Thursday, January 2, 2014

Going on a [Tiger] Hunt...

It was 5:45am when I woke to a knock at my door. I groaned as I looked at the clock and saw the numbers flash across the screen. "5:45, really? It's so early. Come on tigers, can't you sleep in just a little." I crawled out of bed and opened the door of my immaculately decorated bungalow at Forsyth's Lodge. "Good morning, Miss. Your jeep will be leaving at 6:15", the young gentleman announced as he handed me my chai. 

The sky was barely stirring awake as I layered every piece of clothing I had on. You see I came to India thinking it was going to be hot. At least that is what I was told: "Prepare for the heat" all of my friends said as I packed for this trip. And now, on this early morning in December, I was freezing wishing I had brought my long underwear from Wisconsin.

At 6:25am the jeep arrived at the entrance of Satpura National Park located 210 kilometers away from Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh. As we pulled up my excitement and confidence in finding one of India's mystical tigers had grown. Dawn was now showing its face as the five of us clambered onto the boat that would take us across the river and into the tigers den. "So Rishi, what is the likelihood that we are actually going to see a tiger today? Be honest. 25%? 75%? 100%?" I asked our eager, handsome young guide. "Well you see tigers are shy. Some days we see them, some days we don't." That wasn't the answer I had wanted to hear but regardless I was determined to find one.

River crossing at Satpura National Park
As the camp song, "going on a lion (tiger) hunt" repeated in my head I looked, listened, and watched the jungle for tiger activity. Every monkey call, bird chirp or sambar howl could mean a tiger is lurking close by. I was on high alert but with every minute that passed my confidence in seeing a tiger waned. As the sun moved high into the sky and our jeep made its way back to the entrance I knew my luck had run out. "Well, I guess no tigers today" I sighed. "On our next drive we'll get one--right?"

Elephant Safari
Although I never did get my tiger, my time in Satpura National Park was worth the trip. From elephant rides, to canoeing, to climbing to ancient cave paintings, there are plenty of activities for people of all ages within the park. Satpura is also the only park in India that allows visitors to walk within the jungle. Even though the king of the forest is the Bengal tiger, the park is home to a plethora of other animals, such as sloth bears, sambar, and flying squirrels, and so it is a place that deserves a few days. 

Main lodge at Forsyth's

Needing a place to stay? Lodging is restricted to outside of the park and is limited. I spent the entirety of my stay at Forsyth's Lodge and was highly impressed with the service. The staff is informative and welcoming and goes above and beyond to care for their guests. Other options include Rani Pani and Sunshine Jungle Lodge.

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