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Earthian

Tigers, tigers, and more tigers

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I had always wanted to visit Ranthambhor National park, but had never got around to do it. Ranthambhor is situated in Rajasthan, about 10 kms from a town called Sawai Madhopur. RNP is about 685 kms away from my home, here at Ahmedabad and the choices were to either drive down or take a train, since flight connections were not convenient. ( The nearest airport is Jaipur, about 200 kms from the park) June is hot and humid and driving down in the heat would be challenging.

 

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Accordingly, my friend and i booked train tickets departing Ahmedabad at 2130 hrs and reaching Sawai Madhopur at 0830 hrs the next morning. Perfect!

​We reached on time and there was a car to take us to our hotel, where we checked in, freshened up and had breakfast. Safari was at 1530 hrs and the sun was blazing away, with the mercury rising up till 45oC ( 113o F). The hotel is a comparatively new structure, made on the lines of the old fort/palaces, but with concrete, cement and bricks (and possibly stone) and not stone and limestone as was used in the olden times. The structure gets heated up and heat pretty much radiates all over the place. There is no greenery inside the walls and this possibly accentuated the heat. We did not dare come out of our air conditioned rooms, just braving the heat to go to the dining area for a spot of lunch.

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Promptly, at 1530 hrs, we set off for the forest in the blazing sun, with a thin safari cloth hat protecting me from the elements. The hot wind blew at our faces and now we understood why the locals covered their faces with a scarf. It was pretty grim, but the excitement of visiting the jungle overpowered our discomfort. Ranthambhor has 10 zones and the most visited (with better chances of sighting) are from 1 to 4. We were at zone 3 today.

 

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One of the advantages of visiting the park during June is that there are comparatively lesser tourists. The Indian families keep away due to schools having reopened as well as the excessive heat and the overseas visitors also find the weather extremely inconvenient. The main advantage is that sightings are quite frequent since the tigers prefer to stay near the water bodies.

 

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There are quite a few natural water bodies and some artificial ones, maintained by the forest department. Most of the natural water bodies have crocodiles and it was quite surprising to see some of them in a tiny water body which could dry up possibly in a week. When i mentioned this to our guide, he opined that the crocodiles have been known to move away to a different water body over night.

 

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The park takes its name from Ranthambhor fort, said to have been built by Maharaja Jayantha during the fifth century AD. It is a beautiful fort and in good repair even after a millennium and a half. There is a Ganesh temple within the fort and many devotees walk from the nearby villages and visit the temple. Festival days are pretty crowded, i am told. (More about this later)

 

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We moved into the park and came upon this lovely specimen. Oriental honey buzzard, probably and a juvenile. Could some one confirm this please?


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The rest in the gypsy were not happy stopping for this and were eager to proceed to scout out tigers. I had wanted to get a "taking off" shot of this bird, but in the humdrum could not do so . We proceeded ahead and turned the corner and came upon this magnificent sight:

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to be continued....

Edited by Earthian
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Seems to be a nice trip!!waiting for more pics!!

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@@Earthian, what a welcome to Ranthambhore! About as good as it gets

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The heat, as previously stated, keeps away the crowds and we were the first to come upon this scene. There was no jostling, manoeuvring, positioning or worming our way in, as normally happens in parks where a tiger gets sighted. We pretty much had the area to ourselves except for one more gypsy. I believe that the morning safaris are the preferred ones during this hot season.

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Is it my imagination or is he drooling at the prospect of having lunch? I hope i am not "it". Nearby was this tree-pie ( correct me if i am wrong) glaring at me. Seemed a contender for the angry birds movie sequel, if they make one.

 

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A sambar anxiously scanned the environment. Sambars are said to be the most reliable alarm raisers. A sambar would give an alarm ( can be a sharp blast just like a horn) only when it sees the tiger with its own eyes.

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The tree-pie has an interesting voice. First time i heard it. Some of the birds were quite bold and came to our gypsy foraging for food. This is a sad state of affairs when the "wild" gets domesticated, so to speak. I was informed that the tigers are quite used to humans too. This subject has been much debated and there does not seem to be an ideal solution.

 

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Even this jungle babbler looks kind of angry.

We proceeded down the trail and were informed that a tiger was sitting inside a step well. We gingerly went near the well and peeped in. There she was, cooling off, and not happy at the intrusion.

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Suddenly she got up and started coming up the steps. She caught us all unawares, especially me, since i had the 600mm lens attached to the camera ( i have only one camera body..meaning to get another one). Still i fired off for all it is worth...

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Is it my imagination or is she glaring at me?

 

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..to be continued

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Super! !

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@@Earthian thanks for sharing your Ranthambhore adventure. I like your tiger photos and in addition the buzzard is spectacular.

 

What a sight - a tiger cooling off in front of a backdrop of storks...

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@@Earthian, what a welcome to Ranthambhore! About as good as it gets

Thank you. It was indeed a welcome welcome! :)

 

Super! !

 

Thank you, Gagan

 

@@Earthian thanks for sharing your Ranthambhore adventure. I like your tiger photos and in addition the buzzard is spectacular.

 

What a sight - a tiger cooling off in front of a backdrop of storks...

 

Yes, the magic hour is indeed great for photography and the buzzard was quite obliging.

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Wow, Ranthambore really delivered for you, great sightings and stunning pics! I did not really enjoy my trip there back in 2012, but your report is prompting me to think that I should try again.

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Wow, Ranthambore really delivered for you, great sightings and stunning pics! I did not really enjoy my trip there back in 2012, but your report is prompting me to think that I should try again.

Thank you Michael. When did you go to Ranthambhor, meaning the season?

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It was November, and two of our (only) four drives went into Zone 7 (or was it 8?). Only a very distant sighting of a tiger then - Machli.

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We were quite elated. Two sightings on the first safari! In Bhandhavgarh, i did 4 safaris without any sighting and then i got lucky on the fifth one. Since we had disturbed the tiger and he had gone into the bush, we reluctantly moved on. A short distance away, we saw some gypsies bunched together and we knew it had to be a sighting. No way would gypsies bunch together like this for lesser mammals or birds.

Yes, we were spot on. After waiting for our turn, we saw this tiger drowsing in the late morning heat.

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There we go again. That deadly stare. Dunno why all these tigers stare at me like that. The tiger was not going anywhere and there were some gypsies behind us and hence we gave way and moved on. By this time i had become choosy and i was not going to take photographs of tigers idling away! Action was needed. Shows how a bit of initial luck can make one change one's spots...er stripes. Rather grandly, i commanded the driver to move on for better sightings. The next hour or so, we aimlessly roamed in the hot sun, with the heat cooling..sorry evaporating what enthusiasm the initial sightings had brought. By 1830 hrs we knew we were licked and decided to head back, with the driver taking the opportunity to put in one sideways stating that a tiger in hand was worth ten in the bush. It did not help when the other members nodded in agreement. So with a hot head on a hot day, we reached the hotel, had a hot* shower, and sat down for some much needed liquid refreshments.

After dinner we went off to bed at around 2330 hrs, eager to see what the morning safari would bring. The combination of heat, lack of sleep (in the train), and the Air conditioner conking off after midnight gave me a whopping migraine and i finally fell asleep after 3 am. Wake up was at 0530 hrs and luckily, i was okay. A quick shower and a cup of tea, and we were on our way to zone 2 to see the mother and three cubs that had been sighted there.

 

* The water understandably is very hot, even when the mixer is turned all the way to "Cool".

 

The first day had given us three sightings of three different tigers and our hopes had been high for a similar performance on this safari . Zone 2 is rockier than zone 3 and after about a hour of jumping in the seat with the nearly 7 kgs of equipment banging upon my thighs, our hopes of sighting a tiger, leave alone the mother and 3 cubs , were pretty low.

I would like to make a correction. We saw the Oriental honey buzzard this morning at 0618 hrs ( hence my reference to the magic hour) and not the previous afternoon as erroneously stated.

 

An hour into our safari, we saw a group of gypsies trailing behind a tiger:

 

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There was a water truck coming from the opposite side and quite fast too. Even though we all madly waved to him and shouted, he kept coming and stopped just a few meters from the tiger. If you notice closely, the tiger had squatted on the ground, tensing to leap. Apologise for the quality of the photograph, since the reflection of light from the rear view mirror of the gypsy put off my meter.

 

This sighting was quite poor and there was no opportunity to get some good pictures. We moved on and chanced upon this tiger cooling off in this pool.

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to be continued...

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@@Earthian

Lovely photos! You certainly got the benefit of putting up with those high temperatures. What a great start to your visit.

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@@Earthian

Lovely photos! You certainly got the benefit of putting up with those high temperatures. What a great start to your visit.

Thank you, Tony. I did , didn't i? However, when one is down with migraine, that too without the comforts and help that is afforded at home; one does think, albeit for a fleeting second or so, that it is time to behave one's age and stop mucking around. :)

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New spreads fast in the forest, especially if there is a tiger sighting. The tigress here is not snarling but is yawning- the end of a yawn that is.

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Within no time we were surrounded by gypsys ( should it be gypsys or gypsies? seeing that this is a brand name, used as a common noun). We reluctantly gave way and as we were moving back the tiger decided to move too. All our pleas to the driver were in vain and he moved back quite a bit and parked about 50 meters away from the action.

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The tigress was marking the tree and if we had stayed at the same spot we would have had a grandstand view....however due to the pigheadedness of the driver, we were to lose that shot. I muttered about how adamant people could be and it is lucky for the driver that he did not turn around and see my face. If looks could kill.....

 

But i was to eat humble crow, and yes, crow about the intelligence of the driver just a few minutes later.

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There she was. Coming right at us. I was in a vantage position and had my 50mm lens fitted. She sniffed the tree and turned and marked it.

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and then she crossed just 10 feet away from us...

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Again, that warning look. Seems i am pushing my luck.

 

to be continued...

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The driver earned a good tip, and i thanked him for being adamant. The others hid their smiles. Then started a debate as to whether this was the mother of the 3 cubs with one side feeling that it was a mother who had a full meal and were pointing to her erect teats as an indicator of motherhood; whereas the other side felt that it was a pregnant tigress. Jury is still out. Maybe some STers could shed light. i thought that the sighting could not get any better than this, but was to be proved wrong. There was still an hour left.....

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@@Earthian, "behave ones age and stop mucking around"....how tedious.

 

I do love the photos of Tigers slumped in water. I shudder when travellers mention Tiger safari with temperatures into the mid-40s, but it seems to me that those that can stand it, hit the jackpot with sightings. How lucky to have such splendid Wildlife so close to home.

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There was still an hour left and we asked the driver to show us some scenic spots. He took us to Moti Mahal which is very near the main gate. This was a forest guest house once, but now is not open to visitors anymore. Pity. It would have been wonderful to spend a night here.

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The guest house overlooks a huge lake. We reached the property and were just enjoying the scene, when we saw this to our amazement:

 

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This was it. All poses that one would want. The last hour of the safari had delivered. Satisfied we started to leave when there was a commotion near the gate as we were leaving. Seems that a tiger had been sighted just next to the gate and the gates had been hurriedly closed. later on , we would come to know that a sibling had joined the sister and they both could have been there in a single frame, should we have waited a bit longer!

We went back to the hotel for a much needed shower and celebrations. It cant get better than this, we thought. But tomorrow was another day.

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@@Earthian, "behave ones age and stop mucking around"....how tedious.

 

Yes, tedious indeed. Hence it was just for a second..no, just for a fleeting second. :)

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The last safari of the trip and we decided to see the fort and other local sights since we had had a good sighting of tigers. Or so we thought. We set off from the hotel at 6 am. The sun was just up:

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The entrance to RNP is about 5 kms from our hotel and the last 2 kms or so is through small hillocks and forest area. The road is pretty busty with local jeeps ferrying people to the base of the Ranthambhor fort and plenty of motorcycles as well as people on foot.We were looking forward to to go up the fort and had just passed the first forest choky ( gate) when the guard on duty informed us that a tiger was just round the corner. On the road? Just on the side, he said. We cautiously rounded the corner and we saw a tiger sitting in the undergrowth, about 5 feet from the edge of the road. Mind you, this is a road open to the general public!

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The tiger was sitting there minding his own business and i was debating whether to load my 600mm lens on the gimbal head and decided not to since the frame was cluttered with bushes and undergrowth. The real reason probably is that we had got slightly uppity with good opportunities (photographic) yesterday and did not want a cluttered one. How finicky do we get? At Bhandhavgarh, when we had no sightings for 4 consecutive safaris, we were glad of a sighting more than 50 feet away wherein we could just see part of a head! And now, when there is a tiger just about 10 feet away, on an open road, we are not happy. The tiger was in an obliging mood and suddenly got up and started crossing the road, in front of our gypsy.

 

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We thought that the show was over, but it was not. It was just the start. There was another tiger, waiting for the big one to go and get a drink or whatever. There was a kill, which he wanted. As soon as the big one left, the other tiger came and started pulling the kill ( which we noticed for the first time) up:

 

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But it was a difficult task. After trying unsuccessfully for about 5 minutes or so, he gave up and decided to replenish his lost energy.

 

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I was busy adjusting my 600 mm lens which i had just fixed when there was a commotion. The first tiger crossed the road with a roar and attacked the second tiger, who scampered away. All of us missed to record this event. 4 of us and all missed this. Since i was busy with my lens , i missed seeing it too. This tiger pulled the kill up a bit but was too much for him too.

 

 

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By this time, a crowd had gathered on the road, with motorcyclists stopping too. Our driver tried to shoo them off, but every one wanted to see the sight. Tigers are known to be unpredictable when they see a human on foot or motor cycle. This becomes doubly dangerous when they have a kill to protect, just 5 feet from the road. Since all our efforts to make people understand were in vain, we sent word to the control room to send a guard so as to control the traffic, who came and the crowd dispersed, including us.

 

We reached the base of the fort and started climbing. Such a beautiful fort, built more than 1500 years back. They really built them to last. Today, with all our modern technology, a normal (cement, concrete and bricks) building's "life" is between 50-100 years.

 

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The fort has a Ganesh temple and hence the way to the top is used by quite a few people daily and by the hundreds on festive days. The view from the top is quite beautiful. Ranthambhor, it seems is a combination of Rann ( meaning battle field) and stamb ( meaning fort). Earlier this was known as Ranastamb.

 

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Water supply to the fort was earlier by a lake adjoining the fort, but this lake was bone dry now. Water is now pumped through a bore and supplies the needs of the temple and the visitors. After visiting the Ganesh temple, we stopped by a tea stall for a cup of tea, where our attention was drawn to this selfless man, in his early seventies, who comes up everyday to serve the devotees walking up. He gets scarce water ( possibly from the lone pump), fills it in an earthen pot and serves it to the people coming up. His name is Gajodmal Saini. A person far richer in values than we could ever be. A contended man.

 

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We went back to our hotel. Yes, the tiger was still on the roadside and a forest jeep/guard was stationed there. We did not stop. Back to the hotel, a shower, breakfast and preparations to leave after a spot of lunch. We drove to Jaipur and caught the evening train to Ahmedabad. On the way, there were thunderstorms and welcome rain, cooling the weather. We had a bit of rain on the second day in the evening and again the next morning. It had cooled the environment slightly and the best part of it was the dust had settled down.

Thus ended our Ranthambhor trip. 10 sightings of tigers, out of which one could be a second sighting. Hence nine tigers sighted in all, out of a possible 48. My only regret is that we could not spend much time birding. Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed it as much as i did writing it. :)

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@@Earthian

Thank you for a wonderful report. I love the tiger rolling on its back - it reminds me of our cat! The sighting on the road was amazing - a .relief that no one was hurt.

I really enjoyed your writing and your photos

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Great report @@Earthian

What a sighting of the two tigers on the road at the end, love the picture of the tiger jumping on to the wall.

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Great report @@Earthian

What a sighting of the two tigers on the road at the end, love the picture of the tiger jumping on to the wall.

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@@Earthian

Thank you for a wonderful report. I love the tiger rolling on its back - it reminds me of our cat! The sighting on the road was amazing - a .relief that no one was hurt.

I really enjoyed your writing and your photos

Thank you, Tony. It is a cat! and was quite lazy, and obliging!

 

Great report @@Earthian

What a sighting of the two tigers on the road at the end, love the picture of the tiger jumping on to the wall.

Thank you, Zim Girl. It was the first time, i had a small lens (50mm) on my camera at the correct time. If i still had the 600mm, i would not have been able to take this one.

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@@Earthian did you try Sariska??

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@@Earthian did you try Sariska??

No Gagan, i didn't. I wanted to, but myfriend didn't have time. Next time perhaps. Is the tiger population there again healthy?

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