1. How it all started …
This was one of the “most unplanned” trip that I ever made! It got over in just 2 weeks from initial idea to finish!
I first read about the 5 Tiger cubs of Collarwaali Tigress of Pench, in a IndiaMike thread by Abheek Ghosh titled “Documenting the growth of 5 Tiger cubs in Pench Tiger Reserve : 2011-2013” in last week of April-2011.
I was really impressed by the large and zoomed-in pictures of Tigers & Tiger-cubs posted by Abheek. I then went to his T-BHP link to see more detailed posts in a much older thread on that forum. I was very impressed by his pictures! It was clear this young Nagpur based Cardiologist had a huge passion for Tigers and other wildlife in the Reserves of Pench, Kanha, Tadoba etc.
But what made me sit up and rush off to Pench was an amazing 3-part BBC documentary Videos on YouTube: “Tiger - Spy in the Jungle” I was told this was a huge 3 year project for a team from BBC, camped in Pench to shoot the story of Charger (a male-tiger), Badi-Mada a tigress and her newborn cubs. Must have been a huge effort to shoot and edit this classy documentary! Abheek had posted the YouTube links in that thread. Here they are again:
If you can’t go to Pench to see Collarwaali’s cubs … its OK. But, don’t miss seeing these 3 super videos in full! It is surprising how each of these Videos is exactly 59Mins & 14Secs! BBC perfection?
By 5th May, I was pretty decided about going to Pench. I talked to Doc Abheek on phone and he suggested I come to Pench the weekend of 14-15th May. And to plan for 4-day stay with 6-7 safari drives into the Reserve to have a good chance of sighting tigers. He said to budget Rs 3000/- for each Safari drive and Rs 2500/- for Hotel & Food per head, per day and plus the travel to-and-fro to Nagpur, of course. It looked like a big Rs. 20-25K outlay for a 4-day trip!
Abheek also said that up to 6 passengers can go in one Safari Jeep; but it was a good idea to restrict to 3 or 4 max to give enough room for comfortable photography. He said he would join us for some of the Drives and share his expertise on Tiger spotting and shooting Tiger pictures. And he would fix 'Bablu' and his Gypsy for us. He said Bablu had a real keen eye to spot wildlife and good intuition about where to find them in the Pench forest.
I called Sadanand (SK) to ask if he was interested in seeing the Tigers. He readily agreed to come. I went to MP-Tourism site and booked online an AC room at MP Tourism’s Kipling Court at Pench. Train Tickets were just not available and so booked to & fro by air.
2. Reached Kipling Court, Pench
Saturday, 14th May 2011: We landed at Nagpur around 1:30PM and the AC Indica-Vista sent by Kipling Court was waiting for us. We reached Kipling Court (KC) by 4:00PM.
The hotel was pretty nice, well-maintained. With a nice garden and even a swimming pool! I didn’t expect a hotel, so near a Wildlife Park, to have have a swimming pool and so didn’t bring my swimming trunks. Weather was hot 42*C in the afternoons and a swim in the evenings would have been real nice. KC food was pretty good too and included in the room rate - all meals - breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner.
We relaxed for the rest of the day, just exploring the areas around the hotel and went to sleep early; as we had to wake up at 4:30AM and get to the Park Gate for our first Safari drive at 5:30AM
3. Getting ready for the First Safari drive into the Park …
Safari-1 (15th may 2011, Sunday): Doc Abheek picked us up in his car from KC at 5:00AM and took us to the Park gate just 2 Kms away. His 2 NGO friends came with us in our Jeep and Abheek went in another Jeep with some other visitor friends.
We had a very good Guide, Motiram, allotted to us today, and he pointed out many birds and animals along our allotted route for the drive. We went to an area called Pyorthadi. And circled around that area. We saw many animals & birds including a glimpse of a Tiger-cub (next page).