Raj wanted to break a record, 9 game drives, 9+ tiger sightings without interruption. We think we were not the only lucky people to see tigers every day; that week the tigers were very active at Tala Range. Deepak finally got better from his flu and wanted to join Raj and us in the last drive. That was very special: they told me we had the best team together in the same car, Raj, Deepak and Dino. Raj was excited like a child, called his wife to say that he had all his friends in the jeep, we were happy too. But he also said that the last time he did that they could find no tiger…we cannot even think about this possibility!
That afternoon, the pressure was high to find a tiger, and the best to do was to get to the last point where we were in the morning, the bamboo forest where Jhurjhura had probably passed the hottest time of the day hiding from the sun.
The possibilities were all about relying on Jhurjhura and her cubs, which had also potentially joined her after we left.
Like snipers, we set position on the road side and kept eyes on the bamboo thickets across the grass field. Moving the jeep back and forth, our crew of experts reported more or less where the tigers were hiding, but we actually could not see anything but dead bamboo leaves.
John and Digpal were there, too. This time, as there was not too much action, BBC was collecting background scenes for the documentary. The light was really good at that spot of Rajbhera. There were really good things to take picture of, with the golden sunlight hitting on them, like this old strangler tree.
We left the place a couple of times to check the vicinity for some alarms calls, but they were pretty much convinced that the Jhurjhura family was still behind the bamboos.
We were already loosing hope because the gate closing time was approaching and there was still no sign of Jhurjhura or of her cubs. Even if we would see a tiger that time, our 400-100mm lenses would give us a hard time not to blur the image. I remember seeing John Aitchison filming a beautiful sunset at Rajbhera, when finally Jhurjhura put her head out of the hide.
She got out and walked calmly through the grass towards the road. It seemed that she was still interested in the chital deers which she crossed back there in Rajbhera grassland on her way to the bamboo thickets.
She interrupted her walk a couple of times to raise the head above grass and finally she selected a man-made wall of stones on the border of the road, and rested.
Jhurjhura would not move from there by the next minutes, the thing was that the gate closing time had arrived. We were one of the last jeeps to leave the place; it was our last tiger saw in Bandhavgarh. The light was not so good anymore as the sun was already low behind some tree, then that area was totally in the shade, but still we could take a few more shots.
For the relief of Raj, Deepak and Dino, the mission had been accomplished; we saw the tiger again in our last game drive there. For the proud of the crew they beat their mark – for us it couldn’t be more perfect! For a couple coming from so far of India, for the first time, seeing the tiger once would be already a blessing, seeing so many in all excursions into the park was simply unbelievable!
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