Burning bright

I am just back from a wonderful trip to Nepal and India, with the main goal of seeing the Indian One-horned Rhino (watch this space). But the first thing anyone asks is whether we saw tigers, so I thought I’d get that out of the way first.

This is where we went: southern Nepal, and Assam (a little-known corner of north-east India, sandwiched between Bhutan to the North, Bangladesh to the South, and Myanmar to the East).

Map of India tripWe went to three parks: Chitwan and Koshi Tappu in southern Nepal, and Kaziranga in Assam, India. Chitwan and Kaziranga have tigers, but they are rarely seen, especially at this time of year when the grass is green and as tall as an elephant’s eye (truly).

In Chitwan, we were on foot when we saw fresh tiger scat (yes, Leigh, really), here being pointed out to us by our terrific young guide, Rajiv.


and zooming in..


Then we smelled the unmistakable smell of a kill, by the stench of it pretty close by. Rajiv saw the marks in the sand where the tiger had dragged its kill, so he told us not to move, and went to investigate. Unlike the guides in Africa and in India, in Nepal the guides don’t carry guns, so on balance we were not sorry that the tiger was nowhere to be found!

In Kaziranga there were a couple of tigers that a few people had seen in the previous week, and we saw a tree with rather impressive tiger claw marks on it:


But we didn’t hold out much hope of actually seeing one, and we were focused on other things. Then, at the very end of our very last day, as we looked across a lake at dusk, there she was, maybe a quarter of a mile away, for about half a minute, a blaze of tawny orange walking along the water’s edge in the dying sun:


No other jeep was there to see it, just us. It was the eve of my birthday, not a bad gift:


Tiger numbers across India have stabilized and may be slightly increasing, so my hope is that my grandchildren will have a chance to see tigers too one day. Kaziranga is believed to have about 104 tigers (up from 83 in 2014), but they are not collared, and accurate counts are very hard.



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