It was safari number five and overcast conditions loomed over us as we entered the Moharli gate. While there was a cool breeze, some dark clouds hovering above us screamed of certain rain.
Ratan (our driver guide) proceeded towards Jamunbodi Lake with the hope of finally showing us a tiger. We stopped at the view point and I made a few images of the beautiful setting. A panoramic view of the lake is what I hoped to capture. My only regret was that it was overcast and the beautiful afternoon light that transforms the lake into a magical place, was absent that day.
A little ahead on the road, we noticed that a jeep had stopped and the occupants were looking upwards at a higher branch. As I was wondering what bird it could be, an Indian Roller took flight and flew right over us. Hoping the bird would perch close by, I kept my eyes on it. While it did land on a branch near me, it took off within seconds. A disappointment indeed.
Vikram excitedly announced ‘roller dikha toh tiger definitely dikhega’! No sooner had he spoken those words, our guide pointed to the right and said tiger! I strained my eyes and looked in the direction he pointed. I saw some movement in the bushes and soon a tiger emerged from the foliage.
Our guide identified the tiger as a female who is popularly called Maya. She slowly walked out into the open, giving everyone present, a grand view. In no time, from just a handful of jeeps, about 10-15 lined up there. Excitement knew no bounds for driver, guide and tourists for it had been almost three days since a tiger had been spotted.
She neared the jeeps, with clear intentions to cross the road. Armed only with a telephoto lens, all I could manage was a portrait of this beautiful tiger as she trudged along and finally crossed the track.
She crossed the track and seemed focused on something. Scanning the surrounding area, we discovered where her focus lay. A couple of Sambar Deer grazed, oblivious to the fact that a tiger had them in sight.
We were expecting some action, but unfortunately for the tiger and us, the sambar let out an alarm call. They had finally spotted her. Slowly, she made her way into denser foliage and then out of sight.
As we were soaking in the sighting with smiles and handshakes, heavy drops fell on us and moments later we were in the middle of a cloudburst. All of us were drenched to the bone in that heavy downpour. Even the rain jacket didn’t help much to me and the equipment. We drove out and took shelter at a forest department office until the rain receded. We made one more round to the area we saw the tiger. No sign of movement, we decided to exit the park.
After we returned to our homestay, I immediately wiped all the equipment and put it out to dry. All was well..no issues!
It was later that evening, Vikram narrated to us about his unique connection between an Indian Roller sighting and a tiger. Every time he has seen that bird, he has spotted a tiger. Incredible!
Tadoba is a jungle close to my heart and it has rarely disappointed. That evening our stars aligned and thanks to the Indian Roller, along rolled a tiger.
From my trip to Tadoba in October 2019. All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens.