Tigers, Tigers and more Tigers…
We assembled at the agreed place and were divided into five groups of about ten people each. Then members of each group formed a single row and were told, that each group would be walking along with a Tiger to the Canyon area where the Tigers would rest now that they’d been fed.
The Buddhist monk would lead a Tiger along with each group to the Canyon Area. The Tiger was on a leash and everyone would get a turn at holding the leash and patting the Tiger for a picture. The person holding the leash had to walk next to the Tiger, on the left side, just behind the front paws and never go ahead of the Tiger. The Monk would be on the right side of the Tiger at all times. A volunteer would assist the switching of the leash between the group members and there was another volunteer for each member who would handle the group member’s camera and click a picture for him.
Before starting, we were all warned that the Tiger at any moment may feel like marking his territory and if any of us received were in the line of the spray, we should consider it our good luck. We were expected not to exclaim or make any noises if such a thing happened. That made everyone smile. Also if the tiger stopped at any moment while walking, then we had to stop right there with him and by no means go ahead of him.
I went first and walked along with the Tiger. Ujwal went next and after we finished, we went back to the end of the line and the others had their turn.
We reached the Canyon in about five minutes. The Canyon area was basically a sandy area with small rocky hills on all the sides. The sand was cool and slightly moist and there were umbrellas set up everywhere in the area, below which the Tigers were tethered for their naps after they were fed. A few tigers were already sleeping there. The Tiger that we had walked with was led to an umbrella where he lied down.
We were asked to be seated on chairs which were set up for us, sheltered from the hot sun by a roof as we waited for the rest of the Tigers. As soon as the next group arrived, we were all asked to get up from the chairs and face the direction from which the Tiger was arriving. The volunteer explained that this was because if the Tiger saw our backs, the natural hunting instinct might take over and he might attack us. This process was repeated about five times until all the Tigers reached their resting ground. Now there were about fifteen Tigers all snoozing on the cool sand.
Next, we were again asked to form a queue. We could now go and pat the Tigers of our choice and get our pictures taken. The rules were the same as before and the volunteers were ready to assist us.
Everyone had just started clicking pictures, when suddenly a few rocks fell down and a couple of huge Tigers near the edge of the rocky hills woke up, being startled by the noise and got up. They settled down again, however we were forbidden to go near them and touch them and get pictures. When my turn came, I went quite crazy. Honestly, I know that Tigers are wild creatures and not huge Dogs, but I couldn’t help falling in love with them. In all the pictures, you can see them sleeping and they look totally adorable with their front paws tucked below their heads for a nap. J All of them were quite clean and healthy. Their paws were really big and I could feel the gentle rise and fall of their belly when I touched them.
Out of the fifteen tigers, I had my picture taken with about 9 of them. We were not allowed to go near the 2 Tigers who had been disturbed and there was a long queue for the 2-3 who remained. The volunteers were quite amused to see the smile that was stuck on my face on account of pure joy at being so close to these marvellous creatures. Ujwal had his own experience with the Tigers since this was an individual activity. He too was astounded at being so close to the Tigers and enjoyed the experience very much. We could have both spent an entire day admiring the Tigers upclose.
We reluctantly went back after having the pictures clicked. The volunteers informed us that if we wanted to spend even more time with the Tigers, we could pay additional 1500 TBH per person and stay for the afternoon activity. In that activity, the humans would be inside a cage and the Tigers would roam around us freely outside the cage and we could observe them. Also the temple had four new cubs and one could spend 45 minutes with the cubs after paying an additional 1000 TBH per person. When we asked the volunteer why the charges were so high, he answered that they deliberately kept the charges high, as too many people playing with the cubs would disturb them. As far as we know, no one from our group signed up for either of these activities. Overall, the tourists with us were an obedient lot and that made the entire experience very enjoyable.
We had an hour to explore around the grounds before returning to the gates. We spent the time walking around and watching a few other things. There was a kind of cave nearby with a surrounding moat where we could see a couple of Tigers sleeping. There was also a water hole where two somewhat older tiger cubs were happily playing in the water. We watched them for some time. There were a couple of sheds where a few older Tiger cubs were tied. We watched them for some time and had our pictures clicked with them too. One of the cubs seemed to be steadily eyeing a deer that was grazing about.
An hour simply rushed past and then it was time to return to the gate. We reached the gate and went back to our vehicle. All the way back we kept thinking and talking about the entire experience, surely an experience of a lifetime.