The Bazookas of Kabini

Visits to Kabini began in May 2012, initially as a one-off visit. Yesterday we returned from our 6th visit to that place. So much of it is the same, and yet so much different. We now know many of the naturalists, and they recognise us. Even then, every year it’s a different experience, bringing its own set of birds and animals. And even humans in the form of other guests. Sometimes even that trend is bucked and we start noticing people who had been seen in earlier trips, and their idiosyncrasies. And usually hoping we don’t end up with them in the same jeep.

Given its high density of Tigers and leopards, and that prized catch – the solitary Black Panther, Kabini sees a high density of ‘Bazookas’. A Bazooka is anyone, usually male, who has a camera attached to a large lens. The camera is usually a single digit Canon, or equivalent Nikon, and the lenses would be in 600mm usually. Despite the differences in brand, model or lenses, all Bazookas are united in one thing – they want to see big cats, and only big cats. They would be doing regular trips on forest safaris, but they always want big cats, and in different variations – a big cat sitting, or a big cat marking, a big cat posing with forelimbs on a mound, big cat in water, big cat drinking water, big cat resting on the ground looking at the camera with mouth open.

Continue reading “The Bazookas of Kabini”

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The Trail of Tigers (Bandipur Stories – 1)

We reached Bandipur after a 5.5 hour ride, including breakfast. The weather was pleasant, the roads had been decent for the most part. But just when we thought we could relax after Gundlupet, we found that they had decided to ‘expand’ the section from Gundlupet towards Bandipur. If you’re on a car it can be uncomfortable. But when you’re on bikes, it gets stressful and is also a safety issue. But we managed to reach JLR’s Bandipur place by 1:30 PM.

After lunch, we headed out earlier than usual. Somehow, the seat we thought could accommodate three was supposed to only seat 2, and A had to move to the front, next to the driver. This later turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him. There was a massive parking problem at the forest office considering this was Christmas, and there were queues to get into a forest department vehicle. They seem to have fixed the delay for safari vehicles, by making guests enter their details before starting. This meant that we were off really quick from the office and into the forest a few minutes later.

A Crested Serpent Eagle was the mandatory first pic as always, but the driver ignored it saying there’s some other sighting in front. We went there and there were multiple jeeps and minibuses standing and people clicking away at something beyond a waterhole. For a change, this turned out to be a Tiger! The Tiger was sleeping, and very occasionally would lift its head up to survey the surroundings before going back to sleep.
A sleeping tiger

Gets up to see what the hue and cry is for

Continue reading “The Trail of Tigers (Bandipur Stories – 1)”

The first sighting

Bandipur, October 2012:

We drove along to a spot which a Tiger was known to frequent. We had been charged at and chased away by a herd of elephants. “Gowri”, they called her. We turned up and she wasn’t there. The entourage included a bunch of hot-shot photographers. (A hot-shot photographer is one who carries a lens that needs a hold of its own and has paid more than 1L for it.) One of them showed us pics of the Tiger shot earlier. “Ever seen a Tiger before in the wild?” he asked. We shook our heads. “The first sighting is something you’ll never forget” he promised.

Kabini, January 2013:

After a morning safari filled with drama, nerves and heightened expectations, we had returned to camp with zero sightings. The entourage included two other middle-aged hot-shot photographers. We also heard that Gowri, the Tiger from Bandipur had died a few days back after a fight with another male. The photographers joined us for breakfast and I cribbed that I had been looking for a Tiger for the last two years and hadn’t found one. The more talkative of the two listened patiently and answered “Do you know how long I had to wait for my first Tiger sighting?”, he paused for attention “10 years!”, he said. “I remember complaining about it once and another person, senior to me said it took him 25 years to sight one. It doesn’t come easy.”

Kaziranga, November 2013:

This was the last safari of the trip and a guy in the jeep was hoping for a Tiger. I told him the story of the photographer who waited 10 years for his first sighting. This was only his first Safari trip. And just like that, he ducked. By the time the rest of the folks turned, it was gone, into the bushes.

Bandipur, December 2013:

We spot pug-marks, we follow pug-marks. It eludes. But, we spot a leopard for the first time.

Kabini, February 2014:

There’s no hint of a tiger, although the chart says that a Tiger , 3 leopards and a pack of Dhole were spotted just that morning. This time the Safari includes elderly foreigners. Their last day and they’ve spotted leopards but not a Tiger yet. The Safari starts in the heat, barely yielding anything. There are no elephants, no Gaur, just chital. Slowly things start emerging: An Indian Roller, a Malabar Giant Squirrel that actually stays out and still, posing for photos. A mongoose is seen, a Serpent Eagle and a Snake Darter swims out of the water and suns itself.

Snake Darter Continue reading “The first sighting”