ATR - Day 90: Visited Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, almost sighted a tiger. Came to Pollachi
Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve doesn’t conduct many safaris but we got the permission to go on one. The jungle was good but the animals very shy. Tigers, too.
December 29, 2023
Friday, 11:30 PM
Rathnasabapathy Puram - 3,
KKG Mandapam (Backside),
Pollachi, District Coimbatore,
Tamil Nadu, India
Since the gate of Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve was about an hour’s drive from where we were staying, we left early at around 5:00 AM for the morning safari, but the problem was that the highway we were to use to get to the reserve remains closed until 6:30 AM or so. That left us with no option but to wait. We requested the officers manning the gate to let us through a little earlier so that we could reach the reserve in time. They allowed us to go in a bit earlier, as it was already about the time they would open the highway anyway. But even a few minutes sooner was good enough for us because we were wasting precious safari time standing there.
The route from Hasanur to Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve goes through a bit of a hilly terrain, so there are sharp turns everywhere, so we had to be careful; but there is also a lot of wildlife on the way. We saw a lot of deer and all on the way.
At the reserve, we had a camper vehicle waiting for us, which had been arranged for us by an officer because safari is not readily available at this reserve, as is the case with a lot of tiger reserves in India because not all tiger reserves are open for or welcoming of tourism for reasons best known to the authorities even though on the balance of the revenue tourism brings, the awareness it spreads and the higher surveillance it automatically brings, tourism, on the whole, supports conservation efforts in no small measure. In fact, ecotourism can do a lot more for conservation efforts than government acting all on its own can, which fact has been underlined by several high-raking forest officers I have had the opportunity of meeting and interacting with both on and off camera.
We got on that camper vehicle and did our safari, which was about 4-hour long but there is just one road in Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve; so what we do is just go straight down that road and return. The forest is beautiful, like most of the forests, but the animals are so shy that they would dash into the woods at the very sight of a vehicle.
Also, there still villages inside the jungle, so I assume the relocation of the villages is a work in progress here. When we were just about to exit the jungle, we came across very fresh pugmarks of a tiger — so fresh like it had just moved away from the place. At a different spot a short distance further down, we also found spots indicating that the tiger had sat there, and there were lots of pugmarks there also.
We thought of waiting, and we had just begun waiting that we started hearing alarm calls from inside the jungle. It was pointless to wait because what seemed to have happened was that the tiger was sitting there, and when he/she heard the sound of our approaching vehicle, he/she decided to walk away. And the alarm calls by the inhabitants of the jungle were just signaling that the big cat was on the move, most probably on our account. So there was no point waiting any longer, for the tiger didn’t seem to be interested in being sighted. And that’s natural because where tigers do not see many human beings, they tend to keep their distance, as they do not see human presence as part of their environment, unlike in the reserves where there is substantial number of safaris arranged.
After exiting the reserve, we came to our place of stay, picked Sanket, our editor, and left for Pollachi. But the first thing we did on our way to Pollachi was look for a good place to eat. We found a good dhaba and we ate to our heart’s content. We had not eaten well in the last 24 hours, so a good meal was urgently needed.