The last day of our Tadoba Safari was an Unforgettable day and it’s itched on our memory as an experience of a lifetime. On 4th June 2019, we woke up early in the morning and got ready to enjoy the last ride of this magnetizing forest. We had 7 safaris already and had enough of sightings that will keep us contented for months to come. Though we took our cameras with us, the main intention was to enjoy that morning safari… the jungle… its open-ness… its liveliness… its wildlife and importantly… to absorb the feeling of the forest as much as we can.
Unforgettable moment started
It was a quiet morning as we entered the forest. The jungle was beginning to wake up and the birds were chirping. We crossed the grassland in between two entry gates while driving into the core zone. The forest-scape appears very welcoming form the distance as you are approaching it. There was no hurry at that time as being the last day. About several kilometers, after crossing the second gate, the forest path takes a bend and joins the main path that goes towards Tadoba Lake.
There were no other gypsies at that time, except one renowned wildlife film-maker “Shri. Nalla Muthu” and his assistants in the gypsy, standing still but looking towards the thicket on the left side. As we approached them, the driver signaled us to slow down and come close. Our excitement ascended and we got up on our seats to perceive the moment.
Nalla Muthu ji looked at us and said “Tiger hai!” (It’s Tiger)
and we started looking anxiously in the direction they were facing. No matter how hard you want to control the zest, but if you are a passionate photographer, you tend to take your camera and wait for the opportune moment to capture it. We took our cameras and set them ready to shutter when needed.
There was a fireline track to our left front, which divides the dense patch of the teak trees. Such tracks are created to prevent the further spread of Forest-Fire during scorching summers. To our right front, was a tall grass which gradually converges away into the thicket. In this grass, approximately 40 – 50 yards from us there was a sub-adult tigress.
After some time, the female cub, which was fondly named as Meera amongst guides and which after couple months, tragically lost her life in a fight with an Indian Gaur. She came onto the fireline track from the thicket. Stretched out her forelegs on a tree to flicker laziness out of her. She then exhibited the act of scent marking which only grown-up adults do. However, it was just an act and she was not actually marking the territory. That territory belongs to her ferocious mother for a long time.
There were 4-5 young spotted deers in front, grazing on the fireline track. Initially, they did not bother and kept feeding on the grass even though they had seen this tiger cub. As they smelled the tigresse’s presence from the close distance, all the deers were immediately alert.
Ears stretched upright and intently looking towards that female cub which was walking towards them.
One young chital deer– with a heroic demeanor–came forward a few steps and stood facing that approaching tiger. Now, something amazing was going to happen there. A few moments later, some more deers gathered from behind and formed a herd of 8 – 12 deers. All of them were watching that approaching tiger cub intently. We were watching this whole moment anxiously.
Then just like on a perfect tick of time, the brave young deer and all the other deers together, bounced backward and started running away.
What they had seen which made them run backward?
There was no rush or stalking from the approaching cub…
And then emerged her sub-adult Brother from the thicket on the right side.
His close appearance made all the deers run immediately. Both cubs then went in the bamboo thicket on their front. We kept following their movements along the forest path. These cubs were of T-12 Tigress (Fondly named as Maya) and one was female and the other male. The general observation is that cubs tend to spend their time playing and practicing hunting techniques throughout the day. But here, they were neither playing nor practicing the techniques. They were searching for something that they had sniffed from the distance.
After a short distance, Meera came out of the bushes and crossed the forest path. We were able to capture the head-on moment of her while she was crossing the path. She was very calm and without any hesitation, walked in front of our gypsy. That was an amazing moment!
We waited on the same spot for a while expecting her brother would also come out from there. Shortly after some time, her brother came out of the bushes from there. He too looked very calm and a bit lazy 😁. He came onto the path and sat down in front of us. Vehicles (4 – 6 in number) on either side of him were maintaining the safe distance, while he started cleaning his forepaws.
After a while, Meera found the carcass of the Sambur hind, picked it up, and started running towards the same grass patch from where they came out initially. Surya too got up and started following her sister. This way we lost them from our sight and then we moved on towards the lake where our guide expected their mother could be.
As we were driving towards the “Pandhapauni” lake, a young sambur belled from the woods on our right side at a distance. It was a distress call alerting that a tiger or leopard was on the move. We sped towards the place where we anticipated that whoever was that will come from this particular place. Our guide was a very expert one in understanding the animals. A short after a young leopard, who was in his prime, came out from the same spot where we were waiting for.
After crossing the path, the leopard went in the bushes further. There was a fallen tree on which he sprawled over the bole of that tree. The view was pretty unclear due to a dense network of branches surrounding it. The leopard stayed in this place for an afternoon nap thereafter. See if you can spot this elusive cat in the picture below:
We continued our safari towards the “Pandharpauni” lake again. On the route, this Common Serpent Eagle was seated on the branch after quenching its thirst in a nearly parched pool of water. Water scarcity is a major problem in the forest during summers.
As we reached the lake, “Shri. Nalla Mutthu” ji was already there. He informed us that “T54 aka Matkasur“, a dominant old male had come out near Yenbodi(Name of a waterhole). We raced towards that waterhole and saw few vehicles were already lined up in Matkasur’s anticipation. We took our position and in minutes, some more vehicles lined up behind us. Soon Matkasur emerged from the bushes and progressed towards the waterhole. Peacocks in the vicinity, alarmed in distress followed by the belling of Samburs grazing nearby.
Matkasur then gave out a series of warnings in roar to quieten the distressed one. It was as if he said
“I am not in the mood for a hunt! – So Keep Quite!”.
Immediately all the distressed animals were quite obeying the command of their King. Matkasur went further along the bank of the waterhole into the thicket. Our guide instructed the driver to turn the vehicle and reach the prospective spot where he hoped the tiger will come on an open track. As we reached the spot, we saw a couple of gypsys–those were last in the queue at Yenbodi waterhole–were already lined up at this spot.
Watch This Whole Sequence On YouTube
As I mentioned above, our guide was an expert in understanding the animals, so he stopped our gypsy where he expected the tiger to come out. More vehicles joined the row from behind. The forest path soon became covered with gypsys leaving no room in between for the tiger to cross it. Now after this, we were alert as the rustling sound of dry leaves started to emerge out from the thicket. Matkasur came out from nearly 20 yards from our left side. We smiled at our guide appreciating his conjecture for this tiger.
Watch This Whole Sequence On YouTube
Matkasur then came close by and stopped in front of us on our left side. He was finding a spot in between the vehicles for him to cross. Gypsys exactly behind us retreated to make him a passage to cross.
This time our heart was pounding as he came so close distance of our vehicle–not more than 5 feet–and walked by our side for 2 mins. He is an enormous wild tiger and we observed his powerful muscles from a very close distance as he walked further.
When he stared at us, at that moment, I leaned back and turned my head towards the driver to avoid direct eye contact with this tiger. It was beyond imagination and I don’t really find any words to describe that feeling. The feeling was a mix of thrill, excitement, fear, and restlessness.
We experienced that same moment twice during that short period of time approximately 30 mins of Matkasur’s presence. The road next to us was blocked by two gypsys already whos further movement was blocked by some more vehicles. Matkasure kept walking towards us and when the third time it was going to happen, we pleaded to our driver to show us some mercy and get us out of that chaos. We were not feeling secure to have that wild tiger walking by our side anymore. We finally got out of that chaos when Matkasur crossed the path and went towards a waterbody called “97”.
It was now time to say goodbye to this magnetizing and incredible forest. This was our last safari of tadoba tour and the end of it was really an unforgettable one. A memory that will be cherished forever and whenever tigers will be remembered. As we were leaving the park we saw a herd of spotted deers grazing under a tree shade.
By looking towards those grazing deers:
I thought the Life in the forest is really beautiful… but at the same time very dangerous too. The “Survival of The Fittest” rule keeps the weaker on their toes as the “danger” always lurks in the vicinity.
When we came out of the forest, near the entrance gate, this fellow was posing nicely on a tree. Angrily posing himself in front of us, as if “You have had ample captures of other fellows in this forest. What about me? I also belong to this forest! C’mon! take my picture…”😄 So we took a nice picture of this Red-Headed Rock Agama! as well and left the forest with happy faces.