During my visits to Ranthambhore National Park in the past few years in India, many friends talked about the Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) in the State of Maharashtra as a good location with many opportunities to photograph tigers. With this in mind, for the year 2016, I planned my 2nd wild life expedition for the current year to India to see the king of the Indian wild; from June 1st to the 11th; starting with Pench for four nights covering eight safaris followed by five nights with ten safaris to Ranthambhore National Park (RNP) in the state of Rajasthan.
As scheduled, I arrived in Nagpur via Mumbai on the 1st June morning followed by road transport of two hours to the Lodge in Pench, just in time for lunch and well timed for the afternoon safari. The temperature in the months of May, June is on the rise and it was around 43-44 deg C during my stay in Pench; otherwise Lilani would have joined me. But, my visit to the jungle during hot summer was to see the tiger in water, when the cat get into water due to high heat to cool its body. The main entrance to the park, Turiya gate, was only few minutes from the lodge.
However, the first safari we had to drive to the Mansingdeo wildlife Sanctuary of the park which was 30minutes drive from lodge, since every Tuesday afternoon; Turiya gate is closed to the public. Although, there were good signs of seeing tiger, but the luck was not with me.
On the 2nd morning we were one of the first to enter the park from Turiya gate at 6am. Sighting a tiger was very promising due to many pugmarks of the cat. We covered most of the water hole within an hour. But, we just missed a seeing a male tiger while few others had luck to photograph. I presume that it was the pugmarks of the tiger that we saw before. However, during the afternoon game drive we manage to see the same tiger close to road just before the park closed. But, my wish was to see tiger in water and to photograph. My guide also informed that there are two packs of wild dogs of 8 and 18 residing in the park, which surprised me and hope I have the luck the to see them.
Following morning, once again, in search of the tigers we entered the park at 6am. Although, we roamed for nearly 90minutes searching for the king of the Indian wild in the park but without any success; even although we heard alarm calls frequently from the spotted deer. Subsequently, we decided to cover the same water holes that we passed before in the early morning. What a surprise! To my luck, there was a tiger resting in water at a water hole close to the road. Since there was only another jeep, I had plenty of time to capture the images that I was waiting for. It was a male tiger, and the park guides name him as BMW since it has a mark, shape of a letter B in one of his legs. I stayed there for at least 30minutes when the tiger came out from water, crossed the road and disappeared from our sight. What a great performance by the wild BMW!
Later, while driving in park for further wild life, unexpectedly, sighted the Asiatic wild dogs, pack of 8 (three adults and 5 grown up puppies) in a valley, running around, playing each other while later they drank water from a water hole close to the road. These dogs are rust- coloured when compared to the African Wild dogs or the painted dogs. While in size, they are slightly smaller to that of their counter part in Africa. But, both are efficient predators and communal pack Hunters, frequently led by the alpha male or the female. It is alarming to note that the both Indian and African dogs are endangered while the former population is in the region of 2500 in the animal planet.
During the same afternoon, we sighted the other pack of 18 residing in the park in another location at a fairly large water hole watching the Samber deer drinking water when the alpha male tried to separate a young Samber deer from the mother, but failed; instead the deer chased the dog while other member of the pack watching the action of which there were 8 grown up puppies.
Although, some said that the Pench is a good place for Tiger photography, but during my stay the sighting were not frequent. I also heard very disturbing news from the lodge manager where during the last six months the park authorities found 9 dead tigers and among them there were three cubs. The reasons were quite obvious where the villages had a hand to it. According to my guide, five tigers with the cubs were killed when they drank poisoned water from a water hole. This may be the reason for fewer sightings. But, I can recommend to visitors that the Pench TR is a good place to see the Indian wild dogs.
On the 5th afternoon I bordered a flight to Mumbai for the night while on the following morning another flight to Jaipur to visit Ranthambhore National Park in Sawai Madhopur, my favorite park in India to see the tigers.