In an age when hunting was allowed, the zamindars and the powerful people would create a band of followers and go hunting. It was a form of sport. Some were good at it, and some merely waited at one point within the forest and asked his subordinates to drive wild animals out of their natural habitat, in front of his sight, so that he could shoot them. However, in both cases, it was a search for power. A hunger that people had. To demonstrate that they were the natural leaders of the jungle. Also, tiger fur made a mean carpet and was a great conversation starter those days.
Not only the zamindars, the british came exclusively into these Indian jungles, took the help from locals and hunted the wild animals. They had made a sport out of it and killed innumerable tigers in the process. Go through the article by National Geography if you want to know more about it. The picture is taken from there as well.
However, it is safe to say that the British and Zamindars, through their penchant for killing tigers brought down the number of tigers exponentially.
Apart from the sport side of it, there was an incredible competitive side to it as well. The powerful people, both locally and the British, used to compete with each other to see who could get the wild animal first. The tiger was always the most coveted prize.
For generations, men have been fascinated with tigers. However, nowadays, hunting is banned. So, to get a taste of the same thrill and adventure, a new sport has come in – Jungle Safaris.
Jungle Safaris were introduced by the Governement in National Parks with a simple ambition. The ambition was to generate revenue through tourism. But it became an avenue for something else altogether. The rich and the affluent in their search, found a channel to passion their competitive side. The hunters of the past turned wildlife photographers of the present. The guns were replaced with expensive cameras. The trophies today – pictures. Rare pictures of the queen of the jungle.
Each male tiger needs around 40 square kilometres of jungle for his own independence. A tigress needs 10-15 kilometres. The sport became to go into the jungle and try to figure out where the tiger might be based on the clues left behind by him. Once you get to see the tiger, you get a picture and you get bragging rights across board.
But, sighting a tiger is a very difficult task. You are in a jeep the whole day, from early morning to as long as you want – searching for clues. You roam around the motorable roads and keep your eyes and ears wide open for the whole duration. A wet pug mark here, a day old dropping there, maybe blood droppings of a kill it might have made or warning call of a different animal who saw a tiger close by. These are all clues to track the animal and speed up based on your understanding of the tigers movement in and around the jungle. It’s like a video game, where you drive around in an open world, find some hints, talk to some people, they give you some information and try to collate all that information towards reaching your goal – finding the tiger.
If you are lucky, you see the animal with all it’s glory in it’s natural surroundings. That makes you the hero for the day. If not, you come back gloomy and see someone else bragging about the photos they took and they will be full of the stories associated with it. How well of a detective they were to track the tiger perfectly. How beautifully they took the shot, etc etc.
However, sometimes the knowledge of where the tiger might be, becomes a common knowledge and there is a huge queue both of the passionate photographers and the leisurely tourists who flock around the place to get a glimpse of the tiger. The photographers hate whenever this happens, because it takes away from the exclusivity of their pictures. Also, amateur tourists mean more noise that might distract the animal.
A lot of families depend on this intense passion of these wildlife photographers. Each safari needs a permitted jeep, a driver, a guide. There are countless jeeps, drivers and guides at each gate of a national park and it is in their best interests to make their patrons happy. The reason being, when you make a rich guy happy and make him feel validated, you get tips that help run your family. All of these top wildlife photographers have their favourite drivers to drive them around – who know how the photographer wants to track the beast and there are internal communications to make sure that the photographer gets what he wants. As that results in everyone being happy and free flowing tips and drinks after the safari.
Jungle Safaris are an amazing experience and I highly recommend it. There is a certain adrenaline rush associated with the rear tyres of your jeep skidding in the narrow non-roads of forest, trying to reach the tiger before anyone else does.
Jungle Safaris mean different things for different people. For me, it was a time of quiet contemplation – and trying to still my waters. You should definitely check it out for yourself to see what it means for you.