As has likely become apparent by now, going on safari in India involves being constantly covered in a layer of fine dust, a lot of silence staring at nothing particularly interesting and considerable jostling for position should anyone manage to find a live animal in the wild… If you have always imagined yourself on stage in “Waiting for Godot”, this is your moment to shine 😉
You definitely need some patience and if you are a prima donna who doesn’t like getting dirty, it’s likely better to stay at a five star hotel in one of the major cities. But it is absolutely worth the hours of boredom and giving up washing your hair because it seems pointless. Even though I couldn’t get a beer, Tadoba was my favourite tiger reserve. Since we went to FOUR, I was party to a lot of shop talk about tiger reserves. Tadoba is definitely more under the radar and I gather it is a bit of a renegade park compared to the more established ones.
As noted earlier, the parks are divided into zones with separate gates. Officially, you have to stay in the zone that corresponds to your gate. Tadoba was my first park so I was still very naïve about this whole tiger tracking experience so these are not statements of fact, just deductions I made by eavesdropping on other conversations as the tour progressed. I think our driver may have taken us out of the zone we were really supposed to be travelling in so that we could find tigers…
In any event, we DID see tigers! Pretty much every safari. I was completely spoiled by travelling with and beyond in Tanzania during the migration and seeing lions 10 times on 10 safaris so I quickly realized I had to dial my expectations back and be grateful if I saw a sole tiger for more than two minutes – and if it was close enough to get a photo where one could tell for sure it WAS a tiger.
As noted, our first day was more boot camp to see how you fared under duress and the tiger we spotted was underwhelming. Day two, however, rewarded us with a close up of a tiger crossing the road. Hard to get great photos but that was definitely a TIGER!
Things got a little light on the tiger front after that so the pressure was on when we set out on our final game safari at Tadoba. In the lodge, I had read about a female tiger that had been born in the tiger reserve and was apparently nonplussed by groups of humans madly trying to take photos of her. The article merely seemed to be a taunt.
Because I was growing tired of lemonade and there was a mini fridge in the room, the staff kindly provided me with a small container of milk so that I could take advantage of the chai I bought in Delhi. It tasted so good I decided I should have a second cup. I strongly advise you not to drink tea before you go on safari!
Tea is a major diuretic and I was now about to be subjected to three or four hours of being shaken silly in a jeep in a situation where hiding behind a bush might involve you being mauled by a random tiger. Generally, bathroom facilities in India are challenging so I thought I could make it… Of course, I should have said something to the guide instead of trying not to take the safari off-course…
I was surviving and knew I could make it back to camp but we still hadn’t found a tiger and Clemens was very disappointed. By that point, finding a bathroom was a lot more exciting than finding a tiger so I was trying to send mind waves to just stop looking and head to camp.
But, no, that was not to be. Instead, we went off on some Indiana Jones mission to a part of the park we
had not yet seen. I prayed there would be no tiger so we could drive just as fast back to the lodge. It was really close to closing time and I knew we had to get out there very soon.
My prayers were not answered – but Clemens were 🙂 It was an incredible sighting. I wish I could have enjoyed it more. Not only was my bladder ready to explode but I ran to the end of my memory card so was frantically trying to delete photos so I could get some photos of the tiger. So, let my bad judgement allow you to make better choices. Limit your liquid intake BEFORE you go on safari. Suck it up and use a yukky bathroom and stop the safari if you really need to. And make sure your memory card is not almost full!
But even if you screw up like I did and you are in physical pain, seeing a tiger in the wild will be worth it. Even if you don’t get a photo, you have SEEN it. But I did get a photo – I’m a tough girl… 😉