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sek07

Then some drinking and swimming, the plants made photography a little tough but still awesome to watch and some ok shots

At one point one of the cubs came to investigate the other vehicle out of curiousity

 

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sek07

They then walked up out of the water right next to our vehicles in the road and one even climbed on some trees which was awesome.   I got some of my best shots during this period as they were so close and the light was nice.

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sek07

Finally they crossed the road again behind our vehicles and we lost them briefly only to again see them walking through the woods playing with something.  For a while the guides thought that Solo had killed a baby cheetal, but we realized after all it was actually a jackal.  Instead of eating it they cubs took turns playing with it for about a half hour. 

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sek07

Finally the 5 of them walked through the woods again and into a clearing of rocks and laid down.   We watched them come down one by one to meet and greet Solo.   After watching them all lay down we finally headed out for lunch!.  All in I think we had spent 1.5 hours with 5 tigers with only one other vehicle.  This would prove to be our best sighting and made this just an absurdly good day of viewing and it wasn't even over yet.  

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sek07

Also from my notes but not photographed we saw a jungle fowl family, oriental magpie robin, Indian grey hornbill, red avadavat, red throated bulbuls, Rufus Tree pie, rose ringed parakeet, plum headed parakeet, yellow footed green pigeon.  Post lunch we attempted to find Dotty and the cubs but to no avail.  We decided to head out of the park a little early as we had already had such a full day, but on our way we ran into our biggest traffic jam of the week.  

A male tiger had been sighted across the same open field as Solo.   There is quite the history between these two.  About a year ago this male had slashed the chest of Solo, and the park rangers had intervened to save her by closing up the gash.   Fast forward and Solo's 4 cubs are the progeny of this male.   It is likely also the male that others had seen nearby earlier in the day but we missed.  Apparently they now tolerate each other with overlapping territory and more than tolerate! 

Finally he popped his head out and we saw her sitting in the grass across the field with her head out.   He stood up and started walking away and all hell broke loose.  Vehicles jockeying for position, more vehicles than you could imagine as there were likely close to double the normal amount given the closure of the Khitauli zone due to the elephants and the lack of sightings in the Tala zone of late.  A vehicle ran into ours, there was yelling and screaming.   We were on our way out and while we were extremely excited to see a big male, our only fully grown male of the trip, we couldn't have left even if we wanted to given the crowd.  The male, Bamera, made haste though so the crowd dissipated fairly quickly and we were on our way.     On the way out we got a shot of our first (alive) jackals 

 

Exhausted and happy after a really magical safari day we could barely stay away for dinner and crashed immediately after returning to our rooms

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Atdahl

Wow!  What an epic day!  That one day made the whole trip I bet.

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Zubbie15

Nice to see Rajan, with his camera, in post 26. :)  Your first full day really paid off, we never had any great sightings in the middle of the day, it was more the lack of zone restrictions that were the biggest benefit for us. Looking forward to more. 

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mtanenbaum

Wow, thanks for sharing these amazing tiger photos! You were incredibly lucky!!!

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sek07

@Zubbie15 that was actually one of the guys in the other car, not Rajan but a lookalike!  

thanks @mtanenbaum definitely one of our better days on safari anywhere.  We knew it was good when Vikram and Rajan broke out their cameras!

 

More to come when I get caught up

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sek07
Posted (edited)

The next day, Sunday, was our second full day permit in Bandhavgarh.  Again we were the second car out, behind the same vehicle/passenger as the day before.  I believe the Disney vehicle has extra special access and got out a touch earlier as we didn't even see them.   Again we would start in the Magadhi zone and after yesterdays drive you can imagine why!  Another stunner of a morning, chilly but beautiful clouds.  Pretty much the weather we'd have every day and it it warmed up as the days went on.  

 

A note about November:  Most people think you need to go in the summer months (march-May) as the cats tend to congregate around the drying up water sources in the park.  The usual play then is to camp out at a popular one and wait if you aren't hearing alarm calls.  it is apparently unbearably hot and humid during this period and it just didn't work for us.   The park is open October (depending on rain) through June and then its closed for the monsoon season.   I was very worried to go at a non peak time of year, another reason we splurged on the passes thinking we would need to spend more time as the cats could be more spread out.  From our trip I can say this year late November was fine this year.    You do however need to pack winter hats and gloves, and layers.   They provided us with welcome blankets and we peeled things off as it warmed up.

 

We immediately saw fresh pugs of Solo and cubs in their territory but didn't find them or hear alarm calls.   We continued on into Dotty's area and again saw pugs.   I'll point out at this point that the guides were really starting to impress us and overall the guiding in the park seemed at a very high level.  You are legitimately tracking the animals based on pugs and also alarm calls which the guides were quick to identify and then also roaring.  Then applying their really good knowledge of the behaviors and story lines behind the different cats and families as well as great knowledge of the park and the uncanny ability to measure distance and direction., Finally, the communication amongst the guides was wonderful to watch and while Mr Munjit was often asked he kept the conversations to the point so we didn't feel like we were spending too much time as I had read can happen. (Overall this was one area I was worried about that didn't live up to the negative hype: stopping for intel sharing was  not as long or annoying as I anticipated, and obviously can be very very useful. I just personally do not love not knowing what they are saying  or feeling like I'm wasting time over and over for chit chat.   I never got this sense, and Rajan or Vikram would often explain what was going on, Additionally I appreciated that they didn't try to hide the sightings we had missed like some other guides might.     

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sek07

We spent a decent amount of time looking and  went to a different area where an adult female has just had cubs.  A few vehicles have seen them and I believe the Disney crew got some special access to spend time near them.   On the way we saw fresh huge Male pugs, and fresh leopard tracks as well.   We didn't see her near the den site (well hidden in caves away from the road) so we headed back towards Dotty's territory. 

It was there that we found Mr Independant, Dotty's cub who we had seen the day prior, crossing the road.

 

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sek07

He didn't spend much time in the road as there was a little crowd there.  The backstory is that apparently Mr Independent is just that... independent.   These cubs are approaching the age they will leave their mother, but for now still rely on her to hunt,.   So when Dotty goes to hunt she will stash the 3 together which could take 1-3 days.  Well even when he was younger Mr Independant ventured off and has been spending more and more time on his own.  Not only that he had been recently seen in a skirmish with the new mother with the den site mentioned above.  I guess he wandered a bit close to the den and she sent him running with the fear of God recently.  The guides pieced together that today it was likely the Male marks we had seen earlier had come around and sent them running in different directions as Dotty had now been gone for a while.   We then moved on tracking and found the other two cubs of Dotty together. 

 

At this point we had seen where Mr independent had gone off road and laid down, and now where the two siblings had done the same not far away.   To top this off, monkeys had been alarm calling like crazy just off the road right in between where the cats had laid down (probably a tenth of a mile).  They were looking to the trees and apparently the way they were calling was most likely leopard   It was now lunch time, vehicles were all departing towards the lunch spot or exiting the park.   Did we want to have lunch in the vehicle and wait here to see if anything happened.  YES we did!

 

The driver climbed over to grab some food and we hung out for the next few hours waiting to see if the leopard would show or if the 3 cubs would reunite.  By ourselves now, we cut the engine and soaked all the sounds in and enjoyed just BEING.   Occasionally we would check on the different cats or try to see the leopard in the trees.  At other points we read and just enjoyed it.   At some point the other vehicles started returning into the park for the afternoon session, many new visitors seeing the sleeping tigers for the first time and going nuts, while we were frustrated they weren't up dancing for us!   It's all about perspective and it was a good reminder to appreciate all the moments.   

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sek07

In the AM we also had nice sightings of Indian roller, black stork, Indian pond heron and white throated kingfisher, hoopoe all pictured below.  

Not pictured the common Jezebel and alexandrine parakeet. Finally a single red headed vulture which was our first sighting of any vultures.  Vikram explained how the population of vulture had plummeted due to a drug that was given to cattle in India and it reminded me of the famous book about DDT's affects on birds.

 

from the web:
India's three vulture species saw an unprecedented decline of 97 to 99.9 percent between 1992 and 2007 owing to ingesting diclofenac through cattle carcasses. The near extinction of this efficient scavenger is linked to spread of zoonotic diseases and increased incidence of rabies 

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sek07
Posted (edited)

Some nice head on shots of the two siblings in the road before they laid down.

 

 

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We left the area to let them have more space seeing the cats.  We still hadn't seen Dotty but as we left the sleeping cubs we saw one of the vehicles frantically signaling us and when we got up there we heard alarm calls from cheetal and monkeys.   There she was, walking through the woods away from us.   The guides conferred and drove to a spot they thought she would come out.  They guessed wrong but quickly changed track and we found her walking up the track scent marking.   

 

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sek07
Posted (edited)

1

 

 

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sek07
Posted (edited)

sorry for the dupes, wouldn't let me fix it

 

Finally we returned to see if the cubs finally reunited, but lo and behold just the pair were making their way to the lake without mr independent. 

 

 

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sek07

Another productive full day, exhausted we made our way back to the lodge and again could barely stay awake for a great dinner of Indian food. 

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sek07

On our 3rd full day we would again start in Magadhi zone.   Once again there were many fresh pugs and some alarm calls but for the first hour or two no tigers or other cats.  We tried all three mothers territories with no luck until we were coming back from the new mom's den area when marci and Vikram saw a tiger walking away in a fire burn clearing at some distance.   I unfortunately didn't get a glimpse and apparently this is Chotta Charger the father of the. youngest cubs and likely who scattered Dotty's cubs yesterday.    

 

Bummed out but excited for Marci we kept on thinking maybe we could guess where he would come back out of the woods when we stumbled head on upon the three cubs of Dotty reunited this time.    They were walking right at us smelling trees on the road with two vehicles following them and we kept backing up to give them plenty of space and to keep getting nice head on shots of the trio.

 

 

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sek07

At this point we have been absolutely spoiled and know how fortunate we have been to spend such amazing time with the tigers.  We make the decision to spend the rest of the day in the Tala zone as we only got to spend a short time the first drive.   We will enjoy a change of pace of scenery and focus on some birds and other animals.   Rajan the day prior had said it was nice to have the pressure off of him and us (I think he meant him for Kanna, but also for the whole vehicle we could see what happened and take some chances).

 

Pictured, jungle fowl (skittish so pics are tough)  Mr Munjit pointed out this nice sunbeam shot,  a few drongo.

 

It was also around this point I said I was surprised how few birds of prey we had seen.  What came next made me realize they have been there, I just hadn't seen them and we were focused on the tigers.  A few shots of drongo, white eyed buzzard, jungle owlet, rose ringed parakeet, a well camouflaged lizard, and crested serpent eagle.  These were all from this AM in the Magadhi zone

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sek07

We took the roughly hour drive out of Magadhi main area and to the tala gate.  We entered here and immediately saw another owl this time the spotted owlet.   In addition I got excited again seeing elephants but it was "just" the park rangers elephants, a mom and calf in this instance, feeding on their own which was nice to see.  Some additional sights from the gorgeous Tala zone.   At one point Vikram said do you realize we are the only people in the Tala Zone right now?   We realized that it was lunch time and the other 1-2 vehicles would have stayed in Magadhi with the known tiger locations.     This was an insane concept to think about being the only people in this massive section of the park.   I started to really take it all in and take fewer pics and focus on enjoying the scenery and peacefulness.  

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sek07

One of the coolest reasons to visit the Tala zone is to visit the VIshna shrine half way up the mountain which was incredible cool.  In addition there are caves and other historic evidence of human occupation of the area for thousands of years.  I forgot to ask them to identify the type of bat we saw in the old caves.  

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sek07

You used to be able to hike all the way up to the white 'fort' at the top of the hill in the picture above but they no longer allow this.   While it sounds cool, tigers have been seen many times in this area even pretty far up on the mountain.  In fact Mr Munjit twice has come to the Vishnu shrine and found tigers laying on the shrine.   Pretty amazing for pictures except you are on foot!!  you park and walk up about 20-30 yards to see it so that would make for quite some surprise

 

The rest of the drive we tracked a couple different tigers as we saw fresh pug marks (on top of the vehicles tracks from the morning session) and heard some alarm calls. We were never able to see any of the tigers in the Tala zone.  In the AM several people had seen Spotty who lives in this zone (Dotty's sister!) so its a good sign that maybe sightings will pick up.   interestingly Solo spends time in both zones going up and over a fairly large hill/mountain. 

 

We decided at this point to head back to the hotel a little early as this was our third full day in a row and we were definitely getting tired and sore from sitting in the vehicle for so long every day.  I arranged massages for us, and Vikram arranged a private dinner for us later that evening that was a semi surprise.   Vikram asked if we minded if he and Rajan went back out in the vehicle and we of course had no issue with getting the moneys worth with the pass and it shows their passion that when given the chance to end work early they wanted to go see if they could track some other tigers!

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sek07

Below some villagers on the way back to the hotel.  Our raised room, a butterfly in the hotel gardens, some flowers grown on site, our private dinner by firelight, the Naan being baked for us.  Most things here grown on site and made on site and to reiterate the food was wonderful authentic Indian here (you could adjust your spice level). 

 

The massages were great in a nice little spa building and I finally got to wander the grounds just for a little bit.  Definitely some birding to be done.  The private dinner was great 

 

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sek07
Posted (edited)

1

Edited by sek07

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sek07

Finally we had reached our final morning in Bandhavgarh which would be a 1/2 day drive in the Magadhi zone. That afternoon we would drive to Kanha.    As usual we left the hotel in darkness with the open topped vehicle causing us to layer up heavily.  On the drive you pass through town and then on the 1 lane road that separates different zones when in the headlights we spotted a jungle cat!  

IT walked towards us along the road and I was able to get some decent video which is great.   I'm trying to post the video but what format does it need to be in to post a video?  I believe it a .M4v file as is

 

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