Encounters Of The Wild Kind

Tales from the Bandipur Safari

Elephants charging during trekkingApart from grey langurs and giant squirrels, I had seen little that I could write home about. Of course, that is exciting too, but when your mates have seen two tigers in a day while your attention was on a cloud shaped like an ice-cream, you would yearn for more too. And this was Bandipur during the safari, where sightings are relatively common.
As the day went on, I waited with bated breath for something. Anything to warrant the success of this trip which was almost at its end. But no such luck.
As we rode back to our lodge there were several peafowl and deer we spotted and a few other birds as well. Now all I wanted was that elusive tiger to grace us with its presence.
So as the second day of our safari drew to an end, my thoughts were with that tiger I knew I was destined to see as I shut my eyes.
The next day was our last ditch attempt at sighting anything before returning to the bustle of city life. It was a breezy start to an extremely eventful day. You might think my dream of coming face to face with the orange and black striped one had had itself realized. But sadly, it was not to be. However, there was something else that made me, or rather, two jeeps full of us skip a heartbeat.
So as the day dawned, we, a jolly group of ten got going along the path toward the area where the last tiger was sighted the previous day. Along the way, it was the same deer, fowl, and maybe a teasing boar that was seen, but really nothing anyone cared for.
Almost an hour passed before we saw the pug mark. Now you have to understand that this was no ordinary footprint we had seen. This was fresh as we were told by Guru our guide /driver, who could even pinpoint to the exact tiger. He told us that this particular tiger roamed only at specific times of the day and always followed a specific path. As tigers are territorial, this kind of behavior is natural and no other tiger dares venture in another’s territory.
As we went on, we were suddenly ambushed by a herd of elephants. This wasn’t normal as we were told by our driver, as in this part of the jungle elephants were a calm lot.
Elephants charging during trekkingNow imagine this, you are 350 meters away from eight very large elephants and they are charging towards you. Okay? Now imagine all of them trumpeting loudly. Well, if that scared you, imagine seeing it live. We were terrified to say the least. It would take the lot of them precisely 20 seconds to turn us to pulp. Our driver started backing very, very slowly, as their screeching got louder and louder.
It is very easy for enraged elephants to react to the slightest noise or movement and there is nothing more dangerous than being in their vicinity at such times. As we retreated we could see them get more agitated and approach us faster .Then almost as suddenly as they had come towards us they turned around and went away. Neither of their actions was instigated by us nor did they seem to care much.
We were so close to being mauled by creatures both wonder some and terrifying. They were literally a few feet away from us and then suddenly we were gifted our lives back. As we got over our terror and thanked our lucky stars, we could still hear what could have been our death sirens in their trumpeting from afar.
The usually energetic group was absolutely quiet on the way back to our lodge. There was not a thing anyone could find to say and we found ourselves dealing with what happened in our own individual minds.
We later learnt that a baby elephant had been separated from its herd and had been torn apart by a tiger. The very same tiger whose footprint we had seen that fateful morning.
No, I did not see a tiger. No sir, I did not. But what I had experienced seemed so incredible that it didn’t matter.
I did see a tiger .Three tigers in fact, many years later on another trip. And it was breathtaking. And every time I remembered those 10 foot giants with that high pitched cry ringing in my ears like it was 50 feet away.

BY Anju Gyanchand on her expriences during elephant safari at Bandipur Tiger Reserve

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