A Sizzling Summer with the Stripes

As I got off the taxi at London Heathrow airport - the temperature was merely 3 degrees and towards the end of my journey, when I landed on Nagpur airport around midday - it was an extreme 48 degrees - a scorching contrast !!

For me, this transition was almost like an ice-cube being thrown into fire. But can't still believe - that I survived !!

As I started my daytime drive from Nagpur airport towards the wildlife sanctuary, hot air currents created an interesting mirage on the tar roads and the virtual reflections made me feel as if I was sailing a boat through some water-body.
In about  3.5 hrs - I was right at the entry gate of  Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve - a popular wildlife destination these days. This is a part of the country where tiger is worshiped by local villagers as "Waghoba" - their God !!

Waghoba - worshipped
Surroundings of Tadoba sanctuary (Dist. Chandrapur) is basically a coal mine dominated habitat and the coal business and wildlife survival here, is a conflicting story -as always- a never ending struggle !

Coal mines - a confirmed threat for wildlife ?
For me, this visit wasn't just with a singular aim of photographing tigers - but it was more to become a part of the extravaganza that occurs in the Indian jungles around summer time - which  I miss every year while being in the UK. However the trip yielded me plenty of stripes all around and eventually turned into a "tiger only" visit.

For your Eyes Only

Glistening glory
Siblings at the waterhole 
It was almost the time to start my first safari, so hurriedly checking into the resort, I quickly assembled all my camera bodies, lenses and wrapped myself almost like a "dacoit" - with a white scarf, sunhat, sunglasses and a thick coating of sunscreen lotion. Managed to keep myself alive with all this "attire" plus a non stop supply of re-hydration solutions. A one liter bottle of water took barely 5 mins to finish. The sweating skin and the melting sunscreen lotion was a very funny mix - most uncomfortable thing while in a  safari jeep !

Looking at my sunscreen clad face and a weird look, probably the Tiger also laughed at me - making funny faces and showing out it tongue :)!

Making funny faces at me !

There have been numerous instances during the last 20 years, when I was in this kind of settings with a Tiger in the wilderness - BUT each and every time I am in this kind of a situation again - my first few minutes are always "hijacked" by a unique magnetism in its mesmerizing eyes ....as if I'm seeing a tiger for the first time in my life ......and I completely forget to click the camera for those first few minutes...total standstill - frozen by the gaze !!
This has been happening repeatedly over last so many years..which means there is indeed something very strongly captivating in those " EYES " !!
Rhythm of the forest

The jungle was all dry and sun-burnt but the recent showers had helped all the dust to settle and the trees had a pleasant "washed up" look. Otherwise the flying dust is a nasty threat to the camera equipment during summer wildlife safaris.

Summers in the central Indian forests  
"Telia" environs is the well known lake area of Tadoba Sanctuary - where the availability of water even in peak summer attracts all the wildlife to appear almost like a regular "show" !
Although the opportunities of sighting good wildlife is quite guaranteed at such places - but personally I find that the "suspense" and "discovery" feel of the jungle- (which I would always prefer)- is completely missing here.
Honestly speaking, I feel that there is excessive pressurization of tourist vehicles on the denizens struggling for water. Closing of the other routes leaves no choice for the visitors but to revolve round and round this lake and the obvious sightings of this tiger family is being overacted here. I think some serious thinking is needed here to manage these pressures in a more efficient manner. The limit on the number of vehicles entering the sanctuary has definitely helped to a greater extent.

Telia dam - the confirmed source of water as well as wildlife sightings
Cooling off !
As I was driving along the edge of the Telia water, there was hardly any time where there was no tiger sighting in the area. In fact, on occasions - while one or more Tiger cubs were spotted in one area of Telia dam, another another tiger sighting happened simultaneously on the other side of the lake. This feels a bit "unrealistic" to someone like me who has been to so may other wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves !!
Father and the daughter
One such moment , where the Tiger and Sambar share the same waterhole - a compromise - forgetting the " predator" and "prey" relation - to beat the heat !!
Together at the waterhole
Even the langoors on the shore watched the predator swimming right in front of them...but didn't bother to give any alarm calls looking at the predator taking a dip in the pool..probably they knew the need for water will supersede the hunting instinct in such an extreme heat!
However, the basic instinct to keep a watch on any possible threats is always observed !!
A full 360 degree view to keep a watch on any threats
Early anticipation of monsoons ?

Testing ( tasting ?) the waters 
I always love the morning and late evening rounds in the jungle - as the light is very special for wildlife photography and while being in the UK - I indeed miss this magical quality of light.
The well known wake up clock (cock?) in the jungle - Grey junglefowl
The first couple of hours in the morning are always very special and productive for every wild lifer.
Emerging stripes - early in the morning
Magical morning moments
A late evening walk  
Reflections at sunset 

In a span of seven safaris through the jungles of Tadoba, I was surprised that my memory cards were full with tiger images but there were hardly any images or birds or other wildlife :) 
Some wings were seen as well !

Gotcha - that little fish !

and some more wings 
During this visit it was good to meet some wildlife photographer friends and its always a pleasure to come across like minded people while you are in the field !!
Me and my regime
So, with this "touch and go" visit of seven safaris and a hand full of images - with a free "SUN-TAN", I was back to the cold and cloudy UK - the visit was such a short one that the whole experience was like a dream vanishing with a sudden wake up!
Good -Bye stripes !!