Unlike most weekend holidays this was a start of the week holiday with it beginning at 11pm on a Sunday
Ever since my visit to Jim Corbett 11 years ago, I have not been able to visit a tiger sanctuary for some reason or the other, numerous times programs to Kanha, Bandavgarh and Melghat have failed. Sometimes the programs didn’t take off, sometimes I couldn’t make the trip and as would be usual this time when we were looking to book for Ranthambore we could not find any safari’s on weekends and eventually we booked a safari for Monday and Tuesday. This was done in January and I didn’t want to jinx this holiday so tried to keep it a lil low key… eventually last week as junior’s exams got over I was cock-a-hoop about this holiday when the two friends of mine bailed out of the trip so instead of the 7 people it was going to be just the 3 of us. This time though I stuck by it and me and wifey and junior set about to Sawai Madhopur.
Junior is madly interested in animals and infact knows more facts about them than me so he was thrilled all along the only talk was of what all species of animals and birds were there. I did try to tone his excitement down that maybe we might not see all that he expects to. I have been on safari in a tiger park I think for 6-7 times each time for 4-5 hours and have never spotted a tiger. Unlike me my son is not a greedy traveller who is a little over keen on seeing a tiger, he was happy with deer he told me.
Our agenda for the trip was quite clear, safari, swimming pool, safari, swimming pool and so on !
We reached our hotel Ranthambore Safari Lodge, marketed by Camps of India Ahmedabad, around 11.30 am and were happy to be given a comfortable room near the swimming pool, the resorts garden had lots of tree of mulberry (setur) and hence the not only you could always feed yourself but it meant there were lots and lots and lots of birds in the resort for you to click anytime you feel bored… not just that they provided for very constant sweet music to the ears…
Picture a scene of the wife relaxing on a pool chair reading a book, the kid bathing in the pool and the husband clicking the bushes well that was us in about 30 mins of reaching the resort well, for a while atleast ! Before we were dragged to the pool by a shrieking kid…
After an exhausting session in the pool and a heavy lunch we had to leave for our safari at 2.30 pm and surprisingly it was not hot, it was kinda comfortable and once inside the park it was rather pleasant. We entered the park and once we crossed the Ganesh Mandir and Ranthambore fort the main park area started. Ranthambore has 9 zones and we were to go on zone 2 for the first day. There was plenty of life in the jungle even in at that time of the afternoon. In no time we had spotted Chital (spotted deer), Sambhar, Nilgai, Rufous Tree Magpie, Black Drongo, Peacocks by the dozen, Parakeets, White bellied Drongo, a wood pecker, an owl, a few croc’s, cormorants, painted stork’s, grey heron, mongoose, patridge… I would say those were just about spotted in the first hour. Junior couldn’t stop shrieking and it was tough to tell him to stop talking and exclaiming and to maintain silence. After a little while again the driver’s started looking for call’s to check if the tiger was on the move, around 2 hours were spent on trying to track the tiger and all jeep and canter driver’s would exchange information what they saw and where.
Whilst we spotted so many animals inside me there was something that was telling me this is going the same way again… no tiger… he was being elusive once again…
In the wild I have seen all the other animals somehow but a tiger in the wild has always eluded me, leopard, lion all seen but the Tiger somehow was playing hide with me I still had 3 more safari’s up my sleeve and yet admist all the joy that my son was experiencing I was still waiting for my first Tiger in the wild.
Now I have heard a lot of people say that you must enjoy the jungle and watch the other so many rare animals and not just bother about the big cat, but really, I just wanted to for once experience the thrill of watching a Tiger. For those who have never tried to track a tiger they must surely read the book The Man Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett.
Unlike a lion that you spot in a pride a Tiger is a solitary being, unless in mating season or with cubs. Cubs too stay with their mom only till 2-2.5 years and then once independent might even struggle with their parents for the territory. When the tiger is sitting the jungle goes about on its merry way, its kinda nice and peaceful. The moment a tiger starts walking, some Langur or Deer will give a warning call and alert the jungle that it is on the prowl. The whole jungle in a way gangs up against him. A tiger could take up a territory of 10-12 square km’s and some strong males are known to even take up territories about 40 square km. Tigers are also masters of camouflage, so understand that if you missed one tiger in a bush at the edge of its territory you could be roaming about for quite a while without any chance of seeing it. Tiger’s for their sheer elusiveness I guess are so much of a sought after cat compared to all others. The fact that it is the biggest cat is another and the fact that there are so few left in the wild that you do not want to miss watching one in the wild in your lifetime. A guy who grew up on jungle book was bound to be fascinated by this Sher Khan not the Sher Khan that IHM claims as her family member
However, once you are ready to forget the tiger and leave it to luck, Ranthambore was a very beautiful jungle to photograph. Not just the animals but the old ruins and the lakes are super wonderful for pictures. I will leave you with a few more of the pics we took before I prepare for the next day which was to be the luckiest for me ever in my life when I spotted not just one cat but two !!! so until then you gorge on these pics
The curious deer
The classic woodpecker pic
There was plenty of water around for March in Rajasthan, atleast to my mind I had thought there would be scant water and it would be very hot, however it was very pleasant weather and lots of lakes throughout the jungle.
A lake full of red algae that is the favorite of the Sambhar who in turn is a favorite food of the tiger… the setting of the jungle is quite beautiful and my pic doesn’t do justice… I just needed to be here during sunset !!!
And then how can I leave you without a pic of Rajbaug the place the Maharaja of Jaipur camped during his prime days, today the place is roamed by tigers and other animals.