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About vikramghanekar

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  1. We waited at the waterhole for quite some time. However, the tiger family had other ideas. It was now starting to get really hot and they must have settled down for the day in a shady area. In the meanwhile, we got info that one of T60’s cubs was sighted near a waterhole. The hope of getting T-39 and family were slim. So we moved to the area where the cub was seen last. Alas, the waterhole was empty. We checked couple of other waterholes in the area, but came up empty. There was dry riverbed nearby. Himmat decided to check for tracks in soft sand. Instead of tracks, we found this! It was a male cub from T60’s latest litter, approximately 18 months old. Nearly as big as his mother (though she was nowhere to be found). The cub was panting heavily and to call his niche “a cave” would be stretch of imagination. When I enquired with Aditya and Himmat, they confirmed that there were much better places for tiger to spend a hot afternoon including the multiple waterholes that we had visited. The cub looked as if it was almost having a sunstroke. After taking a few shots, we decided to move into shade and look for its siblings. Himmat was sure that they would around as the tiger families tend to stick together. After some intensive search we found second male cub, seeking shade under a thick bush. Close up! In summers all tigers show this froth stuck to their chin! Effects of some heavy panting. Soo these paws will be the size of dinner plates. After a few quick shots, we parked in the shade and decided to wait/ have packed lunch. (By now it was almost 3 pm). Tigers would surely start moving once the temperature cooled down a bit. Prediction was that they would seek each other out and we may get to see the whole family together. An hour and a half was spent chatting, drinking water with rehydration salts, aam pana(a homemade mango drink), lassi etc. I was carrying 1 litre of rehydration salt solution which I was sipping since morning. The water was now hot enough to make some tea with (not that it would taste any better). As the sun started dipping, the prediction came true (well sort of). One male cub started moving towards dry river bed and sat down. It was soon followed by the second male. The third cub (a female) was seen very briefly as she moved through the bushes and disappeared. The cub moving through dry river bed Some more shots. We did get a good sighting of the two male cubs as they greeted each other. First male cub sitting in dry river bed. Second one walks into the scene Greeting ceremony Gentle nudge Parting shot. Those two white dots on the back of their ears are just beautiful, aren't they? The young male's mane is just coming through It was now getting late and we had some distance to travel to the gate to make it within the stipulated time. So we said good bye to the tiger and made our way back to the gate. Just outside the gate, there were many peacocks sitting on trees, giving me an opportunity to click last few images of the day. Smiling faces all around told the story of a successful day in the Ranthambhore National Park. Cold beer awaited us in the lodge and we couldn't resist anymore!
  2. Trip Report Ranthambhore April 2017 Ranthambhore is the first tiger reserve or for that matter first protected area that I have ever visited in my life. It was way back in December 2007. My wife and I had finished 1 year of our private practice (we both are doctors). We decided to celebrate the occasion by going on a 10 day trip to Rajasthan. We had never been to any forest/ nature reserve before. We had never had been exposed to wildlife as kids and always had very little time to spend on anything other than studies as we finished our respective professional education.As an afterthought we decided to visit Ranthambhore just to see what it was all about. Since we could not get a safari booking at the end of our itinerary, we decided to start the trip with Ranthambhore. It was December, freezing cold, we were all layered up. It was our first experience to sit in an open vehicle with the wind blowing in our faces as we made our way from our hotel to the entrance of the park. That in itself was a altogether thrilling experience! After entering the park we got onto route 5. Being part of an enthusiastic group we were the first vehicle in the park. It was foggy and visibility was down a 10 metres or so. And lo behold, a tigress was walking down the road, through the mist, straight towards our vehicle. It was a nothing short of spectacular! She walked on, not a care in the world, making absolutely no sound while the driver reversed our car. This went on for good 10 minutes….I managed to take a couple of blurry foggy pictures with my little point and shoot camera. I still have those pictures which barely show some orange on a white background but the memory is as fresh in my mind as if it was yesterday. Our driver could reverse no more due to a line of vehicles that had formed behind us. The tigress was least bothered and she walked beside our vehicle close enough for my wife to reach out and touch her (which of course she didn’t!) To say the least we were hooked! The safari bug had bitten on our very first day in a national park and the fever has not gone away still and probably never will. Our rest of the trip visiting palaces and museums paled on the background of our Ranthambhore experience. After coming back we immediately started planning our next trip. After this trip I made a very short trip to R’mbore in 2013 with a friend of mine. We were not very lucky with tiger sightings on that trip (just one good sighting) as it was winter and the trip was planned at the last minute resulting in not getting zones of choice. So when I got an email from my friend Aditya Singh (incidently we stayed at his hotel Ranthambhore Bagh in 2007 just by pure chance), saying he is arranging a 4 full day safari trip for a few friends, I jumped in. My wife decided not to come especially with our son being just 3 years who wouldn’t enjoy 40C April heat of Ranthambhore. (He has already seen a leopard and a sloth bear at the age of 1 and a big male tiger at the ripe old age of 2!). The trip started on 15th April 2017. I got onto the August Kranti Express leaving Mumbai at 1730 hours and reached Sawai Madhopur next day at 0630. I had booked AC First Class. I was amazed by the cleanliness, courteous service and palatable food offered by Indian Railways. It was certainly a pleasant surprise after being used to poor service and unpalatable food for years together. It was a 5 day trip. First day was a full day photographic workshop at the hotel hosted by Theo Allofs, a German photographer settled in the US. (He is an outstanding photographer having won Natural History Museums Wildlife Photographer of the Year award several times apart from several other awards and publication. Please do check out his website especially his aerial photographs from Rift Valley). The group was varied. One person was from Manila, One from Mumbai, One from Dubai, 2 from Hyderabad, One Sri Lankan from Melbourne and me from a little town on the west coast of India. Since it was a full day safari, Aditya had booked 2 Gypsies (Suzuki 4X4s) with very experienced drivers but without any guides. (Guides are a must for normal drives). The plan was to concentrate on one particular tigress called T-39 or “Noor” and her 3 4 month old cubs. There was another tigress T-60 with 3 grown up cubs (1 1/2 years old) a little further down the road in the same zone (Zone 2) who would serve as a backup plan. Another tigress called “Arrowhead” (T-19’s daughter) had territory close to the entrance gate of Zones 2 and 3, so we had a chance of sighting her as well. Males of course, we could bump into anywhere. With this plan set, we started nice and early on Day 1. It was 0530 as we left the hotel. Weather was surprisingly pleasant. We made straight for Zone 2, driving towards T-39s territory. There were a lot of tiger pug marks on the road but no sign of the owner. All the favourite waterholes were empty with no sign of any big cat. Since we were in 2 cars, a plan was made. We stuck around T-39’s area while the second car made a dash for T-60’s territory. There was no way of communicating as no radios are allowed and cell phone signal are patchy. But as more and more vehicles made their way to the area, a message could be conveyed by passing vehicle. We waited for 30 minutes more. the other vehicle came back empty handed. We continued our search and finally came across this. Noor and her cubs were lying in an area well away from the road, but we could see them through the thickets. They probably had made a kill there but it was difficult to see. We waited for Noor to make a move. Our driver Himmat Singh predicted that as the weather heated up, they would move towards either a waterhole or a shady area. After some time, the family started moving. Not something that you see everyday! Himmat correctly predicted where they would cross the road and drove ahead. He was right (which became the de facto norm) of course. We were treated to a spectacle not many people get to see. The tigers were moving in the direction of a waterhole. It would have been nice if they had decided to do just that. We drove towards the waterhole and waited. Unfortunately, the family had other plans. They did not show up at the waterhole at all. Himmat Singh and Aditya predicted that they probably had moved towards an area with some natural caves. the area was well away from the roads. Hoping against hope we waited at the waterhole. This gave me time to click some other denizens of the forest. This time some feathered ones ! Rose ringed parakeets feeding on flowers of "Flame of the forest" Peacocks were plenty. National bird of India is certainly among one of the most beautiful birds in the world, especially in breeding season.
  3. I did 4 full days safaris in April in Ranthambhore. I would like to share my experience here. 1. There were 4 of us. So we shared the vehicle and the costs. It is not much more than an exclusive vehicle doing 2 regular safaris per day. 2. Zone free access allowed us track T-39 and her cubs and T60 and her cubs from sunrise to sunset. That resulted in some outstanding pictures. Busted the myth that tigers hunt at dawn and dusk. T 39 made 4 attempts (all in 40C heat) to hunt, one was successful. It was quite an experience to see a full grown tigress in attack mode less than a metre from where I was sitting. The way she looked through me, her eyes fixed on a deer on the other side of vehicle, is unforgettable. 2 attempts were between 2 and 3 pm, hottest part fo the day with just one other vehicle around. 3. Leopards are quite active around noon when tigers are cooling off in shade. A big male leopard christened "Spotty Dada" was a regular sighting, bang on the border of territories of tigresses T-39 and Arrowhead. 4. It's a good idea to carry an umbrella and a large thin shawl/bedspread to protect yourself from heat as you wait for a tiger to step out of shade into a pool water. I plan to do two trips to Ranthambhore this season, one in winters and one in April 2018. Both will have a mix of full day and regular safaris. If I get enough co-travellers it can be all full day safaris. News is that T-19 seems to be lactating. So we should get the news about cubs in October. If she does have cubs, it will be rocking with T-39's cubs around a year old and T-19's around 4-5 months old. Safari Njema!
  4. @Rochat28 Welcome to Safaritalk. Can you specify approximately how much time you have? And which month are you planning to travel? I would recommend staying at least 4 nights 5 days in each park to make sure you have good sightings. Since tigers are on top of your list,I would recommend the following reserves. 1. Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan: Stay options are plenty starting from Oberai Vanyavilas/ Aman at top end. I would recommend Ranthambhore Bagh owned by a friend who is an accomplished photographer. It's clean, comfortable with large grounds. (Mid range option). Ask for rooms in the main building, avoid their "tents". Ask for Rajkumar or Salim. They are superb guides. You also have option of full day safaris. In that case, ask for Himmat Singh to drive you. There is no better driver in Ranthambhore. 2. Bandhavgarh National Park, MP: Stay options abound. But if you can, stay at Mahua Kothi by Taj Safaris. It's a personal favourite. ask for Rajkishore or Karun to guide you. Both are outstanding. 3. Tadoba National Park, Maharashtra: The best option is Svasara. They have a great team of guides. I am recommending these three for a reason. Tiger populations fluctuate from year to year. So one reserve may be great this year but have very poor sightings next year. This is because the visibility of tigers increases if you have females with young cubs and established male tigers in the tourism zones. This year Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh were absolutely top notch in sightings due to the same reason. Bandhavgarh had poor run for last 2-3 years due to lack of a well established male in tourism zone. Another important factor is time of the year. In winters weather is gorgeous but sightings are less. In summer its terribly hot but tigers are almost a certainty. I would recommend late March as a good compromise. If you stick to central India, you can also visit Satpura Tiger Reserve. It's not great for tiger sightings but excellent for Sloth Bears and Leopards. It also has the option of walking, canoeing and motor boat rides which adds immensely to the safari. The place to stay in Satpura is Forsyth's lodge, again a personal favourite. The other parks may have great sightings next year: 1. Pench National Park: Superb park with stunning density of herbivores. Featured in BBC's "Spy in the jungle" documentary... If possible stay at Taj Safari's Baghvan. Absolutely top notch. Another great option is Jamtara Camp. The manager Neil is a great guy with a PhD thesis on tigers to boot. You will have good chance of spotting wild dogs as well. 2. Kanha National Park: A big park. Great birding. Good number of tigers but not at the top of tiger sightings recently. For other wildlife there's 1. Corbett National Park: Elephants, Tigers and huge variety of birds 2. Kaziranga National Park: Elephants, Rhinos, Hog deer, Wild buffaloes 3. Kabini National Park: Elephants, Leopards, Tigers and Wild Dogs 4. Little Rann of Kutch: Flemingoes, Birds of prey, Indian Fox, Desert Cat, Wild asses 5. Gir National Park: Asiatic lion Hope this helps Vikram
  5. @rzemek Since you are going to SA, why not stick to SA? You can go to Eastern Cape reserves (great for children) especially Kwandwe. Kwandwe is a great reserve. Agreed it is not as "wild" as Botswana but will surely have great game viewing to keep 10 year olds entertained. You can also add one of the private reserves in Greater Kruger or even explore options in Madikwe which is not too far from Jo'burg. Madikwe has a lot of family friendly options and will add variety to your game viewing. Hope this helps.
  6. @Zoooom welcome to safaritalk. I did my first safari to South Africa way back in 2009. I still remember as if it was yesterday. I was also in my early thirties and so was my wife! So we were on a limited budget as well. Looking back, after visiting numerous other destinations, I would strongly recommend Kenya, especially Masai Mara during migration season (July-October) for a first time safari goer. The plethora of animals is just incredible and cat sightings are relatively easy. I remember big cats were my top priority when I went on safari for the first time and I suppose they would be high on your list too. I would also recommend that you spend at least a week in one park (may be 2 different camps) rather than rushing around trying to see everything. There's not a day when it gets boring in Africa. As far as budget is concerned, I would strongly recommend that you reduce your trip duration to fit the budget rather trying to fit in as many days in the budget as possible. A week in a great camp with superb guides beats 3 weeks in a poor camp with mediocre guides. If you have the budget, you can add Amboseli or Laikipia or Samburu to Mara. Hope this helps. Regards, Vikram
  7. Thank you @@Atravelynn Thank you @@AmyT
  8. Mana Pools July 2017
  9. I experimented with narrow apertures to create a star burst effect as these 2 bull elephants were feeding under a huge Ana tree. I saw number of Elands. We followed a pair of Elands through the forest. The male stopped for a moment to check out us.
  10. Elephant on the banks of Zambezi @@Game Warden thanks, I got it
  11. @@Game Warden I tried the procedure but the link appears "broken" after posting. I don't know why it's not working.
  12. I am a newbie here. But I was amused to see the exasperation! As an Indian national, getting visa for most countries is a big chore, US and UK being the worst. It has always been like that. Bank statements, Letters of support, Property papers, Salary slip, Income Tax returns, proof of address, proof of education etc etc are common things when it comes to applying for visas to UK and US. And each application has to be submitted in person. Substantial amount is to be paid as processing fee. Fingerprint, Iris scan etc is the norm. Even the doorman at the US consulate behaves as if he is doing you a big favour by allowing you to enter the consulate.... And after all this Visa may or may not be issued!! Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and European countries are a breeze as compared to US and UK. This is just to put things into perspective for US/Uk nationals. Cheers Vikram
  13. Hello Everyone, I have been a silent member of ST for a long time now. I have not posted any trip report (I started one and never finished it) till now, out of pure lethargy and nothing else, all the time enjoying reading other's! Thanks to some encouragement from Sangeeta, I am posting some of my images taken on a trip to Mana Pools in July 2016. This was a photography trip arranged by Wild-Eye South Africa, hosted by Morkel Erasmus, a great photographer from South Africa. The agenda for this trip was chasing the heavenly mana light, rather than chasing sightings (although we did chase a few sightings, albeit unsuccessfully). As a result you will find images of common subjects, presented in entirely different light (pun intended) :-). Morkel was a superb host and teacher and we had a small (just 3 guests) but lively group. I don't think I have laughed and enjoyed so much on any other safari that I have ever been. We stayed at a camp hosted by Tess Arkwright and Dave (they have a small operation called Mwinilunga Safaris), a great couple. We were guided by Kevin Lou, a Zim pro guide who was absolutely fun to be with and we always felt very safe with him. After that preamble, here are a few images. Can anyone help in putting images from my album (already uploaded on ST) here?
  14. I visited SLNP in Sept 2014. I stayed at Kuyenda, Kapamba and Bilimungwe, all bush camps run by the Bushcamp Company. It was a superb experience. All evening drives turned into spot lit night drives. Over 7 days I saw 6 different leopards, 2 male lions, a pack of wild dogs including their pups and while they were making a kill . Importantly, at each sighting there was only one vehicle. Out of 7 nights, for 3 nights I was the only guest in the camps so it was like a private safari. On walks, I saw a lot of elephants, general plains game and hyena on one occasion. Otherwise walks were quiet. At Bilimungwe, elephants were in the camp everyday and had to be careful while going from the room to the reception area. The weather was superb, cool during mornings and evenings and a little hot during the day but never uncomfortable.
  15. What a fabulous trip report . Amazing. That shot of elephant with moon in the background is just stupendous. Vikram

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