We went to Ranthambore (also spelled Ranthambhor) in the real hope of seeing Royal Bengal Tiger, but well aware that there was only about a 50% chance. However, we were to have five attempts over three days, and there would be plenty of other mammals to see, as well as lots of bird species with which to get to terms, so excitement was very high.
We stayed at a nearby former hunting lodge, called Joomer Bawari, high on a ridge with a tremendous outlook.
On our trips, we were four visitors to a jeep, each having a driver and tracker. On entering the park, you are allocated to two (from a possible four) tracks, and you keep to these tracks for the visit. Visits are confined to about two-and-a-half hours in the morning, and about the same in the afternoon. In December/January it is very cold in the mornings, so you have to wear just about everything you've brought with you. I wore my two pairs of trousers one on top of the other! By the end of the morning trip, it is warming up, and by lunchtime it is pleasantly warm.
The tracker looks out for animals by looking for signs, and where tiger is concerned, particularly for sounds - several of the prey animals have an alarm call which is used only when tiger (or leopard) is about. So when the tracker hears one of more of these cries the driver homes in on it - everyone hoping that it will be in the area to which we have been allocated for that drive!
On our first drive, we were allocated to a different pair of tracks than the four others in our party. We were very fortunate to see a tiger on that first attempt, which appeared from behind us, then walked right past the jeep, then defecated in front of us, at the side of the track! Later, it chased, but lost, a wild boar. The other group didn't see a tiger on that trip, which made dinner that night a bit difficult, them not very happy, us very happy, but trying not to 'rub it in'.
On the third of January, we were able to say, "We've seen a tiger every day this year"
Certainly, not every visitor is so lucky - there is a book as you come out of the reserve specially for those who see tigers to sign, and there can be days without entries. On our first trip, we were the only jeep in the park to have a sighting.
One morning, we saw a tigress submerged in the water up to its shoulders - it stayed immersed for a long time, and considering the outside temperatures, it wasn't doing it to stay cool!
The quality of these pics is poor. Apart from the fact that they have been scanned with a slide adaptor, they were taken with a 75-300mm lens in poor light - you can't erect a tripod in a jeep you are sharing withe other people, at least one of whom, given a choice, would also use a tripod! It wouldn't have been very practical anyway, considering the movement of the animals and trying to avoid the others in the vehicle. They have been slightly enhanced for saturation.
|Urine-marking, in the way of all cats!|
|This is a tiny section of a slide which I had to differentially saturate and sharpen - it is incredible how tigers totally disappear only a few yards off the path into the vegetation!
This picture shows the tiger which walked very closely in front of the jeep. I was
sitting, almost frozen, in the back of the back of the jeep, using the 75mm end of my lens to
get it all in the picture, and leaning back to get it in the closest focus zone, all the time
bending and swaying to keep those in front of me out of the picture. We had somehow
picked up an Australian tourist who was sitting in front with the driver and tracker.
He was totally unmoved by the tiger within stroking distance, and kept whining about
when we were going to visit the fort. I presume he'd left his sanity at home!|
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