My first Tiger in the Wild!!!

Trip Start Jun 07, 2008
Trip End Jun 28, 2009

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Flag of India  , Madhya Pradesh,
Thursday, November 20, 2008

Today I saw my very first tiger in the wild!!! I am very excited, because this is also the place where Indrajit saw his first tiger in the wild when he was 14 years old. We woke up very early again, before sunrise, so we could get in early to see the tigers. At this park, you can only enter after sunrise, so all the vehicles line up outside and then they get a number telling them which part of the park they can visit. We were all a bit worried when we got Zone 1, which is not the core zone where people have seen lots of tigers. We had to drive to a different gate. At first, we did not think we would see any tigers. We saw the tracks of a sloth bear (which I want to see!), and a wild boar, and lots of chettal deer and sambars, but no tigers. Just when I was about to give up hope, our guide from the park saw pug marks!!! Pug marks are the tracks of tigers. This was good, because it rained a little last night and that makes it harder to see tigers and tracks. We started following the pug marks along the road and just as we got to a hill, we saw a HUGE male tiger!!! It was misty, so we could just see him. He walked on the road in front of us for a while, then he went into the bushes and tried to jump up on a tree branch that was over 7 feet high! Then he crossed the road again and he marked his territory. He does this by peeing on a tree or bush. Then he actually pooped right in front of us! He started to lay down in the bushes right by the road, but when we started the vehicle, he got up and walked deep into the bush. It was amazing to see him! His name is Boca, because he has a broken canine tooth. Indrajit knows him, because he used to study the tigers around here.

Indrajit told me that the tiger's favorite food is porcupine, and the next favorite is wild boar, because both of these animals are very salty. However, they are both hard to catch. Tigers become maneaters if they eat a human because humans are also very salty and easy to catch. Indrajit also told me that he has seen a tiger jump right over an elephant because it felt trapped by a lot of elephants looking at him. Another time, a tiger almost ripped a mahout's arm because she thought her cub was on top of the elephant. Tigers are very strong.

Indrajit told me that you can identify tiger's by the marks on their faces. He also told me that tigers are very camouflaged in the jungle because they have stripes. There is lots of bamboo in the forest and when it dies, it turns blackish gray and looks like tiger stripes, which helps the tiger. Indrajit let me borrow his book about Indian animals so I can learn more about the tigers and other animals. He used to have a wildlife camp for kids - it sounds like it was really fun.

We also saw some more pug marks of a different male tiger, but could not find him. So Pravid took us to the elephant camp to see some of the elephants. The park uses elephants to track tigers and the camp is one of the only places in the park where you can leave your vehicle. We got to see a tiny baby elephant, only 2 months old, and his mother and another female elephant and her 2 year old baby. The mahout (that is the person who takes care of the elephants) got the baby to come right over to us, but he was very shy. We had breakfast there and then drove back to our lodge. I can't wait to see tigers again!

This morning after our drive, Dad and I played Destination Delhi. It is a board game where you are a taxi driver and have to go to places all over Delhi and get fares. It was fun but some of the places are really hard to find. I won both times we played.

After lunch, we went on our third game drive to see tigers. Luckily, we were the very first vehicle inside the park this afternoon, so we could see pug marks easily. We followed some for a while, and we saw langur monkeys, more deer, and a Jungle Cat. The jungle cats are very rare and small, just a little bigger than a housecat but with a fatter tail. It looked a lot like our cat Phillip. That was cool.

We sat waiting to see two cubs and their mother for a while but they were hiding in the forest. When we headed back, suddenly we saw a vehicle waving at us like crazy so we followed at full speed over bumps and everything. When we got there, we saw a tiger walking in the forest. It felt really cool to see him. Then lots more vehicles starting coming, and soon there was about 20 of them, all shouting and moving around and trying to see the tiger. It was the mother and two cubs, and we saw each of them walking in the forest, plus we saw lots of people trying to see them. It was crazy! It was very different from this morning, because we were the only people there this morning and it was so quiet.

The ladies from the village were there at dinner to show us how they make food in clay pots and how they make chapatis, rotis, and naan. They also roasted a whole chicken under the ground in a banana leaf. That was cool. I liked the tandoori chicken the best. Some men and women from the village also came to sing and play drums - we all danced with them around the fire which was really fun.
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