The tusker charged at our jeep. Initially I thought ‘mock charge, ha ha’ and started clicking away on my Nikon D90. And then it struck to me that only the ‘aunties’, female elephants that take care of the babies, mock. This tusker meant what he was trying to do: smash us to pieces. Our driver, an experienced, expert hand, from the Jungle Lodges Kabini team reversed and was all set to turn around and scoot when the tusker abruptly gave up his charge. So our driver chose to hang around. A red wattled lap wing shrieked and flew over us. My heart was banging against my chest. Axel, a German photographer, whispered, ‘can we go closer? After some time?’ I was stunned. I wanted to scream ‘Dude do you realize we could all have been killed?’ And I turned to Anil to seek some support only to realize that he too was nodding furiously in agreement with Axel. Wildlife photographers are crazy fuckers. They are never satisfied. Only about ten minutes back, we had the good fortune of meeting a handsome leopard. We took the turn into the jungle off the road that connects Kerala and Karnataka, and within 30 seconds, our naturalist said “Leopard!” And there he was, sitting on a branch with an arm hanging out, pristinely calm… he didn’t even bother looking at us.
We were the only Jeep. the three of us had the Leopard all for ourselves. So we clicked away. The rat-a-tat of the shutter too didn’t disturb our Leopard. I stopped clicking and started admiring this wonderful animal. After a few minutes, the other safari jeeps came over and the leopard decided to leave. That’s when we got a full view of this graceful predator. This was my first trip to Kabini, and I never imagined that Kabini was all that my friends Anil, Phani, and Raghu had told me about: heavenly, wild, and unpredictable.
Long after the leopard had jumped off the tree and vanished into the jungle, I was still pinching myself. It was hard for me to believe that I was in such close proximity to a leopard. And I told Anil, ‘Tomorrow, we’ll see the Tiger.’ Did we? Watch this space.