This morning was our last game drive in Pench, as this afternoon we would be heading to Kanha National Park. We were all allocated the same vehicles as the day before, to ensure that we all got a fair chance to see whatever came our way. We were allocated a different route this morning and within minutes we were seeing something unusual. We stumbled across a pair of Indian Rollers mating, they carried on for well over 30 seconds much to Indrajit's surprise.
After another half an hour we witnessed another amazing bit of bird behaviour. This time we watched two male peacocks fighting with one another as they flew up in the air in the most amazing display. Unfortunately the light levels were very low and it was nearly impossible to photograph but it was certainly a spectacular sight and one I shall not forget in a hurry. We moved on again, to where we saw the tiger the evening before but with no luck we photographed a cheeky Rhesus Macaque.
We then went for breakfast at the central spot to hear, from a park guard, that there was a tiger at a lake we had already driven past. He also told us one of our group had seen a leopard on the road we would need to take. Off we went in a hurry, with a half eaten breakfast, in search of both tiger and leopard. We quickly reached the spot where the leopard had been seen with two vehicles waiting. Within seconds of our arrival a tiny female leopard burst out of her cover, across the road and into the thick bush on the other side. What luck and what timing! With that sighting over, keeping quiet about the tiger, we headed off in search of our foe. When we reached the lake, where she had been seen, we were extremely disappointed to find local men creating a fire break. She was probably still in the area but with people around she was not likely to show herself.
We had a pleasant lunch back at Tuli Tiger Corridor before we climbed aboard our cars for our journey to our next destination, Kanha. We passed through some lovely countryside (plenty of wheat fields) before reaching the forested area outside of Kanha. We followed the boundary of the park, along a dirt road, for over an hour before rejoining the main road that would lead to our lodge. Half a mile before the lodge, we were going round a steep corner as we heard some frantic beeping from behind. I turned to see a a motorbike, out of control, go off of the road and down into a ditch at high speed. One man (who I believe was the passenger) went flying over the handlebars and hit the ground hard, whilst the second man (the driver) slammed into the bank of the ditch and looked like he was seriously injured. Our drivers did not stop but took us straight to the lodge, everybody was shocked at the event and we wanted to help.
On a lighter note the lodge was absolutely beautiful, set in the forest with lovely accomodation and very friendly staff. The highlight of the evening was watching a giant flying squirrel glide across the night sky.
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.