Icing on the cake

This blog is in continuation of my previous blog, “The Golden Tiger”

The eventful morning was 26th January 2021, Here I was on my 8th (and Last) safari of my excursion at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. It is morning safari and I woke up full of energy thanks to Golden Tiger sighting evening before. My safari was scheduled in same area and so I was hoping to see him again. Jungle safari started at 6:30am and I had kept my camera gear ready for the experience I had the day before with Devdoh female. The light was extremely low and dull. A bluish hue was apparent and it was dispersed with white layers of the winter mist. The Irai and Moharli lake water bodies added sufficient humidity to feel the winter chill and misting on camera gear. Thankfully I had taken all necessary precaution to protect my gear from mist, dust and dirt.

An hour into safari and we got hint of tiger movement from another gypsy. So we rushed to the spot with speed of F1 car. It seemed it was a roller coaster ride that was designed to check the  flexibility and durability of my spine. I survived the ride and we reached the spot. Only to find the tigress was somewhere inside the tall grass along banks of Irai lake. The area where tiger was seen was completely surrounded by gypsy filled with tourist and photographers from all sides. I felt pity for the National Animal but then that is a part of eco-tourism. Every gypsy driver and guide wants to ensure the guests gets to see “Tiger”. All gypsy were haphazardly parked with no route discipline at all. Maybe I can write a separate blog on that later.

Chaos reigns supreme in buffers of Tadoba. You can see how vehicles are parked to see a tiger.

Anyways continuing with the story, I learnt she was a tigress on her mark to become independent. She was used to tourist vehicles since she was cub. No wonder inspite of all the chaos she decided to cross the path and walk towards the lake. All vehicles started moving frantically to get as close to her as possible. We wanted to keep distance for the fact that we had telephoto lens plus I am not fan of portraits of tiger. I have always loved habitat shots as they give feel of the jungle. As we started backing she found window to exit chaos and walked along our vehicle for few yards.

Sub-adult tigress. As we moved back and gave her space, she kept walking alongside our vehicle. Too close for me.

Finally she sat in bushes and then again started walking along banks of Irai backwaters. By this time we had parked ourselves away from mad rush so I could get some habitat shots. I got some shots of tigress walking in her habitat. I wished I could pause clock and keep watching her as she gracefully walked towards thickets. Chaos resumed as she moved towards the thickets and all gypsies surrounded her again. I felt empathy for her. It is then I instructed  the guide and driver to gamble by requesting them to re-route and explore other parts of forest.We decided to leave the confident tigress at her will with other safarists. Trust me it is difficult decision to leave a on-going tiger sighting, so it was with a heavy heart I had given instruction to driver to re-route. They say luck favors the brave and so it did. The gamble paid me with a lifetime memory.

Blue hues of morning mist. Sub-adult tigress in backdrop of Irai lake and forest!
She kept walking gracefully towards the thickets along the banks of the Irai lake.

We entered another area of park where there was only one gypsy standing with two lsafarist. The lady safarist had tears in her eyes. I wondered what it was? OMG… I didn’t believe what I saw. It was none other than Bajrang, “Golden Tiger” with her partner Chotti Madhu (Tigress from safari 1) in mating ritual, right next to road, maybe 30-40 feet away from edge of road. I couldn’t believe my luck. I had no words to describe how elated I was then nor do I have the words now. I was zapped. They lay close to each other and mated once. It was one of my many dreams, to see tiger pair mating. Here I was witnessing it. Now I knew why Bajrang was unnerved and restless evening before. He was in hot pursuit of his lady. We spent good 45-50mins watching them before our exit time was due. We had to leave them alone for good. 🙂

Bajrang and Choti Madhu in mating ritual
He was watchin over her. Protecting her and kept staring at camera all the time,

It was my 50th tiger in 75th Safari previous evening and mating in 76th safari. It was truly the “Icing on cake”. After all seeing stripped cat mating is every wildlife photographers wish and it was granted by Tarudev ! This will be one on top of my tiger sighting experience in wild. I have no words to describe what this sighting means to me. I was so happy that I was speechless the whole time. I’m sure my friends and family member who were with me will also cherish the event with the wild spirits till their last breaths.

Long live the generations of these stripped wild cats.

Save the tiger, save humanity.

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The Golden Tiger

March 19, 2021

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