‘How many tigers have you seen in a single safari?’ This is a common question we get from several guests. Usual answers are three, four, or five if you are really lucky. There are rare occasions and don’t come along often. But October 23, 2017 was an extraordinary day. I got to see eight tigers in one drive!
It was the last safari for the guests who were with me. Having done five safaris before this, they had seen most of the park. For this particular safari, we were exploring the Mukki zone. After clicking some photos of the beautiful sunrise in one of the meadows, we decided to explore more areas. That is when we saw a car parked ahead of us, and the occupants of the car waving excitedly at us. We approached the vehicle slowly and parked behind it. That is when we noticed that there was tiger walking in front of the jeep ahead of us. The male tiger was walking away from us and was marking his territory by spraying his urine on select barks. While watching him through my binoculars I noticed the facial marking on his cheeks when it turned over his shoulder to look at us, and immediately recognized him as T-30 (Umarpani male). After a few more strides, he walked off into the bushes. ‘This was the biggest tiger in Mukki zone,’ I whispered to the guests as we moved ahead.
The previous day, we had heard a couple of tigers mating in the undergrowth, but because of the dense forest had not seen them. I wanted to check the area to see if they were still there or had moved out. As we crossed the grassland leading to the area, we saw hundreds of Spotted Deer, along with some Barasingha and Sambar grazing in the meadow. As we were slowly making our way across the open area, we were alerted by some Spotted Deer alarm calls coming from the opposite side of the vast grassland. As we reached the area, I realised the alarm calls were coming from a nullah. On scanning with my binoculars, I noticed two tigers on the stream bed, one standing and the other sitting down. There were T-29 (Link 7 male) and T-31 (Choti Mada female), the same mating pair we had been hearing over the last few days. After a few moments, the male tiger crossed the road in front of our car and walked into the Sal forest. No sooner had he disappeared, the female followed the same path, and vanished in the same direction.
As we proceeded, I noticed that one of the two guests with me had had tears in her eyes. I asked her if everything was okay, and she smiled at me. She said that four years ago she has seen a tiger in Ranthambhore, which was numbered T-29 as well, along with her husband. Since then her husband had passed away, but she felt his presence with her today.
A few moments later, we stopped near a waterhole to see a Black-capped Kingfisher. This kingfisher is mostly seen in coastal regions and is a rare bird in Central India. As I was explaining this to the guests, we heard a series of alarm calls behind our vehicle. I alerted the guests, but as I was getting ready to move the vehicle behind, I noticed a tiger approaching the waterhole. This was the shy and elusive T-27 (Dhawajhandi female). On closer inspection, we noticed four tiny animals trotting behind her. These were her cubs. The female approached the water, and sat down to have a drink and cool herself, while the four cubs, visible timid, peeped at us from behind some grass. Later, the female crossed the road in front of our vehicle, and the four cubs followed. What a sighting!
As we were heading back to the resort, I told my two excited guests that this was a special day and sightings like these rarely. So the next time someone asks me the maximum number of tiger I have seen in a single safari, you know the answer, Eight!!!
– DAVID RAJU, Head Naturalist, Singinawa Jungle Lodge