“???? ??? ???? ???”… Where there is a will, there is a way.. I would rather say, “Where there is a wish, He would show you the way”.
What time is a good time to visit to a tiger reserve? Depending on various reasons for which people visit they will give different answers. I have been visiting Bandhavgarh every summer since 2014.
In 2017 I thought of visiting during winters too. I did seven back to back safaris and was not able to sight even a pugmark of a tiger. I was disappointed but not unhappy . To me a forest is more than just a tiger. I would say there is a spiritual connect between me and nature.
During the winters of 2018, I planned again a visit ,as there was news of many cubs in the park. I was not expecting much in terms of tiger sightings due to my last winter experience. So I was at Bandhavgarh more to enjoy nature and meet my friends. As it is said “the least expected happens at the most unexpected times.” This winter was full of surprises. Bandhavgarh was bounteous to me in terms of sightings. But there was something more spectacular waiting for me during that winter of 2018. It was a morning safari and last drive. Last drive is always very emotional to me. As with the last drive the most eagerly awaited event of my life, “Visit to Bandhavgarh,” also comes to an end.
So it was a beautiful sentimental last morning drive. After almost 30 min into the forest we saw a group of jeeps standing , which is a clear indication of tiger being sighted. That area was of Solo tigress. About Solo, she is one of the 4 Rajbhera cubs. Since her childhood she used to stay most of the times alone, hence name Solo.
And that time of my visit she was having four cubs. In my past experience I have always seen solo at the same place(sehra in magadhi zone), always from quite a distance and always sleeping. Not a good sighting for a photographer. And this time too sadly it was the same pose. And I said “Solo tum toh mujhe bas aise hi darshan dena har baar”(Dear Solo you will always greet me in this pose only I guess). And suddenly as if she heard me, she stood up , started looking into opposite direction(away from us), and started running. There was a high chance that she is stalking and going to make a kill. All the jeeps started to turn back and reached where the chances of her cubs being in den(gufa/den between sehra and kadi pani) was maximum, speculating that she would make a kill and bring it for her cubs.
I cannot describe the excitement that was I was undergoing. But ….that was short lived. When we reached to that spot , there were already so many jeeps aligned that I kept my camera down and thought even if I get the glimpse of Solo carrying a kill also, I should be thankful. And the show started, I could hear the shutter sounds click click going on everywhere and here I am trying to find where she is. I could hear people murmuring that Solo is approaching and have made a kill. Ours was the last jeep , so you can very well imagine my plight as a photographer what I must be going through.
May be few of you also do the same but I talk to plants, I talk to nature. So when I see a tiger I talk to them as well. And I said , “Solo please come here.. look here, behind there is whole lot of free space for you to walk.. leave that crowd .. come here”.
And guess what, the jeep that was getting clear images of solo, became greedy and to get even more better angle for images, started the ignition of jeep to change its position.
Now whatever you say, either Solo didn’t like it and felt disturbed or she heard me again just as she did few minutes back. Solo started moving through the bushes on my left side towards our jeep. Bhammu dada my nature guide and driver told me” Madam ji camera tayyar rakho bas ab.. aur kheechtey chalo”.(Ma’am keep the camera ready, and get ready for the show).
Solo came right in front of me with the deer kill. She waited for few minutes as if saying come on click me. Again she lifted her kill and walked past right in front of me before she climbed up the hill and took it to her cubs in the den ,who then started coming one by one and started feasting on it.
I would end it by saying again with what I started.. “Where there is a wish, He would show you the way”.
Lastly I would like to extend my thanks to Bhammu Dada for being such an efficient tracker and naturalist.
By, Radha Sharma
Source: Radha Sharma
Date: 15 Jul, 2020