Jungle Safari: Fairy tale!

So here I was in Nagpur towards the end of March 2021. It is that time of year when I find time for wildlife because sales people are busy in year-end closing and professionally I am sales trainer. However this visit was planned for some personal work and not jungle safari. Few days before I reached Nagpur, I was getting continuous update from Umred Kharandla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWLS) on regular sighting of tigress with 5 cubs. Such regular sighting happens only when the area is safe for cubs and/or there is kill made by the tigress and she frequents the place to eat when hungry.  I so wished I could finish my work and try my luck to sight tigress and cubs.

 

I drove her like hell to reach park on time. How could I miss clicking her with backdrop of teak jungle. 🙂

Events started turning to fullfill my wish. On my way to Nagpur, I was informed matter that needed my attention was postponed indefinitely due to Corona scare. I had to decide quickly. It was 10am already. Since safaris can’t be booked online on same day, I had to rush to park gate which was 60kms away. You have to arrive before time at such occasion because many tourists/photgraphers turn up do see such enigmas. I drove at supersonic speeds to reach gate on time to block on spot permits. It was such a rush that I had kept my nephews and nieces hungry in hurry to get on spot permits. My nephew and nieces had tagged along the moment I told them that I was visiting wildlife sanctuary to see tiger. I have been telling them my wildlife experience and thrill of tiger tracking and how it’s a unique fairy-tale experience. So they all wanted to join me and see tigress and cubs. We managed to block ourselves a On Spot permit after some hassles inspite of coming early. We also somehow managed to have quick lunch before safari and were all set for fairy.

All set for safari in scorching summer heat at 40 degrees

This was first time that I was in jungle without my camera gear. I kept asking myself, what If I see the tiger family and miss some good shots? But then again, I took unplanned trip as adventure and put out the thought. I was determined to see tigress and cubs. They were seen earlier in the day during morning safari. To improve my chances I managed to get the guide who was known to be first in spotting this tigress and he was doing it consistently. He had some lucky charm I suppose. The name of the tigress was Fairy and she was spotted by our guide every day since past 4 days. I was hopeful he will spot her with us too.

UKWLS has multiple entry gates. We entered from Gothangaon gate. I will write about the park profile in a dedicated blog. Meanwhile in the other gypsy were some of my acquaintances and famous wildlife tour operators from Maharashtra. I chit chatted with them for a while as we all  were awaiting the park gate to open. Our entries were delayed due to some misunderstanding between locals and FD over hassles I mentioned earlier. The locals had blocked entry from the gate. It will be too long to describe the misunderstanding. So cutting it short, misunderstanding was cleared and all gypsies were allowed to go inside the park. The safari had started after 15mins delay. On way we saw a private resort inside core. I was shell shocked to see resort inside park. Separate story about that too but later. With no DSLR at hand, I decided to shoot videos. Below are some video from the sanctuary.

Five minutes into the jungle we started hearing chital calls. On right side of me was huge water body. This water body is backwater of dam and on other side along sloping mount was mixed foliage with open shrub forest. The call was from the left side. “A Nullah run deep and can easily hide cubs, maybe that were the tigress is” I told my young guests. We waited in scorching heat at 40 degrees under sun. No movement for 15-20mins. So we decided to other areas of park. No luck.

With a hour left we came back to same spot driven by repeated calls of Sambar deer. Calls of Sambhar deer are definite signs of presence of tiger. We waited again. The calls continued intermittently but were never gone. The little one with me were tired and exhausted. All our potable water that we carried was over. We were literally dying of thirst. My only hope to replenish energy was to see tigress and cubs.

Dead tired of thirst.. and bored!

15mins left to exit time, we were still at same spot. This time the calls were from woods along the waterbody. The cool jungle breeze had started flowing across our faces. It was much relief from scorching summer heat. I was anxious. All of us wanted to see cubs. All vehicles were lined up along the safari road at some distance. The road is paved on narrow wall and mounts of hills, designed to hold water. My niece couldn’t resist getting herself clicked with the safari track, the setting sun and her teenage energy. Maybe that would be relieve her, I thought. She was the one who was literally burning under sun. So I obliged and clicked her. Suddenly we heard roar, it was Fairy for sure. It is going to be fairy tale ending I told myself. The sambar got excited and warned the denizens. I knew this was it.

Posing is must on jungle roads

 

Map of our location where we aited for fairy tale to happen
The three large water bodies form the border of Gothangaon range. We waited at pinned location for most of our time. Last 15mins she was right there.

But after that roar, nothing moved. Sambar reached waterbody and quenched his thirst. We could hearing the sound of cats purring from some 50m away. Most probably she was feeding cubs and playing with them. It was too dense and light was too low to see anything. Nor did I have my photography gear or binoculars. I knew this was not going to end with Fairy’s story and we left the park. The dream to see the fairy and her cubs is still a dream.

Next day, I again started getting regular updates. For next 4 days she was sighted again and again with cubs. It was only our safari round that was jinxed, I suppose.

Never the less, I am sure the spirits of wild saw that I got them new guests to experience the adventurous fairy tale called “Jungle Safari”

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