Located in the Hingani district in Wardha, Nagpur lies a tiger sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of city life: the BOR Tiger Reserve. Spread across only 120 square km, it’s one of the smallest tiger reserves. Home to a variety of flora and fauna it is also a place to spot the big cats.

Unlike other national parks that are buzzing with tourist activity, Bor is pleasantly peaceful since it had been declared as a National Park only in July 2014 thereby escaping the unusual downpour of tourists.

I was in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve when a forest guide told me about Bor. So, I decided to pack my bags and set off to this little heaven and explore what it had in store for me. The park has two gates – Bor and Adegaon. The Adegaon gate is only 46 km from Nagpur and in excellent condition too which prompted me to choose it over the other gate.

Since I had only enough time for one safari I knew that my chances of seeing the striped stalker were very slim. Katrina a female tigress and the star attraction of Bor had given birth to three cubs and the news had shot up my hopes of sighting them. After a two-hour drive from Nagpur, I reached the Adegaon gate well in time for my afternoon safari. It was a huge relief to me to see that there were no vehicles at the gate. I was so pleased because, in the absence of whirring engines, one can enjoy the melodious sounds of the forest.

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As we drove to the gate we discovered that it had been barricaded by a log and a forest official soon walked over and requested us to wait to leave me curious…

Suddenly my guide shouted…’’ Madam dekho Tiger tho yahin hai’’…I was aghast…What! outside the gate …Was I that lucky?

There he was a young sub-adult male. He looked majestic as he walked towards a waterhole just outside the entry gate and laid down. No wonder they had asked us to wait. He was too close to the gate. I was told he was Yuvraj a cub from the previous litter of Katrina. It seems that he and his sibling were separated from their mother when they were just a year old as she was being wooed by a huge male tiger who had entered her territory. Harsh as it was the cubs had battled all odds and managed to survive on their own. I captured him sitting beautifully in the water just a few feet away from me right near the park gate…what a sighting and that too all alone with no noise of camera shutters or human voices.

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He soon walked into the forest leaving the guards to open the park gates for our safari. I was so satisfied that I had begun my only safari with such an awesome sighting.

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The park has one of the largest lakes that I have ever seen. Stretching from one end of the horizon to the other it was a huge expanse of green and blue. Nilgais, herds of spotted deer, and sambhars were grazing and quenching their thirst in the dry summer heat.

Langurs were prancing around the jungle tracks and the baby langurs played mischievously. Bor unlike other reserves is mountainous too, bordered by large grassy meadows.

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As we drove along, spotted many chitals grazing lazily on the mountains. Suddenly, a shrill cry broke the heavy silence that hung in the air – the alarm cry of a langur. Surely a predator was on the prowl. After scanning the mountains for any movement and what seemed like hours although it was just a few minutes – I caught sight of the spotted beauty. – the Indian Leopard, a very elusive creature.

The feline was climbing the rocks on the mountain slope. Adrenaline coursed through my veins as I struggled to get an image through the thickets but could not due to the dense bramble. Nevertheless, it had been recorded in the memory card of my brain from where there would never be a delete button.

We soon came to a small building which was the office of the range officer Mr. Bhanse. I was lucky to spend a few moments with him. A highly knowledgeable and pleasant officer he was kind enough to explain to me the entire history of the reserve. I learned from him that BOR was a connecting corridor between 5 reserves- Pench, TATR, Nagzira, Satpura, and Umred. This forest needed to be declared as a reserve otherwise it could have been annexed by the power-hungry, money-hungry developers for a new project. Meeting Mr. Bhanse was a very enriching experience for me as he taught me so much about the medical values of each tree … He also explained that the ghost tree has three colours and the gum obtained from it was used to make the outer cover of a medical capsule and a lot of illegal extraction is often attempted by villagers which makes it necessary that he and his team keep around the clock vigil…a feat that has been well accomplished by them considering a fact that the park has over a 1000 ghost trees. It’s very easy for us to blame the forest officials when any incident happens but not once do we notice their hard work in ensuring a balance between meeting the villager's needs, conservation, and safeguarding a thriving ecosystem.

The multitude of dried leaves on the ground and the composting, organic smell from them engulfed me and held me in a trance. Nothing is more enchanting than the fragrance of Earth…Every giant tree we passed under reminded me of a sentinel and as I drove deeper into the tangled heart of this primeval forest the more mystical and spellbinding it became. Huge roots and leafless branches of the ghost tress appeared like the twisting backs of some dinosaur. Arthritic boughs, gnarled with age, stood like pillars in the dried river bed as if waiting for the rains to come and play with them. Forest tracks that snaked through the dense canopies of teak, mahua, and ghost trees made the entire experience very surreal.

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On my way back to the gate a sudden movement caught my eye. It was a tigress on a prowl. Mr. Bhanse identified her as Pinky. Wowww!!! I had managed to sight both the sub-adult cubs of Katrina in a single drive. The light was fading quickly so I decided to soak in the moment in my eyes. She was too close to the gate just like her brother and one worrying thought kept coming back to my mind…These are predators and no matter what, someday a mishap could happen which could cost these felines their life. Man animal conflict is rampant and the location of these siblings could only prove hazardous to them in the future. I silently prayed that as they grow into adulthood they would find themselves a more secure home away from man altogether.

Even though Bor is a small park it has lots to offer. Among the winged beauties, I spotted chestnut headed starling, resplendent Indian peafowl, changeable hawk-eagle, shikra, kestrel, grey jungle fowl, mottled wood owl, and many more.

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I realized that when one steps into the jungle with no expectations mother nature always show you the unexpected. With a big suitcase of memories, I left Bor with a promise to return the next season.

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