Everyone sat still. Even the year-old tiny tot behind my seat who was otherwise restless until now. The cool breeze aided to the chill that ran down my spine. The whole forest was quiet except the periodic panic call of a langoor hidden from our view. The guide told us that royalty was nearby. The tiger of Pench was on the move.
Situated almost 90 kilometers away from Nagpur is the Pench Tiger Reserve. 24th May morning found us in the predicament described above. Although the reserve is populated by a melee of creatures, it is the Tiger, the royalty that everyone yearns to glimpse.
Bookings for the Forest safari in Pench is made as early as two months prior to the actual visit. On shorter notice, a bus is available for the safari. If you are luckier you get to travel with a jeep, which according to popular opinion is a better mode as it can access the forest into more remote areas where the bus cannot hence, increasing your chances of seeing a tiger.
We weren’t lucky enough. That stunned silence is all we got. Although on the way, a deer lay dead. The guide asserted that it indeed was the work of the tiger, probably it killed it in the night. It was weird standing there and seeing the deer lie still. Images of a struggle of the tiger and the deer came into mind, courtesy of watching documentaries from the National Geographic, the Discovery Channel or the Animal Planet.
We had arrived at Pench the evening before. The night sky there is so clear, that I don’t remember seeing so many constellations together since I was as young as five. The light in the cities make it difficult for getting a clear view of the sky. We spent the night at Kipling’s Court in Pench. The walls of the resort are adorned by pictures describing tales of Rudyard Kipling’s famous creation Mowgli. The resort has its own park with several swings. However old I grow, I would never stop enjoying the experience of almost touching the sky while on a swing, or the giddy feeling of being able to fly without wings, almost. I spent away the evening on a swing in the park and as night fell the sky dressed itself in a starry gown.
I was far away from people, from taxes, from terrorists, from chores. It was just me, the night sky, the music of the forest nearby and a sense of oblivion from all other worries.
Before dinner, they play a documentary of Tigers of Pench- The story of four young cubs and their mother, documented by hidden cameras as they grow and learn the rules of the forest. It is a beautiful piece of art. Initially, I was uninterested to watch it but soon the story of the young cubs as they brave the hyenas, and learn how to hunt fast and swift deer gripped me. I found myself looking forward for the safari the next day.
After a well rested night, we woke up as early as 4:30, to report at the reception for the morning safari. With great anticipation did we embark into the jungle.
The safari, the whole trip is an expensive issue. People often make two to three rounds of safari all for a glimpse of royalty. During our safari, at one point we stopped at a clearing within the jungle for a snacks break. At that time, across the clearing, far away three figures could be seen. They seemed very much like tiger silhouettes but the guide averred that they were only deer. The reserve is graced by the presence of several thousand deer, jackals, peacocks, bears, langoors, hyenas and many more but it is the tiger who is most sought after by the tourists. Even though we did not have a clear sighting of the royalty, that afternoon as we retraced our tracks out of the jungle the dead deer that we had stumbled upon few hours back stood out and made it known to us, that the Striped Royalty is very much present, looking over at us camouflaged behind a thicket waiting for us to leave so that it can prowl the lands again without our annoying interference.