The number of wild Bengal Tigers in India have dwindled from about 3,600 in 2002 to 1,400 in 2008 making it one of the most endangered species in the world. Today about 250-300 of these wild cats live in the wildlife sanctuaries of Karnataka. Tigers live in a wide range of habitat, including the high-altitude, cold, coniferous Himalayan forests, the steaming mangroves of the Sunderbans, the swampy reedlands, the scorched hills of the Indian peninsula, the lush wet forests of Northern India, and the arid forests of Rajasthan. Bengal Tigers prey of choice in Southern India are Chital, Sambar, Gaur and Wild Pigs.We photographed our first wild Bengal Tiger on 31st Dec 2008. You can read about that encounter here. We spent the May 1st weekend at Tusker Trails situated on the outskirts of Bandipur national park in Karnataka, India along with one of our blogger friends Vam & Saru. This was Saru’s first safari in a Wildlife Sanctuary in India. His beginner’s luck rubbed off on all of us bestowing us with some astonishing moments that will remain etched in our memories for a long long time! Thank you Vam & Saru for your wonderful company.

About an hour into our 3rd safari of the trip, Vamsee spotted a Bengal Tiger, about 50 feet away, at a small waterhole right next to the game tracks. The majestic male was cooling off in the waterhole when we spotted him. Unfortunately, we could not see the Tiger clearly since the waterhole was at a turn on the tracks. We were left with two options – either we wait for the Tiger to get up on its own or try to get closer to it. We opted for the second option since Bengal Tigers are known to sleep at a waterhole for hours together. As we got within 20 feet, the Tiger spotted us and immediately got up and bolted right across into the nearby Lantana , giving us just 9 seconds to get our photographs. Once inside the Lantana, the handsome male went to sleep for about two hours. We could see parts of him through the Lantana but attempts to get a clear shot were futile – thanks to the thick undergrowth!
Here are a few images that we managed to get from this exciting encounter with the elusive cat.All images were taken handheld with the D300 and Nikon 300mm f2.8 lens. The images have been slightly cropped for composition.In this image, you can see this majestic Bengal Tiger directly looking at us. If you look closely, you will see that he has a deep gash near his left eye. EXIF details – 300mm focal length, f2.8, 1/320s, ISO 200, 0EV.
This image was taken at 300mm, f2.8, 1/800s, ISO 200, 0EV. You can see the water dripping off from him as he breaks into a canter.

This image was taken when he broke his canter before looking at us directly. Image was taken at 300mm, f2.8, 1/400s, ISO 200, 0EV

This is our first shot of him as he bolted away from us. It was taken at 300mm focal length, f2.8, 1/800s, ISO 200, 0EV