Wildlife photo safaris with India's leading photography guide

Posts tagged “bandhavgarh national park

Tiger Marathon 2020 Schedules

 

_K9A6995tm

My annual Tiger Marathon photo safari schedules are now up on Nature Wanderers Photo Safaris

4 back to back photo safaris have been planned for Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh – 2 of India’s best tiger habitats. At Tiger Marathon you can either pick up one batch or club multiple batches to spend longer time in the field and go back with an amazing portfolio of summer images

Schedule of Tiger Marathon 2020

  • May 7 – 10 : Ranthambore National Park – 6 regular safaris
  • May 10 – 13 : Ranthambore National Park – 6 regular safaris
  • May 14 – 17 : Bandhavgarh National Park – 6 regular safaris
  • May 17 – 20 : Bandhavgarh National Park – 2 full day safaris, 2 regular safaris

Chasing Horizons *New Book*

Chasing Horizon cover copy69492044_1474405992713614_3090410741077901312_o

 

In August 2019, I released my second book Chasing Horizons – Learnings from Africa. A limited edition release (206 pages, 9.5×12.5 inches), Chasing Horizons sums up my journey in Africa in the last 10 years and showcases what I learnt as a photographer during this journey and how I replicated those learnings while working in Indian forests.

_K9A3318

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Best selling author of ‘A Decade with Tigers,’ and International Award winning wildlife photographer, Shivang Mehta has donned many hats in his long career journey, including that of a Journalist and a PR Professional. His love for wildlife and nature led him to begin his on field career in the Sal forests of Kumaon 16 years ago. Shivang is the managing director of Nature Wanderers, India’s premier wildlife photo tour organisation, which he started with his wife, Kahini Ghosh Mehta in 2007. Having conducted over 1000 wildlife photography workshops and tours, along with many unique wildlife events and mentoring over a thousand amateur photographers and being a guide for the best of professional wildlife photographers, Shivang specialises in photographing rare species using DSLR camera trap technology. The author is also a Canon Photo Mentor, a Columbia Athlete and has been published in numerous national and international publications. 

_B5A7629

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Chasing the Horizons- Learnings from Africa, is Shivang Mehta’s second book, after the best selling ‘A Decade with Tigers.’ This book is a unique compilation of the author’s experiences in Wild Africa – a continent where Shivang has spent a decade photographing and understanding its wildlife and landscapes. With an extensive knowledge and understanding of the Indian forests, Shivang’s second book chronicles his time in Africa, drawing an interesting comparison of perspectives by a photographer working in both Indian and African landscapes. Describing his photographic learnings from his on-field hours in Africa, Shivang juxtaposes various natural history moments he has witnessed in the continent with an array of similar images recreated in the Indian forests. As light and creativity are the main driving forces in his photographic journey, Shivang’s images and text in the book explain the paradigm shift in his outlook which he has internalised over the years. With an extensive set of images created over such a vast period of time, the book also brings forth how his observations in Africa have only strengthened the respect and pride that the author has for Indian wildlife. 

 

ABOUT THE COVER:

The cover of Chasing the Horizons – Learnings from Africa, is a unique amalgamation of 4 iconic big cats – Tiger, Leopard, Cheetah & African Lion. The cover has been hand painted by Vijay Kumawat – an artist from Ranthambore National Park. Vijay has used charcoal and soot and references of Shivang Mehta’s images of these 4 cats to compile this brilliant piece of art. The cover took months of ideation and a lot of samples were made in order to get the perfect balance of the facial characteristics of these 4 cats. 

Chapters

 

  1. Forward
  2. Preface
  3. AFRICA vs INDIA
  4. Minutes of Gold
  5. River Rush Hours
  6. Toddlers
  7. Hunts
  8. The Pink Legs
  9. Night life in the bush
  10. Small Cats
  11. Black & Whites

 

ORDER NOW FROM AMAZON INDIA & avail special discounts!!!

Visit https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/9353825210 to place your order


Tiger Marathon 2019 Field Notes

The 2019 edition of my Tiger Marathon photo safari series just concluded in Bandhavgarh National Park. A fortnight filled with tiger action as we worked with Dotty and Solo – the two devoted mothers of Bandhavgarh who have been raising their litters in the park this season. From cubs playing to some charismatic males, Bandhavgarh always throws up surprises every day. Here are some of the many moments witnessed in the past 15 days.

_K9A6135_K9A6161_K9A5278_K9A5332_B5A6603_B5A0502_B5A9820_K9A5370-2_B5A9748


March & April 2019 Diaries

It has been a long marathon in various forests of India as we started with the Mowgli land – Pench, headed off to Kanha and then to Bandhavgarh is search of the famed tiger mothers of central Indian tiger heartland. The tiger action in Bandhavgarh was fabulous as we spent countless hours with Spotty, Dotty and Solo – the 3 breeding females of the park. From Central India we headed to Kaziranga for some rhinos and elephants and were blessed with a beautiful sighting of a 1 month old rhino calf.

Here are some images to summarise the last fortnight.

_B5A3736_K9A4253_B5A4054_B5A4686_K9A4739_K9A4517_K9A3652_K9A3943


Preps for a new Tiger Season

It is monsoon time and my team is busy working on the plans for the next season. To start with we have already announced a few fresh photo safaris in tiger parks like Ranthambore & Bandhavgarh. The annual Ranthambore Opener schedule is up to enable you get a glimpse of the first stripes of the season in the lush green forest post the monsoon showers. With multiple breeding females in the tourism zone, Bandhavgarh would be in the thick of action through the new season and we kickstart our Bandhavgarh photo safaris with a winter schedule in December.

Visit http://www.naturewanderers.com for details

 


Tackling “Tiger Boredom” 

_V5C2115
One of the most photographed cats the “Tiger” though can trigger a rush of adrenalin, but what if you are one of those who think  “Been there done that”? You empty your pockets doing the flurry of game drives in Indian parks at times paying a premium with special all zone access to venture out in the scorching heat of the cruel Indian summer only to be faced with scenes which are dull and boring, forget adrenalin rush your body produces melatonin, inducing sleep…..so much so for a tiger safari then.
We as photographers are constantly looking for tiger action in the form of hunts, play sequences, interactions or shooting the cat in the soft morning or evening light. These are rare moments and happen once in a while. But what do you get instead on 70% of the occasions? Tigers sitting in cemented water tanks, Tigers in the bushes, Tiger sleeping under tree shades. The subject you go out seeking is smarter than you , they give you an half opened eye look with a perplexed look as if saying go chill in a swimming pool , sit in the shade, it’s too hot to be cooking yourselves alive.
_74I7802
Summer sightings like these are considered to be below average owing to harsh light or man-made structures and the drooping shoulders of a lot of camera owners around me just display signs of what I term as “tiger boredom”! Over the years I have been bitten by this boredom way too often but have tried to come up with ideas to overcome it by experimenting with such tiger sightings.
As I write this note a lazy (or rather a smart) tiger is sitting in front of me in a cemented water tank cooling himself as we roast in the sun. I have my doubts if he will get up in the next couple of hours. But I love the commitment level of the photographer and the subject! Just like I have committed myself to be burnt alive, this tiger is committed to chilling in its pool and we both haven’t given up on each other. And while I hope he gets into action at some point eventually, let me pen down some thoughts on how to encounter this tiger boredom 🙂

Shooting Portraits

We all start off with shooting tiger portraits, some graduate to learning how to zoom out and capturing the majestic feline in its environs, some never do. It’s after all the world’s most photogenic cat.
But in a scenario where you can’t do much with the environs have you thought of doing an extreme portrait of the cat. Stacking up all the glass in your kit for a tight close up of the eye if it’s open, or the nose or experimenting with the depth of field by keeping certain parts of the face in focus and blurring the rest. IMHO these are some engaging exercises that can keep you engaged while your body cooks itself, making the stepping out in the sun a little more worthwhile.
_K9A1701
_74I2867_K9A1862

The Dissection Technique for Portraits 

From head to tail the tiger is by far a charismatic subject and as a photographer I see frames and perspectives in every part of its body. What better than a lazy tiger sitting out in the open to hone your observation skills. Stripes, paw, powerful back hunches, nose,  whiskers – each and every body part of the tiger has a hidden image which is fun to explore. Never went to a Zoology practical class, try that out with your camera and lens on the most majestic subject available.
_K9A1842
_K9A1851
_K9A2161
_K9A0986

The Cement Issue

We crib about our cities being a concrete jungle but then we encounter concrete in the jungles too, what a bummer that’s what you ran away from to begin with.
Tigers in cemented water tanks has become a critical national problem for photographers. The joy of a sighting simply evaporates in minutes with the sight of a cement. Even I didn’t pick up my camera many years ago to photograph something which isn’t natural. One fine summer around 6 years ago, I noticed something during one of my safaris in Bandhavgarh which changed my thought process. Extreme portraits are of course an easy way to deal with the cement issue, but what else can be done. What caught my eye was the trail of water dripping from the belly when the cat got up from the water and ever since I have been thinking of images around the belly waterfalls.
_74I5859
Tiger Falls

Tiger in cemented waterhole – Bandhavgarh

Reflections

Cement water holes have a unique feature. Before the tongue of a tiger touches these water bodies the water is still and the stillness gives a mirror like reflection and there are plenty of opportunities which can be explored around reflections. Even once the process of water going in the system is on, the ripples in the water can create some great tiger abstractions.
_K9A1028
_74I0509
So the next time you spend a bomb to venture on a full day safari in peak summers risking a sunstroke , don’t doze off to give the sleeping cat company. Tigers have been widely photographed in today’s time but in my opinion there are tons of tiger images yet to be taken. Make the best of what you have, challenge your brain cells, trigger those creative juices and make the adventure out in the sun worth your while.
And once you are through with your experimentations you can also think of more ideas and sit in front of a lazing tiger to kill your boredom by writing a similar note for the benefit of mankind 🙂

Feb Marathon Runs…

February has been all about hopping between various tiger habitats of India. The month started with Ranthambore where my guests spent some productive sessions with Noor (T39) and cubs and the T60 separated male cubs. Glimpses of Machali Junior (T84) raised hopes of her pregnancy. The lakes have been drying up gradually the effects of a scanty monsoon is now clearly visible.

We then moved on to the action area of Dhikala in Corbett National Park where the winter mist continued to fascinate our guests. The elephants have dwindled as compared to January but still there were sizeable numbers considering we are still in the fading part of winters of India.

Post the sad demise of my friend and elder brother Rajwardhan Sharma, I had to gather a lot of courage to go back to Bandhavgarh. I avoided it for the past few months but work commitments have got me here again.

I have just arrived amidst memories of Raj saheb and as I am gearing up for the week out here in Bandhavgarh, his pleasant memories and the hours of time we have spent together are reinstating my belief that Bandhavgarh will never be the same without him.

_74I0628_74I0802_74I0999_74I0509_74I1225_K9A0502_K9A0585


A Decade with Tigers : Book Reviews

_A9R82621

Thank you for the wonderful response to my book – A Decade with Tigers. I have been taking a note of each and every feedback you all have shared – both positive and negative. I hope you have enjoyed reading the stories of India’s top tiger brand ambassadors and in case you haven’t picked up a copy yet, log in to your Amazon or Flipkart accounts to get your copy today.

Here is what the readers and the media had to say about the book:

“From tiger mothers and male tigers to denizens of the tiger kingdom, the book is surely a treat for tiger lovers” – Deccan Chronicle

“The stunning pictures of Indian wildlife in this book are testament to the magnificence of our natural world” – Valmik Thapar

“Books like these with strong visuals unfold the wild mysteries of species of India and makes you connect with nature” – Dhritiman Mukherjee

“A Decade with Tigers is a unique tribute to the tigers who have played a vital role as ‘brand ambassadors’ of Indian wildlife.” – Hindustan Times
“The text is well complemented with exquisite images by Mehta, who has spent thousand of hours on the field. Each picture opens a window to the animal while the text sums up its traits.” – The Hindu
“This book is a result of passion and hard work put in by Shivang Mehta … many of the pictures include habitat and action which is so great as it shows that the photographer is noticing all the different moods of the subject and the surroundings … a break from tigers is welcomed by the rest of the fauna and habitat showing that the photographer is not just tiger centric … some artistic pictures are included showing incredible eye he has developed” – Sanjeet Mangat, Wildlife Photographer
“A wildlife photographer accumulates many interesting stories while living deep forests at a stretch. Mehta makes use of his insider’s stories to turn the book interesting to the common readers. In the end, he conveys a nice message to the budding photographers” – Dr. Anup Kumar Das

 


A Decade with Tigers – Curtain Raiser

In the past 14 years I have documented the lives of some of the most iconic tigers of India. I am pleased to announce the launch of my book – A Decade with Tigers – which is a compilation of images and stories depicting love, romance, motherhood, rivalry and revenge in the world of tigers in the past decade. Here is a curtain raiser to the book.

Stay tuned for launch updates…

 

 


Tiger Diaries – June 2016

It has been a hectic but productive June till now. We started our work in Ranthambhore working on T60 and cubs when a news from Bandhavgarh caught our attention. A tigress called Spotty in the Tala zone of Bandhavgarh had given birth to her first litter. Weighing various pros and cons we changed gears and rushed to Bandhavgarh to start some extensive tracking for the newly seen cubs. A 7 day project resulted in some brilliant images of 2 month old tiger cubs for our guest who showed remarkable patience and perseverance in extreme weather conditions.

Monsoons showers have started hitting tiger parks and as we enter the last 10 days of the season lets wish the wild denizens of India a safe monsoon.

_74I0402_74I0454_74I8940_74I9098_74I9135_74I9213_74I9509_74I9609

 


December Marathon with Tigers

Winter photography in tiger parks is always special. The magical morning mist and the soft light filtering through the forest canopies makes you as a photographers look of images rather than tigers. I just completed a 1800 km marathon in central India covering various parks of Madhya Pradesh. The experience was not just about the Rajbehra cubs in Bandhavgarh or the Baghin Nala cubs in Pench but creating some awesome images in the stunning winter backdrops of central Indian forests.

A lot of work is yet to be seen and processed… sharing some of the images. This would probably be my last post for the year 2015. Wishing you all a very happy new year and great luck and light for 2016!

_74I3495

Rajbehra cub – Bandhavgarh

_A9R4883

Bandhavgarh

_74I3720

Leopard – Bandhavgarh

_74I3783

Baghin Nala cub – Pench

_74I3363

Rajbehra cub- Bandhavgarh

_74I3185

Spotty (female in Tala zone) – Bandhavgarh


Best of 2014-2015

It is the end of season and as I look back at the hectic 9 months, some of those glorious wildlife moments keep flashing in my head. With more than 150 game drives in Ranthambhore, the focus of the season was on Krishna and cubs. My brief fortnight-long stints in Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Corbett and Sunderbans were rewarding as well. Escorting some of the best photographers in business, it was a great knowledge sharing experience on the field. Though in most of the game drives I wasn’t shooting much since I was escorting and mentoring photographers, I did squeeze in time for some personal drives in Ranthambhore and those were the times my camera was in action the most.

Presenting a compilation of my top 14 wildlife moments for 2014-2015.

1. Krishna & Cubs – October 2013

The season started with Ranthambhore and the first glimpse of Krishna and her cubs in the band of golden morning light at Rajbagh remains edged to my memory till date. The experience lasted for not more than 10 mins but our gang of photographers created some dream images that by far are the best images of T19 and cubs from that time from October 2013.

October 2013 - Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

October 2013 – Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

2. The King & The Fisher – Nov 2014

Amidst the hysteria around T39 (Noor) and her cubs one fine morning in November 2014, a tiny kingfisher caught my attention. The background was a typical Ranthambhore habitat and resulted in this image. One of my favorites from the season. Worked on similar concepts whenever the opportunity was right. Infact over the next many months after shooting this, I did a lot of birding around tigers – from Kingfishers, the stone curlews, drongos, peacocks, robins. The first creation is normally the best creation and rest are more of duplications in order to better this.

The King & The Fisher

November 2013 – The King & The Fisher

3. In His Kingdom – Kanha – Dec 2014

Kanha in winters has always been special for photography. Not for tigers but because of the mist and the meadows. During one such game drive in Kanha, we bumped into the majestic Munna. My experiments with Tilt Shift lenses on tigers have helped me in creating some unique wide angle perspectives. The saal forest backdrop offered the perfect opportunity to pull out the glass from the bag.

December 2014 - In His Kingdom - Munna, Kanha National Park

December 2014 – In His Kingdom – Munna, Kanha National Park

4. A morning at Rajbagh – Jan 2015

There was something about that morning at Rajbagh. The soft morning light filtering through the mist was just enough for shooting this wonderful show put up by Krishna and her cubs at the edges of the lakes. Our gang of photographers were stunned in silence after this wonderful action packed sequence – probably the best action by this terrific family throughout the season. The soft light, the grand backdrops, the orange winter coats of the cubs… am sure the lensmen present that morning will vouch for this being probably the best tiger action of their lifetime.

Dancing to the tunes of Krishna cubs - Jan 2015

Dancing to the tunes of Krishna cubs – Jan 2015

5. The Winter Couple – Jan 2015 – Bharatpur

End of Jan, we took a small break from Ranthambhore and shot in Bharatpur for a few days. Despite of the low activity of birds in Bharatpur, I decided to focus on a subject I love to work with – the Sarus Cranes. Morning to evening sessions with Sarus led us to this beautiful pair of cranes that walked out in unison in the early morning mist of Keoladeo with the sun just popping out from behind deep in the horizon. As I looked through the view finder to shoot this image, I had goosebumps all over seeing this dramatic setting of the Keoladeo marshes.

The Winter Couple - Jan 2015

The Winter Couple – Jan 2015

6. Thunderbold Krishna – Feb 2015

The master hunter Krishna silently disappeared in the Rajbagh grasses one evening in Ranthambhore. Unaware of what is going to happen, my vehicle reached the spot and as I changed my equipments to focus on a group of cheetal grazing in a small patch of open grass, Krishna stormed out like lightning in the small patch of light dispersing the group in all directions.

Thunderbold Krishna - Feb 2015

Thunderbold Krishna – Feb 2015

7. Tiger Off-Springs – Ranthambhore – March 2015

It was a 30 mins sighting that morning at Rajbagh and not more than 5 mins of hardcore tiger action. Krishna cubs played like maniacs in that backlit set up. A storm of lenses surrounded them as the lake water splashed all around with the mother joining the play sequence.

Tiger Off-Springs - March 2015

Tiger Off-Springs – March 2015

8. Bears and Bears – April 2015

I remember this morning as one of my best game drives in the park. We were running after the mother T39 (Noor) while her cubs were already been seen by a flurry of vehicles in zone 1. In our pursuit we bumped into a different specie of a mother who walked on a forest floor bed full of palas (flame of the forest) flowers. Post this all the vehicles dispersed from the cubs location and we spent a nice peaceful exclusive time with T39 and her cubs.

Sloth Bear with cubs

Sloth Bear with cubs – April 2015

9. His First Catch – Ranthambhore – April 2015

A moment which will be engrained in my memory till my last breath. The inexperience male cub of Krishna (T19) attempted to bring down a cheetal. He struggled for more than 40 mins to kill the cheetal. A power-packed sequence but it was painful to see this through the view finder. Read the entire photo story on this blog – https://shivangmehtaphotography.wordpress.com/2015/05/03/the-first-catch/

The deer tries to escape the strong clutches

His First Catch – April 2015

10. Stripes – The Extreme Portrait – May 2015

Over the past few years, I have developed this taste of shooting extreme closeups of tigers. Scaling up the focal length to around 1000mm+, composition needs to be really precise. This summer, inspired by some frames and compositions from Tiger Dynasty (by Nalla Muthu) I wanted to go tighter than usual. I had a discussion with Nalla on his certain ultra tight compositions. God was kind to gift me with a calm and composed T24 sighting soon after those talks with Nalla where I made effective use of a 1000mm focal to create a series of super tiger compositions.

Shot just 20 hours before he killed a forest guard

T24 Ustaad – The extreme portrait – May 2015

11. The Ramganga Queen – May 2015

I normally don’t run after tigers in Corbett. However May 2015 was an exception. The Par tigress was obliging photographers with their dream Corbett images and I forced myself to join this race. A few misses and finally we caught her one morning in Dhikala.

The Corbett Queen - May 2015

The Corbett Queen – May 2015

12. The Cave Dwellers – Bandhavgarh – May 2015

The Patiha family has been controlling a major chunk of tiger sightings in Bandhavgarh throughout the season. We spent 1 morning with the 3 cubs in this cave set up which is one of the most unique habitat image series of tigers I have shot till date. The reddish rocks, the contours in the rocks, the gradients and patterns and the sparkling stripes made an interesting combo and the 10 odd images around this cave have been amongst the top backdrops for tiger photography for me.

Patiha cub in Bandhavgarh - May 2015

Patiha cub in Bandhavgarh – May 2015

13. Krishna Clan – Ranthambhore – May 2015

Over the months, it has been an experience the changing behavior of tiger cubs. The playful Krishna cubs were now displaying signs of independence by making their own odd kills and small fights showcasing dominance. But the attachment with the mother was seen time and again and during this morning in May 2015, 14 month old tiger cubs were caught suckling.

14 month old Krishna cubs suckling - May 2015

14 month old Krishna cubs suckling – May 2015

14. Star walked the ramp – June 30, 2015

The lakes of Ranthambhore can surprise you anytime of the day. Rains had an impact of the sightings of the park in the last few days of the park closure. It was the morning of June 30th and everyone was hoping for 1 final glimpse before the park closes for monsoons. We decided to take a final lap of the lakes before leaving and caught Star (T28) walking in the pristine backdrop of the fort and on a carpet of green. It was long and silent walk with no vehicles around. A befitting end to a season!

Star (T28) - Last tiger sighting of the park on June 30

Star (T28) – Last tiger sighting of the park on June 30


Bandhavgarh & Panna June 2015 – field report

My focus on T19 (Krishna) in Ranthambhore kept me away from one of my favorite hunting grounds in central India. I am very found of Bandhavgarh for its habitat, tiger photography potential and the people… working in this central Indian tiger heartland is always great fun. Made up for the entire season in the last 10 days as I was escorting my photographer guest from the UK. Our focus was the Patiha female and her three 8 month old cubs. Working on tiger cubs outside the Tala zone was a challenge and a different experience from my past Bandhavgarh endeavors. However we got 3 exclusive photo opportunities with the family over the 9 day period which were good enough for an excellent portfolio. More than the images tracking the family in the Patiha area and understanding some new areas of the park was a great learning experience.

Post Bandhavgarh, we spent a few days in Panna National Park and it was awesome to witness the success story of Panna. T1 – the queen of Panna – is in great shape with her 4th litter of 2 cubs. The park has some tremendous potential and is an excellent tiger habitat. Photographers should watch out for Panna – another excellent location with great photographic potential.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Fluctuating Fortunes

Sloth bear in Bandhavgarh

Tiger sightings in any national park of India have fluctuating cycles. There are times when multiple tigresses start breeding cubs and as a result sightings flourish as the summers approach. As the cubs grow up and start forming their own territories and females become solitary again & there is a brief dip period and the situation takes some time to normalize.

It was during this season of dipping summer sightings when I along with my friend Gautam Pandey visited Bandhavgarh National Park in the warm summer months of 2011. The tiger dynamics of the park were not very encouraging at that point of time as none of current cubs were around and queen Vijaya was still trying to find her ground in the Chakradhara meadows.

As we started our first drive in what was going to be a marathon run inside Bandhavgarh, little did we know that our tiger luck would be at abysmal levels in the days to come. After a few days of dry dusty drives, clouds of negativities surrounded us and we were just waiting to wrap up the shoot as soon as possible.

The heat made us ignore a basic thumb rule – when with nature, it is imperative to be positive and absorb nature in all its forms and shapes. Our 6th day started in a rejuvenating fashion as we stuck to some basics. Something was good about that morning as we started with no pre-defined strategies. In an unusual relaxed fashion we started a bit late and despite of the deliberated 15-20 minutes delay we were the first vehicle to enter the park gate. For a change the desperate cat-seeking prayers transformed into a mere ‘thank you’ to mother nature for making us experience this wonderful forest.

The sunrise over Ghodademon was refreshing and the rocky patterns on the upper reaches of the fort dazzled in morning light. The soft chirps of bush birds were live music to the ears at the vehicle sped leisurely across a forest buzzing with cheetals and langurs busy in their morning chores. Our days of disappointments were in the back-burner and the beauty of nature was touching our souls.

As we moved towards Mirchiani, a sudden movement across the stoned parked boundary attracted our attention. As soon as we breaked, a huge black ball of hair emerged out of the wall peeping right into the vehicle. The beautiful looking male sloth bear then climbed the wall inches away from our vehicle and took the comfort of a tree right next to road. He rolled, scratched himself against the hanging bark and spread inside the bamboo thickets.

The four minutes of bear action was not the best from a photography perspective but was enough to make up for the last 5 days. Nature is full of mysteries and spectacles that keep unfolding in every corner of wilderness. As children of this planet, the onus is on us to respect natural wonders rather than keep expecting and wishing that nature will fullfil all our demands.


A Royal Walkabout

Tiger Diary – Published by Tiger Nation

BANDHAVGARH, MAY 2012: Vijaya, like all mother’s, has up till now taken a careful approach to bringing out her gangly 6 month old kids in any formal way. She has preferred to keep them off roads skirting forests and meadows in her bid to protect them.

Not anymore. She set out to lead her family on a distinct Royal tour, sauntering contentedly along the very road that she has watched thousands of pilgrims move on high days and holidays, as well as countless visitors every day.

Her merry band of youngsters followed her quite contentedly, often stopping to play with one another, bite each other tail, or sideling up to mum to complain that they are bored of walking.

Mum though was on a mission, and from the Chakradhara meadows, she proceeded up the hill towards the fort’s main entrance and then up the 10th century carved stairs at Vishnu’s temple before vanishing into the forested hills behind.

Vijaya’s Royal walkabout suggest that she is perfectly comfortable with her ‘Princess’ status in the Tala range.


First time love in Bandhavgarh

Indrani (I9) at the Mahaman Dam

It was my 18th consecutive drive in Bandhavgarh National Park. Excessive VIP pressure in the premier Tala zone of the park had disturbed my tiger cub hunting project which had started with a bang during the first half of my visit. The development unleashed the explorer in me as I spent considerable time exploring and discovering lesser tracked areas of Bandhavgarh. The satisfaction of emerging with first photographic records of unrecorded stripes in these areas was immense.

The Easter weekend got the Nature Wanderers (NW) and Canon photography shutterbugs in the tiger land. A group of super enthusiastic photographers across the country and across age groups and since over the last 2 weeks my risks were paying rich dividends I decided to ride my luck again. With over 70 vehicles expected to crowd the Mahaman area during one the evenings of the Easter weekend because of the guaranteed presence of mating couple in the Mahaman dam area, I was wondering if it was a good idea to go after this couple.

The tourist pressure in the area forced me and my team to lay down a strategy of entering the Makhdee zone from a less accessed gate quite far of from the main entrance. Reports of the Blue Eyed male being sighted in the afternoon by the forest post further reinforced the decision to take the risk for if we manage to catch hold of the male it would be an exclusive sighting away from the crowd. The NW group was cooperative and agreed to jump into this plan and we all entered the forest with anxiety and anticipation.

I always believe that Nature plays an equalizer and 2 weeks of positive decision making and risks that were hitting the bulls eye backfired that evening. The Blue Eyed male had walked out of the park area to the nearby village. Vehicles around the Mahaman dam had a good sighting of the mating pair of tigers. However the spirits were still up because when in the wild, you need to be prepared for failures.

A persistant Jobi (M9 male) pushing for a mate

The next morning I decided to stick to the books and since the movement was evident in the Mahaman area we entered the forest in a routine manner. Within minutes of entering the park, frantic langur alarm calls at the Charger Point attracted our attention. I could faintly see a male tiger in the foliage and his trajectory was towards the road. The elephant mahout who was tracking the tiger had other ideas as he blocked the male and pushed him inside the forest. During the months of March and Apr this was the 8th incident I witnessed when forest officials obstructed the movement of a tiger without any reason.

As I was watching and cursing the dramatic turn of events at Charger Points a series of faint cheetal and sambhar alarm calls excited my driver. “Mahaman area sahib” he remarked. With just a exchange of glances we decided to quietly sneak off the area and rushed towards the Mahaman dam. A fully grown male and female were royally enjoying the early morning breeze. As more and more vehicles piled up at the location, the couple moved towards the foliage.

I had witnessed the legendary mating of Sashi (Bamera) and Vijaya (Kankati) last year but this particular act of mating looked very different. The female seemed to be disinterested and walked off as soon as the male made advances towards her. Every few minutes the female would walk away and for around a couple of hours we hardly saw any actual round of mating.

The identity of the pair was still in question. A section of the naturalist crowd present onsite felt it was Mukunda but the apparent body markings on the male were different from Mukunda (who later turned out to be the tiger blocked by the elephant early in the morning). The female was another question?

Tiger Nation reported later that the female is I9 (Indrani – last litter of Badhrashila female cubs). The male is reported to be Jobi (M9).

The sighting of the this couple continues to be prominent around the Mahaman area as I write this blog. Increasing tourist patrols and awareness levels definitely impacts wildlife positively. As the tiger season has progressed more and more new tiger identities have come into the limelight signaling the presence of stripes in the fringe forests of prime tiger habitats around the country.


Bandhavgarh @ 50mm

My 50mm hysteria continued after the first bit of experimentation in Corbett and this time the decisions were bolder for the subject and opportunities in question were rarer and the risk of missing out superb tight frames was higher. However trying this on the striped cats was great fun never-the-less. The reactions of the people around me was very amusing whenever I mounted this mini-glass on my camera. I remember that while I was creating a 50mm perspective of the devoted one eyed beauty Vijaya (Kankatti), someone in the crowd of tourist was murmuring in the background – “Seems he has forgotten to put his lens in excitement !”

Pleased to share some of the images created during my recent trip to Bandhavgarh National Park: