Everything You Need To Know About Photographing Wild Tigers Part 2
What’s a tiger safari like?
The most common way to go on tour in the park is in a tourist jeep style vehicle – a Suzuki Gypsy. These are smaller than African safari Toyota Landcruisers and Land Rover Defenders. However, they are simple, rugged, open-top 4x4s built by Maruti and they are the safari vehicle of choice for all India’s national parks. Some high-end camps and lodges are using larger TATA safari vehicles, but these are almost too large for the narrow tracks.
Once you’re in the park driving along your route during your Tiger photography tour, your guide and driver will be looking for pug marks on the tracks. If there are none to be found, you’ll just continue driving along. It sometimes feels like the driver and guide are just hoping to bump into a tiger on the track!
The drivers and trackers usually head to either the last known sighting (based on information from the previous day) or for a waterhole, hoping to encounter a tiger having a morning drink. It’s a likely place to find a tiger, especially if the tiger has killed and eaten during the night or if you’re visiting in the hot/dry season.
They are, to an extent, creatures of habit and will go to waterholes to drink after every meal. This usually happens around first light, while it is still cool. If you strike out at the waterholes, the drive will continue, moving from point-to-point along the route, stopping and waiting every few hundred yards. Pausing gives your guides the opportunity to listen out for alarm calls along the way.
During the hot months from March through to June, where temperatures reach 40-50 °C, tigers regularly frequent waterholes in order to cool off – so you may find yourself waiting for some time beside one (and wishing you could get in as well!). Like jaguars, tigers are one of the few big cats that actually like submerging in water and regularly wallow. They just don’t like wet feet in dewy grass.
Tigers are most active during the crepuscular hours of dawn and dusk. They largely hunt at night but during the morning and late afternoon they will travel between their kill and water and / or their cubs. This is when you are most likely to encounter a tiger moving through the forest or walking along a jeep track.
All in all, waiting for the perfect wild tiger sighting requires a lot of patience but with your expert guide and tracker, the fruits of labour will usually always be rewarded!