If the big cat makes an appearance during your journey, then consider your wildlife quest fulfilled…
I’ve been to nearly all the wildlife parks in the country, with no real expectation I went to Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. But from the moment we entered, I was in love with it. With an ever-changing landscape spreading over 250sq km, it was undoubtedly the prettiest park I have been to, teeming with splendid animal and bird life. Kanha has been part of Project Tiger since 1973 and it seems to have earned dividends not just for the tiger but also the 12-horned Barasingha, or swamp deer, which has swung from a dismal 60 odd to over 500.
Since the tourist zone is fairly large, there are lovely moments to be had with just the surroundings as versus the madness of Bandhavgarh National Park, for instance, where one literally travels in a convoy of jeeps, with one sole aim in mind – the tiger. My first sighting that afternoon was an owl, followed by a civet, a herd of barasingha grazing by a lake, packs of black-faced langurs, all within half hour.
As we went deeper into the park, the open scrubland meandered its way uphill, becoming a narrow trail, barely wide enough for a jeep, surrounded by dense woods. The engine faltered and the jeep stopped for a second. That’s when we heard it – the warning call of the sambar deer in the distance.
Somewhere around us, there was a tiger. Jeeps came racing from both directions – they had heard it too. The drivers sat tensely clutching their steering wheels, almost sniffing the air. The rest of us seemed uncertain of where to look, unused to the language of the wild. Fiddling with cameras, binoculars, door locks, we waited for ten minutes in absolute silence. In my head, there wasn’t a single thought, I expected nothing. I mulled over the option of telling them about my jinx; then they would certainly have moved on. The driver in the jeep facing us shuffled in his seat, a sign that he wanted to try his luck elsewhere.
And the very next instant, from the side of the jungle, ambled out a massive male tiger, seven feet long, brushing past our jeep, almost against my arm. For a split second, everyone forgot to breathe, for all he had to do was lift his paw and smack any of us, but he had other things on his mind. Barely throwing us a glance, he scraped the ground and with a deep grunt, defecated. Having relieved himself, he simply melted into the forest once again, which is why I always wondered if he had
decided to come up only to tell us what he thought of the human species! The whole episode lasted about three minutes, but three minutes with a tiger barely four feet away feels like a lifetime. The happy cackling of others finally seeped through to shake me out of my spell. I was so mesmerized that not only did I forget to take out my camera, but I was weeping right through it, with enough evidence splattered on my shirt.
Kanha had finally broken the jinx and rewarded my long quest to see a tiger in a most fantastic manner. It was the start of a crazy ride, for I would see seven more in the next three days, but strangely enough, the only one whose every stripe I remember, was my first…
Best time to visit: Fall & Winter – Mid October till March
Spring & Summer – April & May – Best time to explore the Wildlife