by Carol Johnson
One of the stops on our 3-week trip to Rajasthan was to the famous wildlife reserve at Ranthambore. The guide books all say it: “If you’re going to want to see a tiger, your best bet is to go to Ranthambore.” (I think I read that in Lonely Planet.) So we had to take a look.
We were housed at the Ankur Resort…
…which had an unusual lobby.
After we arrived, in the afternoon, we took a walk around the neighborhood of our “resort.” We came across the Vivanta, a Taj hotel. It was really lovely. We explored their grounds.
A dad was using the vast lawn to play cricket with his kids.
There were these somewhat mysterious decorative bowls set out.
There were lots of lights set around the property. This place must be magical at night. “We have to come back when it’s dark,” we thought.
After dinner we walked back to the Taj. Outside, there was a camel cart guy trying to hustle us into taking a ride.
We went back to the area with the nice lights, outside of the covered patio where one could have a pleasant drink.
“Oh, no! They haven’t even illuminated the lights!” I am disappointed to not be able to photograph what was surely a splendid display.
“Oh, no! There are guards and managers of the hotel coming toward us, ready to eject us because we look suspicious, I guess.” They ask us what we are doing there. They ask us to leave.
On the way out, I took my last shot of the décor at the magnificent and oh-so-friendly Vivanta by Taj.
The next day, we were scheduled for 2 “tiger safaris.” The jeep for the morning trip picked us up at about 8:00. We drove a long way into the country.
We passed this monument on the way.
We passed several villages. Near the entrance to the Reserve, we went by a group of people going to work.
A man tending his buffalo.
Finally, we reached the park entrance. OK, tigers, here we come! Show us what you got!
Soon we came upon this fellow, a Nilgai Antelope (or “Great Indian” Antelope). I think this is a male, so he would be called a Blue Bull. He’s trying to reach some foliage above his head.
Now he sees that he has an audience.
The scenery was nice.
Next, we pass a female Nilgai Antelope. They have striped behinds and decorative “socks.”
The jeep comes to a quick stop. Look! There’s a fresh tiger paw print! We’re close!
We made a stop to stretch our legs and one of our jeep-mates took our photo.
It’s getting late in the morning. The tigers have gone into hiding for the mid-day. Well, we DID see a fresh tiger print in the sand. We must have just missed him. Our caravan of jeeps exits the park. No one had seen a tiger here this morning. Oh well, we still have the afternoon safari to come. We’re sure to have better luck then.
We return to the Resort and commiserate with a young woman journalist from Germany who has also been disappointed with her morning tiger hunt.
After lunch we’re ready to go again. Our journalist friend has done some investigation, and learned that we had not gone to the “official” tiger reserve this morning, but rather an overflow area where tourists are taken when the primary reserve gets too crowded. The “real” Reserve requires you to sign a release holding them harmless in case a tiger eats you. There was no such document signing for us this morning. So, THAT’S the reason we didn’t see a tiger. We were taken to the wrong place.
So we’re bundled up in another jeep for our afternoon adventure, and they drive us totally in the opposite direction from this morning. We take about an hour gathering the other passengers in our 6-person vehicle. We could have been placed in a bigger vehicle, like the one pictured below, so we were happy to be in a smaller safari group. Don’t want too many people scaring the tigers away.
Finally we arrive at the official Rantambhore Tiger Reserve. We are asked to sign a release before we enter.
We drive through the old gate.
While we drove into the Reserve, our guide told us a funny story: A “very important” person came to look for tigers, but was inconvenienced by the very bumpy road his safari vehicle drove on. So he ordered the roads in the Reserve to be upgraded for easier driving. The problem with his solution, however, was that if the roads were easier to drive, too many people would come in and drive too fast and scare away all the tigers.
So there are regular deliveries of road-building materials, and then all the locals sabotage the effort by scattering the rocks.
This critter was one of the first animals we saw. What is it? A mongoose or something?
We saw a lot of Spotted Deer (also called Chital Deer).
We drove ever-deeper into the Reserve.
Here is an old gate. This used to be a rich city with a thousand-year history as an important fort and center of a local kingdom.
The gate and tree roots remind me of “Temple of Doom.”
We passed some monkeys. The other Westerners in our group were very excited to see them. We were less impressed, since we see them every day on the Pradakshina road. The one pictured below is a Langur.
We saw quite a few different birds, most of whose names I don’t remember. There was a lady with us who knew everything about birds, and she told us so during the drive. Can anyone identify all these birds for us? (Is this the same kingfisher as pictured below?)
An inland water bird.
Some kind of hawk or eagle.
Another water bird.
Here is a forest boar.
A female Sambar Deer posing for us.
And her mate. Nice rack, dude!
More Spotted Deer. Also very impressive antlers!
A crocodile sunning itself.
This Rufous Treepie wanted to get up close and personal with us.
A kind of kingfisher that we don’t see here in the South.
More water birds.
An egret. What kind?
Still no tigers. But we’re not giving up hope.
The bird lady in our jeep was also a huge wildlife expert, apparently. She told the guide that if he couldn’t deliver a tiger she needed to see a sloth bear. And very shortly thereafter, the guide excitedly pointed to a sloth bear! It took me a long time to see what he was pointing to. But it was truly exciting to see this very large black creature moving around behind the rocks and trees. The photo below was the best I could do to capture it. So we saw a mysterious dark blob through the trees. So far, this is our big find in today’s tiger hunt.
The afternoon is wearing on. Lots of nice scenery, but no tigers yet.
Wait! The jeep stops to show us evidence of yet another fresh tiger paw print. We’re close now, for sure.
Nice countryside. Where is the tiger?
At another point, the guide stopped the jeep to listen to the birds. He claimed that they were making the warning sounds typical of the alert for a prowling tiger. Well, at least some of the birds saw a tiger even if we didn’t, yet.
We reluctantly exited the Reserve and headed back to our hotel. Our disappointment was only made worse when we talked to the other explorers from other groups. Many of them had seen the elusive tiger. Some saw even more than one!
Well, we had a great time looking, anyway. Back at the hotel they said that the best time to see tigers was in the month of March. If you go, we hope you have better luck!