Fancy a safari? Head out on the tiger’s trail in Bandhavgarh National Park via India’s first virtual OTT platform

Sit in the comfort of your home and experience the dangerous wild with wildlife filmaker and presenter Suyash Keshari. He recently launched Safari With Suyash TV, the country’s first virtual OTT platform dedicated to wildlife

I am on edge; minutes away from a possible tiger sighting or an unexpected animal action. Embedded as a viewer on a virtual safari with wildlife presenter, Suyash Keshari, I am exploring the magical landscape of Bandhavgarh National Park, from the comfort of my drawing room.

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In the last half hour, we have driven on a dirt track through the tall tawny grass of the Chakradhar meadows of the game park. In the distance, the low, dark Bandheni hillock rises mysteriously.

A tiger at Bandhavgarh National Park 

Suddenly the wind is pierced by the cry of an animal. “It’s an alarm call, perhaps of a Chital. It comes from the direction of the Gopalpur pond where thirsty animals congregate,” says Suyash. The jeep turns to follow the sound and we spot pug marks. “These are fresh; of a female tiger as the toe is big.” We stop dead. I am experiencing an adrenaline rush, as must be the over 100 subscribers of this virtual safari.

Virtual safari

A wildlife film-maker and presenter Suyash recently launched India’s first virtual OTT platform, Safari With Suyash TV, dedicated to wildlife. “We all have a curiosity towards Nature embedded deep within us,” says the 25-year-old, but somewhere along the way this has been overtaken by the perils of a fast-paced developing world. The goal of this series is to ignite that curiosity through a first-hand virtual experience. What if we bring the wildlife safari to people’s homes?”

Wildlife film-maker and presenter Suyash Keshari 

Suyash takes the subscribers of his channel into different parts of the reserve every Sunday. He has a close association with Bandhavgarh as he hails from MP. The wild has been his passion since childhood so much so that he quit his job in political advocacy in Washington DC to return to the habitat he loves the most.

“When it comes to tiger sightings, I think Bandhavgarh is unparalleled because of the high tiger density and the countless hours of effort put in by the forest guards to ensure that this stays a safe haven for all living beings, big or small,” says Suyash who has tracked over 90 tigers in this National Park, many since they were two or three months old. “It feels like we’ve grown up together over the last 10-12 years. I even know how the grasslands; the trees have changed over the years,” he says fondly. Apart from tigers, Bandhavgarh has over 30 species of mammals and 250 species of birds.

Wildlife film-maker and presenter Suyash Keshari 

In May 2019, Suyash started filming the wild to develop a show. After the first three episodes, he pitched the idea to different organisations and WWF International responded positively with a request for five episodes by December 2019.

This led to the real-life web series #SafariWithSuyash about a young person’s life with tigers and conservation issues surrounding the species, centred in Bandhavgarh National Park. It was showcased at a United Nations Conference and by Incredible India.

Suyash also works with Animal Planet as a live host and with international, governmental and private organisations such as UNIQLO, Sony India, Fable & Mane and the Government of India’s Ministry of Tourism and MP Tourism.

Back to School with Suyash

  • Every virtual safari features a segment called ‘Back to school with Suyash’ in which Suyash is seen discussing topics such as how to track animals, conservation etc. The goal is to give people a deeper insight into issues connected with Nature.

Enjoy the wild from the comfort of one’s home

He came up with the idea of a virtual tour during the pandemic when the National Parks were shut and people unable to visit them that he came up with the idea of a virtual tour of the wild. “Connecting people with the wild has always been my calling. Either due to the pandemic or lack of resources or time, people are unable to go on a safari. Our goal is to find different and more innovative ways to connect people with Nature. Why not go on one, in the comfort of your house?”

The safaris are educational in approach and, unlike documentaries, there are no cuts or dramatic music. The focus is not only on tigers but on wildlife and Nature as a whole. Suyash stops the vehicle and explains all kinds of sightings ranging from small birds to big cats and even trees. Upon a sighting, an infographic card pops out to give the ‘virtual guests’ some key information regarding the species on the screen. The safari maintains an interactive approach with Suyash sharing conservation stories, personal anecdotes and tips and tricks of tracking. The camera moves along the eyesight level, a simulation of how one would look around upon a sighting. His team consists of two cameramen, guides, live programme and production assistants.

Conservation Merchandise

  • Suyash has recently released conservation merchandise like safari buffs/bandanas and caps that can be purchased by anyone from around the globe. The profits are earmarked for conservation. Their initial goal is to raise funds to make waterholes in the water-scarce areas of Bandhavgarh and habitat reconstruction.

Suyash talks nostalgically about Solo, a tiger he tracked for eight years until it was seriously injured by Bamera son a male tiger. Solo was later poisoned, he believes, by the villagers because it attacked their cattle. It’s a story that pains him deeply and, in January 2019, when he learned of Solo’s death, he wrote a passionate tribute to the tigress.

Wildlife photographer Seema Suresh is thrilled that such a show will “give visual dreams to nature lovers. Not only will these shows inspire the viewer to work for nature conservation but also let lovers of the forest and the wild enjoy the journey vicariously. Many cannot go to such places for several reasons.”

Suyash is currently filming Season 2 and plans to explore other prominent parks like Kanha, Tadoba, Pench, Ranthambore and others. He says that the easiest and most effective way to encourage people to conserve nature is to help them find a deeper connection with it. “What we can see, we can love. And what we can love, we will fight to protect.”

The fourth safari will be live on November 28 at 8 am and the following is schedule for December 5, 2021. The link to the show is http://tv.suyashkeshari.com/

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