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The generation next cubs of Tadoba are growing fast

  • Sep 22, 2018
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  • Dr. Krishnakumar Mechoor

Venturing into the wild! Was that only to watch the movements of the striped beauties, often I wondered?

But when I finally owned a camera, the rest in my life became secondary. A dream which I had cherished since my college days was taking its flight. After more than two decades, my maiden trip to Kanha Tiger Reserve was heartbreaking. Though our group spend 5 days in the park, we managed only a glimpse of a tigress on one of our evening safaris. Even that was a jackpot as all of us were first timers. The only regret was we neglected to enjoy the nature of Kanha (which I still repent). We were just chasing ourselves to just spot the yellow striped wild feline (Just the same as majority of travellers do when they get into a tiger reserve ; I was in no way different).

In 2016, I started travelling with Praveen Mohandas (who we affectionately address as Praveenji), one of the gifted nature photographers of the subcontinent. Since then it has been a dream run for me. Whether it is my luck or his; or of our group, there had not been a safari, where we didn’t have a tiger sighting since then. Be it was Corbett or Kabini, Bandipur or Tadoba, nature gifted me what I longed for, that too immensely.

Much to my dismay; my first trip to Tadoba in 2016 got aborted at the planning stage itself.

Tadoba’s Generationnext – Burning bright
Tadoba 1

The long hold time finally culminated in 2018 when I got opportunity to visit Tadoba not once but twice. First during summer, and next in early monsoon. My friends who had been there earlier boasted about their tiger sightings and unforgettable moments of joy. I was excited and curious about our trips as well. God willing only both our trips were classic. Those unforgettable moments and experiences found an unerasable place in pages of the autobiography . Not only in terms of the pictures photographed but in terms of experiencing mother nature, her love and caress as well. Many a time I noticed Praveenji ; he kept aside his camera and enjoyed the visual treat, while the rest of us were searching for frames and clicking. Once the excitement got over, my curiosity was put forth for him to answer. He gently replied “what I have witnessed is not a rare photographic opportunity but some feeling within, which cant be expressed in words, pictures or photographs. As a lover of nature, what I have seen is a feast to my eyes, a visual that will remain in my heart till my last breath. At times its not a bad idea to give rest to one's equipment and experience the magic of mother nature”. Retrospectively thinking , YES!!!! we witnessed one of the finest emotions on the planet, the emotions of a mother; her unconditional love and caring.

Tadoba 2

Tadoba with its lush Bamboo forests did not disappoint us in any way. My trips to Tadoba, not far away from the Moharli gate, were greeted by the Queen of Telia (Sonam as she is popularly known as) herself along with her cubs. She and her cubs gave us the visual of capturing 6 tigers in a single frame. First two days of both our sightings were gifted by Sonam and her cubs. There were few minutes during the summer trip when all her cubs were running around our safari vehicle. There were tigers all around, all playing with each other and at times with their mother. The delicate moments between the mother and her children which no camera in the world could absorb. All of us enjoyed the visual entertainment when she and her cubs decided to cool off in the Telia lake. The family later left to the far side of Telia lake.

All this while we were looking out and patiently waiting for Maya to present herself. Till day 3 there was no sign of Maya. Third day morning she emerged with her cubs on the banks of Panderpauni water hole. Though for a few minutes, Maya was special for me; as it was my first sighting of one of the boldest tigresses of Central India. That evening she majestically strolled in front of our vehicle for over a kilometre. The stride ended at the sight of her cubs who were eagerly waiting for their mom. The next couple of minutes were truly emotional which bought in goose bumps, the cubs climbing on their mother who was relaxing after the long walk, playing, biting each others tails, and suckling now and then. That was the sweetest and most cherishable moment of our summer. Like mother, like children, Maya's cubs were as bold as their mother. Sun was setting and half heartedly we had to return to our homestay at Moharli. That evening we decided, “we are coming back this monsoon”.

Tadoba 3

June 2018, we landed at Nagpur on a day when the city witnessed one of the heaviest rains of the season. The cab driver told us that Tadoba had received rains. Our minds were full of green grass and the yellow strides in between. There was a thunderstorm shortly after we reached Tadoba. Early morning while having tea we looked at the sky, all clear with plenty of stars. By 5.30AM we were at the Moharli gate. The park had received good rains and the forest was lush green. The dust in the air had all settled down and the air was full of freshness after the seasons first rains. Within 15 minutes of our entry into the park, we spotted Sonam quenching her thirst from a puddle by the side of the road. She crossed the road and disappeared in a moment only to reappear in 5 minutes, this time with one of her cubs. She had made a Sambar kill the previous night. We noticed the carcass through the clutter of bamboo trees. She and her cubs were feasting . For the next two days, Sonam and cubs were in and around the place. On and off she and her cubs came out at times to have water and at times to relax. Day 2 evening we saw a glimpse of Maya's cubs at a distance sleeping amidst bamboo bunches. While having evening tea, Manish; the local guy and a Tiger expert told us “its been 2 -3 days since Maya has come out. She is going to come out tomorrow.”

Day 3 morning we were waiting near one of the water holes. The driver of another vehicle had heard a Cheethal call. Four vehicles were waiting anticipating a possible sighting. In the meantime, I was busy shooting a fish eagle trying to fish. Our driver suddenly said “Sir Chalthe hain” (sir lets go). This is what you call intuition. The moment we entered the main road a piglet was running for it's life and one of Maya's cubs was chasing. The cub was learning to hunt. A moment later the second cub also came to the scene. The guide who was keeping an eye on the back side of the vehicle whispered “Sir, Maa peeche hain” (Sir, Mother is behind). A few vehicles were separating the mother from her cubs. One of the cubs cried and at the next moment we could see a concerned mother charging by the side of our vehicle towards the cub. She confidently strode past us with her cubs and in between teaching her cubs to mark their territory. Preparing the next generation for survival , a moment we enjoyed watching. She went to a nearby waterhole and cooled off for sometime with her cubs who were merrily swimming in the pool. Next two mornings it was Maya and her cubs all around. Running, playing, climbing trees, fighting, running back to their mother in between, biting each others tails. At one moment the two cubs were play fighting, the mother silently strolled behind and bit on a cubs tail and all the three started running together, one of the lighter moments of their life. And a visual treat for us once again.

Tadoba 4

I still remember the words of a veteran photographer who was sitting on a vehicle parked next to us “Maya is a good tigress but a bad mother”. Probably he was indicating about the failure of her to raise the cubs of her previous litters. But this time she seems to have broken the jinx. Monsoons have receded and the parks have reopened. Maya’s cubs are now grown up, fit and fine and we eagerly awaiting for our next trip to Tadoba.

June 2019, Green cap takes you to Tadoba, one of the finest Tiger reserves of the country where tiger sightings are almost sure shot. (Though the saying goes like “Wildlife sightings are a matter of luck”)

Dr. Krishnakumar Mechoor
Dr. Krishnakumar Mechoor

Nature & Wildlife Photographer,
Managing Partner, Green Cap