Feb. 16. 2015
Today in the morning the guys are in time and we are the first ones to enter the jungle. Tonight we will sleep out there at the borders of the national park. A far walk sometimes on jeep tracks, sometimes through the middle of the jungle and sometimes through the grass tunnel maze searching for Balu the bear.
A few hundred meters after the first watchtower Ram turns right into a grass tunnel. He moves very fast in there and I sometimes have difficulties to follow him but at one point, when I am right behind him, I hear a very powerful roar less than 5 meters in front of us. Ram turns around in the second pushing me back running. Tiger he yells which makes me stop. My curiosity and my aim to take a good picture will for sure cost my life at a point. We have a short discussion and then run out of there as fast as possible. At least tigers give a warning – slot bears don’t. A situation just like this repeats twice with a rhino – Ram is just too crazy. He hears noises of obviously very big animals in front of us in the deep grass and without thinking jumps of the track into the grass risking his life to show me the bears.
We make lunch break at a waterhole during which I see rhino number 8 and a pretty big tortoise in front of me at the water – river ecologists water scan view had been activated. The first animal I can surprise my guide with. Until evening time we arrive at a beautiful watchtower viewing grassland, jungle and a long stretched lake in between. A little before, in between grassland with slightly better visibility we see a jeep some 250m in front of us. People inside pointing our direction…. They have seen us I think when Ram tells me a slot bear with a cub is coming our direction.
This time he probably really saves my life when holding me back… Slot bear is hard, nearly impossible to see between the grass. Damn, no proper picture I think. Minutes later we arrive at that amazing watchtower. Other tourists appear and laugh at me because after running through that environment in an orange t shirt I am covered with black stripes of ashes making me look like a tiger myself. One of the guys has yet travelled 74 countries and is just about to publish a book with pictures of faces he made on his journeys. They made a picture of me too which I would really like to get, so if you read this please send it to my email address.
We are lucky some of the grassland has just been burned down offering a very good view of an area that animals moving in the grass have to cross. I am still busy taking pictures of birds and landscape when Ram gives me the “there is an animal” whistle. Slot bear right in front of us – perfect view! I start taking pictures of it when the mother and the cub appear further away between the burned down grass. Suddenly I hear a deep roaring thunder that seems to make the jungle shake. When a tiger roars close to us in the forest behind the lake dozens of deer run out of the jungle jumping into the water to cross the lake, crocodiles either flee into the water (without attacking the deer), birds fly up and even the slot bears search cover.
The tiger roars a few more times but unfortunately does not come out. I guess Shirkhan just killed a deer and will probably not move so far away from its body for some time. Jungle remains quieter than before and soon we move towards the river as we have to cross it before sunset. Accommodation is directly at the bank of the river offering an amazing view… expensive though compared to the guides fee.