So to our first day in search of tigers...A 5.30am alarm call and coffee will wake you and its a race to get to the front of the line at the meeting point for the reserve gates. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter whether you are at the front or the back of the line. Since the changes, the organisation is excellent and now with far fewer vehicles being allowed access, you do not feel you are one of thousands trying to achieve the same thing. Yes, there are plenty of other vehicles and despite being slightly worried about some of the photos found on the internet prior to my arrival in India, they really do not worry you. Somehow (contrary to what I feel in Africa), it does not seem to matter that there are other explorers in search of these beautiful creatures. Perhaps it is their majestic beauty and elusivity (and be assured, they are elusive!), that if you are lucky enough to get a sighting, you are happy to share it with others and be part of something so amazing and so memorable. We were lucky... a fleeting tiger sighting within our first hour, we were very much the envy of other less fortunate guests at the lodge. We enjoyed our 3 days and 3 nights at Treehouse Hideaway in Bandhavgarh, and in encountering 5 tigers (including two cubs), we could not have wished for more. Absolutely superb...
On Day 4, we enjoyed a beautiful drive onto Kanha, a larger tiger reserve about 5 hours away. The countryside was absolutely stunning and the many local villages we passed through were colourful, vibrant, happy and bustling due to the many Saturday markets being held. We headed first to Kipling Camp, which is set close to the main Kisli gate so providing excellent access to the reserve. An enjoyable camp which is perhaps holding on slightly too much to its success in the 80’s/90’s but which offers great home from home accommodation at an affordable price. If you are looking for high levels of comfort however, this camp is not for you. If you are looking for a UK run friendly base, then look no further.
Kanha reserve is also beautiful and whilst it felt as though the tigers were perhaps even more scarce, we were treated to the most phenomenal viewing imaginable. A tiger coming out of the water, lying down in long grass just in front of our vehicle to then walk the length the 50 yards it took for 2 vehicles to move aside in order to let him through. The drivers and guides gracefully obliged and the huge and utterly beautiful male tiger took advantage of the gap he seemed to know would open up on his behalf. The smiles on our faces could not be wiped off for hours.. It was at this point that I made the decision not to waste time on taking too many photos, but to instead concentrate on what was happening before my eyes. Savour the moment and remember it, it truly is worthwhile. And appreciate the harmony that has somehow been created between man and beast – how it works, I’m not really sure, but the tigers, locals and tourists all seem to respect each other entirely.