It was my first safari into the beautiful forest of Nagarhole, and Mr. Venkatesh Kolappa, one of the best naturalists of Kabini, navigated our driver into the forest. Just as our vehicle crossed the check post, we were pulled back to a stop, and a female elephant gracefully emerged from the lantana thickets. Even as this majestic creature continued walking, jungle mynas perched fearlessly on it, to feed on any tiny insects present on the elephant’s back.
Resuming our safari, we moved into the forest and drove past numerous packs of spotted deer. Soon after, another halt was inevitable as a jeep that passed by alerted us about the presence of a tiger in the vicinity. The air around us was buzzing with excitement and our adrenalin levels began soaring. In just around 10 minutes we were all left awestruck, as we were graced by the presence of the regal creature as it crossed the old Mysore road. He stopped and looked at us, completely unfazed by the presence of a vehicle or humans, and continued his determined journey, deeper into the forest. It was my first tiger sighting, and its beauty overwhelmed me. It is by far the most fearless and attractive mammal I have ever seen.
We couldn’t stay there for much longer and had to proceed with our safari. After another 25 minutes into the national park, the driver brought our jeep to a standstill. All of us began frantically looking for the reason of our halt this time. Only when he pointed to the left did we notice the leopard that stood frozen with its eyes fixed on our vehicle. It seemed to have been observing us intently for a while. By the time my brain processed the whole sighting, the leopard had disappeared into thin air, quite like Houdini!
All that begins well should end well, and our safari too had a brilliant conclusion. As we neared the end of our safari, a large black mammal crossed the road just ahead of our vehicle. It was a sloth bear with her cub. The sheer sight of us drove the mother and the cub right back into the thickets. As the safari concluded, our guests were at a loss for words to describe their experience. This was the perfect farewell for Mr. Venkat – and the best welcome for me. It’s safe to say that I’m in love with Kabini.