In March, my delightful client Duncan Woodhead saw his first tiger on my Tiger Direct! tour. It was Maya, the young Tadoba female whose cubs have appeared here twice recently. In response to my posts Duncan got in touch and he has been kind enough to send me these lovely images of cats we saw on our tour.
The first two are of Maya, an absurdly obliging tigress who featured on my blog as long ago as 2012 (the first two photos in this post from 2012 are of an 18-month-old Maya, while she was still with her two litter-mate sisters, her brother and her now-deceased mother F1). In March this year Maya was roaming the park, frequenting two large males, one of whom became the father of her three cubs, each of whom probably suspects he is the father. Clever Maya. This was the moment Duncan and the other three clients in his jeep saw their first ever tiger.
The next day, as we drove into the core of the park, Duncan's jeep-mate Dave, a very gifted birder, yelped 'leopard' from the other side of the jeep to me. There right by the road was a leopard in a tree. The leopard climbed down from his tree, just as one I saw in Tanzania in January had done. I assumed he would slink away, in the manner of leopards everywhere. Instead he sat by the road and looked at us, then rolled on his back, completely unconcerned by our presence. Before crossing the road right in front of us, he waited for another jeep to arrive, so that he could walk brazenly between the two. A leopard with delusions of tigerhood and a phenomenal experience for us all. Except perhaps for the leopard; he seemed supremely relaxed about it.
On our first day in Pench my whole group saw a heavily pregnant Collar Wali, now mother of two surviving cubs from the litter of four to which she gave birth early in April. The same afternoon we saw one of two two-year-old male cubs from her previous litter which were frequently being seen at the time. As can be seen from Duncan's photos, the great-pawed cub was as concerned by our presence as the leopard had been in Tadoba.
The first tigers we saw together in Kanha were a mother and her four cubs, which crossed Sondar Meadow and went into nearby forest along a stream. Duncan's photos here show the female and one of her beautiful cubs.
There are no words for the privilege of seeing these sensational animals (and let's face it I'm usually pretty wordy). It is a privilege too to travel with clients who understand why my colleagues and I lead tours, who travel with love and respect for the wild landscapes we visit and the cultures which live in them, and who, in the long run, become friends. Thank you Duncan, for your lovely photos, and for reminding me of these privileges. I know these tigers and this leopard still walk with you every day. As they do with me.