Tigers of India – Photos and Action Packed Tiger Encounters

Tiger crossing road in Bandhavgarh

The main reason for our trip to India was to see the royal bengal tiger. These are the biggest of the big cats. The national parks in India have a lot of other wildlife as you saw from my previous posts but the main attraction are the tigers.  I didn’t have high expectation to get a lot of great photos of tigers but with a little bit of luck, a bit of skill, the right equipment, a little patience, a good guide, and some crazy drivers we were able to get some of my best wildlife photos to date. Professional wildlife photographer Talat Khalid of Wild Life Photo Tours arranged this trip for us to visit his two favorite spots for tiger photography.  Bandhavhargh and Kanha tiger reservers.  As you can see below, there is a good reason these are his favorite parks.

Tigress - Aama nalah (our first tiger sighting)

We saw a total of 13 different tigers over our 10 days in the parks.  Some we saw on multiple occasions and every one of the sightings was an amazing experience.  The tigress pictured above is named Aama nalah for the area of Bandhavgarh that she claims as her territory.  She was the first of our 13 tiger sightings and it was amazing.  She was huge!!!  (most girls probably wouldn’t want you to say to them that but I think its ok in the tiger world).  She came so close to our vehicle and eventually walked right in front of us.  If the trip would have ended with just this one tiger sighting it would have been worth it.  They are truly magnificent animals.  It didn’t stop there though… it only got better…

Tiger - "New Male"

Tiger - New Male profile

“New Male” pictured above, is the son of “B2″ who is the son of “Charger” who is arguably the most famous tiger in India given his many appearances on national geographic, BBC, etc.  Charger passed away several years ago after his son, B2, killed him.  B2 is 17 years old now, the same age as his father when he killed him.  Sadly, history is about to repeat itself.  New Male is expanding his territory and needs to kill his father (B2) in order to get the mating rights to all the females in the territory.  We witnessed one such encounter.

All of the sudden we saw B2 run out of the woods and our guide knew that New Male must be chasing him.  A fight was almost sure to happen, he said.

Tiger B2 running from New Male

B2 ran across the road dangerously close to a vehicle.  A few years ago one tourist got mauled when a tiger jumped into the vehicle when being chased.  A very simliar situation to today.

Tiger B2 running close to vehicle

Then out of the corner of my left eye I spotted another tiger.  It was New Male.  My camera was still focused on where B2 ran across the road so I just kept the shutter pressed and captured the action at my cameras maximum 9 frames per second as he disappeared into the trees after B2.

Tiger New Male chasing B2

We feared the worst.  We thought it was over for B2.  New Male was sure to catch him.  He was only 50 meters behind and catching up.  We quickly moved our vehicle to where the guide thought they might come out of the woods… if B2 would even make it out.  About 10 minutes later we found B2 walking along the road.  Looking back to see if he son was still close behind.

Tiger B2 looking for his son

You could see the fear in his eyes.  He was worried.  He knew what was about to happen.  However, what happened next surprised us all.

Tiger New male got lost?

New Male came out of the woods but he seemed to be confused.  He was walking in the wrong direction.  He was still very close to his father but he seemed to have lost his scent.  He walked up and down the road around our vehicle but then eventually found a nice spot in the shade to lay down.

Tiger - New Male laying in the shade

B2 was safe… at least for today.

Tiger - New Male

While we were all sympathetic for B2, there was no denying that New Male is a magnificent tiger.  He was much bigger than he father, younger, and more muscular.  Just look at those canines.  Every part of this tiger was massive.  Even though they are pure breed killing machines they have a lot in common with tame house cats if you watch them long enough.

Tiger - New Male winking

Tiger - New Male (thats a lot of tiger drool)

He had a lot of foam-ish looking saliva hanging on his mouth and just like a ordinary house got he got rid of it with a couple little head flicks.

More tiger pictures after the break…

One of the exciting parts of tiger photography is the process of tracking them.  One of the main ways you track tigers is to read the pug marks they leave in the sand.  The guides can tell if its male or female and even sometimes which tiger it is.  These pug marks can tell you which direction they are travelling and when they came through this area.  The other way to track them is to listen for the alarm calls of other animals such as the spotted and samba deer, and the langur monkeys.  After a few days you can start hearing the difference between the different types of calls.

Tiger pug mark

The excitement really begins once you actually spot a tiger.

Miki spotted a Tiger

The problem is that these parks can get crowded sometimes.  We were luckily in that the best tiger sightings we had only had one or two other cars around (our first one with Aama Nalah and the New Male and B2 chase).  Sometimes the extra cars around can be exciting like what was captured in the time lapse when we saw New Male for the first time   However, other times we weren’t so lucky.  One sleeping tiger far off in the distance can attract 30+ vehicles once word gets out (there were an equal number of cars behind us).

Tiger sighting line up

But like I said, they aren’t all like that.  Sometimes you can get really, really close.  Like to close for comfort close.

Our driver dangerously close to the New Male Tiger

One photograph we were hunting for the whole trip was to get two Tigers in the same frame.  Not like we had much say in the matter but the tigers did help us out.  Brother and sister are pictured below.

Two Tigers running

Here is their mom.  You can really tell the difference between the male and female tigers.  The males are almost twice their size.

Tigress in Bandhavgarh

The only way to guarantee tiger sightings at either of the parks is to do what they call the “Tiger Show”.  The parks have elephants they use to track the tigers and when they find them they setup the show.  They use some of the elephants to coral the tigers and keep them in one place while they use the others to take people to see the tigers.  All of the pictures above were taken from our vehicle.  This is the best vantage point to take photos of any animal since you want to be at eye level of lower to create a more intimate portrait.

We did do a tiger show at each of the parks. I don’t really think the tiger show is a good practice because it alters the tigers natural behavior but if you come all this way to India you should probably do it at least once.  Here are some of the pictures I took from the elephant.

Tiger sighting from Elephant

Tiger sighting from Elephant

Two tigers walking away

Tiger sighting from Elephant

The above picture was the best one I shot from the elephant because the Tiger was up on a rock which brought him to my eye level on the elephant.  He was watching his brother eat a spotted deer in the dense bushes.

Tiger eating kill

I would love to go back to Bandhavhargh sometime because I still have a few more tiger pictures on my shot list.  Tiger cubs playing.  Tiger in water.  Tiger eating a kill in the open.  I would like to get a tiger killing a prey but that even took one professional wildlife photographer 17 years to get that shot… and he was the first to ever get it on film.

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3 Responses to “Tigers of India – Photos and Action Packed Tiger Encounters”

  1. [...] Tigers of India ??“ Photos and Action Packed Tiger Encounters … Apr 16, 2011 … The main reason for our trip to India was to see the royal bengal tiger. These are the biggest of … [...]

  2. Carlos Brugo says:

    My dear friend, being a charger fan, i’d like to remind you that charger died of old age in an enclosure near tala zone, and wasn’t killed by then dominant male of the tala zone B2. After the encounter with B2, he was badly injured, but forest officials tranquillized him and nursed his wounds. he was then kept in an enclosure, and the wounds healed. Only a year later, did the legendary Charger die, on September,2000. After his trageic departure, that place was called ” Charger’s point”

  3. Travel Taj Mahal…

    [...]Tigers of India – Photos and Action Packed Tiger Encounters | Travel + Photo | A blog by Nathan Busscher[...]…

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