You can't make a difference standing on the periphery hoping for things to change. That's probably why Aircel and Sanctuary Asia magazine have joined forces to work towards the cause of tiger conservation. As I write this, they are reaching out to kids as part of the Save Our Tigers initiative. Children from different schools and cities are working behind the scenes to create awareness about saving our tigers. But is that enough? Can human interaction with the wild really help change things for the better? I went into the wilderness with a lot of unanswered questions some of which I am still trying to find answers to.
"So did you spot a tiger?" That was the first question I was asked by friends and family when I returned from my three-day trip (June 13 to 15) from Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh (MP). "You went all the way there, and did not see a tiger," disappointed voices and sarcasm followed. But ignoring all of that, and still trying to explain the surreal experience I tried to piece together the events of my trip to satisfy their curiosity. Not to say, I was not disappointed just that you make peace with reality after a point. And what's that you may ask? Well, the realisation that if you want to spot a tiger on a tiger safari, then you have to save our tigers.
Being part of a tiger safari for the first time
Spotting a tiger is just sheer luck because of their endangered status. I was hoping some of that would rub off on me, and I would see the tigress with her cubs who had made an appearance a day before near a pond. However, sadly that was not to be. While Day 1 saw us sighting spotted deers a dime a dozen, at every turn, with peacocks, pen hens and langurs for company, Day 2 did get better,with the sighting of a wild boar, while Day 3 got us closer to a pack of dholes or wild dogs who are known to take on tigers in a pack and sometimes even succeeding in overpowering them. As the evening passed, we hoped and prayed that we would spot a tiger, but that was not to be.
What the trip taught me?
While in the concrete jungle you may have control over a lot of things, in the wilderness you are on your own. At the mercy of Mother nature and an easy prey for the wild if you choose to break the rules. You have no control over what happens, so play along by its rules. Respect the wilderness and the silence, don't enter it with an agenda, and don't try to force things to get your way. As a tourist on a safari, you want to get that memorable shot that you can take home, but that's not what the experience is about. The jungle does not end or begin with the tiger. But it does play a very important role in the chain of events. You take tigers away, and eventually, the deer population will explode, the forests will suffer, and the rivers will dry up or erode the landscape. Leave tigers in place, and you restore the balance. And then maybe, just maybe, you won't have to depend on a stroke of luck or good fortune to spot a tiger.
How to get there?
You can take a train from CST to Nagpur and then a cab to a nearby resort or take a flight which is little over an hour. We stayed at Mahua Vann Resort, which is close to Pench Tiger Reserve. There are many other resorts in the vicinity that you can choose from. You can book a safari online. The guide and jeep will be assigned to you once you reach the selected gate. During summer the safari timings are morning 6.30 am onwards and evening 4 pm onwards. The national park is closed from July 10 to October 15. It opens again during winters. For more details log onto http://www.penchnationalpark.com