seat was removed. This enabled us to sit on the floor (covered with a mattress), under a few wraps of blankets and away from chilling wind, hugging our hot water bottles. While it may not be the most aesthetic way of traveling, I found it to be extremely comfortable.
One evening, we were on a round of Tala when we heard some calls. Listening for calls is an exciting experience. A langoor was calling in alarm from within the bush. We thought of waiting a while to see if a predator was on move. A few other jeeps decided to join us for the wait. It was a long wait and may left the scene. During the whole wait which was about 60 minutes or more, may actors joined the calls. A spotted deer joined in (you can hear a sample call at http://www.soundsnap.com/node/3834) and towards the end a Sambar deer joined in as well. Eventually the calls moved away and deers started moving. If there was a predator in the vicinity (and based on Langoor and Sambar calls there should have been), it had moved away. Slightly dejected, we moved on. While moving back Uttam (our driver for the day) decided to drive from Rajbehra route and try our luck there.
As we reached there, there were already 2-3 jeeps with excited passengers. I wonder what could have been so exciting. We all started craning our necks in hopes to spot the cats. Well, Uttam spotted the tiger with ease and pointed us in the right direction. After a few frustrating minutes, we realized what we were looking at. There was more than one tiger in the grassland. An excited lady from the jeep next to ours told us there were 5, a mother and her cubs. Slowly they started moving. Two of the cubs decided to give a little chase to the piglets (no kill), while the mother and rest decided to slowly move back into the forest. I was far and light was fading, but with luck, we were able to record some of it.
On our way back, an indian fox crossed ran across the path right in front of the lodge. At the lodge we had another interesting experience when a langoor started giving alarm calls. One of the employees checked and told us that someone had seen a leopard in the vicinity earlier in the day. Perfect :). That evening we went to the market for some deep fried goodness (Samosa, Gulabjamun and Rabdi). I also learned that if you plan to make star trails, cover your camera with plastic to avoid condensation on it. Thanks Tushar and Manas (two young men with a lot of talent and sarcasm ;-D).
Overall Bandhavgarh did not disappoint. While it did not rain tigers in each drive, we had some decent sightings, met some awesome and talented people, learnt a lot from Sudhir as well as other participants of the workshop & had a load of fun doing it. I was happy with the start of my trip. As the train chugged away from Katni, my resolve to have a summer sojourn to tiger reserves got a little stronger. However now was the time to look away from the bush and towrds the sky. I was going to wakeup in Bharatpur.
To be continued to Bharatpur..