Thursday, 5 March 2015


A tigress walked into my life at eighteen minutes past six this morning, a female known officially as P2 and affectionately as Maya, meaning illusion. She strolled, confident, along the road ahead of our jeeps for no less than an hour and forty-two minutes, stopping sometimes to sniff a tree, then to spray it with a swift lift of her tail, stopping once to drink from a chai-coloured puddle, disappearing once for a few minutes into dense bamboo. At thirty-eight minutes past seven she slumped into the road ahead of us and twenty minutes later - precisely - she stood and wandered on. Two minutes afterwards, on the dot of eight, she slipped between bamboo stands and was gone.

I am a guest naturalist at Svasara, a pretty, friendly lodge by the Kolara gate of Tadoba National Park. For the ten days before my own Naturetrek Tiger Direct group arrives, I have been taken under the generous wing of Ranjit and Nandita and their team of naturalists, and put to work guiding the lodge's guests. Yesterday in the afternoon my four Indian guests from Pune saw chital, sambar, wild boar and many birds. This morning they saw, for more than an hour and forty minutes, their first tiger, relaxed, about her own business along a jungle road.

At breakfast, by the Navegaon gate, from where a whole community has recently been moved, for the safety of the village and its livestock, and hence the safety of the tigers, I ask Svasara naturalist Jignesh about our tigress. From her face I had guessed her age at four years. Jignesh tells me she is five. 'When were you last here?' he asks. 'In 2012,' I reply. 'Did you see the female with four well-grown cubs at Pander Pouni?'

I did. I have seen this tigress three times before, as a youngster. And many times since in my mind.

Cats seen in 2015
cheetah Acinonyx jubatus fearonii            3
serval Leptailurus serval serval                3
leopard Panthera pardus suahelicus        2
lion Panthera leo nubica                          78
snow leopard Panthera uncia                   3
jungle cat Felis chaus                               1
tiger Panthera tigris tigris                          1

A worried tiger at the Navegaon gate

Said tiger's footprints

Genuine tiger's footprint, a male


  1. You sure it was eighteen minutes past six Nick?!! Must have been awesome!