A dream has come true. I finally saw the Tiger in a chance encounter. It is such an over-whelming moment , that I am sure that no words can describe it.
The tiger is quite an elusive animal and is Crepuscular ( active during dawn and dusk) by nature. Though it is seen quite easily at northern parts of India , it is a rare sight in the forests of Western Ghats. The tiger falls in the family of cats and is the one of the two biggest cats , the other being the Lion. The tiger is also primarily a loner , but there have been enough and more, recorded sighting of the tiger in groups of 2-5.
This trip has been one of my best and memorable. The trip started with Kannan – my mentor and myself entering the forests of Bandipur at night. For both of us this has been the first time together, when we have entered the forests at night. The time was around 7.00 pm. After the initial getting to know of the people with whom we were to spend the trip , we started our journey to our camp on a jeep.
A slight drizzle started. Nothing serious to affect our visibility. It was getting cold as we were on an open jeep. About 15 minutes of driving, we suddenly saw a large Cheetal – male bolting towards us. It was coming head on to our jeep. Just as were to stop , the Cheetal jumped into the shrubs and vanished. Without giving much thought we went forward. Kannan sir, rightly pointed out that the Cheetal looked like it was running awayfrom something. The guards along with us did not give much importance to it. As we drove on , less than 100 metres away as we were about to take a bend , on the bend right in the middle of the headlights was the Tiger. What a sight. The majestic look and the dignity with which it was walking will be etched in my mind forever. Both Kannan sir and me were so spell bound at the sight , that it took a few precious moments for us to register that we have seen the elusive cat at last. The instant in which we caught sight of it , by way of our jeep headlights , the cat turned its face away from us to the darkness. But it continued its walk towards the shrubs away from the jeep path. The stride of the tiger , the fluid motion of the muscles and its body , its long tail swishing about has been engraved into our heart, mind and soul. All around us the locals were shouting ” Kaduve, Kaduve ” “Hoolee, Hoole” (meaning tiger in malayalam and kannada respectively) , while we were dumbstuck. The tiger we realised had been chasing the lone Cheetal, we saw a couple of seconds back and had given up the chase as it heard the jeep noise.As we woke to our senses , and grabbed our cameras to get whatever we could make of the tiger in the prevailing light, it was too late. The animal alerted first by our vechile noise and then by our cries of joy, had taken the last few feet at a faster pace and melted into the darkness. We stopped our vechile where it had disappeared and tried to look for it , but it was nowhere in sight. I could keep on and on about that night but it still will not justify the moment. I am still not a satisfied man. That I guess is the magic of the great cat.
Since this post cannot be completed without a picture of the great cat, I have added one of my later shots of the Tiger, again from Bandipur.