It all started about 5 years ago for us. Shailee wanted to visit a luxury property at Pench and we ended up booking our stay there in the month of February. Aaryan was about 4 years old then. He was already in love with animals as he would see me watching NatGeo and Animal Planet all the time. We ended up there with no idea about what the safari experience would be like other than knowing that it would be cold. The Taj is in the buffer and at times we had a Sambar deer right outside our cottage. Post our first drive we were supper thrilled seeing the flora and fauna and couldn't wait to get more of it on the subsequent drives. In spite of several drives we didn’t end up seeing the tiger on our very first trip to the jungle. But what did happen is that we fell in love with the jungle. The quest for the tiger continued and our next vacation was yet again planned in jungle and this time it was Kanha. We ended up doing about 6 safaris there also and did not see the big cat but the forest was simply magnificent and we ended up planning a trip to Bandhavgarh for our next vacation. During this process we realised that whether we got to see the tiger or not we were simply enjoying the entire journey from the beginning to the end. We were actually enjoying the pursuit.
We did feel a bit unlucky when others would see a tiger but unfortunately they were missing out on the larger picture and were really disappointed by the end of the drive when they didn’t see a big cat. The naturalists were also much happier knowing they were not under the pump and ended up sharing a lot of stories about the jungle with us which gave us a sense of attachment. It changed our perspective on the jungle and the safari experience. Once back in the city family and friends would keep asking us did you see the tiger? And when we would reply by actually describing the entire jungle experience to them and the stories of the guides and naturalists working there and their experiences and luckily for us they would also lose interest in just that one aspect of it – the tiger…
Today when we are about to sit into the jeep we always tell the driver “Bhaiya jungle dikhao, hume jungle dekhna hai”
The so called "DRY" safari...
Often on my way out of the park or at the lodges reception I often hear people saying it was a “dry safari”. What exactly is a dry safari? As per these people, a safari where you don’t get to see a tiger or a big cat is a "dry safari". Now a tiger is a tiger and a jungle is a jungle.
If you want to a guaranteed sighting of the tiger it is better to visit the zoo than to visit the jungle.
When one is only on the lookout of the tiger you miss the larger scheme of things in the jungle. The tiger is just one part of the ecosystem there is a lot more to see and observe as well. A single minded approach of the tourists also plays a role on the mindset of the naturalist not only does it put him under more pressure but also you miss out on beautiful birds, reptiles, smaller mammals etc.