India-Day 7: Ranthambhore National Park Part 2

Another adventure in the Jeep

A tasty if not western inspired lunch and an afternoon nap and we are back in the Jeep and off to explore once again. We head this time to Zone 4 and are on a private safari so there are no other travellers with us this time. This is rougher terrain and much harder to keep ourselves in one place. We have a new driver and guide and are eager to get going

This is a longer tour and the weather has improved from the rain this morning. We immediately come across a herd of spotted deer including some very young ones. Notably we see a lot more of the larger Sambar deer including a number of males with impressive sets of antlers.

The deer are largely unfazed by us but startle easily and it’s quite enjoyable to watch them bounding around. Despite a valiant attempt by our guides we didn’t see any Tigers but they took us to all the known spots just in case. This safari was longer and we seemed to cover a lot more ground in the time that we had, checking in with other guides we discovered only 1 tiger had been spotted today.

The park itself is manned by security and access is granted via a permit that must be obtained in advance. Only the Forest Service are permitted to drive through the park and as such all drivers and guides are government appointed and you don’t get to choose much yourself. 20% of the park is open to visitors whilst the rest is off limits, that said there remain a large number of indigenous peoples inhabiting the parkland although the government have been trying to relocate them and educate them in tiger conservation. There remain tribal families who hunt tigers and also some that will purposefully poison or trap the big cats as a means of protecting their family and livestock.

We managed to add a few extra animals to our spotted list including Wild Boar, turtle, peacocks dancing and an array of birds that we would struggle to identify.

Back home and the drive is a bit chilly so instead it’s time for a bath to warm up, however our bath tub just so happens to be outdoors (there is an indoor shower)

More photos to be added once we are back home and can retrieve them properly.

An unexpected end to the evening…

In the middle of getting dressed for dinner there was a buzz at the entrance to out cottage whilst Jordan was fetching drinks. Once I’d managed to get my head out of the armhole of my dress I peeked my head through the curtains and was told by a staff member that there had been a tiger spotting by the hotel and we could go and see it if we wanted to. The staff knew that our two visits had been unsuccessful so came to let us know we might have a chance to see one outside of the park.

Somehow I managed to throw on a dress and some shoes, rush out of the room with the camera and collect Jordan before jumping inelegantly into the back of a jeep with a couple who had just arrived at the hotel.

Our driver set of with speed and in communication with another car that was upfront. It seems that the patrols of the area keep in touch and so when a tiger was reported, the hotel let their guests know and took them our for a drive. This is not your regulated safari zone, this is a high speed drive in the dark with some hotel staff who have been spotting tigers for many years. The result was a fair amount of waiting in the dark hoping not to become prey mixed with driving up and down a small dirt road listening for noises.

After a fair amount of waiting, shivering and speculation we suddenly reversed against the wall, our ‘guide’ could smell a change in the air and was spot on. Behind the wall the tiger that had been spotted walking along the roadside was sat with a fresh kill. We stood on the back of the Jeep, peering over as it made it’s way through the meal. The tiger was thought to be one known as Lightning, who once walked through the dining hall if the hotel during a lunch service. We were less than 5 metres away and could hear her crunching through the baby buffalo that she had just caught.

The hotel staff are used to seeing tigers and knew what to do and how to find them. Encouragingly the locals had gathered nearby but we’re interested in seeing the tiger rather than anything more sinister (it had killed a calf that belonged to a villager)

I was so excited to see a tiger but it’s hard to explain it when it happens, especially when it’s a hastily thrown together expedition in the dark!

We took a lot of photos in the dim light but non will do it justice really. But at least they act as a reminder for us of what was a truly magical experience.

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