Friday, February 3, 2023

Wild cats: Earn your travel stripes!

Tyger Tyger, burning bright… William Blake’s famous poem, The Tyger, aptly describes the hypnotic majesty of the tiger.One of the most endangered species in the world, the tiger was made the country’s national animal in 1973. This announcement helped put a stop to any poaching activities and conservation efforts were ramped up in the form of Project Tiger.

There are five subspecies of tiger which still exist – the Bengal tiger, South China tiger, Indochinese tiger, Sumatran tiger and Amur tiger (also known as Siberian tiger). Three tiger subspecies have gone extinct – the Caspian, Bali and Javan.

At the turn of the 20th century, India had a population of tigers that ranged from 20,000 to 40,000 which declines due to hunting and habitat destruction. Currently there are around 3,500 tigers in the world and India is home to 75 percent of them among the 13 tiger-range countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2010, these countries had signed an agreement to double the global tiger count by 2022.

In the latest survey released in 2019, The Status of Tigers in India Report, 2018 has shown that India is closer to this shared goal than any of them. There are an estimated 2,967 tigers in the wild in India which is 33 percent higher than the number of tigers counted in 2014, and double that of the 2006 population. In 2018, Madhya Pradesh was awarded the ‘Tiger State’ for being home to the biggest population of the big cat – around 526. Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand have also stepped up their conservation efforts. If you want to book a safari and visit some of the best tiger spots in india, you can check their official websites and spot this feline.

(Photo: Roopkumar Rathod)

Pench national park

Located at the border of Maharashtra, the Pench national park is in Madhya Pradesh. The park is sprawled over an area of 758 sq km. It was established in 1965 as a wildlife sanctuary and became tiger reserve in 1993 and plays host to the Royal Bengal tiger. It remains open from October to the end of June and in the winter season (November to February), the safaris happen in the morning and the evening. This park is said to have inspired the famous tale of the man cub mowgli and is also referred to as Mowgli land.

Musician and singer Roopkumar Rathod has spent many days staring through his lens to get the perfect shot. He has visited many national parks and tiger reserver areas to spot and capture the country’s national animal in his lens. Talking about his experience at Pench, Rathod says, “During my recent visit to Pench, I realised that it is one of the most sought after places to spot Tigers, leopards, along with rare birds as well. I had visited the park with my friends with sole purpose of reviving my inspiration and creativity, to infuse life in my tired soul as the daily hustle bustle of Mumbai was getting to me. Pench offered much more than inspiration as the majestic tiger relaxing amidst the thick shrubs was a sight to be hold . As I clicked the precious moments captured in my camera I could not help but admire of the graceful animal. This made me realise that India is very rich in its natural beauty and we promote the same

Best time to visit: the winter months of Nov to Feb are the best season to visit Pench National Park as the weather is pleasant for a wildlife safari.

(Photo: Randeep Hooda/Instagram)
(Photo: Randeep Hooda/Instagram)

Satpura Tiger Reserve

Deriving its name from the nearby Satpura mountain ranges and located in the Hoshangabad District of Madhya Pradesh in India, the Satpura Tiger Reserve spans an area of 524 sq km. It is divided into three zones – Madhai, Bheemkund, Panarpani. These buffer zones of the tiger reserve can be visited via safaris. This reserve closes certain zones to the pubic from July to September and the core zones re-open to tourists from October.

Actor Randeep Hooda is a photography enthusiast whose social media is spotted with various pictures of tigers in the wild. He says, “The Satpura Tiger Reserve is a little known yet big success story in tiger conservation. It is a testament to the fabulous work done by the MP forest department along with the local staff. With reduced human-wildlife conflicts, increased habitat preservation and abundance of new grasslands for the herbivores has resulted in room for more tigers. There are plenty of tigers and their presence is immediately felt all around us with pug marks and alarm calls.The Churna zone is a lot quieter and harder to get to than the Madhai zone.”

Best time to visit: this changes according to the zones you want to explore; – Madhai Zone: Oct to Mar, Bheemkund Zone: Nov to Apr, Panarpani Zone: Oct to Mar

(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Bandhavgarh national park

Located in the Vindhya Hills in Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh National Park and has been divided in to three zones – Tala, Magdi and Bamer out of which Tala is the most popular tourist spot with a higher chance of spotting a tiger. It is shut down during the monsoon, towards the end of June and opens back up in October. Tourists can enjoy both Jeep and Canter Safari in Bandhavgarh within a fixed time.

“My family and I are nature lovers and we visit Bandhavgadh very often as it is really close to where we live. We make sure to visit all the 3 zones so that we get lucky in atleast one of them. We mostly go to spot the tigers but enjoy watching all the animals like the wild elephants, bisons, deers as well. We mostly visit in the summer as it is the best time to spot the tigers because they are mostly chilling in the water holes, so the gypsy drivers know exactly where to take us first to show us the tiger. Over all it’s the best get away ever,” says Jessica Dunne, 26, teacher from Katni Madhya Pradesh

Best time to visit: Summer months is the best time to visit for tiger sightings and November to March is the best time to go on the Jungle Safari.

How to travel: if you are travelling from Mumbai, you can take a flight to Jabalpur, MP and then take a 2 hour road trip to reach the park. You can also take a train to katni, MP and then travel 1 and a half hour by road to reach the park.

(Photo: Facebook)
(Photo: Facebook)

Nagarahole Tiger Reserve

Previously known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka shares it borders with the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala. It was named after the river Nagarahole which means ‘Serpent River’ (Nagara=Serpent; Hole=River) in Kannada. It is a major conservation hub for the Project Tiger and Project Elephant.

Hussain Harianawala, 26, startup founder from Pune says, “I was interning in Nagarahole in 2016, documenting man-animal conflict. I covered around 144 villages and tribes around the Tiger Reserve. I have visited the reserve many times after as well. It is one of the costliest places to visit. And most people don’t know that if you just drive around the highways of Nagarahole there is a very high chance that you will spot a lot of wildlife. Once, I had a tiger jump in front of my car on a state highway and this wasn’t a safari or anything. Another thing that the forest department of Karnataka has tried to achieve is that the highways that pass through the reserve are non-functional from 6pm to 6am. You will not be able to commute at night because these roads go through the Tigers reserve.

Best time to visit: April to May, when the waterholes are dry and the animals come out to visit the lake. the weather conditions are more pleasing from November to February.

How to travel: to reach this reserve from Mumbai, you can undertake an almost 20 hour road trip across several state borders. If you prefer, you can also take a flight Kannur and then take a short 2 hour drive to the park. The cheapest option would be to travel by train to Krishnarajanagar and then take a private taxi to the park

(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Jim Corbett National Park

Located in Nainital, Uttarakhand, the Jim Corbett National Park is part of the larger Corbett Tiger Reserve and one of the country’s oldest national parks. It is the first place where the Project Tiger was launched in 1973. The park gets its name from hunter and naturalist Jim Corbett who played a major role in establishing the parl. Spread over 520 square kilometres, it is divided into five zones for tourists and offer different animal attractions – Bijrani Safari Zone, Jhirna Safari Zone, Dhela Safari Zone, Dhikala Zone, and Durga Devi Zone. The Bijrani zone is where people have the highest chance of spotting the king of the Corbett forest – the royal Bengal tiger. This is among the few Indian national parks that allows tourists to stay inside the park at night.

Prakhya Nair, 24, social media manager from Mumbai visited the park in (year) and says, “Jim Corbett is a must-visit as it is the perfect getaway for people fed up with city life and makes for a brilliant and unique vacation spot. Add in a detour to Nainital and you can also enjoy the best of what the hills have to offer. The trip was fun and i got to spot a tiger which was obviously the highlight of this trip. ”

Best time to visit: During the months of November to February, the Dhikala and Birjani zone, the most popular areas in the park to see the Royal Bengal tiger remain open to the tourists. Most animals come out of their hiding in this season after the summers when they can be barely seen in the open. Moreover, the roads are in the best condition during this season as the monsoons often lead to park closure making it a great time for tourism.

How to travel: The fastest way to reach jim Corbett national park is to fly to Dehradun Airport and then either drive to the park or hire a private taxi. You can also take a train to Dehradun and then proceed by road.

(Photo: Hindustan Times)
(Photo: Hindustan Times)

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

Maharashtra’s oldest National Park, the Tadoba National Park is also known as the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve and was created in 1955. It is located in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra state and has a total area of 1,727 The national park is named after the God Tadoba worshipped by local folk and ‘Andhari’ comes from the river Andhari that flows through the area.

Jaideep Chakrabarty, a producer from Mumbai shares his experience: “Tadoba was one of the best trips I have had till now. It was closer to home but I was completely unaware of what it had in store for us. I have been to jungle safaris before but mostly they were about spotting deers, a couple of buffalos and irritatingly screeching monkeys. Tadoba was far from that. We spotted tigers like never before – in their full glory, bossing around the jungle. The stay at the Jungle Camp was quite an experience as well.”

Best time to visit: Winter season [November to February] is probably the best time to visit Tadoba National Park. However, the best season to sight tigers would be the hotter months (March, April and May).

How to travel: The nearest airport is at Nagpur, about 140 km away from the park. If you want to travel by Train, the nearest railways station is at Chandrapur, 45 km from the park. State transports buses and private buses also go to the park starting from Mumbai.

Safari safety tips by wildlife photographers Megh Roy Choudhury and Kaushik Ghelani

Stay silent to hear the alarm calls of monkeys and deer to spot tigers.

If a tiger is sitting or walking on the road, stay at least 100m away.

If tiger approaches your vehicle, look calmly and give him way to pass.

Sometimes, tigers mock-charge. Don’t panic, keep a safe distance and he will make his way.

Avoid wearing bright colours and strong-smelling perfumes or creams.

Keep your mobile phones silent. Don’t use flash while taking pictures.

Tiger trivia:

The Bengal tiger is the most common tiger.

In the wild, tigers can live upto 20-26 years.

Adult tigers prefer solitude and isolation and tend to live on their own.

At 114 decibels, a tiger’s roar is very loud and can be heard upto 3km away.

Similar to a human fingerprint, no two tigers have the same stripes and are unique to them.

Tiger cubs are born blind and open their eyes 1-2 weeks after birth.

Tigress’ start teaching their cubs to hunt and fight at six months old and cubs stay with their mother till they are about 18 months old.

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