This morning we had an early start and the new arrivals slowly trickled in for morning tea (most were a little late). Unlike Tadoba, the Pench authorities assign a route for each vehicle to try and keep them as spread out as possible. I was put in a vehicle with a lovely elderly couple and they, at first, struggled to understand our local guide. For the first couple of hours I would help pass on what the guide was saying and identifying things I was able to. It is amazing just how much you can pick up in a couple of days.
We saw some Gaur (Indian Bison) quite early on, these animals are the largest in the world of the bovine family. They are very impressive and are quite relaxed around the vehicles in the park. A little further along, we came across some fresh tiger pug marks. They were absoutely huge and were heading straight down the road. Unfortunately the tracks led to nothing and we headed off for our breakfast. We bumped into some guests along the way, who had seen a tiger's shoulders earlier that morning. We headed straight for the site but we had joined a traffic jam and the tiger was hidden in the dense foliage. We moved onto the grass on the edge of the road, to ensure we were not stopping anybody from passing, and we were quickly fined 500 rupees (almost £10) for driving off road. This was rediculous considering 100 yards ahead there were 15 vehicles driving off road trying to get a glimpse of the tiger.
In the afternoon after a nice lunch and a nice little siesta we headed back into the park. This time we had Harish as our guide and we felt that this afternoon we were going to have better luck. Annoyingly, our vehicle was allocated the same route as this morning so off we went down the same track. After about 10 minutes we came across a group of Langurs in the road, one of which had a particularly young baby. We photographed away until we thought we were ready to move on but the mother in the middle of the road had a different idea and stayed put. She eventually decided to move on and we went off in search of tigers. We were heading for the area where the tiger had been seen this morning but en route we stopped to photograph some Chital, at one of the lakes. We then moved on in search of the tiger once more and once again we were distracted, this time by a pair of Golden Jackals. The driver noticed a flurry of vehicle activity ahead and we quickly moved off to investigate. We asked one of the vehicle drivers what the excitement was about. He pointed to a spot across a shallow valley, about 150 metres away, and said that there was a female tiger with 5 cubs. After about 5 minutes of the guides trying to point them out we eventually spotted them and to our delight we had our first glimpse of a family of tigers. It was a fantastic sight as the cubs were playing and the mother was relaxing. The whole group managed to get some glimpses and we were extemely happy with the day's distant sighting.
This morning it was a 6 o'clock wake up (after Assam I thought this was a lay in) and we were off at quarter past to head to the park gate. We once again picked up the local guide, who is a complusory addition to the team and set off into the park. We started off by heading straight for the same spot as yesterday, where the tigers had been seen mating. By the time we got there, there were already all the jeeps allowed in the park in place, these were all Indian tourists here for the weekend. After an hour or so waiting for the tigers to show themselves we moved on, later we heard the park officials had closed the loop to any vehicles so the tigers could be left in peace.
We then spent the rest of the morning driving around in the Northern part of the park, which is usually much quieter than the Southern part. On our way, we came across a group of Langurs sitting by the side of the road and we stopped to get some photographs. Up until these Langurs I had taken surprisingly few photographs as we had been so focused on seeing the tiger. We spent the rest of the morning driving around but saw very little indeed, there were a few Chital and a few Sambar here and there as well as a timid wild boar. Before we knew it we had to be out of the park (all Indian parks close during the middle of the day) and we got back to Tiger Trails Lodge for our breakfast.
After lunch it was time for our third game drive in Tadoba and we were hoping this would be the drive we would get our first good sighting of a tiger. We went out to the Northern area we had visited earlier on in the day and again we saw very little. We went from waterhole to waterhole but nothing much stirred, the animals were staying in the shade avoiding the heat of the sun. At one waterhole we got quite close to a wild boar before it flew off into the undergrowth in alarm. After about two hours we came across another group staying at the lodge who had a close encounter with a tigress, who walked across the road right in front of them. We stayed put hoping she would reappear but once again we ran out of time and had to leave the park for the lodge.
That night we had a traditional meal and we were invited to cook our own bread and make our own dessert,
much to the local staff's amusement as we were all rubbish. We went to bed after a long hot day ready for our third day in Tadoba Tiger Reserve.
This morning I got up at 7 o'clock and went downstairs to meet the guests and our guide, Harish, for breakfast. After we had finished our breakfast we went to pack our bags and all met up in reception to get into our vehicle for our 3 hour transfer to Tadoba. We were in a Toyata Innova, a large MPV, and the journey took us just under the suggested 3 hours. The last few hundred yards to our destination were a little bumpy and we got to see a few local villages on route. We eventually arrived safely at Tiger Trails Lodge, this is a small and simple lodge much more like a home than anything else and we were met by the owner's son, who looks after everything.
I was shown to my room, in the main building and had an hours rest before it was time for lunch. Whilst we were staying there, there was another Naturetrek group, but we kept ourselves seperate. After lunch we had an hour and a half until our first game drive in search of tiger and we had been told that there were reports of a mating pair in the South of the park. We were told this would be the focus for this afternoon's game drive and we were also warned to take a sun hat.
We set out in the early afternoon and it was around the 40 degree mark, which was a little on the hot side. We got to the gate and picked up our local guide so in total, there were seven people crammed into a small little Suzuki jeep. We then headed off to see if we could get a glimpse of the tiger and after about 30 minutes we got to the spot. When we got there, there must have been 30 other jeeps lined up ahead of us queuing to get a glimpse of one of these poor tigers. It was then our turn to have a look and we could see the big cat's outline through our binoculars but it was not a photo opportunity. We moved around the corner and parked up as we hoped the tiger might move our way. After a couple of hours and no movement we headed off back to the lodge for our dinner and a rest. We did see our first Chital deer, our first Sambar deer and some cheeky Common Langur monkeys.