The muscular shoulders moving up and down; the padded paws stepping soundlessly on the soft sand, leaving a huge pug mark in its place. Just a slight whoosh of wind as he walked past me and left my heart thudding in my throat. Now that is what I call is a real adrenalin rush…
I have seen peacocks dancing; I have seen wild dogs playing; I have been charged by elephants; but nothing can match the exhilarating feeling that you get when you see a tiger in the wild. You get to know his sheer size when you are dwarfed next to him in the gypsy you are sitting in. The grace with which he walks, making no sound as he treads or rather floats over the carpet of dry leaves on the ground, which would make a cacophony of noise if you or I tiptoed on it. Panthera tigris, or the tiger, the largest species in the cat family and the national animal of India.
I distinctly remember the first time I saw a tiger in the wild. It was in the year 2000, in Ranathambore National Park, Rajasthan. I was around six years old, and was quite new to the ‘wildlifing’ experience. It had been almost five trips into the jungle and we still hadn’t spotted a tiger. And then, just after another disappointing trip, we were heading back to the resort, in low spirits, when the guide shouted “Tiger”. I was sitting on my mom’s lap and was twisting about, trying to spot the tiger, when no one seemed to care about the little girl asking everyone where the tiger was. My mom whispered, “Look on the road”. And there he was, right on the middle of the road, giving us a haughty look. He walked towards, to our side of the canter, and brushed past us so closely, that I could have actually touched him if I had stretched out my hand. And that was my first encounter with the tiger.
Even after seeing a tiger in the wild so many times, this species still manages to leave me breathless every time I see one. After all, the tiger was not named the national animal for nothing!!