Travel story contributor: Abhinav Singh

We were still holding our breaths and so were other animals in the jungle. Suddenly a faint grumble broke the eerie silence. I was convinced it was a roar and a tiger was nearby. Joanna, the Polish traveler who accompanied us suddenly quipped, “Guys, relax, it’s the tummy of one of us!” We could not afford to laugh out loud so we exchanged constipated smiles and started the game all over again.

The guide was keenly trying to listen to each peacock call or each sound a monkey made, whether vocal or just the sound it made while jumping from one branch to another. Every time a tiger passes by, the jungle unites and one species communicates with other species and its own about its looming presence.

In search of the elusive tigersIn search of elusive tigers!

Having waited for what seemed like a decade, our jeep moved on to other zone where sighting probability was high. En route we met other sleepy and grumpy travelers who were punishing themselves in the harsh North Indian winter morning just to see a tiger in wild, even if its just for a second.

As we reached the other zone, we were greeted with many jeeps already parked silently by the muddy pathway. A roar has been heard few minutes back, someone told us. A tigress and her three sub adults! Soon we heard a half-hearted roar. A real one! We got goosebumps since it seemed like that the tiger family was just feets away. This bush? That bush? We waited, reminding ourselves every few seconds that we have to continue breathing to be able to see a tiger in wild.

Tiger pug marks in BandhavgarhPug marks

And then there was a sudden commotion. One of the sub-adult tiger appeared out of nowhere! We were unfortunately facing the other direction and so was the steering of our jeep. The driver diligently drove the jeep in back gear, taking care not to disturb the King of the jungle. We did not even have the time to turn and look at the tiger. I literally craned my neck to see a majestic beast, unmindful of all the attention bestowed on him, walk nonchalantly on the pathway as if he owned the jungle. He made no eye contact, did not stop to say hello and just vanished in the dense forest on the other side. It lasted for just a few seconds, but the memory will forever remain etched in my memory. Waking up in the freezing morning, traveling all the way from Mumbai to see a tiger and skipping breakfast to be in time, all made sense now!

The sub adult tiger in Bandhavgarhw!Finally spotted the sub-adult tiger!

It was the first time I took a safari and was delighted to see a tiger on my first adventure in the jungles. But then I did few safaris after this one and missed the tigers by few minutes. As they say, beginner’s luck! I am glad I started with the famed Bandhavgarh. Not only is it famed for its celebrity tigers but also for its rich history and heritage. I badly wanted to see the fort in the jungle, but it was closed due to an ongoing annual religious fair where Kabirpanthi congregated and made music!

The rest of the time was spent in spotting other flora and fauna unique to Bandhavagarh. My heart skipped a beat when I saw Asian paradise flycatcher showing up and vanishing in a jiffy, as if it never appeared. It’s undoubtedly the most beautiful bird I’ve ever seen. With a long and bright tail and a crown perched on its head, it indeed looked like queen of the jungle.

The guide told us a unique symbiosis story about monkey and deer. They can always be found close to each other. They help each other in alarming every time a predator is nearby. Deers also help gain access to fruits on tall tree every time monkeys jump from one tree to another.

The spotted deer BandhavgarhSpotted deer

It’s a win-win situation, after all. I was mighty impressed with this strategic arrangement. The swamp deer, peacocks, spotted deers, monkeys were more easily spotted. This single journey made me an addict of wildlife tourism and conservation!