A Typical Morning in Kanha National Park
National Parks in India
An exploratory if reluctant waggle of a finger pushed out from under the covers establishes that it’s cold but not life-threatening. It’s been a long night echoing with sounds from the surrounding jungle. Just time for a quick cup of tea and we leave at 6 am.
A sharp command from the park guide hanging precariously out of the back of the jeep brings us to a wrenching halt. The guide points into the dust of the track. Barely visible in the half-light of dawn barely breaking through the looming shadows of the Sal trees, are the enormous tracks of a male tiger, crisply etched into the loose Fine dust of the road surface. The guide gestures the driver to move forward slowly. His eyes dart between the tracks that the driver is carefully avoiding, the road ahead and the still dark jungle on either side. Suddenly there is an explosively loud sound a little way ahead. The driver needs no directions. As he races the jeep the guide says tersely, ”Sambar alarm call. Tiger is there”. Everyone is tense with excitement by now. The sambar is close to the road but hidden by the brush. The tiger’s tracks are visible heading into the jungle in the direction of the sambar which is now calling almost continuously reaching a crescendo of anxiety. Strain our eyes as we might, crane and weave our heads, Fiddle with binocular focusing rings, the tiger remains firmly hidden. It is a world champion of the disappearing act. There is a chance that if we sit still and quiet it may come back on to the road to continue towards wherever it was planning on going.
As the morning gathers light this becomes an increasingly forlorn hope. The sambar has stopped calling; there are no other calls from anywhere else. A couple of hundred yards ahead, where the track disappears around a bend, a small group of chital drift out of the forest into the clearing. They seem undisturbed. There is every chance that the tiger has settled down, perhaps waiting for the jeep to move on before resuming his journey. Tigers are endlessly patient. Frustration mounts in the jeep. To be so close and yet out of sight…. The guide and the driver are inured to such frustration but they are keen for the tourists to see a tiger. It’s the fulfillment of their job.
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