What a month – the build up to Christmas and New Year at Kipling was riddled with complexities and concentration. We had crates and crates of food come in from Jabalpur and Delhi in preparation. Sam made an all day trip to Jabalpur to do the shopping for the necessary Christmas items, including huge red gold and silver stars and tinsel for the Shamiana which, once Babu, Ahmed and Babulal had finished with it made us feel particularly festive all of a sudden. Christmas cards were draped down the pillars and lights littered the ceiling and the walls thanks to Babu’s precarious but effective electrical work.
Huge boxes of goodies and supplies were brought down from Delhi with Anne and Belinda when they eagerly arrived. Belinda couldn’t contain her excitement when we unpacked the sacred Christmas puddings. Sam was put under strict instructions to make the brandy butter (no pressure there!) and I was put in charge of the mulled wine. Both, might I say were big hits among the guests.
The camp was full to bursting for Christmas with guests and friends of the camp, hailing from Germany, America, England and of course Mother India. Everything was made especially exciting by the fact that we had two if not three tigers active in our area, alarm calls were frequent and urgent and everybody was on high alert. At the slightest bark from a monkey or spotted deer, knives and forks were dropped and ears pricked. The only one not excited by all this hullabaloo was our dear Tara who was not impressed enough to be disturbed. However, when her day came she performed with her usual air of dignified enthusiasm…….I am of course talking about her role as Santa’s mount. She and Father Christmas (Sam with pillow) came up to the Shamiana bearing gifts for all which were gratefully received.
We had a delicious, and rather large, turkey lunch with all the trimmings which was so good that Langur monkeys became noticeable in the trees above with wide eyes. Tiger sightings in the Park were plentiful over Christmas with Mona and one of Uma Pani’s male cubs both being spotted.
However, more action was taking place in camp with pugmarks down the fire line and alarm calls from both leopard nulla and by our water hole. We felt confident that with Belinda’s new camera trap we would be able to get a picture of one, we tried several locations to no avail although we got plenty of lovely pictures of cheetal and a few of Kim the Labrador. Perhaps in the New Year we might get something…
New Year was excellent at camp, although several people almost missed the countdown to 2014 due to some ill-timed alarm calls. The most extraordinary and wonderful thing happened on the first day of 2014, at 8:40 pm on 01/01/14 whilst we were all having supper, or perhaps having one of Belinda’s favourite games of Uno, the camera trap took its first picture of a Kipling camp tiger! Here is that picture, taken about 150 metres from where we were all sitting. We were ecstatic to the say the least. On the first day of the year, surely this is a good and auspicious sign for tigers everywhere. Happy New Year!
PS With all the excitement mentioned by Tom it might be just as well for their pulse rates, but sadly we are having to say farewell to both him and Sam as their three months at Kipling Camp comes to an end. Sam travels on to Australia for four months while Tom returns briefly to the UK before heading to South America. They will however be reunited in the autumn as they carry on their studies at Edinburgh University and arrangements have already been made at a local watering hole (!!) in the city with some of our guests who hail from there. Good luck and thanks for all you’ve done guys.
Two new volunteers, Georgia and Juno, will be taking their place and no doubt will share their own adventures at Kipling in due course.