Monday, April 22, 2013

Nagzira Part II - Jay Ho!




The tiger stretched languidly. Even in this most innocuous of movements, one could not miss the  power that lay within. Coupled with his sheer size, it was no wonder that in Nagzira's tiger hierarchy, this guy (Jay)  has clearly been anointed (at least by his human followers) crown prince and heir apparent. He is one of two male cubs (Veeru being the other - Sholay fans anyone?) from the previous litter of the legendary A-Mark, Nagzira's queen mother and living legend. And he was gracious enough to join us for a drink one afternoon. Well, he drank and we watched.

I was back in Nagzira (with Rajnesh, Nissim and a new friend Amit Srivastava) for my first real trip since that amazing debut trip last summer. Arrived at the spanking new Muba resort and was reassured to learn that A Mark was still going strong and happy that Jay and Veeru were staking out on their own and finding new territories as soon-to-be-adult male tigers. I was also itching to see some dhole. Memories of last summer's dhole sightings were all too fresh in the mind and I crossed my fingers for some more please!

Our first visit threw up a glimpse of A Mark in a waterhole. Glimpse because we were lined up behind a few vehicles and rather than join that and add to the crowd, we decided to stake out at a distance in case she headed that way post her drink. She chose to head in another direction, presumably towards a kill and we chose to head back to the resort. Lovely to see her of course and also very excited to know that she was pregnant and expecting her litter very soon. This is one incredible lady! The heavens opened up that evening - thunder and lightening livened up Muba Resorts' official opening. It was almost like the gods were joining the party. But I was a bit worried about the next day. But I shouldn't have; it all got taken care of.


The next morning dawned bright, beautiful and dust free. As we headed towards Nagzira lake, we saw a jeep parked and a couple of guys furiously clicking something on the left. And as we neared, we saw it was a pack of dhole. On a kill! The jeep ahead had seen them just after they had taken down an adult chital stag. And over the next ten minutes or so, we saw this pack (of about 12-14 individuals) completely demolish the carcass. Nipping, snarling and biting, they ate through a large deer like it was a small portion of chicken nuggets! Though they were a bit far (where was that 500mm lens when you really needed it?) we managed to get some decent pictures. And yet again, Nagzira lived up to it's (really) high standards of being dhole heaven.


That afternoon, we headed back to #1 Taka (waterhole) where A Mark and her family sometimes hang out. And Rajnesh, with his eagle eyes, spotted 2 tigers in thick bush. For the life of me, I couldn't even see one for a while. But his insistent nudging finally made me identify stripes. So I did see the tiger, even though I confess to not know which one or how many there were. As we waited awhile, Rajnesh decided to check out the parallel 'Bison' road; he was sure that one of the tigers had moved and could emerge on that road. And as if on cue, out in the open lay a large male tiger - Jay!

Prince Jay
Then we all settled down for a comfortable afternoon next to a pool. But the crown prince wasn't on top of his game and he wasn't very chatty as he drank. He had a few scratches on him, possibly from a fight with either his brother Veeru or his father, Dendu. Though we didn't really discuss much, this intra-family feud and the pressure to take over the kingdom seemed to be weighing on him. He looked confused, ponderous, pre-occupied and seemed a bit lost. Time and again, he would lift his head and look for someone, presumably his mother, since she was also in the vicinity. We were amused to see that even large male tigers sometimes still need mommy to make things right!


Mommy didn't make an appearance till sun-down and so we left young Jay and wished him well, just in case we didn't see him on our last safari. And indeed, on our final safari, we didn't see him. But thanks to a tip from another jeep, we saw A Mark, a fair distance from where she was a couple of days ago. She was presumably finding a safe place to deliver her cubs, somewhere quiet and peaceful, without any other tiger in the vicinity. we saw her drinking from a trough of water and when she finished, she walked up almost all the way to us, then descended into a nala and disappeared into the bush. As she passed us, we could see her stomach was slightly bloated. Also, her teats were distended, a sure sign that she was pregnant. We left her in peace, and drove off, wishing this wonderful tigress all the very best for her new litter. And a small prayer to grant her 4 female cubs, which could grow up and boost Nagzira's (currently fragile) breeding female population.

The legendary A Mark
It was only as we were leaving did I realize that my incredible strike rate in Nagzira still continued, I had now done 8 safaris in total and had seen either tiger or dhole (or both) on every single safari. Another small prayer and a vote of thanks to the animal gods who smiled on me and who continue to provide some of my life's most memorable moments.

And to Rajnesh, as ever motivated and enthused to preserve Vidarbha's incredible wildlife. And to Nissim, who saw his first tiger in the wild and who has now been smitten - hook, line and sinker. And to the incredible Amit Srivastava - multi-faceted, fun and inspirational.

To friends, then. And to tigers, new and otherwise!

And to Dhole. Of course.


Nagzira Trip Guide

Getting there
Nagzira is about 140 kms east of Nagpur (the closest big city and airport) while the closest town to Nagzira is Bhandara (60 kms) The roads from Nagpur are very good, on the whole and should be around 2 ½ hours or so.

Stay
There are now more options to stay in Nagzira, with more on the anvil.

The newly opened Muba Resort (www.mubaresorts.com) is very nice, with lovely large rooms and beautiful balconies. This place is built around a little pond and all the rooms are built on stilts with connecting walkways. The food is superb and the staff are very friendly. 

There is also the  forest department tented complex at Pitezari gate which is clean and pleasant and the air-cooled tents are very comfortable. And the food is excellent!
To book, you can contact the President of the Eco-Development Committee, Nagzira. Alternatively, check out www.nagzira.com for information and also updates on the new online reservation system.

Safaris
Safaris can be booked through the hotel. Private vehicles are still allowed in the forest, though there are plans to ban their entry from next season onwards.