Tigers of Kanha!

Last few days were spent very close to nature. Had been to Kanha forest to spend extra long weekend, take a break from tedious routine, breathe some pollution-free fresh air and to be honest, see and photograph at least a few tigers. Must say luck did favour us this time, could see seven tigers; of which one did attempt a kill in front of us, another came walking head-on and one so close that we could have even touched him if we wished to.

Serene Sal forest:

As soon as we entered the forest, within an hour, we heard few alarming calls of a deer. We waited there and this magnificent guy emerged out of the dense Sal trees in less than a few minutes. The very first tiger, in the very first safari, he is named MB2. One of the 3 cubs of famous Mahabeer tigress, this one is around 2.5 to 3 years old.

In the same safari, spotted 3 cubs of tigress Dhwajandi hurriedly crossing the road.

On the same evening, after spending all the time looking for some stripes, we were finally happy to meet MB2’s sister MB3, enjoying her evening stroll, just 5 minutes before leaving the park.

Day 2 was a complete disappointment, as we could not spot even a single tiger.

Day 3 was the last day and did make up for Day 2. We were lucky to see tigress Neelam actually attempting a kill. She took more than an hour, keenly observing the kill from a distance, slowly and steadily heading forward and finally pouncing upon it.

On the way back, we saw tiger named Chota munna walking towards us from a distance. He was tired and panting, must have walked a lot. As we moved a bit more closer, he decided to take a break and sat down on one side of the road

He was truly the show stopper, perfect way to end the amazing trip.

Few other clicks from the trip:

Jackal

Vulture

Turtle

With memories of Chota munna, Dhwajandi and Neelam still lingering in mind, I resumed work today, excited to share the stories with friends and colleagues. Four days were spent without any network coverage or wifi connection, but they really did serve the purpose well. We returned feeling completely refreshed, ready to restart with a new zest.

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Valley of birds!

I had recently heard of a place ‘Sinhgad valley’ famous for birds, hardly 40 kms from my place. How could I not go explore it!

It is famous for Asian Paradise fly catchers, but had no luck to spot one today, another time may be. Nevertheless, there were so many other feathered beauties to make the visit worthwhile.

Tadoba safari tales!

Like every year, last year too we did visit Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve located at Nagpur, India. We had 6 rounds of safaris, that turned out to be quite fruitful. In addition to several birds, barking deers, monkeys and other common animals, we had wonderful sightings of a leopard and few tigers.

Here is the image of the leopard, sitting on the same tree for hours. Finally we left the spot, but he refused to leave.

The next set of images are of very famous tigress ‘Maya’. We were about to miss this awesome sighting by a minute, but in turn ended up having the closest sighting ever.

The gypsy guide and driver were too confident after a few alarm calls of a deer, that the tigress would surely come to that particular water body. We patiently waited for her at the spot for more than 30 minutes, but there were no signs of her. Even the alarm calls stopped and we all thought there is no luck today.

“Let’s go explore other parts of the forest.” Our guide signalled the driver.

Driver turned the engine on. In order to make a U-turn in the narrow area, he drove the gypsy straight, more towards the water body. This is when we heard another deer alarm call and there she was, peeping through the bushes:

We were told not to move even an inch and intrude other photographers. We happily agreed to it. She walked towards the water

Sat there and drank lots of water, gave few wonderful poses.

and then left. This was one of the closest and most beautiful sightings I have ever had. We were extremely lucky that day.

On the last day of our trip, weather started changing instantly during the evening round. It was about to rain. This is when we spotted a pair of sub-adult cubs of another famous tigress named ‘Choti Tara’, having fun, playing with each other, enjoying the soothing weather.

and here is the mother ‘Choti Tara’, keeping a watch on them from a distance.

Here are few birds and other animals from this trip

Though we missed seeing another one or two tigers just by few minutes, I believe 1 leopard and 4 tigers is good enough. Expecting more would be pure greedy. It was a great trip, to stay in my as well as my laptop’s memory forever.

Forest crazy!

“Hey, you know what – choti mada has started showing up with her cubs. They are around a month old”
off goes my WhatsApp message to some of the friends along with a picture of gorgeous female tigress with 3 cute tiny cubs – one trying to climb her back and 2 others trying to figure out the best possible pose to drink water.
Quick comes the reply “I heard Mahaveer female has delivered her new litter back in December, but no news of her sightings. Hope she starts showing up too.”
Another reply pops up with a heart melting video of a magnificent tigress Junabai with her 4 cute cubs enjoying bath in an artificial water body.
Some other friend quickly adds me to another wildlife enthusiast group on Facebook. I too start browsing it for the recent sighting updates without wasting a minute and come across a photography contest going on, in it. I dig my ‘Google photos’ reserves for the tiger images I clicked in the past, tweak some images here and there and post them off.

This is how the summer typically kicks off for me now-a-days. If someone happens to check my WhatsApp history and Facebook activity for April they are sure to certify me “crazy” and I don’t deny the fact that they would be 100% correct. I did really have whirlwind romance with these beautiful forests and my “craze” for them has surely stood the test of time.

As the summer starts ticking in, enthusiasm of going to forest starts taking over. Scorching heat makes the animals come out looking for water which increases the probability of sighting, not only tigers but also leopards, bears, jackals, deer, wild dogs, elephants and many more animals.

The bookings are all ready by this time as they open 3 months in advance and usually get full the very day they open. This does signify that I am not the only crazy one around. Yes this beautiful flora and fauna have several fans all around the world and they don’t fail to make umpteen visits to the forest to witness it’s beauty.

So, I have two trips (5 forest rounds each) planned to 2 different forests in central India – one at the end of this month and another in mid-June. The shopping/renting of the photography gear is in full swing. Keeping track of the recent sightings will continue.
Looking forward to some of the best sightings and then I am sure I will have a lot to prattle on, after I am back.

Malvani days!

Just returned from a refreshing trip to Malvan. Serene beaches, silver shining sand, tall coconut trees, delicious cuisine and a calm and peaceful village was all Malvan had to offer. Dolphin sighting and scuba diving were definitely the show stoppers.

Yes, after 5 days long trip, joining work back today was hard, but I did manage to complete the day without a single yawn, thanks to the lingering memories and pictures in my cellphone :).

Here I share some of the pictures with you.

Sunset near Kankavli, on the way to Malvan

After tiring 14 hour journey, reached Devbaug at 9 pm to be welcomed by the moon peeping through the coconut trees, just above our hotel room

Next day, at 7 am we walked to the river bank, all set to take a boat ride to watch dolphins. Some clicks at the river bank

It was so exciting and fulfilling to watch so many dolphins jump so close to us. Getting a non blurry photo was a tough job, as the jump lasted only for a second. Here is a small clip of one of the jumps. Though not the best one, I am glad, I have at least something to share

Views during the boat ride

Tsunami island

Light house

Seagull island

After the boat ride, we headed to Kunkeshwar.

Delicious local cuisine on the way for lunch

Kunkeshwar temple and beach

We then returned to Devbaug, to view sunset at Devbaug beach

This crabby was busy enlarging it’s home, thus creating beautiful sand art surrounding it

Next morning was dedicated to scuba diving. What a wonderful experience it was, my first time 🙂

Some scenes at the beach in the morning

Visited Sindhudurg fort post lunch

Then the rock garden

Next morning was the time to bid adieu to the beautiful place.

Sunset hues!

The beauty of a rising or setting sun has always left me flabbergasted. In spite of being a daily affair, it never leaves any one getting bored of it.

Yellow to orange to pinkish red transforming sun beautifies any scene be it a beach, mountain or routine cityscape.

Just thought of collating some of the sunset pictures I clicked over the years and share them over here.

Bright orange sun, creating human silhouttes at Harihareshwar beach

Another shot at the same beach, few minutes later

Serene and calm sea

Rising sun near my apartment, clouds adding to the beauty

Some where near Nainitaal, just after the sunset

Cloudy sunset at Dal lake, Kashmir

Nagaon beach – parachute hiding some part of pinkish sun.

Orange yellow hues at the same beach

Orange dot near my office building – Infosys, Pune

Tricolor formation – my office campus

Orange black combination again at my office campus

Hope you liked the pictures!

Quest to seek the king!

While I write this, I am sitting in a jam-packed airport lounge, with AC running at its lowest pace and chitter-chatter is at its highest possible decibel. Kids running helter-skelter, often bumping up, splashing eatables, eventually snowballing the messy affair. To add to it, the flight is delayed by another hour.

But nothing does irritate me, not even to a slightest possible extent. I sit here, peacefully penning this piece down, intermittently wiping sweat off my gleeful face. Even I am surprised, as this is not quite me. The usual me would get irritated even by 1% of this. This is when I realise, the magical effect of the super-duper vacation, I was returning from. Yes, certain vacations do this to you. They wave their wand to suck out all your frustrations like a vacuum pump and set you freely floating like a cheerful butterfly.

Kanha national park was the destination chosen, which lies in the heart of India and ends up coloring it green. Our day here, would begin as early as 4.30 am, getting fully equipped with winter jacket (yeah, winter jackets in summer, that’s the beauty of it), scarf entangled with only eyes and nose wriggled out, neutral colored clothes and a pair of sunglasses. All this to protect from cold in the first half of safari, sun in the later half and dust all the way.

At 5.45 am sharp, park gate would open and fleet of gypsies would enter, dusting the dawn in it’s full glory. Quest to seek the king of jungle would commence. It would still be slightly dark, making the sighting probability shoot sky high. Tracing the paw marks, listening to the animal alarm calls, scanning through the water bodies, we would pray for the mighty king’s sight.

Getting to see an hour full of road show, 5 in 1 frame kind of bonanza, hunting scene, passer by look, sleeping beauty, just a glimpse, all of these or none of these – is all in lady luck’s hands and of course of the king himself. With the day’s ascend, hope would start descending the ladder down from “hunting scene” to “a mere glimpse” and then further down to at least a Leopard or a Bear, if not the tiger himself. 10.30 am, morning safari would end. On the way back, we would start reading the faces in the fellow gypsies to make out if they could spot a tiger. Nothing can hide the ecstasy of sighting a tiger or distress of not spotting one, off the faces.

As we return, hotel staff would all be ready to welcome with steamy breakfast followed by a rejuvenating cup of tea. Knackered by the bumpy gypsy ride (or by not having sighted a tiger), we would take relaxing warm shower and pounce straight into cozy bed to recover for the evening round of safari.

Evening round would begin at 3 pm. Tiger sighting chances are usually high early in the morning or late in the evening. So the first half would be spent in clicking sambar deers, barking deers, spotted deers, monkeys, langoors, barasinghas, black bucks, bisons, boars, peacocks, mongooses, eagles, owls and plenty of other flora and fauna. When the sun harshness is reduced, it would set a perfect stage for mesmerizing jungle landscapes. Evergreen Sal trees, bright orange fallen leaves, brown tinted bamboo and yellowish meadows would offer a great canvas to thin curvy roads.

End of the evening would again engage us in scanning water bodies for the big cat, as it’s his time to wake up, have water and fight scorching heat by dunking into it. Again, what we would get to witness, was complete stroke of luck, like in the game of poker. Striking similarity, made us assign this, some teen patti terminologies – we would refer “a mere glimpse” as “pair” , “more than 1 tiger in a frame” as “color”, “road show” as “sequence”, “hunting scene” as “trio” and “no luck” as “pack game”.

Although this set of safaris did disappoint us a bit, by a mere “pair” most of the times, we believe there is always a next time and promise “Kanha” we will definitely return. After all, sighting a tiger is just a small part of the overall chain of wonderful experiences and there is no paradox intended ☺

Beauty of closely observing birds and animals in their natural habitats, of dawn and dusk, sunrises and sunsets, virgin forests, abundant flora and fauna and pollution free fresh air – surely leaves the soul purified, mind refreshed and heart overjoyed. As someone rightly said, this connect that the woods have to offer, no wifi in the world can!