Sunday, 11 August 2013

Looking into a tiger's eye

Dot 6.00 AM. Wake up bell rings. - “Sir, your safari gypsy has arrived at the porch.” 

The door knocks twice, and the tea is hot on my table. Hotel staff is well aware that how the jeep is always short of time. Jeep will also gather the other people from different hotels. They need to reach before the National park close the entrances for the morning safari.
 Outside I never thought of this much cold. In the open jeep I am trying to hide myself with in the hotel blanket, which I carried from the hotel. Well forest is always much colder than the city.  

We are moving on a narrow single track, lonely road. Morning breeze with the fresh smell of forest land and the rich sound of bird colonies make me awake. 
“ Ah... what heaven it is !”

Finally my jeep stops in front of an old ruin gate of medieval time with a hugh Islamic arch.
I asked my guide - “Are we going to the Ranthambhore fort first?”  
He smiled and respond - "No Sir, The National park is with the fort.”

His fresh joke was a good start for the day but for me it seems true, I can see all the old ruins of medieval times spread all over in Ranthambore National Park, Watch towers, ruins of fortifications walls etc. This combination raises my curiosity up to the picks.

Old majestic castle of Ranthambhore situated on a long plateau.  In medieval time it was one of the most secure castle in the country. The dense jungle in all directions from the fort constituted an added defense feature. Three large lakes, the Padam Talab, Malik Talab and Raj Bagh, are visible from the fortification walls and contribute to a landscape of forests with aquatic vegetation in between old ruins and fortification. This places sometimes looks haunting sometimes create curiosity it’s like a treasure of travel stories.

As they make official entries I saw a big lizard walking on a branch of banyan tree. Later I know there’s big number of banyan trees in Ranthambhore forest. Banyan trees also known as walking tree. As a branch get down it become a new steam of the tree, it looks like tree start a walk in the forest.

As i saw the guide coming back  with little frustration. I get bit idea what happened there.  
I ask him –“So they not allow for the hill rout.”
-  “No, Sir already many jeeps were on that route. We get permission for the valley rout.”
-   Other tourist – “It’s ok panoramic view of the National park we will see later we are more concerns for tigers.”
-   “Actually Mam, today early morning one tigress with two cubs gone towards the hill side”.

We all looking at the jeeps rushing towards the hill side. 

Guide looking at me, actually he not want to reveal this story to the other guest that today they get permissions of a zone where minimal chances to spot a tiger.

To protect his tips he say “My personal opinion this valley part is the most beautiful area of tiger reserve.  As we move further I find he was right, not only this part of forest but actually whole area is full of richness of vegetation.  Waste number of trees like Dhoke (Anogeissus pendula), Indian Jujube (Zizyphus Mauritiana) , Tendu(Diospyros melanoxylon) , Flame of Forest (butea monosperma) peepal trees (Ficus religiosa).

As I look upside a big prey of coppersmith Barbet making a round, still the jungle babbler debit was not over. Each and every plan and tree seem like a gift from nature. It’s a great treasure, the birds I saw were plenty off- Common lore, Blue rock thrush, Lesser whitethroat, purple Sunbird, Dusky crag martin, golden oriole lot of red wattled lapwings etc. 

Within a old tree hole theirs Brown Fish owl sitting with all his knowledge.

Unfortunately the people who visit Ranthambhore miss out the real beauty of nature. They only focus on tiger. Only one question flying everywhere –
“Did you saw Tiger?”
There false is that success and failure of trip all depend on spotting a tiger which is not true.  You were there with all the treasure and beauty of nature but you are not able to see that because you are just searching the tiger and till you not find always get frustrated. 
God shake, Think about the tiger where all the big jeeps just running behind him all the time.

As I ask the Nature guide “How much more time, we hav….?
He sought back in whisper – “Their a threat call from common langur’s.“
Driver suddenly switches off the engine and whisper "it means mother with cubs were coming back otherwise no other movement of tiger in this area.” 
Guide node the head.  
Suddenly Guide gives his green jacket to Mr. John on back seat wearing stark white blue shirt.
“Sir please put this jacket otherwise we lose the chances of spotting tiger".
 In wild life safari always advisable to wear camouflage colors with forest.

With a little silence again a peacock call comes from afar end of the valley. It almost clears the location of tiger family. Driver with electric speed rush the jeep towards the call. Just in a one second the silent standing jeep starts running. It’s a thrilling experience.

Butterflies start flying in my stomach -Oh tiger is somewhere near to us.

Now nature guide and driver become very alert.  In the slog hour of safari they have chances to win the battle. Guide stand up on his front seat. They were focus on the smaller sounds in the forest. Forest becomes quieter. As tiger walk you can smell the fear in the air. 

Just by the arm action of guide driver slow down the jeep, both were searching somewhere on the heel. Due to untrained eyes we were not able to spot anything on the heel. As guide tall us that there’s a leopard climbed on a rock. Driver say it’s unusual generally leopard not clime height like this. Today leopard seem very fearful may be due to the cubs mother become more aggressive. 
Driver say- “But sir, now the cubs are not so small?” 
Guide took out his binoculars. 

They discussing and analyzing all aspect of tiger movements.
 "Oh yes, As one tourist find the leopard on the hills, yes it seem very fearful”.
Guide told them- “it happens in confer-ting situations leopard always try to avoid the fight with tiger”.

I can smell that something happening is not the usual thing.

As guide suggest Driver Park the jeep very silently on the suitable location. I see the location which our guide chooses is perfect because within few minute many other jeeps arrived there.
We park and wait and wait and wait.... but nothing happen. I know it needs a great patience to spot wild life. Due to the national parks rules we are not allowed to get down by the gypsy.
As a new jeep arrived from opposite direction by their sign language of guides, he makes it confirm from the new jeep. Our guide told us that other gypsy saw very fresh pug marks of two cubs. When they were running down to hill, still mother were on the hill.

Why mother left behind when cubs are here?

Our guide smile and say - "We have good chances to see the complete family, may be the cubs were waiting for their mother".

When the cabs grown enough than they go in a new territory and make their family. Tiger cubs live with mother till they not grow and become independent. Still these cubs were not trained enough to do hunting independently. Even they are not safe from other senior male tigers because to attract the female tiger some cases they kill the cubs from other male. 

Driver trained ears heard something and he move his jeep slight forward suddenly and I saw some yellow strips in the bushes.
I was almost near to sought but suddenly guide stop me. His eyes were equally on the guest as on the wild life. It’s his skill to mange and links the interest of guest by the wild life.

 Now the big cat moves forward and we saw the majestic tiger on the front rock like a stage performances.

 Guide says “oh it’s T-35 the elder cab"
I thought if this were the cab than what will be size of mother?

As the T- 35 elder cab take position on the rock his younger brother come out of bushes and start coming down.

Guide shout and make my left leg inside the gypsy. He says cabs seem restless; I can see the sign of anxiety and on their faces. It’s not normal. He’s coming down to get into the water.

It’s a happening day for tourist two full grown tiger cabs, so close to take lifetime pictures of wild cats. Everybody so excited but it’s not allowed to making any sound in tiger’s presences. We have to maintain the silences and minimal movements. Only the sound you can hear is thousand “Clicks”, “Clicks”, “Clicks” together.

Pictures after pictures, light of flashes making them bit nervous. As the young cub get down he seem shy from people. He just rush and hide himself again in bushes in a water channel. Just like a small puppy at my home. Young cub seems so innocent. Over the next jeep theirs a French lady with a kid was so excited, I am able hear her sound in this silences.

Guide say "I never saw so nervous cabs. Its very fearful walk, No jumps no hauling of mother… Something goes wrong”.

"Next Morning I find he was right. Before we saw that tigress family, they were attacked by a big male tiger on the hill side. To protect her cabs she fights with the strong male tiger, before the death she badly injured the male tiger.

Mother comes in-between, she makes them to run away and take the whole danger on her.
Running Cubs pug marks were later spotted by the other gypsy guide. 

Cabs have no option to disobey their mother. if she not make them run away. Their life in were in threat. In this agony those two cabs was restless and nervous. They know their mother was died in that attack. 

I felt bad, now those great close ups not become so great for me.