Up early for the 0600 hrs Air India ATR 42 flight to Jablaphur.....it's a prop driven plane and Jablaphur Airport appears as an old WWII aistrip, but somewhere is hidden an active military base.
A four hrs from Jablaphur to Kanha Tiger Reserve and into our rather lavious accommodations at the Tuli Tiger Resort. We get to met with our guide/tracker - Rajan who is best described as the 'best of the best' at Kanha and is high demand by many officials & VIPs.
Our afternoon trip into Kanha is pretty straight forward (along with heaps of other vehicles). A short distance into the park we come across a herd of India Gaur or Bison. Certainly not intimidated by tourists or vehicles.
Rajan certainly has us peg right from the start as serious wildlife people and quickly takes us away from the 'hordes' of tourist jeeps loaded with people who cannot understand the need for quiet. A very bumpy track over a hilltop and down into the back meadows. Shortly after reaching the meadows, Rajan stops and listens to some of the alarm calls coming tfrom the spotted deer and langur monkeys...tiger!!!
Through a clearing in the jungle about 200yds away we spy a wild tiger slowly making it's way around the hill. Photographs are a bit hard given the distance and thick grass but the excitement of tracking our first tiger is enough...on our first drive even.
Rajan assures us we will do better in the coming days , so we leave before the 'hordes' catch on. The rest of the drive is spent getting ourselves orientated to the areas and the various wildlife.....checking on pug marks alongside the roads and deteermine whether they are male or female. Learning tracking and the various sounds of the jungle all adds to the excitement and understanding of 'tiger tracking' and the difference between seeing and not seeing a tiger. The other 2 factors are patience and absolute quiet.
At the 2nd entrance to Kanha, you will find a large bayan tree...home to 8 spotted owlets. It's almost mandatory to stop and check how many can be found in the hollow of the main trunk - 1 on day 1.
A quick stop at the local bottleshop for some Kingfisher (80RS - 500ml can) and back for another currry dinner. It's an early to bed as the morning drives start at 5.30am with a 6am kick off at the main gate. You most definitely don't want to be last in a queue of 70 or more jeeps.