Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oh Maya!

Greetings All,
From New Delhi we flew south to the city of Nagpur in central India.  A 3-hour drive brought us to Tadoba National Park.  Declared a national Park in 1955, Tadoba has now merged with the Andhari Game sanctuary to create a 1700 square km reserve.  Legend has it that back in the 17th century the Gond King Taru who ruled this part of the Deccan Plateau was killed by a tiger while traveling to his outlying districts through the forests of Tadoba.  Today about 70 tigers roam these forests and we headed out in search of them.  There were a few safari jeeps parked along some rice paddies in a now-abandoned village.  The occupants told us they had spotted a tiger in the fields. We searched with binoculars and spotted her about 300 meters away.  More and more jeeps arrived to get a glimpse of the tiger.  "She'll never come closer with all these vehicles parked along the road" I thought.  Amazingly she got up and started to approach the road!

A Tiger is Spotted in the Distance

She stopped and appeared to be stalking something.  A ruddy mongoose ran past her and she gave chase into the forest.

Tiger Chasing a Ruddy Mongoose

She returned a few minutes later empty handed and continued heading toward us.

Tiger Approaching

By now there were about 15 jeeps parked along the road but that did not deter her.  She boldly continued her approach coming to within 10 feet to the nearest jeep! 

A Close Encounter

She came so close that Marc could only capture her huge head with his long lens.

Bengal Tiger

We pulled out in front of her and she followed us down the road.  You can see how close she is to the other safari jeeps.

A Great View for All!

Marc got one last shot before she strutted off into the forest.

Maya, a female Bengal Tiger

It wasn't until after she had disappeared that our guide Ved told us that her name was Maya and that she was suspected of recently killing a man that had gone into the forest illegally to cut bamboo.  No action was taken against her since it wasn't  certain that she was the killer and tigers are protected in India under most circumstances.  Wow!  I can't imagine that we'd be so tolerant if a grizzly bear killed someone even if that person illegally entered an area where the bears are protected.

The next day we weren't so lucky.  Another jeep had spotted a male tiger lying in the jungle.  He was so well camouflaged that I could barely make him out even with my binoculars.  Can you spot him in the photo below?

Amitabh, a male Bengal Tiger

His name is Amitabh and he arrived in the area in January 2010.  He was spotted again on the evening game drive lying under a tree next to a water hole.  Twenty or more jeeps lined up waiting for him to come out so they could get a better look.  We moved on in search of some of  Tadoba's other inhabitants.  Troops of Gray Langurs were cavorting next to the road.  Sisters or maybe an auntie were clutching newborn babies until mom came along and rescued the tiny infants from the "mom-want-to-be's". 

Gray Langur and Baby

In the evenings herd of Gaur or Indian Bison emerged from the forest to graze along the roadside.  one herd had several newborn calves on wobbly legs sticking close to mom.

Gaur Cow and Calf

One of our evening drives was cut short by a powerful thunderstorm.  Just after Marc took this photo of a Sambar buck scent marking a tree with his preorbital gland (located just under his eye), a bolt of lightning struck nearby.

Sambar Stag 

We rushed off to the Park headquarters where we took refuge from the pouring rain.  The following morning the weather had cleared and we were treated to a view of Tadoba's other majestic cat, the Indian Leopard.  She appeared in a clearing about 100 feet from the road and lingered in the open for a good 15 minutes.  She stayed in the area most of the morning affording most jeeps passing by with a great sighting. 

Indian Leopard

Also seen during our six jeep safaris were Spotted Deer, Ruddy Mongoose, Sloth Bear, Dhole or Indian Wild Dogs, Wild Boar, Chousingha or Four-horned Antelope, Indian Hare, Nilgai or Blue Bull and Marsh Crocodile.  Tadoba is also home to 195 species of birds.  Following are some of our favorite bird photos.

Painted Sandgrouse

Indian Roller

Paradise Flycatcher

Jungle Owlette

Black-headed Ibis

Thanks to Rick, Ved and the staff at Tiger Trails Lodge for making our visit to Tadoba National Park a most memorable one!

Tomorrow we fly from Nagpur to Kolkata where we'll spend the night before heading to the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.

We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc             

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