Encounter with Tiger

Thursday, August 25, 2011

we decided to take a break from everything and spend some time with our natural heritage. I made the arrangements with Ranthambore Jeep Safari.com and got us a 2 day break in Ranthambhore national park. This park is very famous for it’s tiger sighting.

Ranthambhore National Park is about 4 hours drive away from Jaipur. there, we started from Jaipur. The plan was to start as early in the morning as possible. The route was scenic with mustard fields on both sides of the roads. Road conditions were not too bad and we reached our resort by 12:45pm. Our next safari was due in another 90 minutes. All formalities were hurried up and we had a almost quick lunch. Almost quick I say, as I had underestimated the power of great food.

Vehicles enter into the park at fixed times during the morning and evening , they  have to follow a fixed route and there are 5 routes , the vehicles have to   leave the park by the end of the appointed time. Traffic into the park is highly regulated , at a given time not more than 5 jeeps can travel on a particular route and more than 16 vehicles are not allowed into the zone at the same time.We had 2 gypsies booked for our party so we had enough freedom and it was great for photography. There was no need to jostle with 20 strangers in canter to get a good view of anything. On my first drive, I was assigned Zone 3. Zone 3 is the most picturesque zone that I saw. With lakes and fort on the hill and great birdlife, We took our first stop at Padam Lake. Our Guide pointed our attention towards a croc sleeping on a rock. Honestly I would have missed it completely had it not been shown to me. Just a few meters away from us was a Golden duck basking in the sun.  The deer grazing 100 yards away at the lake's edge were clearly the more compelling sight.To our disappointment we did sight the tiger We had heard that the park traffic is too much and really damages your chances of catching a sighting of a tiger. The amount of jeeps and canter was sad as the noise and commotion was too much to hope to see anything elusive like a tiger or leopard .We came back to the resort all covered in dust and tired. Spent the first night with good food, folk music, bonfire. As the next safari was scheduled at 6:30 am, we all dragged ourselves to the rooms by 11:30 pm.

We got our wakeup call by 5:30 am. I was already up and ready by then. I wonder why I can not do the same when I have to go to the office. Matters not. Came down and saw that hot tea and rusks are waiting right next to a heap of blankets. I got me a cuppa and got into our jeep. Note to potential visitors: Do not mix morning tea and morning safaris on a cold day. Ranthambhore does not have scheduled pit stops and you never know what may be lurking on the other side of the bush you are "Marking your territory".We finished fast with the entry formalities to the park and our Guide quickly started his routine explnations about the Ranthambore Sanctury Wildlife, Birds & Fauna.We were assigned zone number 4. The season being the right time, we were able to considerable see many wild animals. That is the beauty of a National Park. We can see the animals freely roaming around. A few minutes down the road we came across a couple of Sambar deers. Well so much for the nature’s way. As we drove down on that cold misty morning, we came across three male Chinkaras playing in the grass.  We saw a guard circling the pugmarks. A male tiger was supposed to have been around earlier that morning. So we decided to wait and listen for alarm calls. But it seem the cat is playing around and hence we came back to our hotel. Seems like there were some guests who had seen our tiger. Our tiger... but there was no worry. All of us were satisfied with seeing what was there to see.

This was our third and last safari. Luckily we got Zone 3. I was bracing myself for another bumpy ride. With the lovely deciduous forests around, our jeep safari went through the imli, mango, babul, banyan trees that covered the entire area completely. The tree known as the flame of the forest or the Chila, the Dhok, Khajur and Khair were other common trees that Champak pointed out to us. He said that Dhok formed most of the trees.
As we started, Abbas said "Sir, today we will see nothing but tiger and will not stop for anything else".we came across a little opening where some Sambars were enjoying their evening Snack. Salim asked the driver to stop again. As we stopped, he folded his arms and sat back in his seat. I asked him what was it. He said something is not right. One Sambar was alert and was looking into far away grass. We decided to sit back as well and give a rest to our backs. One by one jeeps from previous sightings started coming back. Everyone asked what we were doing, all we said was waiting. No other guide or tourist insisted to wait with us. They had already seen tigers or parts of them and they wanted to move on. After a while we were almost all alone there. Only one official jeep kept faith in us and joined up. Suddenly there was an alarm call. We all moved to a road where we will have a better vantage point. We sat there and waited. Then it happened. She emerged from the tall grass and walked towards us. She was coming right at us. Confidently strolling she made her way. By the time she came out of the thicket she was too close for me to get a photograph of her on my 100-400. I checked and AF won’t work, she was closer than 1.8M, the minimum focusing distance. She paid no attention to us, marked her territory before walking up in the grass a few meters further. We saw her spellbound till she disappeared completely in the distance. Thrilled, we dashed back towards exit. It was close to gate timings. As we exited from the park, we were all smilling funny.

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