In the Photo story that unfolds our reader Niladri Sarkar, an avid nature lover, shares his experience of such an encounter with the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger in the creeks of Sunderbans.
The sight of the tawny Royal Bengal Tiger amongst the eerie mangroves of the Sunderbans is a surreal experience and one that every soul visiting the Sunderbans dreams of. But not every pugmark in the mudflat or the spine chilling mating call leads to a sighting in the Sunderbans. In fact, sighting a Tiger in the Sunderbans is nowhere comparable to tiger sightings in the parks of Central India.
The vast, remote and difficult terrain of the Sunderbans makes the life of a tiger an arduous struggle. The savage tidal surges of the mighty Bay of Bengal claims many an island causing a loss of habitat. The saline water infiltrates their fresh water resources, and the pneumetaphores and mudflats in their path makes it difficult to tread. This hostile habitat along with the dwindling prey base has caused them to turn to livestock’s and as often believed , into man-eaters.
This struggle for survival has evolved the Royal Bengal tiger into a more wary and intelligent animal. They are secretive and elusive, and thus a chance sighting always stays etched as an unforgettable moment.
Niladri Sarkar shares his experience of such an encounter with the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger in the creeks of Sunderbans…
On 3rd September 2011, I woke in the boat to the calls of the 9:59 AM kingfishers to overcast skies and a cool breeze. There I was on the border of the tiger territory at Sunderbans.
My boat driver, an experienced hand, is keenly aware of anything on the move. Just as we entered a narrow creek, he pointed to a Goliath heron atop a dead tree. It was pouring and visibility was bad .Yet, considering this was a species rare and endangered, I went into overdrive clicking away.
By now, the rain was blinding and the boat was swaying from side to side.
Suddenly the sound of the rain was interrupted by a trembling and terrified voice …”Da—da—Ba-a-gh” (TIGER)!!! There was a tiger on the bank about to step into the water to cross the creek. Our sudden appearance stopped her from getting into the water and she was startled to see us!
She started walking by the bank of the creek ,exuding power and grace. The subtle strength of this beauty was incomparable. Numbed with awe, my camera was up reflexively.
The tigress glared at us before she started walking back into the mangroves.
Just when I thought the show was over, she reappeared at a distance of about 200 meters from us. She was desperate to cross the creek and was steadily climbing down the bank to reach for the water.
There she was in front of us snarling and warning us not to get any closer as she got into the water. She slowly floated her body with only her head and the middle of her tail above the water. She swam across at an unbelievable speed like poetry in motion.
Stepping out, she almost ran through the pneumatophores into the mangroves on the other side.
We could hear her growl, as we slowly approached her for the last time.
She was now spraying on the trees. The tigress was in heat and was calling for a mate. I stopped clicking and let her be.
As I bid her goodbye I said a silent prayer for the beautiful young tigress that God willing, may she bring in fine generations to this magical land of mangroves.
This article first appeared in the 2012 May-June edition of Saevus magazine.