Chasing Striped Cuties — Bandhavgarh National Park

Another back-breaking six hour drive from Kanha- Kisli is, Bandhavgarh. The road is being resurfaced for most parts so be prepared for a pretty tough ride πŸ™‚ Checked into Tiger Trails resort and tied up the morning safari with Mukesh Burman ( Mob: +919425344631 ) immediately. Mukesh is highly recommended. I promptly put all my batteries to charge and unpacked all gear for the morning ride. And what a morning it was to be…. A little into the Tala gate with Vikas our stud driver, trying to sniff out them stripes, I felt pretty hopeful. Soon we came across a huge jam of vehicles, and sure enough, the Jhurjhura female was out on a stroll with her three cubs. We were at the fag end of the convoy and I could barely catch glimpses of the tigers from in between the jeeps and trees. The “J Boys” were right ahead of us and had a superb view of the tigers. Soon the tigers moved across the meadow to the hill opposite. That was our chance and Vikas did some deft positioning and we got a few distant but clear views. Then the tigers decided to cross back to the trees and that’s when we got our first good (photographically speaking) view.

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The momma tigress first crossed over with one cub following. They waited beneath the trees for the other two cubs to catch up. The dappled light and some good positioning by Vikas got me a few nice shots.

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Two of the three cubs made it across the line of tourist jeeps. The third cub got a bit scared by all the jeeps and, ran back into the tall grass.

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Vikas knew the tiger’s routine and moved on ahead on the trail where the track switched back. There was only one more jeep here. Soon sure enough, the same tigress and the two cubs were eyeing to cross the track almost right in front of us.

First the mum crossed over.

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Then cub one

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Then we saw cub two, kind of undecided. Then suddenly in a flash cub two made a dash across the track to its mom. WOW what a sight it is to see them stripes πŸ™‚ I was already in focus and tracking the tiger cub but, the sheer speed of his dart ( from dead stationary) caught me by surprise and, I got a blur of a shot πŸ™

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But this was not all, the track wound around a hill and Vikas immediately drove on ahead to the end of the track. Sure enough we caught up with the “J boys” already clicking merrily away at the three tigers. The “J Boys” were gracious enough to give our jeep some space and, it is here that I made some of my best shots of the trip. The tigress was marking territory by spraying urine .

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The momma tiger waited along with her two cubs calling out for the third cub to join her. Calling her cub

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By now the time was creepin’ to 10.30 AM, and we had to start back so as to clear out of the main gate before 11 AM. On the evening ride we saw the elusive “Bokha” a huge male marking his territory. He first sniffed the tree and then reached up to scratch his claws.

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The next morning was a quiet one in comparison. Try as we might, the elusive cat stayed hidden from sight. One of the jeeps did see a Leopard on the tracks very early in the morning. We decided to do look at the long billed vultures at the Bandgavgarh fort.

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The cliffs are where the vultures nest and there were many vultures soaring by afternoon. The afternoon hot air is pretty tough for photography and the shimmering heat waves make focusing pretty much impossible. All the same got a few half decent shots of these magnificent birds. Best time I guess would be early morning when the sun would be at the back but, the valley would be in shadow and there wouldn’t be thermals that early in the morning.

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Third day morning we got lucky. The elephants had tracked the Mirchani family. Soon, we climbed up on the back of “Vanraj” who was deftly steered by his mahout E A Kuttapan. Kuttapan set up some serious angles but in the hurry, I set the borrowed D200 I was using on “Jpeg Only”. Yes, stuff happens when you are in the wild with, an unfamiliar body!

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The evening ride was the last . Try as we might, we came up almost on to a tiger . So pretty much as was in the pic below πŸ™‚ Just pugmarks and, very fresh ones at that.

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But I did get one parting peacock shot from the park. ISO 800, NO NR πŸ™‚

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All in all we had seen nine distinct individuals (tigers) in six safari rides over three days.

That evening had another wildlife surprise for us. Soon after we got back to the resort, a Palm Civet was spotted foraging some leftovers. I promptly clamped on the 300mm 2.8 and was able to get a full flash shot of this rather shy animal, and that too, right inside the resort!

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The evening at Tiger Trails we had a fitting finale to the trip, a Tribal dance by the locals.

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Bandhavgarh, We shall be back in May πŸ™‚

Hot Tip: Dust is a real menace on safaris. Get cloth covers made for camera + long lenses to stow in while on the move. Absolute must.

For all Bandhavgarh pics >>>Click Here

To help plan a trip, I will highly recommendΒ  Rahul Rao ( http://www.foliageoutdoors.com/ )

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