The huge, penetrating eyes, staring into mine through the low brush of the jungle remain my most powerful memory. Perfectly set in the striped-moon of a face, the tiger’s eyes froze on me. Simultaneously astonished and paralyzed by fear, my mind raced.
Could the cat clear the short distance between us in a single bound? Would it want to? Could the unarmed rangers protect me from harm? But, by the next instant all thoughts were pushed aside as I was captivated by those giant golden eyes.
We had been looking for game for a couple of hours in a national park in India not known for tiger sightings. With only 10 tigers in a 500 square kilometer conservation area, there is rarely human contact. It was not among our expectations to even catch a glimpse. We had seen forest and savanna landscapes, Indian gazelles, antelope, sambar deer, langur, macaque and an astonishing array of early morning birdlife. We were heading in for the day, satisfied that we had seen what the park had to offer.
Then, from a quick whisk of a tail, our guide spotted the big cat crossing ahead of us. We sped up and caught the large female as she was stopped dead in her tracks to have a look at us. As humans rarely see tigers, tigers rarely see humans and we were both equally riveted.
Wilderness and India are two words rarely found in the same sentence. However, those in the know recognize India as one of the world’s leaders in conservation of wildlife and in successfully integrating human and animal communities.
Panna Tiger Reserve is one such place. Deep in the heart of the monsoon forest of the Deccan Plateau, this huge area has been set aside for the preservation of wildlife populations. To experience one of these parks is to experience an India far from the teeming crowds – an India of bird songs, clear skies, crystal rivers and starry nights. And, to just possibly have the moment of a lifetime staring deep into the eyes of a creature both mesmerizing and profoundly terrifying. An unforgettable moment, indeed.
– Marilyn Downing Staff, Founder and President, Asia Transpacific Journeys
Marilyn stayed at the Taj Safaris Wildlife Lodge, where she was able to experience luxury and extraordinary wildlife at the same time. If you want to see tigers for yourself, join our India – A Jungle Book Journey Small Group Trip, or customize your own India trip by speaking with an Asia Travel Specialist, 800-642-2742.