In February this year I’ve embarked on a somewhat crazy project of a four months tour through some of India’s finest tiger reserves. Many times over the last years I’ve been saying that the tiger has called me to this beautiful country. The thing is, now I’ve really started to believe it.
The trip is not over and while I am hoping for a somehow cathartic development, I know my story with tigers is one of the kind that is meant to last.
This post is dedicated to the majestic feline, the Royal Bengal Tiger, and the sublime specimens with whom I’ve crossed path in my two-months stay in Kanha Tiger Reserve.
A girl with attitude, the Dhawajandhi or T27 is a beautiful and bold female with looks that kill. The tigers who live within tourism areas have a much different life than those who stay in closed areas of national parks or outside of tiger reserves. They are constantly monitored, seen, photographed and have become iconic to the place they live in.
Only two cubs remain alive from DJ’s last litter. Such is the way of the tiger and survival is guaranteed only for the fittest. Here is one of her female cubs named DJ 4, still shy and nervous ands tentatively peeking from behind a tree.
If you spend some time observing tigers you’ll realise how different every individual’s personality is. In Mukki zone two impressive males are frequently sighted. Their bulk and allure are both majestic but that’s when the similarities stop. In terms of personalities, they couldn’t be more different.
Meet Chota Munna, son of legendary Munna, the boldest tiger in Kanha. A natural born dominant male, he is famous for his walks among the tourist vehicles with the attitude of a king who likes to be admired.
I have to admit it took me a while to get a good shot of this male walking. Since the summer has started it’s been much easier to see him lazily relaxing in one of the many waterholes than to see him in action.
The other big dominant male of Kanha, the Umarpani male has also been sired by Munna. Much more shy than his bold half brother, this tiger is an indefatigable walker, daily pushing through the boundaries of his huge territory.
Also named the Ghost of Kanha for his elusive behaviour, the Umarpani is not as easy to photograph as his half brother since he definitely doesn’t care for the attention. Incredibly enough, this huge male is capable of sliding through the forest without a sound, and it happens to just bump into him while on his patrol.
I have a somewhat special relationship with this tiger. He’s been the first I’ve seen in Kanha on my opening safari and I’ve had a glimpse of him, walking, during the final minutes of my last one.
There is another stunning beauty in Mukki zone. Tigress Choti Mada, a pretty individual of around 8 years old, queen of Minkur and mother of a shy 6 month old cub. She is of a petite size but not less protective. Her lovely brown eyes give her a very special stare. The first time I saw her she announced her arrival from very far, growling to get her cub’s attention. A tigers’ growl is very low and powerful and can be heard from very far. Still to me it’s one of the most beautiful sounds nature has ever created. She then gracefully appeared amongst the tall grass, drank water in the waterhole that’s the center of her territory, and let us accompany her for a few minutes of her walk.