Missed by a whisker

October heat was taking over the south. But when you are inside a forest, the heat fades away. Standing under the canopies of tall trees, we walked amidst the evergreen forests of the Pampadum Shola National Park (NP). We were doing a 6km hike inside the NP and were accompanied by Ulaganathan, a young forest guard from the local community. As we began our trail, we noticed that the forest was unusually quiet. No more than half a kilometer inside, we saw fresh tiger pug marks.

Image: The pugmarks on the right are that of a tiger. The ones on the left are of a smaller carnivore.

These were not there yesterday. This is an adult tiger and this is from today morning!


As we walked ahead, we saw a trail of unmissable and unmistakable tiger tracks on the soft wet mud which made us very vigilant. [Click on the video below to play it]

Video: We walked in complete silence with only the sounds of the forest accompanying us.

Ulaganathan informed us that tigers liked to walk in clear paths; and often they encountered them on open paths rather than dense forests. We walked in complete silence, not knowing what to expect. During one turning, the three of us simultaneously heard a low pitch growl which I convinced myself was somebody’s stomach signaling hunger. My heart was beating so fast. We walked for 3 hours with no sighting of tiger or any other mammal.

We finally reached the nature interpretation centre downhill at around 10AM. Suddenly, amidst the gentle sound of the breeze, we heard a deafening growl that that emanated from the forest. It was so loud that it echoed through the valley; it raised every hair on our body. Ulaganathan remarked, “The tiger has reached downhill“.

I froze, for I had never heard a tiger growl before in my life. It seemed like a clear indication to every animal and human that a tiger was in the area. I was convinced beyond doubt now that we were being watched during our entire trail!

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My name is Adithi Muralidhar. I am a nature enthusiast based in Mumbai, India.

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