The Mystical Magical Jungle -Tadoba 1
Tiger Trails and Tall Tales – Episode One
Jungles and forest have their own mystic.
There is something magical about them. You feel as if the Jungle Book has come alive.
Once you leave the tarred cemented roads and hit the rough trails, you enter into a different world altogether. The sunlight streaming through the clumps of bamboo shoots, the tall grass, the lovely meadows, the orange brown trail roads snaking along, the sweet chirping of the birds, the wafting breeze, eerie sound of the insects is all so ethereal. The green colour of the forest is calming and soothing. The gentle rustling of the leaves is like music. Every rustle, every whimper, every sound, every movement sends your adrenalin racing.
The jeep races through the forest trails. Overhanging branches, thorny bushes, and uneven surfaces keeps your bums off the seats. You hold on to the rods for dear life. The scenes keep changing as the bamboo shoots are replaced by thickets of bushes. It opens out into grasslands and meadows. You move along enjoying the wide expanse when suddenly it’s all dark. You enter thick woodlands before bursting out into a pristine blue lake. The very thought of encountering a tiger or two in the open, sets your hearts pounding madly. The guide keeps a lookout for any movements in the surroundings, while keeping the occupants interested identifying the flora and fauna.
As the four wheeler trudges along at a defined pace, the guide sees a fresh pug mark or two, whispers to the driver. The jeep suddenly changes course and you head in a different direction at breakneck speed. You reach the expected spot trying to beat the others and get a vantage point. Sometimes the tiger is in sight. At other times it is in hiding, biding its time to come out. You need extreme patience and perseverance plus a huge slice of good luck. At times you are rewarded beyond expectations. Other times, it is just a futile wait. Sometimes it’s a red herring. It’s all part of the game of chance.
Ashok Someshwar, my best buddy, companion of many a trail and travail and I, spent a few beautiful, exciting, memorable days exploring the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. It turned out to be the richest wildlife experience that I have ever witnessed. The plans were discussed and set to motion in the month of February 2018. Ashok had visited Tadoba earlier too, in fact twice. He had stayed at Hornbill Tadoba. A preferred haunt of most serious wildlife photographers, it is a no frills joint, run by the genial and ever smiling Manish Verma. He is a wildlife photographer of no mean repute. Manish does not advertise or solicit business. Yet, you have to book well in advance to avoid disappointment on arrival.
We reached Hornbill Tadoba at around 2.00 pm on Monday 21st May. The room was ready and the tigers in our stomach were already growling. A nice bath later we were at the lunch room to satiate our hunger pangs. We were booked for the rides from 22 May onwards. We relaxed and rested after checking and cleaning our equipments.
In the evening we got introduced to two charming gentlemen; Mr. Swethakumar, a descendent of the royal family of Bobilli, Andhra Pradesh and Mr. Didier, a self effacing Frenchman. Ardent wildlife enthusiasts and big time photographers, they spend most of their spare time and holidays in the jungles of India. We also chanced to meet Mr. Akhilesh Trivedi who runs a horticulture business and also a wildlife buff. If you are in the right place, at the right time, the universe plans such that you end up with likeminded companions.
During the 5 nights and 6 days we spent at Tadoba, we sighted 15 species of animals and 50 species of birds. The tiger count was 14 including 5 females, 1 male and 8 cubs. This is more than what most people would be happy with, for a lifetime. We also made new friends with similar interests, who respected, loved unconditionally the denizens of the forest and Mother Nature.
A visit to a wildlife sanctuary is to be one with nature at its most pristine. You should enjoy the mysticism. Seek, see, soak in and you will witness magic. Do not go to a sanctuary with great expectations. The expected may not happen. When it happens it is exhilarating. But it’s the unexpected which gives you the high of your life.
We have split the mystical, magical memories of tiger trails and tall tales into a series of blog posts. You can click on these links to read – Tadoba – Tiger Trails and Tall Tales series .