DAY 3: We passed by the beautiful Telia lake on our way to Choti Tara territory but she was not there. It was a lovely morning and we got some new bird sightings.
I saw a magnificent plum headed parakeet, a green bee eater and an evil looking crocodile.
I missed the chance to click a lovely frame of a golden backed woodpecker but could capture a yellow crowned one. They too have an amazing camouflage and I could not see it first against the bark of the tree.
I finally managed to get a clear shot of the resplendent jungle fowl as well. It was again in a mad rush but thankfully it stopped just long enough for me to photograph it. And there were quite a few treepies which gave us hope of a Sonam spotting.
We almost failed to notice the bamboo plant next to which our jeep was parked. It was flowering, which is a once-in-40 years phenomenon, after which it dies. It also gave me time to admire the light and shade play on the leaves.
We waited patiently for Sonam to make another appearance but while she disappointed us, we saw an array of animals coming for a drink of water, one after another, despite the lurking threat. It was so much fun watching this free animal show.
The sambars were there first to give relief to their parched throats but there were on high alert. Next to come was the majestic white-socked gaur.
A pair of shy charsingha were next in line. Only a video can show the trepidation with which they approached their drinking site.
A pair of barking deer joined them soon after.
A bunch of langurs were also hydrating their bodies and soon, a wild boar joined them.
Then came the peacock, very nervy and jumpy. Could not drink peacefully at all.
A white eyed buzzard was the last one to come for a drink that evening. The sun was beginning to set and it was time for us to leave.
DAY 4: It was our last safari in Tadoba and we wanted a real close encounter with the tiger. Today we visited the buffer zone. All our sightings had been across a waterbody. The first 2 hours were quite unproductive except for learning about the crocodile bark tree.
There was a watering hole which was been frequented by the Wagdeo, the oldest and biggest tiger in Tadoba and his cubs. We were told that he had a new young romantic interest called Aishwarya who was the sister of his former mate. But there were conflicting reports about whether the cubs were Aishwarya’s or her sister’s.
After spotting nothing for over an hour, we went to explore the right side of the buffer zone, while my brother and his group who were in another gypsy stayed behind. Barely a minute after we left, their wish was fulfilled as Wagdeo along with his cubs and Aishwarya made an appearance at that concrete watering hole. After frolicking for a while, they disappeared as the tourists were making too much noise. Here is what my brother saw. He did add that the experience felt very artificial – almost like a zoo.
Later we got to know that as we were leaving that side of the buffer zone, some drivers tried to call us as the tigers were spotted. Meanwhile, we went exploring on the other side where there was the vast Irai Lake. We found a purple swamp hen, a lesser adjutant stork and some whistling ducks. I also saw a beautiful flower whose name I still do not know.
We saw some fresh pug marks but failed to see any tiger. Just as we thought our luck had run out, we found a jeep full of photographers beckoning us wildly. Across an expanse of water, was one of Sharmilee’s cubs peacefully dozing in the water. We missed our much desired “close” encounter by a few minutes as the tiger was just in front before she wanted privacy from the photographers. But we could clearly see the cub with our naked eyes.
We went inside the forest to try and find Sharmilee and her second cub but could not. The bamboo grove was fabulous though. But when we came out, we found another cub in the water! The mother must have been somewhere close.
On our way back, the jeep stalled. Thankfully, the driver knew what to do and we came back safely without becoming fodder for the tiger.