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Old 25th April 2011, 23:59   #1
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Default Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

In April 2011, a landmark judgment was passed in our house to allow a 16 month baby to travel for 10 days away from her mommy. This successful trip will help fuel various adaptations in the future travel plans. I never imagined how resilient my daughter is and that she could so easily cope up with the travel and the hectic schedules we had.

We managed to cover Pench, Kanha and Tadoba national parks. Overall, it was a pretty successful trip with some decent pictures to add to my collection. We spotted 7 of the striped cats, 10 jackal sightings, 2 wild dogs, two sloth bears along with numerous other animals like the barasingha, neel gai, langurs, sambars, chitals and gaurs. A few of the birds we sighted were Long Billed Vulture, Grey Headed Fish Eagle, Rufous Tree Pie, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Grey Hornbill, Flameback Woodpecker, Rose Ringed Parakeets, Sandpiper, Brahminy Ducks, Magpie Robin, Indian Roller, Red & Grey Jungle Fowl, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Serpent Eagle, Collared Owl, Owlet, Shikra, Green Bee Eater, Large Egret, Black Headed Ibis and a lot of Jungle Mynas.

This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the support from Gozu (wifey), Pozu (daughter) and Elly (an old friend). I’m sure Elly has picked up some new skills in handling babies which will help him in the future!

Here are the four travelers: Me, Pozu, Elly and my black monster


How It All Started!

The trip idea emerged out of a silly conversation we were having (wifey & me) over the number of excess leaves I had to burn out for this year versus the shortage of leaves she had in her account. Usually all our trips have been together and after the baby it was crucial that it stayed that way due to all logistics involved. We already had a 3 day trip planned to Kabini with my sister’s family and the thought was to extend my leave and cover the parks in central India as well. The timing was perfect in April since I had a lot of work commitments in May and then it would have to wait until October when the parks open after the rains.

My wife couldn’t have managed her work from home for two full weeks and so the adventure part was that the baby now gets to be with daddy for a full 10 days. I had a very old college friend accompanying me on the trip and she’s used to seeing him around since he’s also a neighbor. My daughter had just completed 16 months and we were going to test her adaptability in unknown territories without her mommy. It was a risk, but you wouldn’t know it unless you took the risk!

The route map (includes the trip to Kabini)



Risk Mitigation

The major risk areas identified were:

Travel – This was a very low risk item as my daughter was quite used to traveling 5-6 hours at a stretch and felt quite comfortable in her baby seat. I wasn’t very concerned on the travel part except for the first and last day when we’d be doing 1100 kms at a stretch.

Stay – Unlike our trips where we just land up at the place and find a stay option. I had to make sure the bookings were done prior to departure to avoid any last minute surprises. Once the bookings were done, this wasn’t a risk at all.

Food – She’s been a non-fussy eater and had regular meal timings etc. I would need to carry all the ration for her meals and get someone to cook it at the hotels. Milk supply was in tetrapak sachets of 200ml which was just the right size for her need. This was still a medium risk but could be managed with a bit of diligence in observing her eating schedules.

Weather – It was April and there were no prizes for guessing that MP will be scorching hot. We had to make sure that she doesn’t get cooked while on the safaris and that she got peaceful sleep in the night. I bought her 10 sets of white cotton kurta-pyjamas which were designated to do the safari duty. All staying options were chosen so that she has no inconvenience back at the room.

Separation Anxiety – This was the biggest unknown for us. She’s used to having her mommy out during the day but this was 10 days without seeing her. As with any other project, there was a BCP in place for this one. Nagpur was decided as the safe evacuation point if the little one couldn’t handle the separation, my wife would fly to Nagpur in case the need arises.

Emergencies – I had her stock of medicines and all that she may need. Nagpur was again the evacuation point for any emergency and the response would be “Abort the trip” if there was any such situation.

Planning the trip

My initial thoughts were to cover all major national parks in MP since we don’t get time to do these places often. So the original plan was to cover Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench and then spend some time in Tadoba as well. With 10 days in hand, all four places were becoming a bit of an issue with not much time at each of these locations. For a fulfilling wildlife experience, you need to do atleast 4-5 drives at each place. Moreover, Bandhavgarh had no safari bookings for the Tala Zone which meant that I had to leave it out of the plan for this time. After a bit of research and some help from the TBHP members, I had finalized my plan and it was time to rock and roll.

April 10 – 13: Spend time with family at Kabini
April 14: Leave for Nagpur – 1100kms
April 15: Leave for Pench and do the evening safari – 100kms
April 16: Stay at Pench for morning/evening safaris
April 17: Do the morning safari at Pench and reach Kanha for evening safari – 200kms
April 18: Stay at Kanha for morning/evening safaris
April 19: Stay at Kanha for morning/evening safaris
April 20: Leave for Tadoba and reach for the evening safari – 420kms
April 21: Stay at Tadoba for morning/evening safaris
April 22: Stay at Tadoba for morning/evening safaris
April 23: Stay at Tadoba for morning/evening safaris
April 24: Back to Bangalore – 1100 kms

Total Kms for the trip – Approx 3200kms
Overall budget for the trip – Approx 75k (all inclusive for two adults)


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Last edited by Rehaan : 26th April 2011 at 11:41. Reason: Please take a look at the mod note that has been added to the end of your post.
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Old 26th April 2011, 00:59   #2
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

An interesting start Amol. Glued...

Don't forget to post pics of the 'shooting' hardware...!
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Old 26th April 2011, 01:01   #3
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

All wishes for a safe and sound journey ,especially with your Princess on board the BEAST.
good plan of yours especially the Food bit and Stay bit and also the emergency back up plan.
Sorry but couldn't help,quite a contrasting pic of the chubby pretty little baby with two 'bearded' men and a black beast.
Looking forward to the journey and the accompanied pics.

Last edited by DicKy : 26th April 2011 at 01:04.
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Old 26th April 2011, 01:08   #4
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

This trip has already been done and completed. The log is being written now..

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Originally Posted by DicKy View Post

All wishes for a safe and sound journey. Looking forward to the journey and the accompanied pics.
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Old 26th April 2011, 01:11   #5
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Default The Journey Begins

Day 1: Bangalore To Nagpur (1120kms)

I reached home at 10pm on April 13 after dropping my sisterís family to the airport. We had most of the stuff packed but there were still some loose ends that needed attention. Finally I hit the bed at midnight, only to get up at 2AM to do the finishing touches. My wife stayed up all night to make some yummy sandwiches for us on the way. At 4AM, I was almost ready and the car was being loaded for the next 30 mins. There was simply so much to fit in but the monster has a huge appetite for luggage as everything fitted in with space for more. I was carrying everything, right from my daughterís toys to her food ration and two heavy bags of my camera equipment. My friend (Elly) is a regular traveler and packs light, he just had a backpack and his camera bag to fit in.

I crank up the monster at 4.45AM and weíre out on the road after a quick stop at the ATM. In no time we were on the NH7 doing cruising speeds of 120-140kmph. I hadnít seen on the Hyderabad road for a couple of years now and the transformation was simply amazing. We did a couple of stops to feed the baby etc but otherwise there wasnít any other stoppage time. We entered Hyderabad in around 7 hours but lost time since we went through the city and got lost a couple of times as well. The roads changed after Hyderabad and this stretch was a little more taxing because of two way traffic and diversions. We reached Adilabad around 6.30pm and went into the town to search for some stay options, but none looked good enough. So after wasting a good 45mins there, we were back on the highway with Nagpur as the next targeted destination. The roads werenít all that great and with the fading light it became a little more tough to keep speeds in excess of 110. As we neared Nagpur, fatigue was setting in and eyes became heavier. It was difficult to keep concentration on the road and I slowed down to 60s to keep going. At 10pm, we stopped at the first place we found in Nagpur at some so-called budget business hotel. The A/C room was decent but was overpriced for 2k/night including breakfast. We only needed a place to sleep for the next 7-8 hours but I didnít have enough energy to hunt for another one. So we settled in for the night and ordered dinner in the room. My daughter was also tired from the whole day journey and she didnít have any demands before going to sleep.

Day 2: Nagpur to Pench (100kms)

We had plans of leaving early in the morning, but ended up leaving at 10AM after some good breakfast. Next destination was Pench which hardly a couple of hours so we were in no hurry. We were booked at a place called ďTiger Valler ResortĒ at Pench. The owner/manager named Vinod was a very courteous man and overall the place beat my expectations. Dr Ghosh had arranged for the gypsy at Pench with one of his known drivers (Bablu). He initially quoted 1500 per ride but the going rate was 1250 per ride, so after a quick negotiation the gypsy was booked for the 4 safaris in Pench.

Being a weekday, we were the only guests at the hotel but that meant we could choose the menu for our next meal. The food was excellent and the hotel staff was very humble too. After a hearty lunch, we set off for our first safari at Pench with Bablu. His gypsy had the front seat belts and I could strap on the baby seat for my daughter. The evening safaris start at 4pm until 6.30pm and since our bookings were done online, we didnít really have the hassle of buying permits at the gate etc.

The dried up forest looked quite amazing at this time of the year with good visibility all over. There arenít too many shrubs obstructing your view inside the woods which may yield some good shots if you happen to spot something. Being my first visit, I was quite happy with what the forest had to offer. First up, we saw a couple of jackals, one of which was resting by the roadside.




A little ahead, we saw this tree with a lot of rose-ringed parakeets on it. Something wasnít right, the parakeets were restless and were focusing their attention to one direction. Soon we spotted the tail of a monitor lizard that had entered a hole in the tree bark. The avian friends were most certainly trying to drive off the lizard to safeguard their young ones.
Some more things ahead which crossed ways with us included a Magpie Robin, a couple of Brahminy ducks, Sandpiper.



This time of the year also happened to be good for a lot of baby langurs, I noticed quite a few newborns all over. Its very interesting to see the interaction between the mother and baby. The whole family seems to be protective about the offspring and they will do everything to keep guard and make sure that the baby is safe.



My first safari at Pench was a very satisfying experience and I was now looking forward to the next 3 drives. After the safari, we retired back in our room for a while and then played with the little one for a while until dinner.

Me & Pozu (she obviously gets her looks from the mother!)
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Old 26th April 2011, 01:49   #6
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Default The Journey Continues...

Day 3: Stay at Pench

Morning safari starts at 5.30AM and you need to be at the park gate around 5AM to be on time. We were a little behind schedule since I needed to get the little one changed etc. But nevertheless, we made it in on schedule.

The forest was beautiful in the morning light and so were some of the birds who gave me the opportunity to photograph. I felt that the general wildlife at Pench was much more relaxed than anywhere else I had seen so far.



There were a few Flameback Woodpeckers who posed for the camera in different light conditions while an Indian Roller perched beautifully on a tree bark.



We then came across a pair of Wild Dogs who kept us company for a while before disappearing in the woods. Sadly, I couldnít get the camera positioned for them early enough as my daughter refused to get down from my arms. Finally, all I could manage is a record shot of the duo walking ahead of our jeep.


The morning light was brilliantly lighting up every creature and the langurs made for a nice picture too.


As we moved ahead, we came across the same jackal duo again from the previous day. They were again quite bold and posed a bit before vanishing into the thickets.



The climate was changing at Pench and you could see a cloud buildup happening through the afternoon. By 2pm, the light was all gone and the sky was different shades of grey. Rain was certain and given the dull light conditions there was no point in carrying the camera today. So I decided to leave my gear back at the room and got the HD cam out for the job. As we reached the gate, it started pouring in and continued for the next 90 minutes. Most of the jeeps were camping out at Lallanís Bhojnalay while a few dare devils wandered inside braving the showers (only to return back fully drenched). The little one was loving it, she wanted to go out and get wet but this wasnt the time or place to take that risk!



Finally, the rain stopped around 4.30pm and we entered the gate. The park authorities had closed down all routes and only the main road was open for the drive due to the rain. Our chances of wildlife sightings right after the rain were very bleak and it was more of an experience drive than anything else. The forest smelt lovely with the wet mud all over. After about an hour of wandering in slowly, we had a jeep guy telling us about a sighting of the ďcollar-waliĒ tigress a little ahead on the main road. As we reach there, a chaos is about to unfold. Since the park had only allowed jeeps on the main road, everybody was at the same place and there was a big crowding that happened. I had to tell my jeep guy a couple of times that Iím not very keen in disturbing the big cat by closing in on it. I always like to maintain a good working distance with the animals to give them their space and capture them in their normal behavior. It is good experience to sight a tiger in the wild, but 20-30 jeeps pouncing on it was a sorry sight indeed. In between of the frenzy, I managed to locate Dr Ghosh in his jeep with gd1418, itís good to meet TBHP folks.

The collar wali tigress is a very common sighting in Pench and has 3-4 cubs too. The speculation was that she would probably make a kill that night and call on the cubs or may be return back to them if she doesnít find a kill. The rest of the safari was spent in waiting for her at one of the spots where she would cross over to the other side. But I guess she would have chosen to wait up until all the jeeps are gone that day.
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Old 26th April 2011, 02:09   #7
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
An interesting start Amol. Glued...

Don't forget to post pics of the 'shooting' hardware...!
I think Elly should have some pics of me and my gear, will check with him.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DicKy View Post
Sorry but couldn't help,quite a contrasting pic of the chubby pretty little baby with two 'bearded' men and a black beast.
Looking forward to the journey and the accompanied pics.
Thanks Dicky, the contrast was actually quite striking for everyone we met in this trip. I just didnt want it to look like we were two bandits roaming around with someone else's kid. In fact, I carried her passport just in case there is any trouble with people mistaking us for kidnappers!
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Old 26th April 2011, 02:11   #8
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

Before reading further, wanted to say Hats off to you mate.
It's not a joke to take your baby girl out on a huge trip, and without her mummy at that. Go Daddy GO!
also was nice to read that you have a baby seat and that your daughter is comfortable doing long trips in her seat. The best gift you could have given her and yourself too.
Back to reading the rest of your travelogue
Drive Safe!
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Old 26th April 2011, 05:04   #9
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

Rated five stars. If for nothing else but the title!! Contents need more stars and pictures.....they are priceless!!
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Old 26th April 2011, 07:53   #10
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

Awesome !! Rated 5 stars for the courage to take the baby without the mommy. Its very difficult to handle the kids alone these days.
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Old 26th April 2011, 08:14   #11
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

You sir are a hero and a brave man. My girl and I usually survive about 5 hrs before needing mommy (me more than her) - kudos!
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Old 26th April 2011, 08:15   #12
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

Amol,

Now....who took who out?
Did you take her out and take care of her as you claim? or was it the other way round? I believe she did.

Most cute, darling, daughter, who will remember this trip, maybe through out her long, long life. It is a pleasure and great bonding for us fathers with kids, when we do these little things compared to the mothers who move mountains effortlessly, without much complaint.

A nice and comprehensive write up, photographs with amazing clarity and good composition, let us know the gear.
Regards,
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Old 26th April 2011, 09:40   #13
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Day 4: Final safari at Pench and evening at Kanha (200kms)

Next day morning was a very quiet day. The previous day rainfall must have slowed down the movements across the forest. There were no alarm calls, there were hardly any spottings as well. I was telling the guide that I really wanted to get a picture of a Neelgai and thatís when a handsome male arrived in excellent light.



After the safari, it was time for us to pack up and leave quickly so that we can make it to Kanha on time for the evening drive. I was under the impression that the park safaris open at 2.30pm, but when I spoke to the jeep guy he confirmed that we wont be inside the park until 4pm. That gave us enough of time to reach Kanha and have lunch etc. It took us exactly 2.5hours to do the 200 odd kms with roads being excellent through except some parts of the forest road as you cross Pench. The road opens up into a 4 lane highway after the forest and then you have to take a right for Seoni followed by another right turn to bypass the Seoni town. The road to Kanha is the right turn at the 3rd junction on the bypass. Here on, the road is quite narrow and even though you can do good speeds, you need to always watch out for oncoming traffic and/or crossing pedestrians/animals.

We reached Kanha at around 2.30pm and I handed over the safari booking slip to the jeep guy since now the entries have to be done at the Khatia gate and not the Kisli gate. We were booked at the dormitory at Baghira Log Huts. My friend had been to the place last year and he had recommended the dorm since it is never booked full and is quite good for the price. In fact, we were the only two people in the dorm and that meant we had a big 8 bedded room to ourselves. The only issue was that the dorms were not A/C and a single cooler was not adequate for the size of the room. We had some nice and simple lunch at the canteen and then left for the safari.

As we entered the gate, within 5 mins we had a tigress sighting in the bushes. All you could see is the stripes, she was lying 10-15metres from the road when the jeep in front spotted it. However, soon the crowding began and disturbed the tigress. She chose to move in further to find a quieter spot. The Kanha jungle was very different than Pench and it was quite nice to see the green Sal trees all over. It a lot more denser than Pench and has varied terrains. It spans more than 900 sqkms and has around 90 big cats, but none of those were spotted in the open this evening. Being a dense forest, you have a hard time spotting birds compared to Pench. We spotted some racket tailed drongos and the shy ďshyamaĒ but the light wasnít in our favor. The first safari at Kanha and not a single shot fired, this reminded me of my various trips at Bandipur where sometimes I donít even point the camera at anything for the whole drive. You just sit back and enjoy the whole experience!

After the safari, we were out for tea at the canteen and it was quite hot that day. The dorm wouldnít have been a cosy place in the night for my daughter. The risk was if she had a bad night sleep, she would make it a bad day for us the next day. I didnít want to put her in any inconvenience as she was coping well with the trip otherwise. I enquired with the folks there if I could upgrade to the A/C room and pay the differential amount. Luckily there was a room available for all three nights we were there and we immediately shifted to the room at Baghira Log hut. The location of the rooms is quite nice and you have to walk around 150m to get to the dining area. The lodge is inside the forest and has animal movement all through the day, we could spot a male gaur right by the salt pit next to the walkway and then a jackal crossed the path as well. Wild dog sightings are pretty common near the lodge from what the hotel guy told us. The rooms are quite decent but a bit overpriced I felt, you could probably get better rooms at Kabini for a comparable rate. But for me, the priority was my daughterís comfort and it was taken care off for now.

The change of plans caused a slight issue, we were out of cash for the moment and would run short by 2-3k or so to pay off the difference amount. I've always been lousy with managing cash and prefer plastic money all the time. We didnít bother looking for an ATM after we left Nagpur since we though we had enough reserve to cover for the safaris etc. The Baghira guys donít accept cards and it meant that we needed to drive atleast 45kms one way to a nearby town Bamhani for the ATM. Bamhani had just one SBI ATM, so if that wasnt working, the next stop would be another 20kms to Mandla. The hotel guy told us that Mandla should have some more choices and so we were atleast certain that we could get the additional moolah.
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Old 26th April 2011, 10:08   #14
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Default Re: Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdsaab View Post
Before reading further, wanted to say Hats off to you mate.
It's not a joke to take your baby girl out on a huge trip, and without her mummy at that. Go Daddy GO!
also was nice to read that you have a baby seat and that your daughter is comfortable doing long trips in her seat. The best gift you could have given her and yourself too.
Back to reading the rest of your travelogue
Drive Safe!
Thanks mdsaab. The car seat is indeed a safe and convenient utility especially since I keep traveling with her alone even in the city. She used to have an infant seat until she turned one and the transition to the child seat wasnt too difficult. In fact, we did a 3500km road trip when she was just 2 months old, all thanks to the infant seat!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SubuS View Post
You sir are a hero and a brave man. My girl and I usually survive about 5 hrs before needing mommy (me more than her) - kudos!
Subu, I'm no hero yaar, my daughter is the real brave one! There was nothing I could have done if she hankered for her mommy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fazalaliadil View Post
Amol,

Now....who took who out?
Did you take her out and take care of her as you claim? or was it the other way round? I believe she did.
Well, I took her out but she made sure I was entertained all through.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fazalaliadil View Post
It is a pleasure and great bonding for us fathers with kids, when we do these little things compared to the mothers who move mountains effortlessly, without much complaint.
It gives you a sense of how difficult it can get through the day. Whatever be the case, men cant really beat the mommies in this area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fazalaliadil View Post
A nice and comprehensive write up, photographs with amazing clarity and good composition, let us know the gear.
Most of the shots are with a 7D+600mm combo while there would be some with a 400D & 70-200L. I also had a HFS100 HD cam and some other lenses/accessories which were never used.
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Old 26th April 2011, 12:07   #15
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Day 5: Stay at Kanha

Morning was very pleasant outside with a cool breeze through the forest. The forest was very quiet though and we were all ears for any sign of alarm but none happened. The morning light through the green trees was very beautiful. On a grassland meadow, we saw this handsome barasingha male grazing alone. They are quite something to look at and I didn’t quite know that they are on the verge of extinction. About 350 of these grass eating beauties exist in Kanha today and there are very focused efforts being put in to grow these numbers. There are two forest guards who are on full-time duty to take a count of the 350 odd members and report to the Deputy Director on a daily basis. Hopefully, their efforts will pay off and we’ll be able to see these beautiful animals for years to come.

Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-49.jpgTwo Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-50.jpg

As I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of these newborn langur babies around at this time of the year. They made excellent subjects for some behavioral shots.

Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-15.jpgTwo Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-45.jpg

We stopped for breakfast at center point and hungrily finished off the packed sandwiches. The little one was enjoying the stoppage and wanted to climb over every possible thing in the gypsy.
Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-202.jpg

The tiger show was happening that day and they had spotted a big cat near Badrinath. We took our chance and reached the place and waited patiently. The elephants were returning to the camp as the tiger show was over but there were a couple of forest department jeeps parked a little ahead with some “VIP” guests who needed a private screening of the big cat. So a couple of elephants were summoned for them and while the elephants entered inside, the big cat chose to walk out in the open. It was atleast 200m away and I had to shoot through a screen of dried bush along the roadside. The results are not stunning but they are still better than just record shots.

Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-57.jpgTwo Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-46.jpg

After the morning drive, we quickly left for the money task. We reached the SBI ATM at some town 45kms from Kanha only to know that the ATM was out of cash. This meant that I would need to travel another 20 kms to reach Mandla for the next ATM. The good thing was that the ATM had a bank attached to it and luckily enough I have an SBI account which had some money in it. I approached the bank manager and explained the situation, he was a kind man and quickly facilitated the withdrawal. I’ve had this account for the same exact purpose and today it really worked out well. You could find an SBI in the remotest villages in Ladakh which is what inspired me to get an account with them for such exigencies.

We were back for lunch and were off in the jungle at 4pm. The afternoon drive was pretty quiet with just some sambar deers crossing the road. We also had a peek at a sun-basking tortoise and a long billed vulture.
Two Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-200.jpgTwo Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-234.jpgTwo Men & A Baby - In Search Of The Stripes-mp-tiger-hunt-201.jpg

Note to MOD: Sorry for the miss on uploading the pictures. I couldnt align the pictures in between of the text earlier which is why I linked them back to Picasa. Have learnt the trick now so all forthcoming posts will have TBHP uploads.

Last edited by amolpol : 26th April 2011 at 12:11. Reason: note to mod on uploading pics
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