It took an Exodus Holiday to make me realise I had been in the wrong job for 20+ years! Should there be a warning on your trips?!!
Exodus client Caroline Northcott writes about her trip to India …
Having been lucky enough to have taken quite a few animal-based holidays, the tigers for me are the ones that pull most at my heart-strings. Every time I look at my photos the excitement and feeling of privilege at sharing those precious few moments with such magnificent creatures comes racing back. I only hope many more people have that same chance for many years to come.
Although two years in the planning after my return from India, I did eventually enrol on an animal management course to restart a career in animal welfare!
The course is going really well. I am now in my second year and enjoying it so much – any worries about making the change have disappeared. I never had any doubt about what I “needed” to do, just a lot of nervousness about making such a big decision and change absolute!
We need to undertake work experience as part of the course and I am lucky to have been one of those chosen from the people on the course to do some work experience at Paignton Zoo. It is wonderful getting up close and personal to all the animals and great to share the experience of the keepers. Paignton Zoo does have tigers (although Sumatran not Bengal tigers found in India). However, although it is wonderful to be close to them in zoos (and I appreciate not everyone has been as lucky to travel to India as me), it is no match for seeing them in the wild.
That is of course the only bad thing about doing a full time course – it means no chance of taking any wildlife trips for several years until I get back to earning!
I know it sounds quite pathetic but I still get tearful (with joy and longing I would add!) when I think back to that tiger trip. I can remember one morning drive in Kanha. We had been unfortunate in Ranthambore and seen no tigers, although other people had reported sightings. Its just the luck of the draw, wild animals are just that – wild and free to roam. However in our first morning drive in Kanha we saw two tigers, one from elephant back and a large male briefly crossing from one side of the track to the other. I can remember that in “my” jeep was Debbie, who I had met and teamed up with on the trip, and Bhuvindra, the tour leader. One of the rangers said that if we went and sat in another part of the park and waited the large male tiger we had seen crossing the road was known to take a certain route and we might see him again.
So off we headed and parked up. We sat with no shelter from the sun other than our sun hats (essential!!) and in the rising heat of the day – and it was a scorcher! The heat was intense – like sitting next to a fire. Eventually, one by one the other jeeps decided it was simply too hot to stay – we had after all already seen two tigers.
But leaving was not for Debbie and I. I remember saying I would sit there all day if we were allowed (but the parks close during the heat of the day) just for the opportunity of seeing a tiger again. And so we sat and baked. It was just so hot! It seemed liked we sat for ages but in reality the heat probably just made it feel that way. But wow, was the wait worth it.
As we sat, the same large male tiger appeared and walked just 1-2 metres in the bushes along the side of the track. At one point he stopped and marked his territory by scratching a tree and then started to walk further alongside the road, again only slightly in the side bushes. Cutting a corner of a track junction, he reappeared on a side track where he crossed in front of us, sprayed his territory with urine and eventually disappeared into the forest.
It was amazing. I still get a knot in my stomach when I think about it, and it is still my favourite sighting. I remember Bhuvindra saying that Debbie and I did not stop smiling for the whole trip afterwards! I don’t think either Debbie or I, or even Bhuvindra in fact, got a decent photos of “our” tiger – it’s hard to take a good photo when your hands are shaking so much with excitement. But hey who needs photos when you have memories!
Sorry for rambling on, as you can probably tell the excitement of the trip is still there for me two years on and it definitely had a big effect on me! It took The Land of the Tiger trip to make me realise I had been in the wrong job for 20+ years! Should there be a warning on your trips?!!
Hopefully in the not too distant future I will get to see the tigers of India again, especially with the depressing news of their continuing decline.