I have been a photography enthusiast for well over a decade now and wildlife photography has always been the one reason I have never complained to get out of my bed early. (I’m not a morning person unless I’m travelling!). I have been living in London, UK for a while now and this has given me plenty of opportunities to experience wildlife across different countries. Every single time I returned from a game drive with a newfound love for the ways of the wild. My wife and I decided to make it a point to do at least one wildlife safari every year and truly connect with the Nature and understand wildlife not just by watching endless list of documentaries but in person from close quarters.

This time we decided to take our families along for the first time and give them a taster of spotting their first mammal/bird out in the wild which otherwise would be limited to a TV. I contacted a very dear friend of mine who frequents the jungles to help me put the itinerary together and just like that we had everything in place. We decided to try out Bandipur and Kabini owing to the tiger population and of course, the mystic black panther (Blackie) and its increasing news on sightings.

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Tiger – Photograph: Uday Kumar Lakkoju

 

We really wanted our families to have it all but as an unsaid rule of the jungle, the expectations had to be set low to enjoy the ultimate sighting. Of course, this did not work with the family given we were venturing into a tiger reserve. We weren’t very successful in Bandipur and all hopes were pinned to Kabini and I could sense the growing impatience in the entourage.

The hospitality at Kabini was nothing short of excellent and now it was time for the game drives to soothe our hearts. We had 4 unsuccessful game drives and our crew did everything in their power to get us a glimpse of the wild cats. We either missed them by a few minutes or they were just hiding in the bushes. Now, as the saying goes, “Good things comes to those who wait”. This was true in our case, I guess. The last game drive for the trip, as luck may have it, we ventured into the Kabini forest for one last time and there she was – a Tigress sitting right in middle of the road, cleaning her paws, stretching and yawning. Did I tell you, this was the early hours around 7am of January 1st 2020.

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Tiger – Photograph: Uday Kumar Lakkoju

 

Yep, the first thing we all saw on the dawn of the new year apart from each other’s faces was a tigress walking straight towards us. I could see the astonishment in our parents faces, the fascination and the awe. No matter how many times you see it, it will always be your first, I guess. I was glad to have had the female not shy away but instead stick around for good 15 mins till I took it all in and managed some great photographs. (I’m in the process of getting one of them frame as I write this article). My dad now wants to be part of every wildlife safari we plan, or he is more than willing to solo trip his way in.

Yes, we missed the leopards, black panther and a few birds I would have really loved to see but that’s the humbling thing about nature, everything has its time and another reason to return to the jungles and wait for these majestic creatures to be sighted. This is what an experience with the wild and forces of pure nature do to you, you cannot walk away and I’m sure, I never will.