In my search for the big cats, the Bengal tiger is the last one missing from my collection of accessible locations. There are others such as the snow leopard but this one is so rare that I will not pursue it. I spent a few days waking up at dawn and boarding a Murati (Indian Jeep) searching for the tigers. They are abundant but not easy to photograph due to the thick vegetation in the park. So the opportunities to get clear shots of them is when they are crossing a road or at a water hole. These cats seem to be more active in the early morning and at sunset. So lighting was also a challenge.
As at most other world known wildlife reserves, (such as the Masai Mara, Yellowstone, Denali and others) crowding and traffic conditions are a concern. The drivers, to satisfy their customers, compete to get to the tiger sighting the fastest possible and then struggle for the best viewing location. When a tiger viewing is announced among the drivers by cell phone, the race starts to get to the location; as a result, driving is hazardous. Additionally, the roads are rough and I found myself holding on to the vehicle with one hand while using the other to hold my gear from flying of the vehicle. But by the time you get to the sighting, the tiger is gone or the number of vehicles blocks the road and there is no place to stop to see it. Needless to say my body was sore and my brains scrambled from such rough riding. Next time, my strategy will be just to go to a waterhole and wait for the tigers come with a cooler full of Kingfisher beer.
Next to the tigers, the peacocks were the most interesting animals to observe. It appears that they were at the peak of the mating season and the males were showing off their feathers, jumping and dancing in circles to attract the peahens. While I was there, at sunset in a waterhole, there were 3 peacocks who had established equidistant territories around the waterholes displaying. Curiously, the peahens congregated in a nearby tree and would fly one by one to the water’s edge and inspect each of the suitor’s charms. They just assessed the charmers and walked away with an air of disdain. The broken hearted peacocks just stopped displaying. But suddenly, one of the peahens would run back and mate with the lucky one. Regarding the waterhole, it had wonderful colors due to the algae blooms occurring at the time I was there.
Not to forget the elephants in the park: these were tamed and in use to provide rides to the tourist at a rate of $800/3 hour rides. It was a sad note to have captive animals in a national park. It is said that there are no wild elephants left in India any more. It was not a pleasant sight to see this animal with the two front legs shackled with chains. It would jump with the two front legs in unison to move forward.
Birds were abundant in numbers as well as in variety of species. Raptors, such as the brown fish owl and the crested serpent eagle, were easy to photograph while perching by the side road. Other birds such as the black naped monarch flycatcher and the red wattled lapwing were also easy to capture but the kingfishers were another story; I did not get a single image worth showing.
The langurs and the Rhesus or Macaque monkeys were the most abundant. The langurs were always in close families but the red faced Rhesus was often seen alone. The baby Langur reminded me of ET.
There are also some wonderful landscapes as well as historical sites such as the a thousand years old as of the sleeping Vishnu. The hunting gazebo was where the maharaja of Rewa waited for the game to be driven to him; it is said that he killed more than a 100 tigers. By the time the park closed at 6 PM, I was totally wasted and ready for the genuine Indian dinner.