Our stay in Pench was at this place called as VILLAGE MACHAAN. Gypsies were booked through the hotel for the safaris at Pench. Next day morning, our safari was through the Turia gate. This gate is very popular among the tourists. Raju BharweJi was our guide and we had a driver who was equally enthusiastic as our guide. RajuJi was as good as Nain SinghJi in Kanha. We soon came to know about the well known tigers/tigress' here in Pench. "Baghinnala Wali female", "Collar Wali female", and 2 male tigers. On further questioning we found out that these were the first litter of a very bold tigress called as "Badi Maa". "Badi maa" as fondly called by the Pench locals is sadly no more now. But she has a legacy of her own and had a record territory of approximately 44 sq.km. , the largest ever by a female tigress in India. The "Collar Wali female" also had a very rare feature, it is the only tigress to have given birth to 5 cubs at a time of which all have survived and now are fully grown. Pench as a forest is very different from Tadoba or Kanha. It is an open jungle with dense overgrowth of bushes all around, and some lovely places which are very dense and could be called as a "green tunnel". A nice effort made but no sighting even after such efforts was the only disheartening thing till then. Then came the most exciting part of the entire trip, the afternoon safari. You will come to know why I'm suddenly calling this the most exciting part of the trip. We began the afternoon safari on a very positive note because even after 4 safaris we were not able to sight a single tiger. The guide for our Turia zone safari was Sukhram DhurweJi. He was a perfect example for a positive man. Right from the start of this safari DhurweJi was extremely confident of a sighting and kept saying that even he wanted to see a tiger since it was a holiday the next day, and he did not have a shift the day after that. Hearing something like this from a man who sees the Tiger everyday was indeed a surprise. He told us many stories about the tigers of that region. He told us many stories about his previous job that was of a "Khalasi" in the steep hilly meadows of the forest at Pench. By a khalasi, I mean that he is a keeper of the local power stations at that region. Also this man kept on saying that he was just speaking but words cannot be enough to satisfy a tourist and his main aim was to spot a tiger. We spotted almost all the animals at Pench except the sloth bear which is a nocturnal animal, and usually wanders only in the night. In a sequence we saw spotted deer, a group of jackals, a whole herd of wild dogs, a fully grown male sambhar deer,a female neelgaay and some bison and sambhar deer quenching their thirst at baghinnala. The only animal left was the tiger, and we wanted to see it. Just minutes after seeing the last jackal we came across a chaurasta(a place where 4 roads converge) where there were almost 11-12 vehicles waiting. Suddenly DhurweJi rose up from his seat and pointed his finger into the dense overgrowth where we could see the face off the tiger. Initially we mistook this for the famous "Collar Wali female" but later DhurweJi recognised it as a male tiger which turned out to be a 4 year old child of the "Collar Wali female". There are points about this tiger
- This is the first time that the tiger which we saw was to be sighted alone and in the territory of its mother.
- This tiger was sighted for the first time after it had seperated from its mother.
- It gave us an excellent sighting and an experience of a lifetime, I will reveal the reason soon.
There was a forest ranger and some forest officials on two motorcycles and about 12 gypsies enjoying the lovely sighting of this beauty. To be very honest a we saw a tiger royally resting in its habitat. We loved the tiger and were by its side in proximity for about 45 minutes before all the vehicles started reversing and making their way towards the exit point as the clock was inching towards 6.00 pm (The vehicles and the guide are fined if they dont make it to the exit checkpost before 6.00 pm) . At half past 5, we were not yet ready to make the move out of this place and wanted to wait for the tiger to cross the road and go into the dense jungle. By then we were the only vehicle near the animal. No forest ranger was close by and we could stay on. At exactly 5.35 pm, the tiger rose up and started moving towards the other side of the road, but coming as a surprise it settled at the boundary of the road towards our right side. We were really worried as we cannot speed past the animal when it is just at the boundary of the road (It is a risk of the animal attacking). We waited, but the tiger was totally unaware of its surroundings and what was happening around it as it continued to peacefully rest just beside the road. After another 5 minutes it started crossing the road, and we felt relieved as the tiger was advancing towards the denser part of the forest, but the twist in the tale comes now, this tiger just crossed the road and now settled at the left boundary of the road. DhurweJi's reaction to this scene is epic and i have recorded the same on video. After a couple of minutes the tiger rose again and this time to our relief it really started moving towards the jungle. Now the most awaited part of my entire purpose of this excerpt starts, and indeed it is the most memorable experience that I will remember throughout my life. As the tiger royally walked towards the jungle, our driver Pawan JaiswalJi revved up the accelerator and to our sudden surprise the tiger stopped its movement and turned back. It was staring and looking into our eyes, it was clearly disturbed. DhurweJi asked the driver to slow down the vehicle to avert any attack by the tiger as it seemed very fierce and scared. The dangerous thing about it was that it was only 4-5 years old and still not fully mature. So he could attack anytime and I doubted he had an intention to attack. And my doubt turned into a reality, he slowly advanced towards the vehicle. At this time he was precisely about 4-5 metres away from the vehicle, which is randomly a pounce away in a tiger's terms. He quickly paced his steps and moved towards the vehicle, there was no movement either from the guide and driver or from us. We were glued to the seat and holding the handle tightly. In about 2-3 seconds time, he had stopped moving and continued his way into the jungle. Things were back to normal and we had just experienced something that no one might have even thought of. We were in a state of surprise for about 10 minutes and the driver had already consistently clocked a speed of 60 kmph, as compared to the permitted 20 kmph to reach the exit checkpost faster. At exactly 6.01 pm we had reached the exit point and had just experienced a very unique sighting of "THE ROYAL BENGAL TIGER". The ferocious look of the tiger still hovers in my mind whenever i think of it. This still gives me goosebumps and indeed it was a lifetime experience.