Sarah and I did our fair share of travelling in India, and one of the most intensive trips that we took was to Kahna: An 8 hour bus from Goa to Bombay, 2 hour flight to Nagpur, and an 8 hour drive to Kahna. Sarah will joke that it was a long trip for me to see my tiger but, as anyone who appreciates true wild life would agree, it was worth it.
The whole trip was a great adventure – starting with the ride there! After bussing from Goa to Mumbai we got a flight to Nagpur where I haggled with a private driver to get us to Kahna. 6000 Rupees to have a driver for 4 days was a great deal! However after about 10 minutes we pulled over and the driver swapped out for another guy. Our new driver, Ghanee, didn’t speak much English at all and my Hindi has room for improvement also, but we were on our way. After about 90 minutes, we pulled off the main road to a tiny village. Sarah and I didn’t know what we were doing there, but after we were invited into the home we realized we were at
Ghanee’s place – he had to get some fresh clothes and say goodbye to his family for a few days. Looking back on it, Ghanee had no idea what he was letting himself in for when he showed up to work that Wednesday morning – he also didn’t really know what Kanha was – a tiger preserve!
We finally made it to our lodging at about midnight. We got our room set and wondered where Ghanee was staying. We soon found out that he was sleeping in his minivan, which the translators assured us was fine with him although we felt kind of bad for him since it wasn’t too warm at night. The next morning we found out that Ghanee was not put out at all by the chill in the air but he didn’t sleep a wink because he was scared stiff that a tiger might eat him! We had to have a laugh.
Over the course of the 3 days at Kanha we took 4 safaris. The morning safaris were from 530am until 12 noon while the evening safaris were from 3p-6p. During the safaris we saw so much wildlife it was amazing. Many species
of trees including teak, Sal, and Bamboo. Birds such as owlets, eagles, longhorn bills, peacocks, kingfishers, treepies and Jungle Fowl. Snakes and large spiders with gigantic webs. Different species of deer including spotted deer, samba and batsinga. Wild boar, Indian gaur, bison, buffalo, and finally….a tiger!
Kahna is an expansive park covering over 300 sq kilometers. In the early 1900s there was a tiger population of over 700, but this dwindled to just about 40 in the 1980s. Overhunting and poaching were the reasons. Back in the 1930s an over-zealous English army man was alleged to have killed over 30 tigers in one day! I doubt he had that much room over his mantle! Through preservation and international awareness the numbers are slowly coming back but they will never be as populous as before. So spotting 1 of 40 tigers in over 300km was not going to be easy. When it happened it was a surprise for everyone as it always is to see a tiger, and a very special moment too.
I was in the process of taking a zoom photo of a kingfisher perched on a branch along a river – trying to focus on a
Bref and Sarah
About to hop back in the jeep
perfect shot. Then suddenly our guide slapped my shoulder and loudly whispered “TIGER!!!”. I managed to shift focus and shoot a great photo just before all hell broke loose. A safari van that was behind us figured out what was going on and they sped up around us. We moved and everyone was as giddy as goats. Sure enough, the tigress was making her way back to her cubs along the river. A tiger in the wild is a sight to behold. I’ll never forget it.
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