National Tiger Ambassador K. Sanjana recounts her wild experience at the Pench Tiger Reserve.

Our bags were packed and we were ready to go to Pench Tiger Reserve. After the train journey to Nagpur, my coordinator Arivazhagan Chelliah, teacher Annapoorni and I — the National Ambassador from Chennai — met with the other National Tiger Ambassadors from Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Ramnagar and Kolkata and their respective teachers and coordinators.

The first thing we noticed when we reached the forest was that our cell phone had lost signal. This made it all the more exciting as we lost contact with the outside world.

Pench Tiger Reserve is the place where Rudyard Kipling based his famous Jungle Book. So, we were very thrilled to be in the land of Mowgli. That night we armed ourselves with our binoculars, cameras and notepads and hopped into the open jeep.

In the forest

The first thing that caught our eye as we entered the forest was a group of spotted deer. We observed that they lifted their tails while running; this, we were told, was to warn the others about lurking danger. Then we were startled by a sound which we assumed to be an alarm call and we were expecting to see a tiger. Later, we came to know that it was a rutting call. Rutting calls are made by male deer to attract the female deer. As we moved on, we caught a glimpse of two jackals. It was interesting to learn that jackals don't hunt in packs and they mate for life.

We also saw a variety of birds like the Jungle Babbler, Treepie, Roller Bird, Parakeet and lots more. Among the flora, the tree that fascinated me was the ghost tree. Its bark is white in colour and is devoid of any leaves in this season. So, at night it appears ghostly with fluttering arms.

On many trees we saw rake marks (the marks of a tiger's claw). Along the way we saw many trees with their barks chipped off; the result of the deer rubbing their antlers on the trunks and the porcupines that would chew on them.

While inside some water droplets fell on our face. Assuming it was the early morning dewdrops we eagerly lifted our faces to catch a few more. But, to our utter disgust, we were told that it was the defecation of the cicadas!

But what really made our day was the sight of two tigers: Badi Matha and her grandchild. The experience of seeing a tiger face-to-face in the wild was truly unbelievable.

The sessions

We had lot of interactive sessions with Anish Andheria and Sahrdul Bajikar, which were interesting and informative. We learnt a lot about the estimation of tigers. We were taught about the capture-recapture technique and we also learnt about epiphytes and parasites.

In the sessions we were informed that Pench Tiger Reserve was one of the best managed tiger reserves in the country.

In short, the trip was extremely enlightening. It was not only a wake-up call towards conservation but it also taught us how to overcome our regional differences for a greater cause.

Sanjana is a Std X student at P.S.B.B-Nungambakkam.