Astounding pictures of rare Melanistic tiger in Odisha, India surprises many
Remember the incidence where a photographer’s (Shaaz Jung) five years of hard work led him to capture the astounding pictures of the only Melanistic leopard in India? In India’s Nagarhole National Park, this black panther named ‘Saya’ means Shadow left many in a state of shock. But this was not just the end! After ‘Saya’ which resembled ‘Bagheera’ from ‘Jungle Book, ‘ here are the flattering pictures of rare melanistic tigers. They were found only in India’s Simlipal Tiger Reserve, which is situated in Odisha. Here is a quick introduction to the novel for those who are unaware of ‘The Jungle Book.’ Written by Rudyard Kipling, this exceptional novel features Mowgli, a fictional orphaned boy. Surprisingly he was brought up amongst the wild animals in Pench National Park in what is known as the heart on India, i.e., Madhya Pradesh.
While ‘Saya’ was compared to ‘Bagheera,’ our new wild beauty with pitch black and extraordinarily broad stripes shows similarity to ‘Sher Khan.’ The tiger king named ‘Sher Khan‘ is another character from the much-reputed novel. Interestingly the character became more famous due to Soviet and Disney cartoon adaptations. No wonder, spotting of the two aforementioned rare species make us believe in the existence of the characters from the book. Interestingly, ‘Sher Khan’ flaunts stripes that are thicker and broader than those possessed by the normal tigers. Furthermore, the excessive black pigment in animals is due to a phenomenon known as ‘Melanistic’. Indeed the photographs of the black beauty featuring broad stripes have made animal lovers go gaga over it. While some expressed their happiness to discover something new, others were simply unaware of many tigers left in the Simlipal Tiger Reserve.
Experts highlight the increasing trend of melanistic tigers on inbreeding and genetic mutation. The world’s attention has now been shifted to melanistic or black breeds reproduced by the tigers in the sanctuary. It was in 2007 that the first melanistic tiger was spotted in the Simlipal Tiger Reserve. This happened because of the camera traps that were positioned by the researchers from the Wildlife Institute of India. The Odisha Forest Department conducted a recent census and marked the presence of 6-7 melanistic tigers out of 29 tigers in reserve. This count includes cubs as well.
What’s the best time to see tigers? I believe in regards to wildlife Tours in India; this is a most asked question.
For Tiger Safari Tour 1st National Park I visited was Ranthambore National Park in 2006. Since then for Wildlife Tours In India Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh became by 2nd home. For 5 consecutive years, I attended a census in Ranthambore. After spending 14 years in different National parks during Wildlife Tour in India and other Asian countries, following some famous tigers of India, I am sharing what my experience taught me.
Why India for Tigers?
According to the new finding of 2015, the global population of Royal Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris) in the wild is estimated around 3982 mature tigers. As per the census of 2018, the total number of tigers in India is around 3000, which is approx 70% of the entire tiger’s population in the world. India is the most significant home for Royal Bengal tigers. Thanks to the “Project Tiger” and our conservationist and real heroes in the forest, whom day & night safeguarded our majestic cats from poachers. In less than a decade, the population of Tigers in India has risen by 33%.
If you are short of time then can jump to the conclusion directly.
A Tiger safari in India encompasses the real meaning of wildlife photography and is high on the list for any photographer or nature lover passionate about wildlife Tours. Unlike a wildlife safari in other countries where there seems to be a cat around every turn, one has to work very hard for tigers, which creates excitement, a deeper level of satisfaction, and appreciation for every encounters with a tiger in a jungle.
Best time to see Tigers in India on Tiger Safaris depends on various aspects- forest or reserve you are visiting, season, and even time of the day you are choosing for your safari. Apart from the above factors, the success rate also depends on your naturalist and driver during Wildlife Tour. They should be familiar with the route on which they are placed. The tigers have their favourite hideout, where they often rest in the morning or rise from there in the afternoon. Your trackers should know the favourite water body where they go to cool themselves. Tigers are a territorial and nocturnal animal, which makes them highly elusive. The size of Tiger territory can be 40-60 sq km for male tiger and 25-40 sq km for female tiger. A lot more depends then just choosing the right national park or reserve for Tiger Safari in India, but of course, it’s also a 1st step in the process.
From a tourist perspective, we can say that sighting a tiger during Wildlife Tour In India is usually not just a click away. At Indian Maharaja Tours (www.indianmaharajatours.com ) under our subsidiary travel company, www.thewildlifetour.com has tried to sum up some of the significant factors that need to be considered before signing up for any tours for sighting tigers in the wild on Tiger Safari in India.
Based on the purpose of your visit and your expectation from jungle visit, I am categorizing our visitors in 2 groups-
Tourist/wildlife lovers/ Amateur photographers and phone photographers
Semi-professional and professional photographers
Tourist /wildlife lovers /Amateur photographers and phone photographers
This category is meant for visitors whose purpose is to get a glimpse of these majestic cats on Wildlife Tours in India. They are on a tight schedule and have limited time to spend in the Jungle, and want to utilize most out of their visit. Some of them may be amateur photographers or hobbyists and can spend just a few days in the forest doing Tiger Safari in India. For tourists who are travelling in India, leaving the country without following these stripes will make their visit incomplete. Keeping all the factors in mind, we have to sum up conditions that can be considered before you plan your Wildlife Tour India to sight these majestic striped cats.
Tours for regular visitors-
National Park and Tiger Reserves
Choosing the right national park should be the first choice. We have 100’s of National parks and Tigers reserves which offer Tiger Safari in India. But do you think the possibilities of sighting tigers in all the parks are high..? There are many tiger reserves in India where tigers are not sighted for years during, at least to the tourist during regular Tiger safari. Even there are many jungles where tigers are not used to of tourist vehicles. They shy to appear. Many national parks yet don’t have online portals to reserve the tickets for Tiger Safari. Some of them are located off the route. Before choosing the national park, the points mentioned earlier should be considered to filter the list. We believe Ranthambore national park, Sariska, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Kanha, Pench, and Corbett are few reserves that should top the list for Wildlife Tour In India in Northern and Central Sector. Among all the National Parks mentioned above, Bandhavgarh has the highest density of tigers. Ranthambore is among the most visited National park for tigers and uses to be a home of legendary tigress Machhli.
Time of the year
In northern India, almost all game parks are closed for Tiger Safari during monsoon, i.e., from 1st July to 30th September. So the Tiger season is from Oct- June. Immediately after the monsoon, it takes a week sometimes to fix the tracks damaged during the monsoon. Jungles are green and fertile, bushes are longer, and water is plentiful. So tigers camouflage themselves perfectly. That’s why you might need little more patience to sight them on your Wildlife Tour India. But landscapes are scenic, The Tiger’s coat is saturated and it’s a treat to sight a tiger in this natural paradise. Forest still remain scenic during Winters for Wildlife Tour in India i.e from Nov till Feb.
After February mid it’s the first leg of summer, the forest starts to shrink to small water holes. So, sighting tigers get secure, and the success rate can be 7-8 times out of 10 during Tiger Safari. Once it starts raining, which is usually after May, then it’s hard again. Also, avoid weekends and festival times. Jungles are overcrowded by local people.
Time of the Day
Almost in all the game reserves in India, you can enjoy Tiger Safari in the morning and afternoon. Sometimes people prefer to make one visit in a day and take the rest of the day at leisure. In that case, afternoons are more predictable for sighting Tigers. Tigers are nocturnal animals; they are more active after sunset until the next morning. In Wildlife Tour India drivers and naturalists sometimes know the exact locations of tigers when they enter for the afternoon Tiger safari. In noon tigers might seem pretty lazy and lying in the shade, doing nothing but chances are always very high that they will wake before sunset and walk to the nearest water hole.
Choosing the right zone
While booking Wildlife Tour India, either you are nature lover, tourist, or wildlife photographer, you should always check the zones you are booked in. In India, approximately 30% of the forest is open for visitors, further divided into zones. Some of the zones are much in the outer area and are not an excellent habitat for tigers. During high season, weekends, or festival time when seats for Tiger Safari India in popular zones are full, the forest department starts diverting the crowd in less popular zones. Most of the time, in Wildlife Tour India it’s not worth visiting these zones until news of the tiger has made any kill. So while booking your Tiger safari always checks your tour operator for zones he is choosing for you. It’s highly recommended to book your wildlife Tours in India at least 3 to 4 months ahead to have a better zone. Otherwise, you might end up visiting the buffer area or have to pay a hefty amount for current booking in premium zones.
Tigers are highly elusive animals. They are not seen so quickly, and they need to be tracked most of the time during Wildlife Tour in India. It’s always teamwork of naturalists, drivers, and sometimes by patrolling staff to track them when you are on Tiger Safari. Starting from paying attention to the alarm call, moving in the right direction at the right time, positioning the vehicle in chaos for better visibility, or following the pug marks, everything needs perfect coordination between driver and naturalist, which, of course, pays at the end. So it’s essential to hire the best trackers for Tiger Safari. Who is willing to give 100% and can hold the patience until last second. I have seen several times that many jeeps are lined up in the hope of a tiger to appear, but after a small wait slowly jeeps start moving in search of better opportunity and the one hanging out till last get rewarded.
Semi-professional and professional photographers
This category is for visitors planning Wild Tours in India to capture some fantastic shots of tigers at a different time of the day and in different moods. Visitors are expected to have a sense of landscape, background, and foreground they are planning with tigers. Just for an Example- Cubs playing in lake at sunrise, Tigers walking around the lakeside with the fort at the background etc. Workshop leaders and photographers who sell high-quality prints come in the same category.
These types of visitors usually prefer to spend more time in each forest on Tiger safaris to maximize the possibilities of encounters with tigers.
Here are some of the factors that should be considered before planning your Tigers safaris in India.
Tours for professional photographers
National Parks and Reserve
As mentioned before, for wildlife Tours the choice of best national parks in India always tops the list. For professional photographers, it’s more important to choose the national park, which is less touristy. So while shooting the tigers, they can have peace of mind and not bothered by tourists trying to jump in between to take selfies or recording video with mobile phones. Going out of the route for Tigers safari won’t hurt if it pays you with high-quality images.
Time of the year
During the Wildlife Tour In India, the sighting of the Tiger is better in the summer season when jungles are bright and animals are expected to come near water holes. There will be more than 10-12 Jeeps and canters lined up to take their shots. For professional photographers what’s a point for capturing the same images that everyone is clicking..? The bitter truth is that a novice can capture better images of tigers with his phones than us having a professional camera (writing from my personal experience). I believe Jungle looks stunning in winters. The scenery is fantastic, and the flowers are blooming, and the trees are blossoming. Mist can be seen on plains, sunlight filtering through trees, and sun rays appearing like a beam of light. Capturing these majestic tigers can be an experience of once in a lifetime. Though sighting is not high, it’s more productive.
Time of the Day
Whether in winters or summer, I believe that tigers are more active in the morning before going for rest. Cubs are more playful in water; you can follow them for hours until they walk to the waterholes. In the afternoon, you will find them hiding in bushes, lying on their back, waiting for tourists to leave. Most of the time, you only get a window of 30 mins when they finally decide to rise and walk to the waterhole, and your driver will insist on leaving as its closing time. Otherwise, they have to bear the penalty of suspensions or fine, sometimes both. If you are not short of time, then I will advise you to plan more morning visits and take some afternoon off, copy your images, and go through them, some leisure time is essential because back to back safaris can be tiring.
Another factor to be considered before booking Tiger safari in India is choosing your team. You need to have someone who knows his job well. He must understand what you are looking for. Sometimes photographers are equipped with heavy gadgets; therefore need some extra space in the jeep. It might include some modifications in the jeep, like removing the centre row of seats for more leg space or for installing tripods, etc. This makes it essential to have the same vehicle for all your Tiger safaris in a forest. Tracking the tigers not merely includes rushing your jeep and covering the whole forest. Instead, it’s much more than that. Sometimes it needs the patience to hold your paddle from escalator for hours. Hearing of alarm call, moving in the direction, anticipate the tiger movement, route he might take, tracking the pug marks, and many more. Naturalists and drivers should have perfect coordination. Basic knowledge of English is essential for drivers and naturalists so that they can understand your need and also can make themselves understand to you. During the WIldlife tour in India, Some resorts provide the services of professional naturalists who are well versed in English during Tiger Safari. I have seen some cases when photographers plan their trips based on the availability of some best naturalist.
For a wildlife photographer, it’s essential to know the zone they will be entering in for Tiger safari in India. Approx 30% of the forest is open for visitors for wildlife Tour, which is further divided into zones. Some of the zones are much in outer and don’t have any natural lake. All the zones are not equally scenic. So, it’s essential to know the zone you are visiting during Tiger Safari In India to have scenic foreground and background.
We have tried to cover most of the factors that should be considered before planning your visit to India to sight tigers. If you have any other points that should have been included but missed, please feel free to write to us.
Recently we have noticed that many tour operators claim to have the best wildlife tours on their brochures, but the reality is they are far away from ground reality. Sitting in an air-conditioned cabin on an office chair cannot bring you close to Jungle’s real world.
Once upon a time when I worked as a freelancer for some known travel companies for their Wildlife Tour and Tiger safari in India, I was tired of facing the anger and disappointment of guests for things that were not in my controls. In the name of the Jungle, guests were put on zones where possibilities of sighting tigers are very less. Vehicles were arriving pretty late for pick up, and guests are not getting comfortable seats, etc. It didn’t take much time to understand that these big travel companies are fooled by local handlers easily for some extra bucks.
This is why we at Indian Maharaja Tours have put lots of effort, time, and energy into scouting every forest, scheduling our time allocations to increase your chances, employing some of the best trackers, and planning the logistics, etc. to avoid any last-minute surprises. We have handpicked some of India’s most breathtaking eco-lodges and resorts deep in the sights and sounds of Indian woods for your Wildlife Tour in India.
For the first-timer, regular tourist, Amature photographer and nature lovers best time to see tigers are from February till early of June. Professional photographers should plan their Wildlife Tour in India from October till Feb early for most creative shots.
Indian Maharaja Tours
We at Indian Maharaja Tours with two Subsidiary companies “Photography Tours In India” and “The Wildlife Tour” operate photography tours, wildlife tours and cultural tours in India and other Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia etc. Most of the tours are lead by founders of Indian Maharaja Tours, famous Travel duo Harsh and Arti. Harsh with his amusing tales and tips on photography stay in front. All logistics and quality control are at Arti’s work. You can always find her running from one corner to another. The most important thing, She is a money person among both.