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India Tiger safari article / trip report


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I considered posting this excellent article in the 'Safari Talk' forum for general discussion.   But then I realized that it might help people planning an India safari so I will put it here.   Admins - please relocate this post to a better forum if I have misjudged.




"Of the twelve tigers I saw in India, one might have been a ghost; two were in water, eight were on land, and one was sleeping in a tree. One stepped out of high grass, crossed the road in front of me, and disappeared into grass on the other side. One walked along a low ridge on the edge of a different road, oblivious or indifferent to the tourists taking her photograph. One looked out from a cover of branches and red leaves, so perfectly concealed that from thirty feet away he kept stereoscoping in and out of sight. Three were cubs, just four or five months old. Three were juveniles, aged around one year. The rest were fully grown. All were tired, because the days were hot, and because the days were dry they moved and breathed and slept in a film of clay-colored dust.


Every morning we left before dawn, to have the best chance of seeing a tiger. At that hour the lodges didn’t serve breakfast, but at four forty-five or five o’clock or five fifteen they put out tea and ginger cookies, and sometimes porridge or fruits. Shadowed safarigoers in camouflage pants and intricately pocketed wrinkled vests gathered in hushed groups around the piles of their camera gear, sipping Darjeeling from china cups. Later, after we had driven for three or four hours, we would stop and the guides would spread a white tablecloth on the jeep’s hood and on this they would lay out a full breakfast: hard-boiled eggs in metal tins and green apples and basmati rice and triangular sections of cheese sandwich and salt in fluted glass shakers. Tea was steeped in boiling water, from kettles that drew power from the jeep’s battery. If we had stopped at a forest rest area there would be stalls where you could buy hot chai for twenty rupees and Coca-Cola for fifty rupees and also T-shirts, and books of wildlife photography still wrapped in cellophane. Tourists browsed among the tables or threw bits of egg to the stray dogs lying in the dust between the jeeps. I bought a Coke from a boy selling them from a dirty Styrofoam cooler, then looked out at the field of black bushes behind the rest area and wondered how close the tigers came.


As it happened, I never saw a tiger near a rest area. As it happened, the only wild animals I saw near rest areas were langurs, big coal-faced monkeys that congregated in troops along the sides of forest roads, infants clinging to their mothers’ necks and staring out with calmly startled eyes. Families of gray langurs would sometimes go leaping through the bushes, and I liked watching them because I liked the front-sprung, bucking gait with which they ran, tipping from hind limbs to fore. I liked the langurs, too, because their unbothered presence near a rest area seemed to suggest that there was nothing, after all, so strange about the scene, that the act of shopping for baseball caps and art books in the middle of a jungle preserve contained no insurmountable irony, that the Coca-Cola and the banyan trees and the cheese sandwiches and the monkeys were merely pieces in a puzzle whose edges were by necessity somewhat blurred. Eventually, my experience in the jungles of Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh made me mistrust the convenience of this reasoning; it was comforting while it lasted."

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It is a pleasant reading that transits between the many elements that stand between the tiger and the tourist. A narrative composed of good information, commentaries and other deductions, that bind us to colonial times. The notorious hunter and his trophy properly sheltered in the population's protective needs, his unique point of view, and the tiger as a defiant element of human domination. Man-eaters as a result of human factors brought about, lack of adaptation to the speed with which India transforms.

India needs to seriously rethink corridors and territorially expand some key reserves - otherwise - in the not so distant future almost the entire population of Indian tigers will depend on translocations to maintain genetic sustainability. Rather than quantity of reserves with tigers it is necessary to establish fortresses of tigers like what is being done in the Terai Arc.

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