An Evening Drive Into Kanha National Park

The temperature was pleasant  as we left for our afternoon drive. After the long wait for the season to start, I was quite excited.  I wasn’t very optimistic because  the monsoon had barely receded , and there were pools of water everywhere.  One of the water bodies is regularly frequented by a handsome young male and sensing the possibility of a sighting, our naturalist drove straight to it. Driving through Kanha’s verdant Sal forest, I was suddenly overwhelmed by nostalgia . I  began reflecting on my cherished memories of my first experience to Kanha with my husband, and all the subsequent visits …

Somehow this drive felt different. I was the proud owner of a lodge in my favourite jungle in the world. I had always entered Kanha as a guest at someone else’s lodge. I was lost in reverie until we reached  the water body. Upon reaching we were a little disheartened to see the area rather too calm and without any sign of the black and orange beauty. However we decided to linger on and  give it some time. We stopped under a tall , shady Mahua tree, which provided us cool respite from the sun . I immersed myself in watching the antics of a cormorant diving into the water for a meal.

Time lapsed and we began to question why we were waiting, yet some optimism lingered on amongst us all, in the  environment of the jeep. Suddenly a loud alarm call of a Barking deer shattered the purity and silence of the deep emerald forest. This lifted our spirits as barking deer calls are almost always able to pin point a big cat! There were four continuous calls and then  complete silence for a few seconds, then the silence was shattered once again, this time by the crackling sounds of the fallen leaves… something was on the move… slowly and stealthily coming directly towards us.  We all sat holding our breath in intense anticipation.

The moment passed into oblivion as from out of the bamboo thickets came forth the huge form of the black and orange striped beauty of a male tiger… burning bright in the golden light and our hearts soared.  The tiger stood up on the bank of the water body, staring right at us. The passionate jubilation of the magnificent sight before us slowly turned into a sense of relief and satisfaction… we watched him for a while, making his way down from the bank and into the water. What filled me with happiness and content was that this wasn’t the last time, as there would be many more such surreal experiences like this in store for me. This is what I had dreamed of growing up… and I am so lucky to have Singinawa fulfill this dream for me.

Tulika Kedia

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