Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve Day 4...

Tigers Day Four
Finding a tiger in the Bandhavgarh National Park is somewhat like finding a needle in a haystack. The park is only about 30 square miles and the tigers roam in and out of the park, so it is difficult to say how many there are, but they guess about 25. We drive around all day looking for fresh tiger tracks on the sandy roads. Both sides of the road is thick jungle in most places with the occasional open field or sparse forest. From there it is guess work and signs of nature.

This morning we found tracks. Based on the tracks the guides can tell whether the tiger is male or female or cubs. Based on the area of the park and where the last sightings were, they can tell which tiger it is because each tiger traverses a territory. We were driving this morning and came across a terrible sewer smell, so based on the tracks and the area; the guides knew which male tiger it was. Due to the smell, they knew that he was on a kill (I would imagine that when the tiger perforates the bowel or large intestine of an animal, the stench from those organs was probably what we smelt). We knew approximately where he was and figured he was resting after a big meal. There was a watering hole about a kilometre away so we figured that he might like a drink after his meal. We positioned ourselves on the road between the smell and the pond. Then we waited quietly listening for alarm calls. There are a lot of monkeys in the tree tops that we don’t see. Once the tiger starts to walk, the monkeys start making an alarm call and that is what we were listening for to determine where to position the jeep and where to look. This system of course is used by all of the drivers in the park. With 11 jeeps per route, once the drivers see the tracks and hear the monkeys, a group of jeeps converge on the area that the tiger is in quicker than a squad of police cars on a thief.

With no tiger sightings in our route we stopped by an owl nest on the way back. The nest is just a big hole in a tree and the male and female owl were perched on the edge of the hole sunning themselves. Unfortunately they weren’t going to let us spoil their rest and wouldn't even open their eyes. Oh well, the pictures of them are still pretty cute even though they were sleeping.

This afternoon we found mother and three baby tiger tracks, but unfortunately couldn't find them.  We waited near where we thought they might be and a monkey was quite busy sending out regular alarm calls. 

We have three jeeps (two photographers per jeep) and we all got skunked today. Hopefully we will have better luck tomorrow. We have two days left here at Bandhavgarh. From there we drive about eight hours (so they say, but I will believe it when I see it. What ever they say drive duration is, it is wise to add two hours. This is India!). Once in Pench, we have 5 more shooting days, then we drive a couple hours to the local airport, then we fly back to Delhi and back home.

So far this trip has had a lot of cultural lessons...and a few faux pas. No, I didn't mention all of them. Some of them didn't include me believe it or not:)

 I have been in Muslim countries before and I've always enjoyed my time with the people. They are very kind. Always smiling and very accepting and welcoming of strangers. Although we must stick out like a sore thumb I never feel like any more of a tourist than if I am in the States. Actually in many ways I feel more comfortable here because they know that we are foreigners and go out of their way to make us feel welcome. It is kind of funny. In some countries you don't dare take the locals' picture as they feel that you are "stealing their soul". Here when people see you with a camera, they almost ask if you could take their picture. They love posing for the camera and showing off their pretty saris. The women of any age take it as a compliment that you want to take their picture. They love the attention and don't ask for anything in return.

My India Images

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