The tiger just stood there, not making any movement. Everyone swung their cameras towards it and started taking photos. A nearby group expressed fear about its proximity. Yet the tiger still disregarded our presence, as if it were used to human presence.
I, on the other hand, was ecstatic to see this rare creature in the wild. This was no zoo. It was a tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, Kanha National Park. This was a rare opportunity to observe tigers in their natural habitat, especially since there are only about 2,975 of them left in India as of 2020. Globally, fewer than 3,900 of these magnificent animals remain. About half of them live in India.
Into The Wild
We had been staying at a hotel within the reserve, which can be visited by flying to Jabalpur Airport and taking a taxi, or by train. However, most of the hotel rooms were inside large tents which were swarming with large insects. They kept finding ways inside despite the tents always being sealed and us slathered in mosquito repellent.
In fact, it became so bad that, on the last of our three-day experience, we had to move into the one proper hotel room we had rented. That too, was quite the ordeal as it looked as if it was not meant to house more than two people at a time. Yet there were six of us crammed into that space like fish in a can.
The Elephant Ride
One other notable experience during this trip was elephant riding. This was quite an adventure as well, even though no tigers were seen on that trip. This was a break from what we had been doing prior, riding around in a Jeep on dirt roads through the preserve. On the elephant, we were allowed much greater mobility as the elephant could traverse off road through the forest without hazard. However, that excursion ended up a disappointment to all, as no tigers were spotted.
All in all, this was certainly an exhilarating and overly positive experience and one I won’t soon forget.