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Trip Report: Tigers and the Wildlife of India



Why this headline? Because we had one open space for this trip that went unfilled, and YOU could have been on it. Had you, you would have been part of a truly historic trip, the BEST ever, where we had a total of 57 Tiger sightings!



Our previous record was 55, but that was in 'the old days' when there were 'tiger shows,' where tourists would be taken by elephant to tigers that were not visible from the road. This allowed us to see a tiger on most morning game drives, but this practice ended several years ago. Today, normal sightings generally go to about 25 or so, in good years. So 57 ... absolutely incredible!

One of our participants commented that one of our competitors posts a brochure that is far more encouraging and positive than our's, as in our brochure I realistically state the facts ... tigers can be hard to get. Looking at that brochure I noted, with amusement, that Ratels (Honey Badgers) were listed as a species one might encounter. I mention this because when I asked one of our guides on this trip, with 18 years of field experience, what one of his all-time highlights was, he mentioned the Ratel as Number One. He's seen ONE that entire time! His second, by the way, was a Pangolin -- he's only seen one of those, too.

I mention this because the participant who made this comparison of brochures may very well have chosen the other trip, because of the positive slant that brochure conveyed. He suggested I may want to redo our brochure, but as I said to him, imagine the disappointment if participants didn't see 50+ tigers, but 'only' saw ten or so! So I'll keep the brochure accurate and realistic, but as this Trip Report shows, magic can happen, and we certainly had it this time.

The one bit of solace you may take from MISSING THIS TRIP is that we will be doing it again in 2020, and the Tigresses that currently have cubs approximately 2 years old will likely have a new batch of cubs ranging in age from a few months to 18 months. We'll be visiting the best parks, and hopefully we'll have great luck once again. But this trip was truly, truly spectacular. Read on!

Except for my elephant safari where I needed a shorter lens, Mary and I shot almost all of the images in this trip report with the Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens. We supported the lens with Molar Bags, braced with Wimberley Module One brackets for support.

Day 1, March 16. Delhi to Bandhavgarh

Everyone arrived at least one day before our 7AM departure from our hotel, the Radison, in Delhi  for our flight to Jodapur and 4 hour drive to Bandhavgarh. We had had some concern that carry-on luggage might be a problem but it was not, and even those who had Bataflae 32L camera backpacks had no trouble getting the bags (with a bit of shoving) into an overhead bin. Our outfitter paid the extra charge for the excess baggage fee, as we were over-weight for the group by about 15 pounds – not bad!
We arrived at our lodge by 4:30, giving us the extremely rare luxury of unpacking here in daylight, which hasn’t happened before on our previous trips. At 6:30 we had a briefing on what to expect for our game drives tomorrow, and everyone was retired by 9.

Day 2, March 17. Bandhavgarh

Randy and I had the all-day permit today, which I was a bit concerned with as I had no data as to where anything was. My usual driver however did, of course, know the scoop and we headed to the tiger crossroads where, around 6:30AM we had the first two Tigers, females that are two-three year old cubs and now quite large. It was a good, but brief, start, and except for one brief opportunity when one Tiger looked back, all we had were tail-end shots.
We circled around, and as we raced to a  new location our driver went over a rock that punctured our gas tank, spewing a trail of gas as we headed down the track. As Randy observed, we were lucky the metal-to-rock contact hadn’t generated a spark – otherwise we may have exploded! Although this situation was now critical we were scheduled to do an Elephant tiger shoot, and our driver and the park guide headed back to the lodge to exchange vehicles while we headed out on the Elephant.
tSoon after boarding we followed the mother Tigress of the two (of three) cubs we’d seen earlier, following her as she headed to the shoreline of a pond adjacent the road and bridge Fortunately ALL of our vehicles were already in position and Steve, Marg, and Joe got prime shots as  the cat walked right to them, virtually at subject level. We had been following the cat and I must admit that I regretted I wasn’t in a jeep, rather than atop an Elephant, at that moment.
A few  minutes later two of the three cubs walked down the same trail, following the route the Tigress had taken. We shot both as they approached, but as the cats neared we were looking down at the cats, and once again rued my angle. Both Tiger cubs  walked by our vehicles and  eventually crossed the road. Randy and I were in a better position for the cubs, and one crossed over the pond, first wading in, then swimming, and we got nice shots. Afterwards, the cub walked along the berm of the pond and everyone got wonderful frame-filling shots as the cat did so. Eventually the Tiger cubs retreated into the forest, following their mother.
Earlier Mary and Karen had one of the other cubs stretched out on the road beside them, and so in total we had the entire family – the Tigress and the three cubs. Randy and I followed the cats into the forest where our Mahout quickly located a cub. We followed this female until she headed up a hillside too steep for our elephant, whereupon we headed out, looking for the others. We found another quickly, who headed to the small stream that fed the roadside pond, where she settled. As we photographed her, another cub (perhaps the one from the hill) arrived, and settled close to each other. As the cat approached it adopted a stalk, and we hoped for a wrestling match but they merely laid down close by – I think they’re now too old for frequent bouts of play.
If you look carefully you can see the fawn Spotted Deer between the forelimbs of this young Tiger. She played with the fawn for a few minutes, but upon one of her recaptures the fawn was finally killed. The Tiger then carried it further up onto a hill.

Eventually the two Tigers split, and as we followed one a baby Spotted Deer flushed out of the grasses. I never saw the deer, but fortunately Randy did, otherwise I’d still be puzzled as the Tiger suddenly got up and bounded away. Seconds later we heard a cry – a Tiger had made a kill. We followed, and found a Tiger straddling the baby deer. I was under the misconception that this was the second tiger, and I wondered how ‘our’ Tiger reacted before we heard the cry. Randy, seeing the baby flush, solved that puzzle for me.
The Deer was only a few days old and the Tiger hadn’t killed it, and as I expected, it soon began to play with its new toy. The fawn was released and bolted off, but the Tiger caught it quickly and proceeded to carry it off, with us following. Over time, the fawn died, and eventually the Tiger began to feed. Another Elephant, without any tourists aboard, moved too close and the Tiger got up and headed back towards the road where a few photographers (unfortunately none of our’s) caught shots as the Tiger carried the half-eaten fawn. The Tiger entered the pond with its kill, twice, before crossing the road and settling down to finish its meal. Randy and I had by then spent three hours with the Tigers, and our time was up, and our driver, with a new vehicle, was back.

TRandy and I had the all-day permit and the remainder of the morning and most of the afternoon was hot and unproductive. We returned to the pond several times, hoping the cats would return but I didn’t have much hope, as the pond has a small stream entering and exiting, so water was available anywhere. Around 5:30, with most of the vehicles assembled at the pond with us, someone must have received a call about another sighting, and everyone left. We were alone, but after 15 minutes or so with no vehicles passing, we knew there was a Tiger jam.
Taking another route we soon found it, with vehicles stacked up on either side of the third cub sprawled and asleep on the road. It is prohibited to disturb a cat like this and so everyone waited, as the clocked ticked down and those (everyone else) without the all-day permit had to leave. One vehicle, the last one still there, had to pass by the Tiger to exit, which caused the cat to rise and walk into the forest. We followed, eventually getting ahead of the Tiger as she repeatedly entered the road, lay down, before rising again and walking towards us. At 6:15, basically shot-out, we had to leave, and arrived at the park gate with a half minute to  spare before we’d be in violation.
Meanwhile, the group went to the second Zone for the afternoon and had a relatively slow game drive, until the very end when they found the female with two half-year old cubs beside the road. It was getting late, but Mary shot some images at ISO 10,000, and they were quite good.


MARY'S TIGERS at ISO 10,000 (below)

In all, with another Tiger seen by Kevin and Sandy, we had 9 Tigers for the day!

Day 3, March 18. Bandhavgarh

Karen and Marg, and Kevin and Sandy had all-day permits today, although Marg did not do the Elephant safari for ethical reasons—she’s seen how Elephants are trained. Kevin and Sandy headed to Zone Two, where the mother and younger cubs are, and as I write this at noon I’ve not learned of their success.
Mary had a large male Tiger which they tried to follow or intercept, but were unsuccessful. However, they had a great family of Langur Monkeys, including a new-born, and had great shots.

Mary's Gray Langurs

We didn’t have any Tigers immediately, but I heard a monkey alarm call that the drivers did not, and so we continued on for a bit Tbefore heading back in the same route and finding two of the Tiger cubs walking through the forest. There was a mob of vehicles there, including at that point Marg and Karen (who had not yet boarded the Elephant). Eventually all three cubs appeared, and crossed the road, and despite the crowds at some point all three of our vehicles were in a good position. Later, one of the cubs crossed the  road again, giving a final opportunity, before the 11AM deadline neared and we had to head for the exit gate.

It is always a thrill to have a Tiger walking straight towards the camera,
occasionally giving eye contact as it does so!

PM. The Elephant tiger safari was productive for Karen, Kevin, and Sandy, and their afternoon was far more productive than it had been for Randy and I. Kevin and Sandy headed to Zone 2 where they had a Tigress in a large lake, soaking (we saw her later), while Karen and Marg had the mother Tiger lounging on the grassy spit by the pond where we had her yesterday morning. They spent the end of the day there, although earlier they had the three cubs in several different locations, far more activity than for Randy and me.

Gray Langur Monkey; Rhesus Macaque Monkey

In the afternoon the rest of us headed to Zone 2. Steve and I spent a lot of time filling in gaps, shooting Macaque Monkeys, Sambar, Spotted Deer, and Langurs, before we finally arrived at the lake twhere everyone else was gathered. The Tigress was hunting, but all we could see was a game-less lake shore and the Tigress in high grass. The cat eventually returned to the water to soak, and vehicles jockeyed for position, displaying incredible rudeness and ruthlessness as they darted about. One vehicle with Indian photographers were especially obnoxious, cutting in front of people already in position and shooting. Their action generated some words from some!

TEventually the Tigress returned to the shoreline and walked to the opposite bank where she scent-marked, spraying an incredible volume of urine at a tree, creating a cloud of mist that my motor-drive captured as it sailed passed the tree. I processed an image later to illustrate that even a distant cat can still make a good photo (as I hope this one shows).
Kevin and Sandy followed the cat to the other  shoreline  and got more shots as she crossed the road before them, while  the rest of us continued to a reported male Tiger and the Tigress with cubs. We found the male, soaking in a pool not too far from the road but surrounded by high grass, but missed the Tigress. The male eventually left the pool and walked through the grasses, presenting several shooting ops in relatively low light.
The tiger count for  the day was seven, with the five in the AM and the 2 in the PM.

Day 4, March 19, 2018. Bandhavgarh
When a Tiger enters a stand of bamboo ... it can vanish.

Mary and Steve and Kevin and Sandy  had all-day passes, without an Elephant, and the morning, for all of us, started slow. Eventually two of the cubs neared one of the roads, with one  crossing, while the other one hunkered down after a semi-stalk at a Spotted Deer that eventually spotted her and sounded an alarm. Aside from some great portrait close-ups for Randy and Joe, the rest of us had shots as the Tiger paused on a game trail leading from a bamboo stand, or walking shots, through grass or crossing the road. Still, we continued our streak of seeing Tigers …. Making the sighting count at least 18 now.

PM. We were back in  Zone 2, where both the Tigress and two males were seen this morning. We headed to the big lake where we had the Tigress yesterday, and my park guide – who was good – spotted the cat lying in an opening between tall grasses at the base of the dam. We stayed with her, waiting for her to go to water, and hoping that a deer or wild boar might enter the low grass meadow before her. The Tigress eventually awoke and got up, and not long afterward a herd of Gaur entered the low grass meadow. These huge bovines practically did a U-turn, entering and leaving on the same side, although their exit path took them close to the Tigress. As the last Gaur exited, they caught the Tigress’s scent and approached her, finally causing the cat to run, which prompted a charge by the Gaurs. Randy caught one in mid-leap as Tit charged the Tigress. The  cat disappeared, and as it was getting late we headed towards the gate.
At a large pond that was nearly dry another Tigress, with four cubs, had her cubs in the dry bowl of the waterhole. We didn’t see the mother and most of us only saw three cubs, although Mary’s vehicle did see all four in the last dim light of dusk. Several of us shot the cubs at ISOs of 10,000 and even 16,000.

Our other highlight was the family of Gaurs beside the road, feeding in full view on bamboo, with one having a young calf beside her.
mThe all-day permit people had a varied day with many subjects, including Thick-Knees, Rollers, Nilgai, Gaur, Barking Deer, and, of course, Tigers. Mary’s vehicle had Rajbehra, the Tigress who was the mother of our cubs from previous trips, and who is now weak and thin and radio-collared. After the ‘normal’ tourists left, the all-day permit people had further encounters with the tigers, with the Mahouts and their Elephants pushing the female Tigress (she of three cubs) towards the road. Supposedly this was to keep her away from the mountain because she had a neck wound and the park wanted to keep tabs on her, but it was the general feeling that this was b-s. At any rate, the Tigress looked like she was being harassed and Mary finally had enough, and pulled the group away and encouraged the other Full-Day Permit photographers to do likewise, hopefully to leave the Tigress at peace if no one was there to photograph her. Whether or not the harassment was for the benefit of the several photographers (several vehicles of various nationalities) or for the health of the cat we’ll surely never know.

Mary had 9 different Tigers today, and I had six, bringing the group total to 23 or so. Interestingly, at dinner about the drivers driving fast, and being focused on finding Tigers. The complaints involved speed and the fact that they were missing other subjects. I pointed out that some years, by this time in the  trip, people very well might be complaining because they had not seen a single cat yet – while this group has at more  than one Tiger on every game drive. I reminded them that any complaint about driving speed was ignored the first two days, as everyone wanted tto see a Tiger, but now there’s almost a disinterest for this animal, and consequently what was great at first was now a negative. This park is THE Tiger park, and I pointed out that in our next two parks we’d have virtually all the subjects, although Tigers very well might be the most difficult animal to find. One year, here in Bandhavgarh, Mary and one of our  participants did not see a Tiger here, and finally had their tigers in Kanha. Frequently, there, in Kanha, we have only a few, if any Tigers, and consequently the focus, in Bandhavgarh must be for the cats. Whether or not my trying to put this in perspective was effective I don’t know, but it was ironic that two years ago, the last time we were here, we couldn’t do highlights at dinner by this point in the trip because two participants hadn’t seen any tigers yet, and were very, very disappointed. No one wanted to rub that in.
Hopefully, the tiger karma hasn’t been broken, and both Mary and I wondered if, indeed, we’d see any more tigers here in Bandhavgarh. As stupidly mystical as this sounds, we’ve seen it happen with groups, when a disinterest in a species – Leopards come to mind – coincided with seeing no more Leopards on the trip, regardless of how hard the guides and Mary and I searched. We’ll see what the mystic magic holds for us, as we still have three game drives here.

Alexandrine Parakeet; Crested Serpent Eagle; Indian Roller

Day 5, March 20, 2018, Bandhavgarh

We were back in Zone 1, where we’ve spent all of our mornings, but we dispersed a bit more, with some heading over the mountain to look for Leopard and Sloth Bear. Interestingly, last night, during the’session’ there was a request for these subjects, although I stated you can’t order subjects like you can food, and this was not a good area for either. None were seen, although the two vehicles did see Sloth Bear tracks. Our next two destinations will give us the best opportunities.
Randy, Karen, and Joe had all-day permits, but because of some park maintenance Elephants were not available today. Randy was hoping for another Elephant safari, and those usually result in Tigers moving towards the roads, so without them, it will be interesting to see how the  all-day session goes. However, although none of the ‘normal’ visitors (our group without permits) did not see him, one of the big male Tigers had come to the road and lounged there, so hopefully the all-day people will have luck.
The morning started for them with a glimpse of a Tigress with three very small cubs, but the light was low and the cat was shy, so it was just a fleeting glimpse. For the rest of us, the morning started slow, although we did see a distant Tiger sitting in the grass, but offering no chance for shots. I did relax, however, as I had been afraid the karma was broken … and we wouldn’t see a tiger. (NOTE: This turned out not to happen -- keep reading!)
tNot long after that sighting, returning to the  usual circuit where we’ve seen the cubs the last three days we had one of the Tiger cubs cross the road in front of us. Although there were several vehicles there, and the Indian photographers that have proved to be the most obnoxious and rude group of photographers I’ve encountered in years, if ever, lived up to their reputation once again by cutting right in front of Marg and Steve’s vehicle, blocking their view as the Tiger approached. They had their shots, so  they were not upset, but the rudeness still was notable.
Afterwards, we searched for another tiger but in a far more relaxed state. Kevin and I stopped for Langur and Macaque Monkeys, Spotted Deer, Indian Green Bee-eaters, and some landscapes, and Mary and Sandy, and on another route, Marg and Steve, all had great Indian Rollers. It was a very productive morning.

PM. We were in Zone 2 for the afternoon, where we met Karen and Joe, who had had some luck in the afternoon with one of Zone 1’s cubs soaking in a roadside waterhole. We headed for the large pond but the area was empty, and as we headed back towards the main gate we were told of a roadside Tiger. We  raced there, finding a Tigress in middle-height grass at the edge of the forest. The shooting was fair, but finally she rose and walked through the bamboo, intending to cross the road. She paused, instead, in a bamboo thicket and for the non-permit people we had to leave to make it back to the gate in time. Joe reported that the dust hadn’t settled from our cars when the Tiger crossed the road – which Karen and Joe shot.


Randy spent time in Zone 2 and 3 for the afternoon, and after roaming back and forth between the two finally had two of the cubs in grasses along one of the waterholes.

mDay 6, March 21, 2018, Bandhavgarh – our last morning game drive here

All of us were again in Zone 1, where we searched for the mother with the three cubs we’ve seen so often. Not having any luck we decided to search for the big male, and another Tigress with cubs on the D route. Marg and I paused to shoot several great sequences with Langur Monkeys  with babies, the nicest shots I’ve done with them for years.

We continued on, finding two vehicles who had one of Bomera’s cubs barely visible about 70 yards away. My guide suggested we move on to look for the others, but as we drove by we spotted the second cub, and with two before us I said we’d stay to wait it out. Not too long afterwards one of the cubs, and then the other, crossed the road, and moved up onto the hillside. A Mahout with his Elephant had arrived, and its presence persuaded one of the cats to move back towards the road. There tit stopped, and lay down on the road in front of us! Later it got up and returned to the forest, then did a U-turn and returned to the road, this time lying down on the berm. All of the shots were great, but finally the Tiger got up and joined the other. Eventually one rose and reentered the road, walking down and away from us and disappearing into the brush. The other male cub had started to cross the road, nearly beside us, then stopped and sat beside us on the road. That shooting was spectacular, but eventually the cat got up, reentered the forest, then crossed to the road, walking down until he, too, entered the woods and disappeared.

tWe had planned to be out of the park by 10 (it was now almost ten), so we headed to the breakfast point,ate, and headed towards home. We had just started back when we almost drove by the mother of the three cubs (Spotty), who then crossed the road and disappeared into the bamboo. Meanwhile, Karen, Steve, and Joe had had a tigerless morning, but 5 minutes before they had to leave two Tigers (her cubs) appeared, crossing the road …. Giving all of us our tigers for the day.
In total we had 20 different Tigers,and 36 sightings for the group. Mary saw 24 , Randy had 31 sightings, and I had at least 20 … after the third day it wasn’t important to me to keep track of my personal sightings, as anything beyond this point would just be a bonus. (NOTE: There were plenty of bonuses still to some!).

A Sampler of some of our Bandhavgarh Tiger images




jACKALDay 7, March 22, 2018. Kanha

We arrived last evening at around 6:30, making the evening a rather busy one in preparation for today. Steve and Joe had a Tiger at the end of the morning game drive, giving Joe 26 sightings, and Steve perhaps the same. For the rest of us the morning  was somewhat slow, with Mary and Marg just missing a Leopard by seconds, although the view as it darted across the road only lasted that long as well. Karen, Randy, and I, in separate vehicles, had the same Golden Jackal that insisted on remaining on the road, either running ahead of our vehicles or following behind when we managed to pass the Jackal.

PM. At 3:30, a half hour after starting the game drive, I had a male Tiger walk down a nala (a dry ravine) and pass under the bride I was parked at as the Tiger continued on towards the triver where it probably soaked. Mary and Marg had another male, although a poor view, although this male had a spat with a female (assumed) but they couldn’t see the interaction. Joe and Steve were nearby, and Mary assumed that they saw the tiger, laying in the open after the fight, but they missed it, breaking their string of getting a Tiger on every game-drive.
Mary had a Spotted Hawk-Owl, a species I’d never seen, and I had great filming of a Jungle Crow, fawn Spotted Deer squeaking away as it searched for its mother, and a ‘sounder’ of Wild Hogs close to the road. The Crow had flown down to the pond I was watching, and proceeded to bath, which I filmed in slow motion. Despite getting great shots of the Tiger, the Crow was my highlight.

Day 8, March 23, 2018. Kanha

tThis morning was perhaps the best Tiger day we’ve ever had in Kanha. It started along the road to the center zone where a male Tiger barely had his head visible on a rise, at a large fire break. We were told a female was there, too, and vehicles gathered as the male remained in sight. Suddenly the female got up and started walking down the  hillside towards us (on the opposite side of the road there is a small waterhole), and seconds later the male followed. They finally stopped at the steep embankment that flanked their side of the road, almost right over Kevin and Sandy, and Marg and Steve’s head. After a half hour or so they circled around, approaching my position, where they crossed the road, with the two settling in the grass just below, or on the edge of, the road.
From there they went to the waterhole to drink, then climbed the opposite fire break where they rested, then returned towards the waterhole and flanked the road, before disappearing into the woods. At this point my vehicle was in the lead with a lot of jeeps behind us, and our guide thought that the show was over (I agreed) and we continued on. The rest of our gang were either far back in the line tof jeeps, or had poor views, and decided to stay. Marg and Steve’s driver did an incredible job of predicting where both the female and male Tiger would appear, for more great shots, and Mary and Randy got the two together, on the slope of a hill, framed by bamboo, the classic shot and truly one of THE shots of the trip. Eventually the female slipped away from the male (she has young cubs – although he wanted to mate), and the male returned to the waterhole where Mary and Randy were in the prime position for shots.
I continued to Baba Thinga, a great waterhole, where Joe and I waited about 40 minutes to see what might come in. We had Spotted Deer and Sambar come to drink for some nice shots, giving us all three deer – everyone shot Barasinga Deer at dawn in the first meadow.

tAfter breakfast we headed back to BT, but found nothing and returned towards the gate where we had another Tiger – the  big male we saw yesterday. It appeared unexpectedly and we only got shots as it headed into the woods, although we then found another track to intersect its path. This  time, it appeared in front of our vehicle when it did an unexpected U-turn, and again we didn’t react in time. Still, it was our third Tiger for the day, giving us 43 in total.

PM. We headed back towards the pair but found nothing, although we almost intersected a male who was heading on a path in our direction but stopped. Later,we did have a Tigress walking a nala and coming almost right under our vehicle (we were on a bridge), but she reversed and circled around the line of cars.
Marg and Steve had another  Tiger, too, one with a broken tail, giving us 45 Tigers!
I bundles shots today because two days ago, at some point, I pulled my bicep muscle out, and now have a painful ‘Popeye’ bulging bicep that cramps into splitting pain when I bend my arm, as I would to hold up the camera. Without LiveView today I’d have shot nothing, as I cannot hold a camera up for more than a few seconds before cramping.

Popeye biceps - from the bicep's tendon detaching at the shoulder. A few years ago
the left arm's bicep did the same thing, so now the two will match! The initial detachment
hurts and it takes a few months before the arm recovers.

This morning in the heat of the shooting I was hand-holding and just doubled over as I tried to release the pressure on my arm, and Joe thought I had doubled over from a heart attack. I told him it was the arm and to keep shooting, and he did. I soon followed,resting my lens on the roll bar and minimizing doing any sort of bend to my arm – right side, for shutter. Still, the constant reminder – pain – whenever I bent my arm I believe impacted upon my shooting today, as I blew several shots that I’d normally react quickly enough to get.
Mary’s afternoon was tiger-free but great for birds, and the rest all had Tigers.


Day 9, March 24, 2018. Kanha

When I said that yesterday was the best day we've ever had in Kanha I was premature in that assessment. Today was, well ... Read on!

Five minutes after entering the park and 1 km in, Mary spotted a Tiger – at 6:05. Everyone saw this cat but Steve and I, who took a right and headed along the river. One hour later, Mary – alone – had the Tiger again as it walked down a forest fire cut and headed to a mostly eaten and very stinky Spotted Deer Carcass. The Tiger picked it up and disappeared into the grasses.
Meanwhile, the rest of us headed to the general area where we’d seen the two Tigers yesterday. Around 9AM Randy and Marg saw two of that Tigress’s cubs, and we arrived shortly afterwards. We didn’t see the cubs, at first, but we had a good parking spot for seeing several tracks, and we were encouraged by periodic and vociferous Langur Monkey and Spotted Deer alarm calls. At 9:45 someone spotted a Tiger and everyone zoomed to the spot, hoping to see the cubs as they crossed the road. It was busy and hectic, but the vehicles left an opening and the Tigress, and two cubs, crossed in front of us. The sighting was brief but OK.
We were only a few hundred yards from the Baba Thinga waterhole, and we hoped the Tigress and her cubs would head there. My driver and guide wanted to stop at a gap before it, thinking the cats may not go to the waterhole, which I thought was a stupid idea. After a brief but costly pause we continued, getting to the waterhole after most of the best spots were occupied by vehicles.  Still, by parking in the sun we had a good view, if anything would happen.
Five minutes passed, and the first of two cubs appeared in the forest, before heading to the embankment and, without hesitation, trotting to the water’s edge to drink. Another cub, and the mother, soon followed, with the Tigress immediately reversing herself and backing, butt-first, into the water to soak. After drinking the cubs joined her, and like mom, they too backed into the water – as all Tigers seem to do. Jaguars, in contrast, go in straight, not backing in.

Over the next 15 minutes or so the cubs played with mom, jumping on her or wandering along the shoreline, where, twice, the cubs exploded into chases or stalks. One was particularly great, as a cub stalked along, his head held low into the water so he seemed to push the water forward, then charging, where he met his sister who reared, and the two swatted and tumbled. After the wrestle the male cub jumped on the Tigress, while the female slid in to cuddle beside her.
Watch the video

Too soon the Tigress got up and ran up the bank and along the embankment, followed by a cub. The other cub remained behind and played with a log until he noticed the other two were gone, whereupon he rose and ran after the two.
There are supposedly to be three cubs, and the guides are hoping that the missing cub is simply shy, but its absence was notable.

Above: Barasinga Deer; Below: Sambar Deer

tPM. We headed to a new Zone, Two, which required all of our vehicles to travel together, straight until we reached the border of the new zone. Fortunately our route took us passed Baba Thinga both coming and returning, but the waterhole only had Spotted Deer and Sambar. The new Zone is good for Sloth Bears and Leopards, but we saw neither. We did hear a male Tiger roaring, and we hoped it would come to a small and muddy waterhole where a Sambar Deer had been wallowing, but it did not.
We did shoot some incidentals, including Emerald Wood Dove, Shikra, Jungle Owlet, and Spotted Deer fawns nursing, and Sambar Deer that had Jungle Crows perching on their heads and back.
Nonetheless, it was a disappointing game drive, AND THE FIRST GAME DRIVE THAT WE DID NOT SEE A TIGER. Those tourists who were in our usual zone did have a tiger, and had we been there our string of continuous  sightings would still be on. Bummer.

Day 10, March 25, 2018. Kanha

dWe needed one more Tiger to get 50, and we were fairly confident someone in the group would do so. Accordingly, Marg and I stopped to photograph Spotted Deer that seemed ready to fight, and about a half hour with Langur Monkeys playing in a field, wrestling and chasing one another. Mary and Karen joined us.
Meanwhile, Randy and Steve, and soon after, Joe, came upon 7-9 Indian Wild Dogs, or Dhole, tearing apart a Spotted Deer they had killed right beside the road. Incredible shots, and after 300 or so images a Tiger was spotted a few hundred yards away. They left to see the Tiger, which circle and was at the Dhole’s kill! They arrived back in time to see the Tiger claiming the kill, then dragging it off the road and into the forest, amid the barks and growls of dogs and Tiger. The Tiger sustained one wound, at least, during the battle.
dAfterwards, Joe moved on and found a Sloth Bear, our first of the trip, and so he had all three species on the game drive!
The rest of us arrived too late for the action, but the Tiger was in the area and we circled Baba Thinga to find it, finally having a very poor and distant view as the Tiger disappeared over a bank and into a nala. We headed back to the waterhole, hoping it would come there, but after ten minutes or so our driver and our park guide suggested we look elsewhere.

We had not traveled far when my driver saw a Tiger on the road, and then said, ‘Cub!!’ It was one of the three cubs of the Tigress we’d seen previously, and it was unconcerned. After taking some shots we creeped closer, and again the cub was unconcerned. We stopped, not wishing to push our luck. While we photographed the cub the Tigress walked by, ignoring the cub as she stepped into the forest. A few minutes later a second cub appeared, and checked out a tree, standing upright and scratching. The third cub – the one we were missing and that we worried was dead – came next, and passed through and into the woods. Finally, our cub rose, went to a tree, and scratched, and disappeared.
tWith that we had 54 Tigers for the day. As we headed back to camp we found our last Tiger of the day, a huge subadult male Tiger lying in a roadside nala, its shape reflecting in the stream. With that we had 55 Tigers – 10 different tigers in Kanha, and 20 different Tigers in Bandhavgarh.
In the afternoon we drove to our next lodge, in Pench, a 4.5 hour drive that had us arriving by 5, giving us time to unpack and relax after a long day.

Look carefully and you'll see the Tiger resting in the nala (above), the same tiger as seen below.


Day 11, March 26, 2018. Pench

Minutes into the park, at 6:15, Randy and Joe had our 56th Tiger – smashing the previous record of 55 – because that number was attained by nearly daily tiger shows, where tourists were taken by elephant to see tigers not visible from the road. Subtracting those, we probably had only 35 or so seen as we did on this trip, so I’d say we smashed that record!

Above, Shikra; Red-naped Ibis; Collared Scops Owl, Common Hoopoe

Dhole, or Asiatic (Indian) Wild Dog hunting a Spotted Deer Fawn. The Fawn took refuge in the water to escape, but eventually a dog swam in pursuit and made the kill. See the Video.

Mary and Marg spotted Dhole or Wild Dogs and had some nice close ups. The rest of us came in later, and Karen and my first view was a distant one of a Dhole running through the forest. We circled around to a lake where, in years past, we had Dhole about, and as we neared I spotted what I thought was a Dhole soaking. It wasn’t – it was a Spotted Deer the Dhole had chased into the water. Mary had seen it as the chase started, with the two Dhole bouncing up and down when they saw the deer, then deciding to chase, which prompted the fawn to swim across the lake. We arrived soon after, and watched as the Dhole circled, making several attempts but the fawn always bounded into the water and swam off. At one point it appeared as if the fawn had escaped, as it stood in the shallows motionless while the dogs circled at a nearby bank. Then the dogs ran off, entering the woods and circling the dam breast, and we thought the show was over.

The pair of Dhole, or Indian Wild Dogs, scan the lake for the Spotted Deer fawn that took refuge in the water. Whenever the fawn was close to shore the Dhole would charge, but the fawn escaped ... for hours. Finally it was worn down and one of the Dhole captured the fawn. The next day a different pair of Dhole posed wonderfully on a roadside rock, before playing at the edge of a slope -- in clear view!
Watch the video.

We drove off to look, unsuccessfully, for leopards, and as we returned towards the lake we were told the Dhole had returned. The dogs did a few more chases, driving the fawn into the water, and finally one swam after it, grabbing the fawn by the snout and drowning it as the Dhole swam back to shore with its kill. The other Dhole met it at the shoreline and the two carried and dragged the fawn higher on the bank where the two of them reduced the carcass to nothing but legs within a half hour.

On the way back to camp we found a fresh Spotted Deer that we thought was dead – its insides were ripped open, but Randy and Joe, watching for a bit longer, saw that the deer was still alive. We suspect a Leopard had killed it – right in the open, but vehicles may have spooked the cat into fleeing. Interestingly, however, a Golden Jackal never tried approaching the kill – as if the Jackal knew the cat was still about.

mPM. For many it was a slow afternoon but Sandy and I had a lot of action, with some of the best Golden Jackals I’ve ever had, to start our shooting. A pair of Jackals left a waterhole and walked right to our vehicle, crossed the road, milled about, and then one settled on the bank right in front of us. Its mate then walked by, and eventually both wandered up the road.
We started the game drive watching for some cat, as Peacocks and Spotted Deer were continuously sounding alarm calls. Later, at a different spot, Mary had more alarm calls, and someone did see a tiger, but it was shy and disappeared into high grasses. No one in our group saw the cat.
Later, Sandy and I had a spectacular Peacock display, the closest and most visible perhaps ever. We had been shooting it from a distance and when we approached the display ended, but as we were about to leave the Peacock, like flipping a switch, suddenly fanned out again, for the great show.jc

On the way back Karen spotted a Jungle Cat, the first we’ve seen, and three of our vehicles saw or got shots. I raised my ISO and got a half-way decent image. On the drive back we also encountered a pair of Giant Flying Squirrels, which we watched glide across the sky, flying rectangles with tails. We didn’t reach camp until 7:15.

Day 12, March 27, 2018. Pench

Once again, shortly after entering the Park a Tigress was seen, making this our 57th Tiger sighting. The cat was shy and no photos were taken.
My guide took us on a route where few other vehicles go, promising some exclusivity and less hecticness if we found anything, but at the risk that  we would not know about any other sightings. As it turned out, we saw little of interest on that route until we reached the main area again, where we learned that Dhole were once again spotted.

The Dhole were a gift. Not only did one pose beautifully on a rock, but when the pair headed to the river they stopped, at the edge of the clearing and at the top of the slope, to face us and play and roll ... and perform. MAGIC!


Mary and Steve found the dogs and had some great encounters before I arrived, but when I arrived one of the two Dhole was lying on a rock, posing wonderfully … a superb gift. Later the two headed towards the river, where we followed and where, miraculously, the  two paused and laid down on the edge of the grass – on top of the slope and in full view – where the two played and cuddled for several minutes. It was a spectacular shoot – close up and with action, and truly a gift. Had the dogs paused downslope, or not stopped at all, … well, they didn’t! It was wonderful.
Along with the Dhole (Indian Wild Dogs), we had great Langur Monkeys, roadside and with babies, and some good birds.

Below, a pair of Malabar Pied Hornbill - cryptic but visible in the foliage.
hPM. We still hoped to find a Leopard and our groups paused and waited at several different locations where there were constant alarm calls. At one, a leopard was present – in a tree at the edge of a clearing and in view, had anyone noticed it! No one did, and only at the end of the day did the leopard jump down, although Marg may have had a tail-end glimpse. We also waited until we had to leave for one of the  three Tiger cubs or  the Tigress to appear, hidden in a thicket of lantana brush. Monkeys were giving constant alarm calls and looking straight down, but none of the  cats reared their head. Had all done so, we’d have reached 60, but our total Tiger count remained at 57.

Day 13, March 28, 2018. Pench to Delhi to home

Our trip had ended. After a 7AM breakfast we drove to Nagpur for our flight to Delhi -- no issues at all about carry-on luggage -- where we had rooms until our flights from Delhi to home some time during the night. Everyone got off on time and all went smoothly, although I believe all of us were sad to leave ... the shooting had been incredible and the group wonderful. Once again, if you're reading this and you were not on this trip -- YOU MISSED IT!

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