On a warm summer afternoon I boarded Jan Shatabdi Express from Hazrat Nizamuddin Station, Delhi en route to Sawai Madhopur. My destination was Ranthambhore national park in Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan. This was my third trip in as many years. Train left Nizamuddin at 1.15 pm and reached Sawai Madhopur by 6 pm. Return journey from Sawai Madhopur was also by Jan Shatabdi Express, that I boarded at 7 am in the morning to reach Nizamuddin by 12.30 pm.
Any visit to Ranthambhor is incomplete without mention of Ranthambhor Bagh. Tiger lover Aditya Singh and his wife have set up a lodge on the road to Ranthambhore. A nice and clean double occupancy room costs around Rs. 3500 per night. Staff is very friendly and helpful. The price includes three meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Morning coffee before leaving for first safary and evening tea after return from evening safary also comes with the room.
It is better to book safari in advance. A seat in a canter costs Rs. 950 approx per trip. A gypsy costs around Rs. 1500 per trip. One must carry an original identification paper – voter id, passport or driver licence. In peak summer, one can hire a gypsy for self by paying Rs. 15000 per day for one full day at the park. At the time of my visit, there were not many tourists. Wildlife enthusiasts and wildlife photographers generally visit the park at this time when day time temperature remains very high, mostly 40OC and above. Wild animals come out of their hiding places to drink water and to cool themselves.
I had booked two jeep safaris. One for the morning and the second one for the afternoon. For morning safary, I was picked up from my lodge at 5.30 am. Most people go to Ranthambhor to have a glimpse of a tiger. I was not exception. All our driving around the forest trail came to nothing. Forest was empty, as if all animals had taken off for a cooler climate.
I had to be content with a picture of sambar deer and one peacock. It was a disappointing morning. I was having second thought about the purpose of my visit.
After a lot of internal debate and with a lot of trepidation I got myself ready to face the afternoon heat for safary. It was a hot afternoon. As gypsy was speeding through tarred road towards the park gate, our faces were getting roasted by hot air. Inside the park also there was not much water in sight. Most water bodies had shrunk. Rivers that feed these water bodies were dry. Even sambhar deer were resting under the shade of trees.
As our search for the elusive tiger was getting agonising with each twist and turn of the trail, a passing gypsy informed us of a tiger is most likely resting in a cave nearby. Though accessing the cave was not strictly legal, our guide asked the driver to take the detour. This was a risky move. Driver – guide duo could have been penalised, if caught by rangers, for disturbing wildlife. Most likely to salvage his hurt pride of not been able to show us any tiger, our guide took the risk and drove us near the cave.
The tiger in this photograph was sitting under the shadows of a mountain cave. It was relaxed, most probably had a full meal in recent past. It ignored us humans and our cameras and minded its own business. As the area was off limits for unauthorised visitors, we were asked to hurry up and leave the area. We waited outside the area in the hope that tiger might make a move. But he did not oblige in the searing heat.
As we were returning, on a mostly dry river bed we saw this black tailed mongoose. This mongoose was almost blended with its surroundings. Only expert eye of our naturalist and guide could spot it. We could catch a glimpse of the animal as it ran away as our gypsy came near.
For a video capture of the mongoose, please visit : Black-Tailed Mongoose: https://t.co/MuGM4sfpSS via @YouTube
After first royal darshan, we moved to a different site. There was rumour that one might be lucky to have glimpse of a mother with her two cubs. From top of the hill we had a birds eye view of the valley below. There, we saw two tigers lazing on the meadow like a house cat. Most probably they had a full meal earlier and were resting. Our guide told us one was mother and the second was her cub.
Then walked in the third tiger. We could see him eating his meal, from a distance, in the bushes, but could not capture picture. He slowly came into picture, shook hands with his sibling (tiger equivalent), planted a tiger peck on his mother’s cheek and then sat down to rest. For a video capture of all three tigers, mother and two cubs, please visit https://t.co/4BSiTTjLnM via @YouTube.
On our way back out of the park, we saw this big male tiger. It had its back towards us. Apparently it was looking or smelling something. May be it was marking its territory or trying to find out if it was on someone else land. We hurriedly took our camera and accessories out of our bag. Then the tiger turned around. He was a big cat. It started moving towards us. Our driver backed his gypsy to make room for the beast. No one had a clue what the tiger was upto. It started walking on the edges of the trail. Occasionally, it would get irritated and show its teeth with mild growl. It walked past our jeep, then crossed the road and went further behind.It was a big male cat, that is what our guide told us. My day at Ranthambhor could not have been more perfect. Unless of course weather was a bit cooler or our jeep was air conditioned. But even god only grants so many wishes. I am not complaining. For a glimpse of the tiger, please visit : https://t.co/BllSIT6qN7 via @YouTube.
- Black-Tailed Mongoose: https://t.co/MuGM4sfpSS via @YouTube
- https://t.co/4BSiTTjLnM via @YouTube
- https://t.co/BllSIT6qN7 via @YouTube