We travelled to India 10 years after our previous visit. I was left very uneasy last time about the attitude of drivers, guides and the public in the national parks whenever a tiger was sighted. I was however very keen to try and find some tigers, so gave it a try.We started in Tadoba national park, one of a string of parks in central India. We initially stayed at Tiger trails which was fine, but then moved to the much more luxurious Bamboo forest lodge. Very nice, with delicious food.That was not the point however, and we saw tigers on our first game drive. A family with four large cubs. They were a little way off and in very poor light so no decent shots. Encouraging start though! The next morning, we came across a young female. She was beautiful, but sadly had damaged her right eye. Perhaps a twig, or when hunting.

She seemed to fairly well fed so is presumably managing even with the one eye.
There were reasonable numbers of spotted deer and Sambar deer around, though a drive is not like most parks in Africa where there are much larger numbers and variety of herbivores. The birds however are superb. There are many stunning species including examples like this bee eater.

and the white throated kingfisher.

The star tiger in Tadoba is a female known as Maya. She has been filmed by a number of film makers including the BBC. She currently has young cubs so we spent several days waiting in her territory in the hope of seeing her. No success sadly, but on our way back to the lodge one evening, we came across two young males. They were very relaxed and gave us a great show.

Initially fairly relaxed they soon woke up and were clearly peckish, as they were very alert.

Eventually they wandered off into an area where we were unable to follow. It was a great sighting.

Over the following days, we continued our search for Maya, but without success. The other wildlife such as the langur monkeys were quite entertaining however.

There were other great birds to see including a good few raptors, including my ‘bogie’ bird from Portugal the black shouldered kite!

On the last day, patience was rewarded when Maya finally appeared with her two three month old cubs.

What could have been a really spectacular sighting was partially spoiled by the utter selfish stupidity of one of the guides from our own lodge, Arjun, an extremely arrogant young man, who placed his car in the way and blocked everyone else’s view. Very disappointing! Still managed to get a couple of very nice shots.

We left Tadoba and headed north to the famous bird sanctuary at Bharatpur. This was well worth the effort providing some wonderful birds such as this gorgeous coppersmith barbet.

Also present were many water birds such as spotted duck.

Perhaps the highlight came late in the evening with a couple of blue bull or Nilgai antelope, the original sacred cows of India. Two males were after the same female.It was quite dark, but I got a couple of shots.

From here, we went onto Chambal river. There were a couple of targets that I really wanted which is why we went there. It was a lovely lodge and the nearby countryside provided all I wanted. First wes the stunning saris crane.This large bird lives in the surrounding farm land. Very attractive in the fields.
They even put on a display with the famous trumpeting calls that pairs make to confirm their bonding.

The next target was an animal that I had wanted to see since collecting a picture of it on a Brooke Bond picture card in the 1960s. It was the blackbuck, and again, we had success. This lovely antelope also lives in farmland.Not the easiest to see as they are quite shy.

A little stalking allowed a close approach and some great views.

The remainder of this part of the trip was on the river where we had more great sightings. The gharial crocodile were another of those Brooke Bond creatures that I finally saw.

There were also quite a number of impressive march or muggy crocs.

The birds were the highlight including these gorgeous Indian skimmers

and a Bonelli’s eagle nest with two big chicks.

The other highlight here was a hunting jungle cat we saw on the bank one evening.

From here it was further north to our final destination, Dudhwa national park near the Nepal border. We arrived after another horrendous and chaotic road trip! We went to Dudhwa for rhino, and although I did see a pair, the park was very quiet and actually quite disappointing. The rhino was fun but had to be photographed from the back of an elephant which I was not happy about.

Frustratingly, you have very limited time on the elephants so I would not really recommend this for photographers. There were more nice birds here and at the nearby Kishnapur reserve where our last day saw a further tiger sighting. This male appeared at dawn.

Then in the evening we saw another male and his mate. Nice ending to a generally very good trip

I look forward to coming back to India as there is so much here for the photographer, both in the national parks and outside!!!

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