Wild Escape 2014
At the break of dawn, the place was abuzz with adventurers waiting eagerly at the Turia gate of Pench national park. We were one such herd, excited to explore the wilderness. Over 40 adventurers had chosen to escape into the wild driving from Nagpur, the gateway of Tiger country.
The jungle greeting was in the air…birds chirped loud as the sunbeams shone on the forest floor – guiding our path into the wild. Adventurers ventured on different trails, as directed by their respective safari guides. Just about ten minutes into the safari, on a particular trail, a herd of deer began to call. The safari guides had their natural antennas up, awaiting the next jungle call…and then it followed… the langurs alarm call. The guides motioned for the drivers to stay put. We were expecting to see the big boss of the jungle but the jungle calls were now hinting at another wild cat, being in the vicinity. It could be a leopard but spotting this beauty is a rare as they are shy and swift. We had our eyes set in the direction of the call. And there it was a gorgeous leopard calmly crossing the path just in front of us. We followed the leopard until it disappeared in the wilderness. We were thrilled and now greedy to spot the tiger. We drove further on the trail and witnessed some of the best wild life in their natural habitat which was an engulfing experience. While we drove ahead, one adventure group spotted a tigress with her cubs. A leopard and a tiger, in less than half hour of the first safari, of the Wild Escape, what more could they want in the days to come! The jungle had welcomed us.
Afternoons and evenings by the bonfire were celebrated by adventurers exchanging their jungle tales, a practice we all embraced during this road trip. In the land of Mowgli everyone had their own jungle story.
As we left Pench, the place on which Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and its character Mowgli are based, some among us were overjoyed, some a little disappointed but hopeful to spot the big cat at the next destination – Kanha. Here is where everyone was certain to witness the tiger. On the fourth day of the road trip, at 5:30 in the morning, we were all up and about, at the Kisli gate of the Kanha national park. It was a cold morning, we could see the mist coming out of our mouths as we whispered, on sighting the 12-horned deer (popularly known as ‘Barasingha’). That morning driving into the jungle, we couldn’t help being mesmerized by the meadows.
As wheels rolled on different Tiger trails, some adventurers had a brief sighting of the Tiger in the grasslands, while one group saw a Tiger chase a deer. Another group, towards the second half of the safari was almost dosing when suddenly they were stumped to see a Tiger cub literally cooling off in a mini stream. The cat made no qualms in reiterating to the group who the boss of the jungle is, as it followed them for a good 12 minutes! That day just two groups missed spotting the tiger.
Wild Escape’s last safari drive into Kanha seemed the longest and spotting fresh pug marks, tree barks clawed by the big kitty (that’s how tigers mark their territory) and even tiger poo, didn’t make it any easy for the group who hadn’t spotted the tiger in both Kanha and Pench. Adventurers had their fingers crossed, hoping the jungle fairy would bless them but nothing was in sight for hours. Hearts began to sink. With the last half hour of the safari, the group headed towards the exit trail…..and there she was – a beautiful orange stripped tigress, watching us from the grassland. We silently cheered! A few meters away, as we excitedly drove forward, another fully grown tiger walked gracefully across the road in front of our safari jeep. We couldn’t believe our eyes. We were so overwhelmed that we didn’t care to capture the moment.
One of the guides during the safaris shared with us – “On a safari in the wilderness, it never is about what you want to see in the jungle, it’s what the jungle wishes to show you.”
Thrilled adventurers literally sang– ‘Jungle jungle baat chali hai…’