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Spotting Tigers in Indian National Parks

Submitted by on February 21, 2015 – 9:48 am3 Comments

Spotting the elusive Tiger at the vast Reserves of Indian forests.

The elusive Tiger is certainly a fascinating animal, with half of the world population of Tigers residing in India, no trip to India is complete without a try to get a glimpse of this big cat. India, through one of the many Tiger reserves or National Parks, provides you many opportunities in experiencing wildlife like never before. Especially the tiger sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh give you the highest odds of spotting one. My trip to Bandhavgarh and Kanha along with a professional team from JungleRoads, resulted in three tiger sightings from 3 days of  continuous day and evening safari’s. 

I am frank when I say tiger spotting needs some luck too, as unlike the lion population in African parks, these are extremely elusive. The terrain itself differs from the flat low grass lands of Africa, where lions or cats like Cheetah and Leopards are easier to spot.

Whereas, a wildlife enthusiast looking for tigers has to cater to thick forests, and even if lucky, could just get a fleeting moment of the tiger passing by, or wandering into the thick shrubs of the forest. But, when you do spot one, even that fleeting glance of the stripes, the color, the looks all engulf into a mighty striking feature making you extremely satisfied.

The process of tracking Tigers during a safari is half the fun and adventure by itself. It starts with your guide and driver taking predefined routes (strictly monitored) as they begin their journey of tracking. They typically first drive deeper into the forest, where waterholes exist and as Tigers are known for being aggressively territorial, they mark themselves very distinctly. Typically one male dominates a defined territory, and patrols its boundary regularly and creates a visible and invisible fence by marking bushes and trees with its powerful claws and urine.

So, your guide and driver look for these visible marks as well as footprints. The freshness of the footprints give the indication if the Tiger is anywhere close to the vicinity. 

Once spotted, you then start slowing down your drive and await Calls, – typically monkeys and deers make distinct sounds when they spot a Tiger near by. These Calls help your guide to fine tune his spots and he typically will park the jeep at cross sections of known spots that the Tiger traverses. 

Its now simply luck, as you await patiently for the Tiger to pass by. This also is where the guide or trackers experience make a big difference. If your guide is a very regular in the forest, he certainly can identify the Tiger by its name as well as posesses the important knowledge of typical paths the Tigers take.

Another important lesson I learnt is along with luck you also need patience. Most tourists keep going all over the place hoping to spot the Tiger, but my guide taught me that once you have seen the signs such as footprints, and located the area through deciphering Calls, you need to strategically park your vehicle, and silently wait…. Yes wait…. Our wait took a good 40 minutes, before we heard further signs of movement.

When you first spot the Tiger, you can see adreanil rushing inside you, as you will probably hear some Hustling of the dried up leaves, or a mini glance of the stripes, as it passes behind a tree, but as it makes way to show itself in full majesty, you cant hide that expression of awe that is seen in your face. The sight of the Tiger is always breathtaking, be it moving accross the road or lazily basking in the shade after a hearty meal.

I had the fortune of spotting two tigers, a male and a female during seperate times, I saw the male during the prelunch session, as it was walking along and marking its territory. I could follow it at a distance for atleast 25 to 35 minutes. An incredible experience indeed.

In the afternoon, as we were lazily looking at other animals, we struck gold again, as we saw a tigress named Kankatti, suddenly pass us. It came less the 2 feet from our vehicle. The reason given for it venturing so close was because it had lost an eye, so would not have seen us so nearby.

This gave me the chance of a lifetime as I indulged in photography. Could get its sharpness of its face and whiskers captured thro my lens.

Tracking Tigers was fun, but when the results end in actually spotting one, the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment can never be measured.

In conclusion, tracking tigers is a game of chance, patience and a good guide. The importance of guide should never be underestimated. I took a guide from a firm for jungle trips across Indian jungles called JungleRoads (www.jungleroads.com). They managed very professionally my entire trip, my guide and the result was some of the best sightings I have ever had.
Further, silence is an important parameter, that even few guides I saw on other vehicles seem to understand. Engines off, parking the vehicle tangential to possible path of the tigernd an ear to the sounds of Calls are critical to increase your chances of sightings.

3 Comments »

  • Rohan Mahadar says:

    Awesome post Dileep! I couldn’t express the experience of tiger spotting in better words…

    You spotted Kankatti!!! Can you tell me when was this? I read last Aug that she died due to illness and starvation and I was devastated as I had seen her during my trip in June.

    *fingers crossed *

    Oh and I spotted 7 tigers in 15 safaris over 1 week of back-to-back safaris 🙂

  • Rohan yes you are right, Kankatti died, not due to illness, but a territorial fight with another tiger. in fact, she lost two cubs too.
    I had spotted her a few months before that. It certainly was heartbreaking as Kankatti braved her way through the forest protecting her cubs, even though she had only one eye.

  • Anjan Bhattacharya says:

    Wonderful post Dileed.It is quite exciting to see the wildlife through your eyes and your lens.I am eagerly waiting for your next post on your visit to Kaziranga and Nameri national forest.

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