Making a splash

Aditya and I set out for a safari into Kabini, as usual in the rickety forest department bus. Hopeful as always, Aditya announced to me, “We will see a big cat, Kittu Mama!” I smiled as the driver crossed the check post and onto the old MM Road (Mysore-Mananthavadi). A few kilometers down the road and crossing a bridge, a photographer beside me, jumped off his seat…Tiger! Tiger!, he remarked excitedly! As the driver reversed, a gorgeous tiger came into sight, sitting in a small pool below the bridge. It was the Tiger Tank female.

No sooner had the bus stopped, the entire crowd in the bus swarmed towards the front seats wielding their mobile phones and point and shoot cameras. The bus was loaded with tourists from Kerala and in a matter of seconds, I was pushed away and in front of me stood the Great Wall of Kerala! With absolutely no space to shoot or see, I put the camera down and stood beside the door. With all the commotion in the safari bus, the tiger eventually got disturbed and left the scene.

Disgusted and disappointed, I got back to my seat and turned off the camera. No hopes of shooting in this bus, I thought to myself. As the driver explored various routes, we sighted elephants, gaur and chital. No signs of leopard lazing on a tree or the even more exciting male who occasionally sits on the temple especially during monsoon months.

The driver veered towards the backwaters road and was stopped by Aditya. Lets try the hoskere waterhole, he suggested. Enthusiastically, he took us to the waterhole, all eyes widened as soon as the waterhole came into sight! A young tiger was enjoying the cool waters in the mild drizzle.

My first thought was she might make a quick exit as soon as she sees our vehicle. Not even remotely perturbed, a dry twig floating in the pool soon became a toy for her and entertainment for us.

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Wading the waters, she took time out to set her gaze upon us and inspect what was causing all the noise!

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As she neared the edge of the waterhole after entertaining us for almost ten minutes, she stared into space as if in deep contemplation.

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A minute later, she got out of the pool, scent marked a few trees beside the safari track and made her way back into the woods. Quite easily the boldest tiger I had seen in Kabini. The disappointment having missed the previous tiger, was overturned with the joy of having witnessed such a lovely sight.

In the last two years she has become arguably the most photographed tiger in Kabini and is now a busy mother of three tiny cubs. Until we meet again!

Images made with Canon 500 f4 IS + 1D Mark IV  in July 2016

Published by

Sameer Jain (Kittu)

Way before I started photography, I heard the song Lose Yourself by Eminem, and the starting line has stuck with me ever since. It goes- “If you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted would you capture it or just let it slip?” This line is a constant reminder and the closest description of what I feel when I’m out on a safari or walking/trekking photographing birds. Fondly known as Kittu, I’ve been a resident of Mudumalai for three decades. I manage and run Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse; a family run resort near the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. For as long as my memory goes, I have been an ardent lover of wildlife. Growing up on tea estates and Forest Hills, has played an active role in nurturing my love for nature and wildlife. During school holidays at Forest Hills, I made full use of safari and trekking opportunities that came my way. In 2005, I decided to pursue photography with a Canon film SLR and in 2007, I went digital. The love of wildlife has taken me to various national parks both in India (Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore, Tadoba, Kaziranga to name a few) and other esteemed forest reserves such as Masai Mara (Kenya). While I keenly keep a track of birding activity at home (Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse), one might just bump into me during a safari at my favourite forest reserve i.e. the Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

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