Still excited about the unforgettable tiger encounters in the morning, we passed the time between breakfast and lunch counting the minutes to the afternoon game drive. The weather was so hot, so hot that we could barely stand outside our hut, where we kept reviewing the pictures and reading Deepak’s book to learn more about the tigers of the park. By that time, after having read and listened to Raj and Deepak stories during the game drives and during the “happy hour” in the evenings, we already knew all the tiger family members by name and also their line of parents and grandparents until Charger and Sita, the tigers filmed by BBC so much time ago, who turned Bandhavgarh so famous around the World.
Raj met us at lunch to tell us that he would be our guide till the end of our stay at Nature Heritage Resort. That was great news. We had so much confidence in Raj that we could just sit back on the jeep and relax; just waiting for the surprises he planned for the game drive.
We left the camp early that afternoon to get into the park in the very first minutes of afternoon period. Raj wanted to show us a little of the park ruins. We drive straight to Shesh Shaya, where there are the remaining parts of a temple to Lord Vishnu. The human figure of Vishnu lays in front of a pool – this area is in the domains of Chakradhara tigress – there could be a possibility that Chakradhara was around there to hide her young cubs from the open areas, but she was not there.
Dino then drove back to the point where we saw Jhurjhura cubs crossing the road in the morning. We learned there that some people saw the tigress and the cubs getting inside a cave to take shelter, away from the burning sun light.
All these information is exchanged between the guides as the jeeps cross each other in the roads – they stop and blab a lot in Hindi, giving no chance for us to capture anything. It often worked, but sometimes we had the impression of Raj going exactly to the opposite direction where the other guides pointed for him – we believe that Raj usually followed his own instincts rather than buying information from others. In the end, we always saw a tiger – this is what matters anyway! As we couldn’t understand a word, we took the chance to watch other things, like this serpent eagle hiding from the sun.
Jhurjhura family was still in the cave, we could barely see one of the cubs’ paws dropping out of the cave.
After a few minutes, we decide not to wait for action since they looked very relaxed, and Raj bet that they would avoid the jeeps when exiting the cave, so Raj asked us what we would like to try see next: B2 again or Mirchani cubs again? He said these were the best chances since the weather was too hot that afternoon and these tigers were the last ones seen by the mahouts after gates have been closed in the morning. So despite B2 is a fantastic cat, we decide for Mirchani cubs – as they are 2 tigers, the chances are bigger, but always keeping in mind that mathematics is not 100% applicable in the jungle.
But mathematics was on our side that time. One of the Mirchani cubs came just towards us out from the forest – vision was clear, Raj made Dino take an excellent position just predicting the cub path and we could just be face-to-face with him as he approached the road.
He crosses the road just in front of the jeep and entered the grass land in the other side. For our luck the grass was not so high and we could follow him until he found a spot to drop that big body, his back towards us, though.
That was the same cub that had the porcupine quill on his head, and we clearly see that he managed removing it – good boy – but he still scratched the itchy wounds every other time.
As his mother in the morning, he took quite some time relaxing just for delight of the audience, and he seemed not to mind the sun at all. Look at those stripes from the back of the head to the tip of his tail: down to the neck it seems to have symmetry along the spine and as we follow the line towards the tail, the patterns smoothly looses the symmetry and assumes a random design – it’s the art of the nature.
It was so lovely to see that such a beautiful tiger was growing up in the wilderness; Bandhavgarh is a real paradise for its small population of 12 tigers. We could rest the whole afternoon there, but then Raj said that we were pretty far from the park entrance and we should start driving back to try our luck with B2 near to the Chakradhara Meadows on the way to the gate.
Not much far from where we were with the Mirchani cub, we saw a gathering of jeeps along the road, the people already clicking their cameras frenetically. It could not be anything else but TIGER!. A totally unexpected sighting. Not even Raj was aware that there was another tiger nearby – at least nobody had reported any.
The tiger was simply lying on the ground very close of road’s edge over a layer of dead bamboo leaves and surrounded by bamboo thickets. A very different scenery, with new colours and a new tiger. Bokha was his name.
Bokha is a nephew of B2, precisely, the son of B3. One interesting story about Bokha is that he is the only male tiger besides B2 in Tala Range. He has conquered his own territory out of B2’s without any fight. B2, despite his size and after having systematically expelled all intruders and all other challengers from Tala Range, he has tolerated his nephew, Bokha, around his domain boundaries and left to him a piece of it. B2 is a really a king, strong but diplomatic!
We were very excited with this magic appearance! We had just read about Bokha in our room that afternoon, and then we met him personally in the jungle. His unmistakable characteristic is the broken tooth.
We kept observing the magnificent tiger yawning, then standing up and leaving into the jungle, not before squirting urine on a tree to mark territory.
What a day!
In the way back to the lodge, as soon as we crossed the park main gate, we faced a queue of jeeps – can it be a traffic jam in that place? Actually there was a reason behind that mess. The sun was already down and the tourists were jumping out of the vehicles and pointing to bushes by the side of the road. The cameras flashing indicated the presence of something interesting – what could it be? A jungle cat? A jackal? Or maybe a fox?
Nope. We also get off the jeep (no other option because the cars could not move anyway). Finally we see what was attracting so much attention of the crowd: two rat-snakes mating. Come on!
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