Experience of my first Tiger sighting

My first ever tiger sighting stands as the strongest highlight of my wildlife career. It was the year 1999 and I was taking my first ever trip a national park, a real jungle – Ranthambore National Park. Quite obviously, I had no idea what to expect and what not to. It was three o’clock on a warm, lazy, summer afternoon, and you would assume any sane person cracking open a cold one, in the comfort of his hotel room, because why not, he is on a holiday after all! That fortunately wasn’t the case for me. Mind you, I use the word fortunately because it was this first glimpse of the massive beast that paved way for my company, Nature Safari India, and later its sister company, Tiger Safari India.

So, as I sat in the gypsy with my heart racing as fast as Usain Bolt’s, and my nerves getting to me like that of a two year old trying hard to recite a poem he learnt in school, I second guessed everything. Should I have even come here? Was it the best idea to take a wildlife safari when I haven’t even seen a tiger in a zoo before? Thankfully I got over the self doubt, but what followed was worse, being unaware.

Thrilling moments are still away

It didn’t seem like anything had gone wrong, or even if it was I was clueless, a jungle virgin. Pin drop silence in such a massive jungle, terrifying and eerie. I hadn’t heard a bird chirp or a monkey call for long. But it was then, in that very second, I saw a yellow eye, glistening with nothing but confidence (unlike me). Surprisingly though, I was not scared. I was not even unnerved. Merely acknowledging the presence of another predator ( for what else was I, as a human being ), I looked around for the real reason of this deathly calm. There was a respectful distance between myself and the owner of the malevolent eye. Unwilling to pay me any attention, it just about flickered its entire body once, and continued staring behind me. It was then that I began to feel uncomfortable. I knew I was an intruder here; I had no business disturbing the calm of the lazy forest, but I wasn’t looking forward to being surrounded by teeth and claws.

 

Experience of seeing my first Tiger!!

‘But look at that majestic being, those eyes and stripes, those paws that grace the forest land with thuds louder than the decibel of your breath’ whispered my brain. I was standing beside a tree resembling an old woman, ancient absolutely, bowed down by the huge branches. About ten yards away was the magnificent animal, with its eyes fixed behind me. The only silver lining was its silence: if there were another animal near, would it not prepare for the kill or for self-defense?

I was not sure how long I could hold on to the ‘just another predator’ theory; my palms were sweaty. The sun was receding and I had vague premonitions of being left alone on a stormy night with this beautiful, terrifying feline creature. My wits were on their edge, and it was only the conviction that running would be near-fatal which kept my sweaty toes in their places. I knew about the eye-contact rule, but it wasn’t looking at me at all. If it wanted to take me by surprise, that was probably an intelligent thing to do. Or was there something on top of this ancient tree? Turning its gaze on me, the wild eye leapt across the bush before bounding away.

A sun ray hit my eye and an unknown bird whistled shrilly. My tongue felt like paper. My watch said it was five minutes past three.

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Sharad Vats

Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered. Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park. Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here's a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger. Buy now on Amazon

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