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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bandhavgarh – Day 05 – Part 1

Last day in Bandhavgarh. We were feeling so happy to have been awarded with some many tiger sightings that we didn’t want to leave. We actually could never imagine that we could be so blessed with that luck – we have almost seen each one of the 12 tigers that live in the Tala Range and plus, the New Male who does not belong (yet) to that area.

We had still 2 game drives to happen, but felt like we could not live anymore without that routine – safari game drives are so exciting that everyone gets easily addicted to them – the process of meeting the crew early in the morning and get to the gate, the wind blowing on our faces, the searching for tracks and sounds, screening the sand for paw prints, the thrill on each encounter before the tiger materializes just in front of our eyes, the forest atmosphere, the hot colors and smooth light through the trees towards everywhere we look while the jeep advances into the jungle, the tiger eyes meeting ours through the lenses of our cameras…

It is a never-ending collection of memories engraved in our souls that we will never forget. In the last morning drive in Bandhavgarh we just wanted to keep the rhythm, at least see any tiger, could it be a same one, could it be far away, male, female, cub – the important was to close this part of the trip with one more tiger. It would be so sad if we could not see a tiger in our last they there…

Raj took us straight to Rajbhera Lake, the lake formed by the dam in the north of Tala Range, where we had already been many times trying to spot the Jhurjhura female and her cubs.


Jhurjhura seemed to be hiding from us, we always listened to other people having been able to see her in the past days, but we had only a quick glimpse of one of her cubs running across the road. But this should be our last chance to meet her, so she had gave us a break from the hide-and-seek game: as soon as we arrived at Rajbhera area, Raj found out that she was just up on the hill preparing to cross the dam wall.



In reality, we could not be sure if she would cross the lake or if she would come downhill towards the other side, so we alternated with John Aitchinson and Digpal’s to each one of us keep in each side of the hill and notify the movements of Jhurjhura.


More jeeps arrived in the meantime and after quite some time Jhurjhura decided to cross to the other side towards the lake. We rush to the lake just around the hill and when we arrived she had already made her way over the wall of the dam, but she was still waiting on the top of some rocks just in front, along the lake shore. BBC was already filming the scene, actually one of the most beautiful scenes we could see so far, because the whole scenery was outstanding and the tones were superb.



Jhurjhura started the descent path towards the water and the sequence of her moves triggers the excitement in everyone. The crowd got delighted with the scene just happening in front of us.



Jhurjhura hesitated to dive but quickly got into water and crossed to the other border of the half-dry lake always accompanied by her own reflex in the Rajbhera lake waters.




She briefly stopped after the crossing to watch potential preys not far from there, but that time of the day it was probably too hot for a hunt – we never know!



She vanished in the high grass field for a while, and then we just moved to where Dino and Raj expected her to reappear on the road side. Magically she popped up right ahead the vehicle as expected and walked to the bamboo thickets on the other side looking for a cover, where she would probably settle for the next hours until temperature would drop to more suitable levels for hunting.


That is exactly what she did, and we left right there just after she disappeared in the middle of the bamboos.


We drove back to the main gate with that feeling of having one more mission accomplished, and as we made the turn on Chakradhara Meadow and took the main road through Siddh Baba grass land we met some jeeps parked by the road. That was the same point where we did the Tiger Show 2 days before. There was a Tiger Show still going on. Despite the hours, it seems that there is no more people left to go, so raj asked us if we wanted to go with him to the Tiger Show – the park chief ranger had just authorized him to take us on the ride despite the gate closing hours, he just made a special concession. No way would we turn down this opportunity…

There we went for the last time on a Tiger Show. We took the same mahout, Janooh, and his elephant, Bendjeni, to take us to where the tigress was sitting. Yes, Chorbhera again. That was our first tiger we saw in our trip and it could not be more suitable to see her again on our last Tiger Show, to say goodbye.


Raj had promised that a Tiger Show with him onboard would be a totally different experience. He could better instruct the mahout to do what he wanted in order to take better positions for photography and made the ride longer, nobody else in the waiting list, so we had Chorbhera just for us now.


She was relaxed, laid down more or less on the same spot where we saw the New Male on the previous Tiger Show. She looked at us with indifference; she might have seen many other people coming back and forth in the last hour.



She was alert but not concerned with our approach, until the moment when the elephant started to break some bamboos to eat. She changed her face expression all of a sudden – she got up quickly and snarled against us, looking fiercely to the elephant as if she was telling him off. And she kept snarling until we backed off, then she just settled down again and we left her by herself again.



Raj guidance on the elephant made all the difference, we could have a great moment with Chorbhera and a lot of pictures. We looked behind as Bendjeni was taking us back to the jeep, one last look of Chorbhera, she will always be our first tiger.


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