Big Game Hunting in India - p 1 of 5

 

It was then that my trusty guide whispered, "Tiger in the bush, sahib!"

From a short distance away I coolly eyed the beast.   I straightened my pith helmet, removed my Foster-Grants, and placed them in my Abercrombie & Fitch Tropic-weight safari jacket.  Then I slid a powerful 16-Gb flash card into my Canon Mark IV 1/2.  My nerves were icy calm as I raised it and began to fire.

"Click ..click .. click!" I heard as I firmly squeezed the shutter button.  Every shot was a direct hit!  The tiger responded in dramatic fashion.  He yawned, rolled over, and went back to sleep...

Well, it was sorta like that.  With a bit of literary license for good measure.

 

 

 

 


   

Bengal Tiger

 

Spotted Deer  

21 Nov 2013

Charlotte and I crossed paths with a tiger because we flew from Oklahoma City to Minneapolis to Paris to Delhi, arriving at 1 in the morning.   After a restful 3-hr nap at the highly recommended Hotel Almondz, we returned to the airport on the Blow-Horn Freeway and flew on to Jabalpur.

There we were met by Talat Khalid of Mumbai-based Wildlife Photo Tours, who arranged our Indian safari.  After a 4-hr drive we hauled up at Nature Heritage Lodge on the edge of Bandhavgarh National Park, 512 miles southeast of Delhi as the House Crow flies. 

Bandhavgarh is a hotspot for tiger hunters like us.   But in fact we want to photograph just about everything in fur or feathers.

Our first afternoon game drive produces the most common grazing animal here, chital, or Spotted Deer.  This young stag is looking around warily.  You'd do the same if you were the blue-plate special for a Bengal Tiger.

 

 

Spotted Deer often hang out with troops of Gray Langurs, common throughout the park. The deer eat leaves dropped by the langurs, and probably count on them to sound the alarm if they see a tiger lurking in the bush.

Gray Langurs
Indian Jackal  

22 Nov 2013

Our day begins at 5 a.m., when a hotel employee brings a tray of coffee to our room, along with cookies and a cheery, “Good morning, sir!”

At 6:30 we, along with a dozen other safari jeeps, the Suzuki ‘Gypsy,’ wait to enter the park. When the gates open, we all rush pell-mell down the dusty tracks. It is freezing cold in the open-air jeep.

Along our specified route we find an Indian Jackal trotting down the road and then over to a pond. Like our American coyote, the jackal gets no respect. In his Natural History of India and Ceylon (1884), Robert Sterndale dismisses the jackal as “…a disturber of our midnight rest by his diabolical yells, in which peculiarity he is to be looked upon as an unmitigated nuisance.”

 

 

 

Bandhavgarh's core area is 105 square km, with a ~400 square km buffer area. It consists of sal (Shorea) forests with a bamboo understory, interspersed with fine meadows of tall grass. The meadow’s edge is the best place to see birds, such as the Indian Roller. Others birds found nearby were Green Bee-eater, Rufous Treepie, the ubiquitous Red-Wattled Lapwing, Wooly-necked Stork, Black Drongo, and a host of Vultures: Egyptian, Red-headed, and White-rumped.

No African game lodge could pamper us more than does Natural Heritage. After our morning game drive we have breakfast on a shaded veranda. Then comes a nap, and lunch at 1:30 p.m. Then it’s off to the park until sunset. When we return to the lodge, we are greeted with warm wet cloths to wash off the dust and a glass of mango juice.

After freshening up, we sit around a fire sipping Kingfisher, a good lager. Then comes the evening meal, superb Indian cuisine, spicy as the dickens. The mutton (goat) is quite tasty.  But Charlotte has gone vegetarian.

 

Indian Roller
Jungle Owlet  

23 Nov 2013

The park requires that a native guide accompany us on game drives.  Which is fine because they know where the owls hang out.  Our guide had the jeep slow down, and here was a little Jungle Owlet posed in the open.

 

 

 


   

 

 

The noisiest birds in the park are three species of parakeets: Alexandrine, shown here, along with Plum-headed and Rose-ringed.

 

Alexandrine Parrot
Common Kestrel  

 

The highlight of our afternoon game drive was secretive Painted Spurfowls that we glanced before they scurried into the bush. Then came a woodpecker, Common Flameback, and this quite obliging Common Kestrel, who posed in late afternoon sun.

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