I have been very lucky with tiger sightings. But this time I did not have any expectations at all, as this was a trip to Sundarbans. Though the tiger population is high, the jungle is simply impenetrable beyond the first layer.
I was just reminiscing the encounter we had had about 20 minutes ago with a 21 ft long marsh crocodile. The croc just lay dead for about 10 minutes while we felt awed by its sheer size. We wondered about its strength and marvelled at its teeth. It just remained motionless, until it didn’t ! In a flash it slid through the mud into the water very close to the boat ! Scary right ? Thank God for the sturdy and large boat.
I was brought back from my reverie with voices saying – “tiger, tiger, tiger!” We were all excited. Only to be disappointed, well not so disappointed as the creature turned out to be a very rare oriental small- clawed otter.
After cruising for next hour I hear “tiger, tiger, tiger!” again. I am sure it is a rhesus macaque like many times before. Our guide comes running to me and says, “Madam, tiger!” while pointing into the thicket right next to the boat, exactly in line of my vision. I am still getting goose bumps as I type this because how I felt in that moment cannot be described.
I looked right into the eyes of the largest male tiger I had seen while he looked back at me. I felt a thrill but more than that I felt deep seeded fear. He was wild and ferocious, more than all the tigers I had sighted.
I shall never forget this encounter. After what seemed like forever, he finally broke the eye contact and walked in the direction opposite to where the boat was headed and disappeared.
Our driver turned the boat and parked it on the opposite bank. We did catch glimpses of him until he decided to put on a show for us. It crossed the 1km wide bank within 30 secs or less and reached the bank on our side, marked its territory to tell us that he was the undisputed king and reinforced it with that “if looks could kill” stare once again before disappearing into the forest..