Tracking tigers during Tiger safari in India. We always underestimate the hearing and sight of wild animals, especially those that depend exclusively on these senses not only for food but also for self-preservation. Their senses are more sensitive and on a far higher plane compared to human beings.
Therefore they always see us much before we know that they are around. To track these highly skilled predators, especially tigers, one needs to appreciate their intelligence, and develop a great deal of patience. A lot of Tiger safaris succeed due to patience and knowledge on the part of skilled naturalists and guides, while many fail due to lack of it.
Certain animals and birds give an indication of when the tiger is afoot. Sambar Deer alarm call is considered the most reliable call in the case of a tiger. Langurs see a predator from afar, and one can make out the direction from where the tiger or leopard is approaching based on which side the langur’s head is facing. If the call is continuous and by more than one langur then one can make out the direction in which the tiger is walking.
The birds also do not lack behind. The crackling of a red jungle fowl and also of the babblers is quite a strong indication in which direction the tiger is moving. To know more about alarm calls, find below the video I shot in Kanha National Park.
Jungle Knowledge required during Tiger Safaris
By now, the forest has done its bit by giving you enough information on the whereabouts of the predator. Now, it is entirely the quality of the naturalist in the tiger safari with you that will determine your chances of a tiger sighting. His interpretation of these animal and bird calls and the understanding of the tiger trails coupled with patience are key factors that play a significant role in seeing a tiger during a safari in India.
If a naturalist sees the pug marks during the tiger safari in India, he should be able to identify how fresh the pug marks are. One can make this out by the sharp edges that the tiger pug leaves on the ground, or the dewdrops on the pug mark, or some dust that has settled on the pug mark. There are occasions that a smart naturalist will predict when the pug mark is absolutely fresh and the tiger is still walking maybe just a couple of 100 meters ahead on the track.
One can also know the age, size, and sex of the animal by the pug mark. Experienced naturalists can also find out at what speed the predator walked by the space between the pug marks.
Tracking Tigers during Tiger safari in India
Tracking tigers is an art that is absorbed gradually, and this process can go on indefinitely. At times tracking tigers is far more exciting than sighting them during a tiger safari in India. Finding their pug marks, listening to the alarm calls of prey animals and birds, and seeing other signs like tiger droppings, sitting and scratch marks take you really close to tigers. At times you might not see a tiger but be assured that the tiger would have seen you.
Sometimes you will hear the tiger roar from close proximity and yet not see them. There is no more powerful sound than a roar of an unseen tiger close by in a jungle during a tiger safari in India. Goosebumps, cold sweat, hyper heartbeat, or storm in your blood vessels, either, or all of them together can be experienced during a tiger safari.
There are infinite variations in tiger tracking and that is what makes the tiger safari in India really exciting. The tracks are different. Some of the tracks are hard and rocky, and it is tough to find any pug marks on them. On the other hand, there are some sandy patches on the tracks where you see the pug marks. This is what makes a tiger safari in India really exciting. The more safaris you do the more you learn about tigers. The sounds and signs of a jungle are a fine art, and when a naturalist starts to understand and interpret that, he is fit to go on a tiger safari.
A tiger during his walk on the long trails in the national park will also rest on the tracks leaving a mark. If the tiger has dragged an animal after the hunt one can make out the size of the kill also. A small kill (a young fawn of a Chital) will not touch the ground. A medium-size kill (a male Chital) will touch the ground, and the hind legs of the Chital will leave a drag mark on the track.
A big kill (a Sambar deer, cattle) will leave a bigger impression on the ground. Knowing the size of the kill one can interpret for how long the tiger will be away busy eating. A small kill will be finished in a couple of hours. A Sambar kill can take up to 2-3 days.
Best time of the year to see the Tigers
Most of the tiger reserves in India are open for safaris 1st October till 30th June. Some parks, like Jim Corbett, and Dudhwa open on 15th November till 15th June. I personally consider every day to be good enough for tiger sightings. But should you want more clarity on the best time of the year to see tigers then do the video below for more clarity on the best month to see tigers during tiger safaris in India.
If you get into tiger photography you will learn more about tigers. Jim Corbett said in The Talla Des Maneater ‘that his childhood ambition was to see tigers. Subsequently, it was to hunt man-eaters, and finally to photograph tigers. It was only during tiger photography that he understood little that he knew about tigers’. Hence it helps to have a naturalist who understands the nuances of a photographer.
Once a tiger is sighted during the safari, then to understand the mood of the tiger, and the camera equipment of the guest is crucial for the naturalist. A Tiger can object if you get too close for his comfort, if you do not pay any attention to that then that objection can turn into snarling and growling quite fast. An experienced naturalist will maintain a distance.
After all good images can be taken by a guest only if the tiger is not disturbed. It is top priority for a good naturalist to ensure that despite any pressure from a guest he must not cross the thin line of tiger’s patience. Best shots are accomplished only from a good and safe distance during a tiger safari in India.
The most experienced naturalist will always respect tigers and wildlife during safaris by maintaining distance. It is important to remember that the tiger is the most sophisticated engine of destruction in the wild. Respect tigers to enjoy their sighting during a tiger safari in India.
So, should you wish to book a tiger safari with our skilled naturalists do let us know, and we will curate a tiger safari that you will remember eternally.
Sharad Kumar Vats