The Waghdoh Male: The largest male tiger in India

The Royal Bengal Tiger is the apex predator and top of food chain in Indian Jungles and also top on the list of subjects to be clicked for any wildlife photographer worth his salt.  I am not very different, and though I have clicked the most handsome of the wild cats many times each experience is a unique one. Every time I visit a Tiger park I go through excitement as well as depression simultaneously.  Excitement as I look forward to click the king of Indian Jungles, and depression as everybody around me is carrying lenses long enough to be used to click pictures of Chandra Yaan on its way to mars, while I join with my puny 300 mm lens. Anyways this post is not about photography gear but about  my experience of watching Wagdoh male, arguably the largest male tiger in India, ruling the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra.

This particular trip to Tadoba was full of sightings of Telia Tiger cubs, and we saw them in every safari we took.  In one of the safaris the jeep in front of us stopped suddenly and the driver pointed to the 2 year old female cub blissfully playing with a stick next to some bushes.

Tiger Cub looking at camera

Tiger Cub looking at camera

We clicked her at a short distance while she oblivious to the attention she was getting continued with her innocent play.  Then we heard some grunts form the bushes behind her and the cub vanished behind them, probably her mother was hiding in the bushes and called her back. Next visit we saw the mother and cubs again from a short distance and the cub entered the waters to cool down in the April heat while the mother lurked from the bushes behind her.

One of the tiger cubs in Tadoba: This should tell you how close we were

All this while I was longing to see the ruler of this kingdom, the Wagdoh male who  is considered the largest male tiger in India. Though I wonder who would have dared to go and measure his size or of other tigers to compare them ? When I enquired with Mangesh our guide for all the safaris, if we will get a chance to see the Wagdhoh male he simply said, “Sir, he is the king of this jungle he holds durbar only once in a week, so you can see him only if he wants you to see him”. On further query we learned that the elusive king was last seen almost 8 days ago, so we had a good chance to see him.

Elephant Safari in Tadoba

This gave some hope to us that we stand a chance to see his Royal highness on one of his  weekly Diwan – E- Aam, when the emperor gives a darshan to  the common man. It seems lady luck was on our side and we were watching a group of Gaurs leisurely munching on greens when we heard some noise in the dense growth on our left side. Two safari elephants emerged from them and one of the photographers sitting on top of the elephant asked us to look in the other direction.  These guys on elephants were silently following the Wagdoh Male and were pointing fingers towards some bushes on our right side barely a few meters away from us.

These guys on Elephant were following the Waghdoh male tiger

I tried very hard to look in the bushes to see him but could only see a dense wall of green and yellow leaves. There is an old saying in jungle if you see the tiger once; it means the tiger has seen you a 100 times.

While I was trying to figure out the pattern in the bushes, the chirping of the birds became louder, in a s split second the Gaurs were gone, the langurs on the bushes have climbed higher and some of them were visibly looking restless. As if on a clue suddenly everything went silent, the langurs were all looking in one direction the birds stopped chirping and even the giant elephants stopped breaking branches around them for munching and looked toward the same bush.

The Waghdoh Male appears from the bushes

The animals around us could sense the presence of the king, even though he was invisible. I looked towards Mangesh our highly skilled guide and he too was totally silent, cautiously gazing towards a dense Lantana bush.

And then the magic happened, the lantana bushes parted way as if Moses was commanding them to make way for the emperor just like he asked the red sea to part. As the bushes split, without making a sound a huge tiger head with an orange mane like you normally associate with Lions, emerged  from the bushes and fixed his gaze towards us.  I could hear my heart go dhak dhak without Madhuri Dixit being around, rest of me froze and  forgot to pick my camera to click.  Leisurely the tiger walked out of the bushes, showing little interest in existence of us lesser mortals who were petrified by his mere presence. As the tiger moved the wind too gave a sigh of relief & started blowing again and reached us. Only now we realized how large this tiger is.  While we were looking at him the female tiger emerged behind him and quickly crossed in front of us to vanish in the bushes. Almost  double the size of the female who passed next to him, the was all muscles designed to kill with a single stroke.  I thanked my stars that humans are not the natural food of tigers and slowly composed myself to get my camera ready trying not to make  a single sound, lest  I may disturb the stroll of his Royal Highness.

As I was picking my camera, he decided to show us who is the boss and settled on his hind legs, raised his head and roared. And what a roar it was, as if a collision of clouds had happened in heavens that shook the earth, and made my palms sweat. Before the roar subsided after echoing a few times, he was already moving away from us.

The Roar that shook the jungle 

Post roar  it took some time to compose ourselves, by this time only a part of him was coming into frame.  I have missed the moment to click the largest male tiger in India while he looked straight towards me. So to make up for the most I clicked my camera till he was visible. But in most of the pictures he is not looking into the camera and is  moving away from us.

The Waghdoh Male : Tadoba Tiger Reserve

I may have missed clicking him, but the sight of parting of the lantana to reveal his huge head, muscular shoulders and then the rest of him slithering out slowly and that gaze of contempt towards us followed by thunderous roar is something I will remember for a very long time to come.

Long live dear Wagdoh Tiger and may your tribe increase  :) :) 

 

About Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve:  Is a Project Tiger, National park in Maharashtra.  Nearest airport is Nagpur about 2 hours away and the nearest railway station is Chandrapur. There are lots of options to choose for staying for all budgets. But you need to book in advance as per the forest department rules for the safaris.

Best time to visit for tiger sightings is March to May when the Tadoba is dry and you can see tigers next to watering holes. Best weather is during October to February. The park is closed during Monsoons for visitors.

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