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Stripes & Tales
“Witnessing the Unforgettable Tiger Hunt"

Embarking on a tiger safari at the Alizanza Gate of Tadoba National Park, Mr. and Mrs. Badani eagerly ventured into the wilderness.

The chilly freshness of the park's atmosphere mingled with the thrill lingering from the previous day's remarkable encounter: nine playful cubs, offspring of three distinct tigresses—Babli with her trio, Zarni with two, and Bhanuskhundi with another trio. With anticipation soaring, we ventured forth on our quest to catch sight of these majestic tigers.

As the rugged jeep bounced along the dusty trail, anticipation crackled in the air like static before a storm. With every turn, every rustle of leaves, the jungle whispered its secrets, hinting at the majesty lurking just beyond the foliage. In the heart of this untamed wilderness, where the earth hummed with the pulse of ancient spirits, we embarked on a quest: a thrilling tiger safari. With each passing moment, the jungle's embrace grew tighter, echoing the primal call of the wild, beckoning us deeper into its enigmatic depths. And as the sun painted the horizon in hues of amber and gold, we braced ourselves for the electrifying encounter that awaited us amidst the shadows.

Venturing into Babli and Fams territory, our guide suggested checking the waterhole for pug marks or any signs of movement. As we reached the "Garadai panel nala," scanning for clues, our driver suddenly exclaimed, "Leopard leopard!" Barely 50 feet away, there it was, quenching its thirst. This unexpected encounter brought a smile to the faces of my clients, though their hearts yearned for a tiger sighting.

Continuing our quest, we followed fresh pug marks spotted by our guide, indicating recent tiger activity. Excitement filled the air as we eagerly scanned for tigers along the trail. The pugmarks led us to a T junction, where the tiger veered off-road into a non-tourism area. Armed with our guide's insights, we ventured into Zarni and her cubs' territory, marvelling at the majestic flora and fauna along the way. We notice a stationary gypsy with tourists inside, snapping photos—a clear indication of a sighting. Promptly, our driver manoeuvres to their location and parks beside them. And what do they spot?

"Tiger Tiger!!"
"Where where!!"
"There there!!"

Finally, there it was, nestled in the grass, its stripes barely visible. It turned out to be Zarni’s daughter. We lingered, hoping for movement, but she remained fast asleep. Anticipating her reluctance to stir, we departed the spot and resumed our search for other tigers.

A fellow gypsy signalled a tiger sighting, leading us to Shiv, son of Bhanuskhundi, relaxing under a tree after a successful hunt. Sensing Shiv's next move, our guide suggested repositioning our gypsy near a waterhole, anticipating his thirst. Minutes later, Shiv strolled towards us, with our gypsy serving as his unwitting escort to the watering spot, where he reclined for the rest of the day.

With no updates on Hazare and Nayantara, siblings of Shiva, we decided to revisit Zarni's daughter's sleeping spot, hoping for another sighting. Despite their jubilation, Mr. & Mrs. Badani graciously agreed. However, en route, we received news of Zarni's daughter's departure from her resting area, dampening our spirits momentarily.

Thirty minutes later, we entered the Jogha Mogha Zarn patch, where the driver decelerated the vehicle. Each of us was assigned a task to keep a vigilant watch in specific directions—left, right, straight, and back—as we threaded into the area cautiously. Suddenly, for reasons still unknown, the driver brought the car to a halt. Out of nowhere, we heard a series of screams, resembling a child's cry, echoing through the air. It was evident that this wasn't an alarm call, typically issued by animals when a predator is on the prowl.

Without delay, the driver steered the vehicle toward the source of the commotion.

The brakes screeched to a sudden halt!
"Look there!!!!!!"
"A tiger with a wild boar!"
Shouted the driver!

There, before our eyes, was the scene Zarni’s daughter had created—grappling with a wild boar, attempting to subdue it. The boar pleaded for mercy or assistance, while the young tigress, barely 16 months old, sought to hone her survival skills learned under the guidance of her mother. Everyone in the gypsy was awestruck, with Mrs. Badani expressing sympathy for the boar, countered by the guide's explanation of the natural order—without hunting, how would tigers survive? It was a moment of pure natural beauty, savoured only by us.

Amidst the discussions, I found myself lost in contemplation—astounded by the unfolding spectacle. After 28 years of life in the wilderness and numerous safaris, this was my first encounter witnessing a tiger hunting and attempting to secure its kill. As I often tell my guests, wildlife encounters are about being in the right place at the right time. Fortunately, our decision to depart from Shiva and the siblings proved fortuitous. Mr. & Mrs. Badani were ecstatic, having experienced their first tiger safari and witnessing a sight that many wildlife photographers only dream of capturing.

Observing the driver, a young man of around 23-24 years old, tears welled in his eyes. Curious, I inquired about his well-being. He responded, "Sir, these are tears of joy. This is my first tiger hunting sighting. We've been driving for six years, coming to the jungle every day." We shared a laugh, and I invited him to my seat for a clearer view, lending him my binoculars. His pure smile in that moment encapsulated the essence of such experiences.

As the tigress continued her struggle with the boar, each exerting their might, we witnessed the poignant dance of predator and prey. Nearly 45 minutes later, the tigress emerged victorious, leaving us with a mix of emotions—sorrow for the boar and pride for the tigress's accomplishment at such a tender age. It was evident that she would grow to become a renowned figure of Tadoba in the years to come. With a final farewell, we returned to the park gate, still reeling from the awe-inspiring encounter.

As we returned to the lodge, the echoes of the wild boar's cries lingered in our minds, prompting introspection on the delicate balance of life and the complexities of human emotions. The sighting served as a poignant reminder to embrace life's contradictions and trust in our beliefs, knowing that they shape our perceptions and experiences.

In the quiet of my office, transferring the day's footage, I pondered the profound lessons learned amidst the untamed wilderness of Tadoba National Park—a testament to the timeless wisdom and unyielding beauty of nature's design.

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a bengal tiger lying on the ground with dried leaves next to it - Trees N Tigers, Tadoba

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