While I was in Kolkata for 3 months (during my monsoon break), one fine night I got electrifying news! T7, our very own Choti Tara Tigress had given birth. In her last two litters, she had two cubs each, but this time, news was that she had amazingly delivered three cubs. So now getting back to Tadoba, to the enchanting Central Indian Dry Deciduous Forest suddenly became a matter of urgency for me. These three months, not only Choti Tara, but also other tigers like Matkasur (T54), Maya (T12), her two cubs, and Choti Tara’s two sub adult cubs always remained in my thoughts.
So, on 1st October 2018, with the memories of my favourite tigers, I proceeded with excitement for my first safari post monsoons at Tadoba National Park. I was accompanying guests from Kolkata. When we reached the Kolara Gate early morning, a small Gate Opening Ceremony for the new season was happening. We received a very warm welcome from the guides and from the park rangers, a red rose and a piece of little sweet was given to us as they were celebrating the Forest Week also. And then, we heard the unmistakable metallic sound; the gate of Tadoba National Park had opened for the season of 2018-2019.
This time Monsoons was generous in the region and as soon as we entered inside the park, after moving couple of meters we saw the beautiful result of bountiful rain. In Hollywood, they use the red carpet but here Mother Nature used a dark green carpet to welcome us, which was absolutely stunning. The smell of the wild green and dew on the zelen (Bosnian word for Green) texture totally enthralled me. On the way, we once again passed by the historical “Gond Pillars” standing tall! Slowly, through the rustic road we reached the spot where, just a few years back, was the Jamni Village. At Jamni, we saw a couple of busy eating Langurs on treetops and a few running Spotted Deer in the meadows.
We started moving towards the Jamni Chowk (intersection), and took a right turn towards Pandharpauni. Just few meters down on that road, we suddenly noticed few jeeps standing in a line pointing at something. We couldn’t understand first but then spotted, a Bengal Tiger, our very own dominant male tiger, Matkasur T54. Soon he vanished inside the tall green grass. Position wise, our jeep was the last one so we could barely manage to get a glimpse. Everyone on board, hence, was a little bit crestfallen. Our guide told me “let’s wait here, he can come out again”. After waiting there for seven to eight minutes, we decided to move forward.
We then reached Ainbodi 1, where one of the Choti Tara’s sub adult cubs was out of the grassland, in clear view. Over here the driving skill of our driver accorded us a brilliant position. Several pictures were taken by the guests already, when we heard a sound of leaf crushing and heavy twig breaking and then the second tiger also came out from the bush. So the two striped brothers once again came in front of us, oh what joy! But who was the sound engineer? A huge Male Gaur was disturbed by the presence of those tigers. So he charged them and they came out of the bush. Everybody in my jeep thanked the Indian Gaur profusely. Sighting was for more than ten minutes, where we observed different tiger behaviors, one of which was also that one tiger was eating grass, a sign of an upset stomach.
Whenever I have encountered these two striped brothers something special has always happened. And true this time too, one of the sub adult cubs came towards our jeep and looked at us, as if saying “Hi Everyone”. And actually, we were quite delighted with this special interaction. He then went back inside the bush again.
After this brilliant experience, we made our way towards Tadoba Lake. On way, we had a surprising rendezvous with two Indian Wild Dogs or Dholes. They were busy marking their territory. Because of the good rain this year, the lake was full with water. The old Indian Blackberry Trees on the shore, once again came in contact with the lake water. The vastness of the lake and calls of different birds mesmerized us. We spotted a big Marsh Crocodile. Then we moved towards Panchdhara and then on the tar road, reached Khatoda Gate for Breakfast. After having breakfast we decided to take the Kosaikanar road, in search of Choti Tara (T7). As soon as we reached Jamni Chowk again, we heard news from another jeep that Choti Tara crossed a couple of minutes ago. We had missed, but it was ok, this is the natural rule of the forest. Some times you are lucky and sometimes you are not.
From the core of my heart I wished Good Luck to Choti Tara T7 and her new cubs. Once again, a new battle will start. Surviving in this brutal world and competition of staying alive in a vast dry deciduous forest will be difficult. They have to be strong and face all challenges in their way. A challenge, where I hope they will prove themselves to be the fittest of all. With those last thoughts, along with the beautiful memories and experiences of our first safari, ending at 10 AM, we came back to the Lodge.
Pic Courtesy: Rishin Basu Roy, Naturalist at Svasara-Tadoba