While we were in India earlier this year, my parents had surprised Beth and I with a one night trip to the Kabini Safari Lodge, which despite the uncomfortable manner in which we arrived (specifically, uncomfortable for me), turned out to be a great weekend.
We enjoyed the food, the surroundings, the accommodations and especially our two safaris. One was an early morning sunrise boating trip, which if you were a ‘birder’, would have been right up your alley river. Yes we saw an elephant, but it (the safari) was mainly one for the birds. Now if you enjoy the sight of a sunrise, then this is the thing to do!
Although the following picture gives the feeling that we were speeding along, this cruise was rather slow:
Painfully slow. After the sun went up with all its color and glory, it then became quite hot and the slow speed of the boat just meant we were getting a tease of a breeze. We were glad when it was over, and in hindsight we would have rather taken the option to have another land safari, esp. since the previous evening’s safari went rather well.
The land safari is pretty much the same setup (save for the slight difference in terrain of course):
Both safaris have a driver and a guide who points out various things along the way and answers any questions you have, no matter how dumb and obvious they might be. Such as:
“What huge animal is that?!”
“An elephant, sir.”
Ok, well that never happened, but I’m sure we asked some questions which to him must have been quite obvious. The trip takes us into the Nargahole Forest a.k.a. Rajiv Gandhi National Park, which is famous not only for its elephants that bother the locals/my parents, but also its tigers. We did get to see several elephants, and some of them we were quite close to:
So I was hoping that we would have this sort of luck with tigers as well! As the trip wore on and with the day light making its way into darkness, you tend to feel a mix of tension and anticipation along with some disappointment. It’s tough to go through it hoping that you will see a tiger, since that hope robs of the appreciation and wonder for the other animals and scenery. It gets to a point that if you do not get to see a tiger, then the whole trip falls into danger of being labeled as “disappointing”, since Mr. Guideman could not get lil’ Indian Kitteh to come out and play.
But luckly for us and relief for our guide, Indian Kitteh did make an appearance! That too on the last turn of the trip, as we were on the road heading back to the park exit and came up on the final turn towards the gate. We noticed that the jeep ahead of us suddenly stopped and immediately their passengers all rushed to one side pointing to the bush next to the road (If this was the boat safari, that boat would have tipped), which is the universal signal for “there’s something in the bushes!!”. Our driver floored it and then came to a screeching halt in all less than 50 feet so thankfully Beth’s body ignored all that motion since it was getting pumped to see this tiger! But then something strange happened. We couldn’t see it. For almost 5 minutes, even though it was quite literally (remember our lesson, reader?) just some feet away from us in the bushes. So impressive is its camouflage that we could simply not see it, even if our lives depended on it. Imagine if you will that you could be walking down the road, next to those bushes, with a tiger in them, that you would have no idea of its presence. Scary thought. We finally noticed it and then it later moved out into the clear, by which time I became a crazed photographer trying to capture the moment.
Unfortunately the moment was quite far away at this point and I don’t have a zoom lens so this is the best shot I have after some major cropping.
But at least getting one shot is better than no shot! This tiger was apparently a female and about 4 years old, and that wasn’t a dumb question to ask. We spent about half hour watching her movements, and listening to the other animals make warning sounds, which were really fascinating and surprisingly loud.
So it was a great way to end the safari, and our cab became alive with chatter and excitement as we rode back to the lodge. We saw a tiger! Woohoo! Quite the moment indeed!
For our next trip to India, I keep telling Beth how she needs to see the area during the monsoon season so that she can experience how green and lush everything is, especially the paddy fields. Plus, next time we should go to a place where they do their safaris on the backs of elephants, like the video below:
As in the words of a 16 year old and Usher, “OMG”. Maybe this was the wrong video to show her. Or you, dear reader.
(Marshall! Do you see what your cousins are capable of?! Even Freckles is impressed!)