Lady: Oh! We wanted to get a head start and leave early for Bangalore. We didn't see much yesterday, so decided to skip it. Did we miss anything?
Manager: Yes! You missing LOT of sightings - 6 TIGERS, 2 LEOPARDS and 22 WILD DOGS!
Lady: YEAH RIGHT! Where did you see them, at the CIRCUS?
Manager: No-No. My other guests seeing them".
"Ask them" he says pointing to me, Saru and T&S.
We put on our best 'this-is-no-big-deal' smile and in the most fake-casual tone say "He is right! We saw all that!"
Couple : NO WAY!
We (in the same fake-casual tone): Yup. We first saw a pack of wild dogs chasing a leopard and its cub and just before we left the park, we saw a tigress and its 4 precious cubs. We saw the father of the cubs yesterday evening.
Couple: OMG...YOU ARE SOoooo LUCKY! We didn't see anything! Once we were in Corbett and an elephant charged at us. It was SO scary!
We: Oh yeah....we had 2 elephants mock-charge us. Today, we stopped to watch a herd and one got so mad, it trumpeted and almost charged at us. We tried to move, but our jeep stalled! It was damn scary!! Check out T's post.
Couple: Gosh! You guys had such a great weekend.
The couple was right about one thing and wrong about another. We definitely had a great evening, but it was not 'just' luck that resulted in these wildlife sightings! It was part-luck and part-strategy! Between the 4 of us, we have at least 30 years of corporate experience, so you could say we were smart people!
T: Saru, you are really lucky. NOBODY sees a tiger in their FIRST safari!!
Vam: I saw a tiger in my first safari at Corbett!
T: YEAH...like 10 kilometers away! - that does not count!!
Vam: Of course it counts! I saw it really close with a binoculars!
T(ignoring Vam): OK, we got really lucky today. Let's make sure we get lucky tomorrow too. All of you...even you Selva....wear the exact same clothes. No changes whatsoever! Not even your underwear.
Saru: Can we reverse it?
Shilpy: Oh God! This is gross!
T: Ssssh. We make sure we do everything the same way. Shilpy and I will sit here, Vamsee - you sit in the front seat like today and Saru were you foot-boarding on the left or the right side?.
T: OK! Is everybody CLEAR?
Next morning, we woke up extra early and were in the jeep by 6:15AM. It was our last safari of the trip before we headed back to Bangalore. I love morning safaris. It is nice and cold, the fog is just lifting and the birds are just waking up.
Vam: Saru....Are you hoping to see another tiger?
Saru: The odds of that are really really low.
Vam: I know
Saru: I don't think we will see a tiger today, maybe a Leopard, but not a tiger.
Vam: Right....because the odds of seeing 1 of the 98 leopards in a 100sq km park is so much higher than seeing 1 of the 100 tigers!
Saru: I am telling you - we are going to see a Leopard!
Vam (muttering); Whatever!
About half an hour into the park Saru and Thomas screamed:
Saru: HEY....look, FOX!!
T: It is a wild dog!
A second later, we saw another dog cross the road and it was followed by another and yet another.
Selva counted 22 dogs! It was like "Who let the dogs out! woof! woof! woof! woof!'
T: I think there is a kill, let's follow the dogs!
We followed the general direction and by then, two more jeeps had arrived. Our view was obstructed by bamboo trees and lantana bushes. We could not see what was going on, but could hear loud alarm calls by langur monkeys. They were jumping from branch to branch and screaming in fear. The wild dogs were growling and very animated. We switched off our jeep engine and waited.
A few minutes later:
'OMG! It is a leopard! It is so tiny! OMG It is a cub!!
Wild dogs were chasing the cub and the poor little terrified thing climbed up a tree as fast as it could. One of the dogs jumped at least 2 feet and almost reached the cub, but missed it by a thread! The dogs were upset.They were growling and circling around the tree. Langurs were still screaming like somebody was attacking them! A few minutes later, the dogs left. The little impatient cub should have realized that the safest place was up in the tree, but I think it was looking for its mommy, so it climbed down the tree as fast as it came up and disappeared into the bushes . The only shot Saru took had only its tail!!
By now, there were at least 10 jeeps in the area. We didn't know if we were in the best spot, but we had no way of moving, so stayed put and watched in the general direction. Nothing happened for a few minutes and then all of a sudden, the mom Leopard came into view!! It also, quickly climbed a tree and sat on a branch. Lighting was very poor and the animal was at least 40-60 ft away from us, so all the pictures are record shots and of poor quality!
It looked like the leopard was searching for its cub, so barely 3 minutes after it went up, it climbed down the tree and vanished into the bushes. We waited for a good 15 minutes, then drove to the other side of the road and waited there for a little bit, but saw nothing! By then the place was crawling with jeeps, so we moved forward.
Saru: What did I TELL you Vam!!
Vam: You are one lucky dog!!
Saru was basking in the glory of his good luck and was going on and on "I told you we were going to see a leopard and you didn't believe me ....I told you......"
They say that the best place to see a tiger is to go back to the last place you saw it. We went back to the previous evening's spot hoping and praying that it would still be there. Lighting was perfect and we wanted to get much better pictures than yesterday. We drove very slowly and focused all our energy trying to spot the tiger through the bushes. It was no where to be seen!
"That was too much to ask anyway" we said to ourselves and moved a little, when Saru, looking in the opposite direction whispered excitedly - "I SEE IT! I SEE IT!"
There it was, perfectly camouflaged in the bushes. We could barely see the tiger. If we were not looking for it here, we would never have found it! I was looking through my binoculars when I saw another tiger's face! I whispered in delight:
"I see another tiger!"
"Really....OMG Let me see!"
"Wait a minute...I see one....two....three!!
"It is a tigress with 2 CUBS!! OMG!! OMG!!
"Nope...Not 2, there are THREE CUBS!!
'Can you believe it!! We are seeing another tiger and 3 cubs!!
Shilpy was ecstatic. This was her dream sighting - a lifer for her. She was so thrilled, she almost cried.
The cubs were climbing on the mom and playing. They were SO CUTE! At one point the mom licked the face of a little cub. It was SO COOL! We just sat there and watched whatever we could with the bushes obstructing us. The little cubs were restless and wanted to come out the bushes. Five minutes later, the mom stood up and I practically froze amidst whispers of "It is going to come out, be ready with your cameras".
The beast slowly walked out, its head and part of the body came in sight. It looked at our jeep to see if we posed any danger.
It walked further, stopped to scratch its head against a tree and then crossed the road. Once in a while, it would steal a glance at us to make sure we maintained our distance. It was when the tiger came out in plain sight and the cubs started parading out that we realized that there were 4 CUBS and not 3!!
From the moment it stepped out, the tiger took less than 30 secs to cross the road. From the minute Saru spotted the tigress in the bushes, the whole viewing lasted 9 minutes! Saru was so busy focusing on the tigress that he neglected to take pictures of the cubs. This is the only picture I have of the tiger and all the 4 cubs. I am posting this inspite of Saru's disapproval . Except the previous 2 images, he didn't want me to post any other images. (He was like - You can't post this - These are bad images - I have a reputation to maintain...blah blah blah)
This was by far, the best ever wild life experience we ever had!!
Leave me a comment. It helps motivate me to keep writing and bug Saru to travel more.
To read Part 1 of this trip, visit my previous post.
This post is part of the Show your World meme. For more stories from the rest of the world, click the image.