Thursday, March 14, 2013

Male Tiger in Kanha II

These are a few more photos of the male tiger that I previously posted about, the one Rajan miraculously found by one single alarm call in the distance.  There are several reasons that this sighting was my second favorite of the trip.  First was how impressive Rajan's ability to find it was - and that we were the only car.  When you are the only car, you can truly observe the animals without interference from humans - no stupid calls to get the animal to look your way, no talking and disturbing the animal, no cars harassing it while it tries to cross the road or do whatever else it is trying to can just watch the wild animal living its life.  Quietly.  Peacefully. 

On this particular day, when we found the tiger he was walking down the road.  Apparently tigers like the roads as they make for easy territory patrols.  This tiger stopped to smell, mark and spray several times.  I was getting photos of his butt, and once in awhile I could see his face, but no head on shots as he was walking away from us.  There was a point when he climbed up in a rock off the road to my left.  He was smelling and marking, and Rajan saw an opportunity to pass without disturbing him.  He told me to "Hold on" and then drove past the tiger.

At the moment we passed him, the tiger was standing on a rock approximately 5 feet up from the road.  I was in a jeep, and when we passed, the tiger and I were at eye level and looked into each other's eyes.  I knew that he could so easily drop down into the jeep - he was so close, just on the edge of the road.  He was so intensely beautiful, it was heart stopping.

Once we passed, we gave him plenty of space and he just calmly walked towards us.  We'd advance when he got close, to give him more space.  Just being with him in this way was really fantastic and if I were a wildlife photographer instead of a total amateur I would have gotten brilliant photos I am sure.  As it is I am not unhappy with what I got in the way of photos, but I will say that with tigers I had a harder time than with other animals.  You work SO hard to find them and they are SO awesome that the excitement of just seeing them is great and I didn't want to mess that much with taking photos, I wanted to look at him with the naked eye, meet his gaze with mine, and be present in the moment.  So although I did take photos, of course, in our 30 minutes alone together I also just enjoyed the moment - no interruptions, no distractions. 

These kinds of sightings are worth a lot of inconvenience, patience, and other things that go with wildlife travel.  Sure, it would be more exciting to watch him hunt than walk around marking territory - but I am never sorry to take what I get.  All animal behavior is interesting.  I'd never seen a tiger territory marking before other than on a documentary, and it was cool.

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