Greens & Yellow - Monsoon Love 💚 July 2019
It’s always rejuvenating to take timely breaks from our monotonous concrete lives and I exactly did the same last week by venturing into the woods of a forest where I was “Reborn in the Wild” - Kabini.
Earlier the same morning, I started the game drive scanning for footmarks of cats and the forest was silent... with no big cat movement nor any alarm calls to give us leads it started raining by 7.45am and the hopes of having a sighting just vanished, our driver continued to drive around, seated on the last seat of the Jeep I was literally hallucinating and suddenly I see two dark substances of yellow stripes amidst the bottle greens and my eyes lit up only to whisper.... “Tiger Tigerrr Tigerrrrrrr” and the next few minutes were magical & something which bought life into me.... A female Tigress seated next to the safari track with a 4month old cub peeping from its moms back... a few minutes later another cub showed up and the next thing was to seeing the Male Tiger of the family bringing all 4 together.
It’s very rare to spot an entire family of a Male, female & cubs together at the same Tiger and I feel blessed to witness & document some amazing tiger behavior where the male & female are cuddling each other and the cubs popping from behind all the time.
With spirits high as sky the afternoon safari began and we missed the same Tigress crossing the road in her territory, I was prepared for a dry game drive as it rained again during the afternoon safari, last 30mins into the drive and our Jeep driver Chota decided to take a stroll around the forest, with light fading quickly we passed the famous Tiger Tank as a ritual, just a minute before we were to reach the Tiger Tank, I felt a Deja vu sensation that I have relived this moment in the past & I am about to see a tiger at Tiger Tank & it exactly happened the same, I again whispered “Tigerrr Tigerrrrr Tigerrrrrrrr” and the jeep stopped & we saw the Biggest Male Tiger of kabini sitting on his throne on the Tiger Tank Bund like a King, quickly making some frames and we left the king by itself to exit the forest !!
Thankyou for reading, I hope I was able to reconstruct the experience by my words and literally took you there in my Jeep through my narration 😊
“Talab-Wali Female In Her Dynasty”
This is the Talab wali female who is also referred as the dadi maa of Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra.
A 2hour drive to the south of Nagpur or a 4hour drive to the north from Hyderabad, leads to this fantastic Tiger-Scape which is just 148sq kms.
“Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary”, very infamously known for its hidden treasures that it holds, this park consists nothing less than 18 tigers in the tourism zone, currently being ruled by 3 families namely - The Four Mark Family, The Pilkhan Family & The Talabwali Family, alongside the three male musketeers named “Jack, Johnny & Walker” who are now sub adults aged 2years, a few other sub adults and finally the Sher Khan of this 148sq kms forest “Star Male” who is apparently the only Male tiger who guards this Sanctuary.
With a maximum permit of just 11 Gypsies allowed for safaris, this park is definitely one wildlife reserve every wildlifer should visit this summer because it brings so much more in the platter with some mind blowing landscapes & natural water bodies which I haven’t seen in the recent past in central india, I confess... I am bowled over by this park n totally in love with this forest !!
We were very fortunate to effortlessly cross path with the “Four Mark Female Tigress” and her cubs in the very first 10minutes of my maiden safari in this forest, Obliging us with a fantastic early morning show & I just did not want to bump up the ISO in my camera, in this image the 3rd cub (a male) was walking in his own pace behind our Jeep & the mother and two other cubs in the picture were waiting for the male cub to join them.
The third safari of the trip & we were very keen on tracking the talab wali female because she is reported to have a new litter of cubs as old as just 3months old & we decided to dedicate the entire safari trying to track her, a few minutes into the Safari and no signs of this lady but with spirts high & positive vibes this gorgeous female showed up from the under growth, drank ample water & walked on the pebbles only to reach the tip of this peninsula, posing for us before she chose to swim across the lake !!
PS: Image digitally enhanced for viewing & best enjoyed in full screen/horizontally 😊
“When life gives your a TIGER, make it a FRAME”
Alice in Wonderland - The Chuha-Pani Female.
One of India’s more beautiful forests who’s landscape cannot be compared to any other - Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarkand !!
Famously knows as the ‘Land of Roars & Trumpets’.... Where every nature lover and Wildlifer has heard stories in abundance about this magical forest. A few years ago finding a Tiger in Jim Corbett was challenging but over the years tracking one has only got easier.
Nasir Hussain - My driver friend who I rate as one of India’s finest Tiger Tracker with a strong head on his shoulders & his instincts very rarely going wrong in a place where tracking Big Cats isn’t a cakewalk, it’s easy and equally fun when your wavelengths matches and your driver goes all out when he knows what his guests want - Monopoly solo sightings !!
Nasir & me usually discuss our strategy the previous evening by making a “Plan-A & Plan-B” for every Game Drive & that morning was no different... While all the Jeeps headed towards the grassland area where the Grasslandwali Tigress is currently nursing her cubs, But as per our Plan-A we headed straight in search of Paarwali who is also nursing cubs in her territory by crossing the bridge which is the other side of the Ramganga River.
It’s always fantastic when you enter the forest first because you can start tracking your Tigress by following its pugmarks which she would have left the previous evening & night. We followed our Plan-A that morning and we struck gold - Paarwali in a stalking position and we see she’s stalking a sambar deer between the thickets... almost after 30mins of cautiously stalking, It ended into a failed attempt... The sambar got altered by the presence of the Tigress and ran away, the show ended and Paarwali decided to give us an exclusive morning Ramp-walk only until the other jeeps who came back from grassland area without any success and Nasir said - Sir... Apna kaam hogaya, I replied - Yesss, We don’t want Paarwali with the jeeps in the background & we leave her territory & head to Grassland walis area now as all the jeeps have come to paarwali !!
After our Plan -A of coming to Paarwali first worked successfully, We had that naughty smile in our eyes because it worked just the way we thought and now it was time to make Plan-B happen by heading to Grassland area.
As we silently left Paarwali & her territory, we started driving towards grassland and the only way to reach is by crossing the main road which passes through one of the most beautiful canopy’s of Jim Corbett, We knew ours was the only Jeep in this side of the forest, so we had ample time in our hands to take risks until we went to the grassland area.
We were driving towards grassland crossing the beautiful main road canopy & I told - “
Nasir Bhai... Iss canopy mein Tiger Dikha do yaar (Show me a tiger under this canopy) and within the next few seconds he stopped the Jeep..
I asked him what happen?? -
And he said “Sir - Barking deer bola” ( I heard a barking deers call and he exactly knew if the tiger is walking towards the main road where would it cross...
Nasir quickly switched off the engine of the Jeep and in less than a minute, The Tigress emerged from the tickets and crossed the main road, making my dream Corbett shot come true.
I could have made this image with my 500mm lens to show the tiger closer n bigger but I chose to pick up my smaller lens which is 70-200 for the sole reason that I wanted to frame this tiger in this very habitat at 200mm... The game got over in few minutes after which Nasir look into my eyes with a smile, laughs & he says...
“Sir, Plan-C toh apun ne kal raat ko banaya hi nahi tha” 😊
“The Elephant Silhouette”
The world calls this amazing piece of land as “Masai Mara National Reserve” but I wouldn’t shy to call this 1510sq kms of heaven as “Animal Planet”
This is one place I would love to visit time & again & again forever n ever... You wake up in the morning before sunrise & after a quick tea you just wanna head to your Land Cruiser which is waiting for you... You embark on this journey & wonder.... Where on earth do you get to see a million shades of blues in the skies and as you driver drives you deeper you spot wildlife in abundance and very soon in no time you realize it’s 10am and it’s breakfast time & you try finding a tree in these grasslands where you open your packed breakfast which is Aloo Paratha & Sandwich and you sip onto your hot filter coffee
By now you have travelled nothing less than a 100kms and the clock strikes Two, it’s lunch time and you again go hunting for a tree in this beautiful endless Grassland & you to park your land cruiser & open your packed lunch overlooking these beautiful landscapes.... Life couldn’t just get any better than this.... Isn’t it (Sometimes I wish I was a driver in Masai Mara) 😉
Your game drive vehicle takes you to places inside the Masai Mara and your driver is continuously tracking for Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Elephants, Rhinos all day and you bump into wildlife at every minute... Trust me on this !!
And before i realize the skies are turning Orange and we r all set to head back to the resort again after a good 12 hours of game drive thou the resort is located right inside this magnanimous animal plant and I find this elephant with a single tree and shades of Orange in the skies like I have never seen before which only makes me fall in love with nature more n more n more !!
My Dream Frame - “The Lion King”
As a kid I grew up watching films like - The Lion King, The Jungle Book, Jurassic Park, Anaconda, The Bear & King kong... With time as Mother Nature got me closer to her my passion for travel got me to photography which is less than a decade ago, I always dreamt of making a frame where I had a Lion/Lioness on top of a mountain ridge with blue skies and then sometimes dreams do come true !!
During my visit to Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya - Africa, During the day 3 of the trip, we begun the game drive as the sun rose, The shades of Blue just couldn’t have looked any better tearing the skies, the clouds & rays of light making its way for another beautiful day, as our driver went about scanning the Savannah’s in search of big cats, very soon came across a family of 3 lioness with around 15+ cubs together, after sometime a lioness started walking the green carpet of Savannah’s and the troupe of young fur balls of 3months followed the mother playing around & jumping, they finally reached this little mountain ridge when the mother lioness decide to let the cubs play under this mountain ridge and it climbed up this hill to scan for prey as it’s nursing cubs and then my dream came true with me behind the viewfinder which brings happiness to me in abundance
"Jaguar & Me" | Brazil Diaries
This is "Estrela" which means "Star". An offspring of Sussana, the famous Onça (Jaguar) from pantanal. Fondly named by Wildlife filmmakers, photographers, researchers & local guides.
Estrela is now a sub adult & estimated to be a little over 2yrs old, She has recently got separated from her mother Sussana.... This Gorgeous female did true justice to her name, we were fortunate to spot her on the Sandbank, Estrela was seen in playful mood, it was treat to our eyes to spend so much time documenting her, to watch her roll over the sand, chase around nothing, drink water, swim in the river and absolutely not bothered by our presence, During the summer the low water levels makes a lovely open sandy beach and these Rosette cats simply love sun basking as the early morning & late evening are pretty cold during this time of the year in Pantanal.
The story begins
Day 1 in Pantanal with 2 jaguar sighting and day 2 gave way into a dawn where we spotted and documented our 3rd jaguar. With the gentle rays bringing the canvas of jewel tone flora and fauna alive, we continued our cruise down the Cuiaba river. The meandering river both worked as a lullaby to my city-weary- nerves and also pumped in the adrenaline - the search for the legendary animals in a land which is their playground.
A story waiting to be unraveled...
Over my years into the wild, my learning has been that whilst nature has this immense power to lull you, the jungle and the law of the land also hone your senses.
I could sense a story waiting to be unleashed.
The crisp air crackled in anticipation. Pin drop silence. The senses honed to the slightest noise and movement. The only sound was of the forest. The palpable silence was occasionally broken by our guide's whisper directing us to a bird or a flora (a lifer). The landscape was virgin. The players were my first. And every act that unfolded held the power to etch itself into my being.
As part of any wildlife tour, the guides are in constant touch with each other. Their camaraderie is infectious as they effortlessly bring us into their world of sightings and banter. And whilst the vista slowly engulfed me into its realm, the crackle of the radio broke the spell. There was a jaguar in the area. And we were 20- 25 minutes away from it.
Whilst the boat steered towards the direction, I remember, for a moment or two forgetting to breath. The often asked question, "Would I get a chance to enter the world of the lord of the wetlands?" played the trump card. "Would we be on time to see the feline work its charm? What is the story that awaited? Could we do justice to the story?" The questions unleashed itself with a fury. The onslaught continued till I found my boat come to a standstill.
For today, the card played in my favour.
The Drama Unfolds
When my eyes found Estrella, she was sitting at the end of the sand banks staring into the open blue skies. The world called her Estrella - a star. But for me, she was my own Pagli... She waited like a long lost friend. She saw our boat. She didn’t balk. But walked around the entire sand bank - welcoming me into her world. Her playground.
What played in her mind... I wondered !!!
The pathway into her world came alive through my viewfinder. Slowly reeling me in, she flaunted her moves - her calculated stalk and chase. Nothing distracted her from her orchestra. Singularly, she played to a music that was privy to her.
Rolling on the sand banks, there was nothing shy about her. This was her home and she was in an indulgent mood.
Bold yet coy, she was a feline who possessed every trait of a woman who was confident in her skin. Coming up to the river to drink water, she teased. She oscillated between a yawn for now, a low growl whilst her eyes seared through my soul and playful in the next. For today, the wooden log was her toy.
The greatest show played for a good 30 odd minutes - with every scene played straight out- of -the- box. The whirr of the camera never stopped. It was a moment, where, it was just us - in her playground and playing by her rules.
And in a blink of an eye, she bounded into the bushes.
If I didn’t have the images to go back to, I would have thought this was a mirage - a thirst of a documenter in search for a good story. But this tale stands true.
Dazed and inching back into reality, I asked our guide, Fabiano, "You said it's a 20-25min boat ride to the Jaguar sighting when you got the radio call. But we reached in less than 10mins." To which, he laughed and said, "My friend... this sighting was not in the menu. The stars aligned themselves for the greatest show of the wetlands. Now, let's head to the actual place from where we got the radio call and that's a 15min boat ride again."
20 jaguar sightings in 4 days. A record, said our guide. I smiled.... 😊 My story begins with Estrella. In her playground of no boundaries.
And this is....... "Nessi" – a young beautiful fully grown female Jaguar and an offspring of Ruth, We spotted Nessi late in the evening that day while returning back to our houseboat which was anchored in the Piquiri river and she was pretty close to where we were stationed. Nessi was a gorgeous jaguar, her eyes spoke volumes, she looked right into my camera, kept giving different poses and was very calm and relaxed for all the time we spent with her, This sighting special as she was the 5th Jaguar sighting of that day.
Our Guide Fabiano told that Nessi was last spotted in June 2016 and this was her first sight of this season and we were fortunate in a way. On this occasion we spotted Nessi suddenly pop out the dense bushes, sit over a wooden tree log & wait for the prey to show underneath, so that she could jump from the top into the river & get her prey, but to her luck she couldn't spot one and hence decide to head back into the dense vegetation of Pantanal after posing for us for sometime.
There’s a strong belief that wild cats hunt after dusk but that hasn’t been the case here in Pantanal with Jaguars, we spotted so many different jaguars stalking and hunting during broad day light, especially the caimans sun bask during mid-day when sun is at its peak, we even noticed the capybara the favorite meal of jaguar, basking in the open sandbanks during the same time. So one can easily conclude that the advantage for jaguars and best time to hunt is during mid-day.
Pantanal is indeed a very unparalleled world as I often say & words fall short to describe the beauty of this world's largest wetlands as it can only be experienced, If all goes well & as planned, I wish to make another visit to the Pantanal again in July/Aug of 2018 with my bunch of friends who wish to explore this part of the world which just doesn't stop luring me and pulls me back with its blue skies, the white sand banks where you hope the Jaguar showed up, the thick vegetation on both sides of the river, Jaguars around you as your friends, cursing from dawn to dusk in radio equipped speed boats with unlimited photo opportunities which becomes memories for a lifetime 😊