Male tiger, Tala (T-100), Tadoba

Two sets of fresh pugmarks led away from the shores of Anandvan lake – a male and a female tiger walking away after a drink in the early hours of the crisp winter morning. The chill at dawn was suddenly replaced by a rush of adrenaline-infused warmth as the hope of a tiger sighting stoked in our heart. The trail of tracks soon indicated that the female tiger had taken a left to walk towards the forested area behind the lake, while the male tiger had turned to the right, probably to patrol its territory. Our jungle safari vehicle instantly picked up speed and the hunt was on!

Our safari guide knew from past experience that the male tiger would soon double back and head towards the location of the female tiger. It was now only a question of whether we could intercept him for a clear line of sight before he went off road to continue his patrol through the thickets. After a spirited chase for over 30 minutes, following the deep rumbling calls he was making for the female, we managed to locate him just as he was about to enter the dense brushes close to where the female had earlier headed.

Coming to within 20 feet of the strolling tiger we could manage clicks only from the rear except for the one brief occasion when he paused to throw a warning glance towards the right at one of the safari vehicles which had got a tad too close for his liking. Satisfied that he had given a proper display of his vitality, he then continued to plod in the same stately manner and we watched, mesmerised, till the deep golden and cinnamon hues of the behemoth merged into the tawny forest.

[Framed: Male tiger, Tala (T-100), Kolara Gate, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve]

– Narendra Nayak © 2022


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