But time and again, in the past one year, I have found myself in the middle of a thick jungle, not by choice but by chance, screening the foliage to catch a sight of the orange and black stripe of the king of Indian jungle, the Tiger, graciously strolling by – with my camera readied for action, mounted with the only good quality lens I own – a 11-16mm ultra-wide-angle lens!!
I may be the only guy in the whole world who goes for Tiger safari with an ultra-wide lens, but as luck would have it, never did I have a case to be disappointed with my equipment at the end of any of those trips, because I never saw a Tiger.
Recently my company decided to take us out for a two-day trip. Since many of our European and American colleagues, including first-time visitors, also joined us for the trip, we wanted to show them something unique, something which they don’t get to see in their country.
We thought we could show them a Tiger in the wild. What else can be more unique than our royal Tigers? Although it may have been easier to show them a tiger stripe-printed underwear (boxer shorts) flashing below a high-hoisted lungi in one of the market streets in Bangalore, which in itself is unique, we chose to show them a real Tiger, and once again I was back in the wild, with my wide lens.
We were in the middle of a monsoon season when we visited Nagarhole National Park. Heavy downpour every evening ensured the jungle remained rich in green and lusciously dense.
News: According to the latest reports, Nagarhole forest has the highest density of Tigers in the whole world with 72 Tigers and 119 Leopards.
Every time I go for a wildlife safari, I cheer myself saying that a forest isn’t just about the wild lives it houses, but the sheer beauty of nature itself is worth turning a camera at and for that I’m very well equipped.
We were in the middle of a monsoon and heavy downpour every evening ensured the jungle remained rich in green and lusciously dense.
Heavy mist hung over the canopy and the forest was shrouded in monsoon glory.
Monsoon isn’t the ideal time for a wildlife safari, obviously. It’s extremely difficult to spot animals through the thick cover of trees. Even after two hours of driving into the forest we still didn’t see anything worthwhile. Deers, peacocks and wild boars were there everywhere, but no sign of even Elephants.
Our guide and van driver trying to remove a large tree branch which had fallen across the path. I got down to help, but ultimately we abandoned the path and took another route which resulted in my first Leopard sighting in the wild.
The previous morning people had seen a Tiger and a Leopard on the same trip but our hopes were already waning. And then, we saw a Jeep stopped a little ahead on our path and a group of people seriously watching something on a tree. Our van slowly rumbled on to the Jeep and pulled up behind it.
“Leopard” our guide whispered. It was like a priest suddenly announcing to his frenzied congregation, “God is here”. In hushed silence and our heart skipping several beats in excitement, we rushed to the window to look in the direction pointed by the guide. It took us a while to train our eyes and spot the guy sleeping on a low tree trunk. The tree was too far even for my eyes let alone a wide-angle lens. It was like God hiding behind the curtains – just the shadows. All we could see with our naked eyes were one large patch of dark shadow (leopard) sitting over a horizontal patch of shadow (tree trunk). There were discussions about whether there were two Leopards or just one. Somebody claimed they saw two tails, but one body.
All I could do with my UWA lens was photograph the people who were photographing the Leopard.
It was just one Leopard – binoculars proved that. Luckily in the group, we had somebody with a telephoto lens. My manager took the below pic with his Canon 100-400.
Here’s that Leopard. Photo Courtesy: Nehal Naik
In the end, it totaled up to a satisfying experience. It was disappointing that we couldn’t show the Americans and the Europeans our national animal, but then those guys cannot tell a Tiger from a Leopard so it was okay.
Having seen a big mammal in the wild for the very first time, I’m inspired to think beyond landscape photography. Don’t be surprised if you see a ‘kidney for sale’ ad on my Facebook page in the coming days.
P.S: Our safari was organized by Red Earth Resorts which is on the banks of the river Kabini and this is where we stayed for two nights. To know more about them, click here: redearthkabini.in