To beat the heat in the extreme summers of Central India, tigers spend a lot of time in water. This means that the summer time is the easiest time to track the striped cats, as they rarely stray away from their favourite waterholes. This also means that one can get a lot of photographic opportunities during the summer time to click the otherwise elusive cat. Here is a photo-essay of some of the amazing tiger sightings I have had during the summer time in Kanha.
Size does not matter: While selecting a waterhole to cool itself off, the size of the waterhole is of no importance for the tiger. As long as there is plenty of shade over the waterbody, a tiger will park itself in the water, as this female tiger proves.
Quenching the thirst: Being a large animal, tigers need a lot of water to drink. More so in the summers. Having a waterhole in your control means you have secured a place to cool yourself and a place quench your thirst whenever need be.
Deep down: Lacking sweat glands over most parts of their bodies, tigers prefer to submerge themselves in waterbodies to get rid of the excess heat in the body. This behaviour is sometimes taken to the extreme by some individuals. After reaching a water hole, we waited for a few minutes to check for any signs of tiger movement in the area, before realising that a tiger had submerged itself, with just a little bit of the head visible, on the far side of the lake.
Water wars: Being extremely important for their survival, waterholes are fiercely guarded against intruding tigers. In the photograph are two males sizing each other up during their fight to secure control over a drying stream in the vicinity.
Family fun-time: Having a permanent source of water in her territory is extremely important for a female tiger raising cubs. It could mean the difference between the survival or death of her cubs. Here a mother can be seen cooling herself off along with her cubs in a large waterhole, knowing that her cubs won’t die of thirst as long as she maintains control over the lake.
By the man, for the tiger: Some photographers do not prefer to photograph tigers in man-made concrete waterholes simply for the aesthetic viewing of the photograph. Tigers on the other hand do not differentiate between natural and man-made waterholes, and will happily use any water that is available, as this experienced male tiger is demonstrating.
Against all comers: Being apex predators, tigers have very few enemies in a forest. But an animal as formidable as a Gaur has to be treated with respect. Despite knowing the harm a bull Gaur can cause, a male tiger decides to stake his claim over his favourite waterhole for the fear of losing rights to the visitor.
Challengers, big and small: All animals need water, and for the tiger the challenge does not always come from big animals. Sometimes the smaller creatures prove to be more formidable. Such as this instance, where the tiger was made to move away from the waterhole by the swarming bees.
Naturalist, Singinawa Jungle Lodge