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Published: October 9th 2009
The Ranthambhore Saga
That's the scene as you enter the Tiger Reserve
Alright....This trip finally quenched my thirst to see a TIGER in the forest, something which is a rare event of a lifetime,owing to the declining population of tigers in India.
Actually, this trip was not very much anticipated, as the hotter month of february was approaching, and I always refrain from getting tanned,especially in the western part of India,where hot winds blow in daytime.
It just so happened, that my cousin called me up and told me of a plan to go to RANTHAMBHORE NATIONAL PARK. As ever, I was ready to join him, but without notifying my family about it, to avoid any resistance over travel in summer.
The good part of this trip was that our accomodation was already arranged, thanks to my Maternal Uncle who is a senior forest department official. His friend,Mr.Shekhawat(I.F.S.) was on a big post at the national park 😊...who gladly arranged for our stay at one of the SOCIAL FORESTRY GUEST HOUSES, in proximity with the national park.
Day 1 - 2nd February 2009...
Akshat, my cousin took an early morning train from INDORE, a city in central India, and I joined him for the same train from my hometown UJJAIN, where I
was spending my after-grads leisure time.
The journey, started on 2nd February 2009, at 8 AM.
It was semi-hot to hot weather, as we moved from the state of MADHYA PRADESH towards the desert state of Rajasthan, in a sleeper class compartment, wherein the hot winds started to gush in by 11 A.M...
We finally reached our destination sawai madhopur,rajasthan at around 2:15 PM. We were sent a forest gypsy for pick up by Mr.Shekhawat. Upon reaching the guest house, we were nicely received by the care-taker who also had a surname - SHEKHAWAT....coincidence indeed...A ready to help and smiling face gentleman, our caretaker told us to get ready in 15 minutes, as the gypsy was ready to take both of us and some other guests to the National Park.
I just couldnt resist the thought of heading for forest, and got ready in a jiffy, just had some tea and biscuits, and went down stairs to board the gypsy (We had a terrace room,with a lovely right end mountain view,and monkeys all around)...
2:40 PM, we boarded the Gypsy, accompanied by a forest guard. There we also happened to meet this guy, who was a wildlife biologist, doing a
The Lake in desert
A group of cormorants amidst the lake...
research on the CHAMBAL GHARIAL (Gavialis Gangeticus)
, and another family.
The trip started, and as we reached closer to Ranthambhore, we were welcomed by huge mountains, beyond which was the entry gate to park.
The entrance itself was so magnificient and huge, that we couldn't stop praising the natural beauty of this place.
As we entered the park, some instructions were given to some other gypsies which were moving into the park.
Then started the bumpy jungle ride. Let me tell all those who have never been to an indian national park, that the ride can take a heavy toll on your back, if you don't sit or stand properly in the vehicle.
We moved and moved...and spotted a group of Coromorants, and storks near a big lake inside the park.
Some meters ahead, we got to see a MARSH CROCODILE, and believe me, that was the begining we wanted. Marsh crocodile, sun basking and spotted dear and sambhar (big dear), drinking water in the nearby water body. That's where the prey and predator met.
A sight for the eyes, now we were looking out for the King of this jungle - The Indian Tiger.
The driver, the guard, me,
Mr.Crocodile..busy in sun basking...Neither of us were ready to get close to each other for better click...
akshat, the biologist, all of us had our eyes set for any specific view and ears listening to any unexpected movement.
After driving for a good distance, the driver brought us to a point beyond which there was no road for the vehicle. And then, you call it his instinct or whatever, but he suddenly decided to go back, and then said something, and moved to the right of that closed road.
Then he talked on the wireless fitted in the vehicle to other forest guys, and started driving as per the instructions.
My heartbeats were going faster, blood rushing like water from the flood gates, as we moved further. And in a moment, we saw some other gypsies, loaded with tourists and one of the european looking tourist pointed towards the right of his vehicle and there it was ....not one but Two of them....Yes...Two tigers, corrected by the driver as two tigresses,one mother and her daughter, both in well shape, and with perfect skin lines, were having a good time near a water stream. That's when we heard another growl or almost a roar...and saw a third tiger emerging from behind a tree, and pulling a kill away
A herd of spotted deer near the lake...
from the females.
The driver told us about this male tiger being the son of the bigger tigress...
The male pulled its prey to a good distance, and close enough for a good camera to get some awesome clicks. I really missed out as I had just a 10 mp but 3 opti.zoom camera. So yeah, I did some clicking around..and after almost 20 minutes we decided to move on...It was already 4-45 PM, and sun had started going down...
So not one or two..but THREE tigers on the very first day of our trip. All I could say to akshat was --- Lets go back, I have achieved NIRVANA .....haahhahhaha....
The way back was equally interesting, with huge mountains surrounding the road. Contrasting colours, from the yellow grasses of plains where we saw tiger to greenery between the mountains, it was so many colours under the same roof.
We both managed to reach our guest house by 6 Pm....
After resting for sometime, and transferring photos to my laptop, the craving for good food and good liquor took over.
So we decided to hunt out for good restaurants. Though my cousin is a teetotaler but the cold mountainous evening
Spot the croc and Win a prize
Can you spot a croc in the pic...if yes..then make sure you meet him, when you go to ranthambhore by showing this pic to him ;)
was fit for a royal boozer like me, to get some black rum. We took an auto-rickshaw, who took us to a decent hotel in the town of Sawai Madhopur, which comes to standstill after 8 pm, and shops had started to close by 9.
At the hotel, we had some good BUTTER CHICKEN, but unfortunately the hotel did not have permit to serve liquors after 8 pm. Still, the good hotelier, got me some stuff, to fight the temperature,and after some nice drink and nice food, we headed back to our stay by 11 pm...
Upon reaching the guest house, we were told by caretaker that next morning, the gypsy will come at 5 AM, to pick us, and take us to the park again. The mere thought of waking up at 5 AM,when the night temperatures go down to as low as 15 degree,(thats low for someone who has spent his last four years in Mumbai)....was chilling for me, but then the lofty prize of going to forest overtook every barrier.
Day 2 -- 3rd February 2009 ---
Next morning we were first taken to Mr.Shekhawat's place at 5:30 AM, where we met him and
his wife, who I must say was a very caring and affectionate motherly lady and also there playful german shepherd 'Muffin'. So early in the morning, we were served with some tea and light breakfast by Mrs.Shekhawat, and we were accompanied by Mr.Shekhawat himself to the park...
It was indeed a pleasure to be in the company of such a well versed man like him, who was deeply connected with the cause of saving indian wildlife, and not many government officials take their job as seriously as I saw him doing.
Today, we got to see some more of birds, some more of dears, some pug marks of tiger,and a curious but wounded jackal and a collared wild boar...But the amount of knowledge about the fragile eco system, the man-animal conflict, we received in his company is worth a degree course in wildlife biology.
He also took us to a small palace called JOGI PALACE which was at the shore of that BIG LAKE, and used to be the hunting rest house of the Kings of Ranthambhore, and now is used by top officials and VIPs as a retreat.
From the balcony of Jogi Palace one can see the vast
The deadly Junction
That's where the prey and the predator meet...
stretch of lake, and the mountains' image reflecting cleary in the still waters plus crocodiles swimming in that water body.
Then the thought crossed our head, that if there are so many animals around,even a Tiger can come here. We were standing around, when Mr.Shekhawat introduced us to WWF official Lima who was very sweet natured and eco-enlightened lady,accompanied by a photo journalist from Spain who was working on Tigers in India. They had come to interview Mr.Shekhawat. While the interview was going on, We and Lima were talking about tiger population and she suddenly asked us - Did you guys see Machali...the tigress who roams around this area.
Definitely our answer was no, and then she told us about this female tiger who attacked crocodiles sometimes.
Next minute, we were outside the palace, getting some clicks near a big Banyan tree when the thought crossed our head, that if there are so many animals around,even a Tiger can come here..
After going back, we were called for lunch at Mr.Shekhawat's place, which was traditional wheat bread and pulse,and vegetable. Thanks for the lunch, now we decided to have a gooood round of sleep. So back to our guest house
Sambhar - An antelope
Thats the favorite food of Tiger..a huge deer..
we had full rest for the day, and in the evening we decided to book our tickets to BHARATPUR to see KEVLADEO GHANA BIRD SANCTUARY, which was situated on a direct train route from here at a distance of 3 hours.
Tonight, the dinner was hosted by Shekhawat family, and we got to taste some awesome RAJASTHANI traditional food, though its heavy but the taste is simply unbeatable.
Full for the evening, we planned our next day's trip to Bharatpur.
Day 3 -- 4th February 2009...
Morning 7 am (if my memory is precise), we boarded a train - JAN SHATABDI express to Bharatpur.
It was an AC CHAIR CAR, where nice breakfast was served and it took us two and a half hour to reach Bharatpur, and there again we had a prior arrangement done, with one of the park officials, who met us at the Bird Sanctuary...
First we were taken for a short boat ride in a small water stream to sight some of the birds of that area. Now I can't recall all the birds' name, but for e.g. Grey Heron, Pond Heron, Stork, Cormorant.
After boating, we stepped inside the bird sanctuary area.
Say Grass...not cheese
They dont like cheese...but grass...so I said -- SAY GRASS...and HE came for a click ;)
The mode of travel inside the sanctuary is CYCLE RICKSHAW, in which the drivers are usually guides for the sanctuary. Though I personally am not in favour of such a vehicle, where one human bears the load of two others for some money, but then this is INDIA....
During our trip to the sanctuary, which is one of its kind in india, we got to see species like -- Turtle, Painted Storks, Jackana, Cranes (the visitors)...and a number of other birds...the trip finished at 3-30 PM...and after buying some souvenirs from the park shop, we took Jan Shatabdi express at, I think 4 pm something, back to Sawai Madhopur.
After reaching the station, we were directly called to Mr.Shekhawat's place for dinner, and it was another enjoyable evening with the Shekhawat family. The 'BAJRE KI ROTI'..I think its called MILLET BREAD in English with some Jaggery and lots of other vegetables were so damn filling...
I must add here that Rajasthan is worth its fame for hospitality. The people over here go an extra mile to make sure you are comfortable.
We reached guest house in sometime, and I bought another small bottle of Rum to go easy
with the cold evening....but as I was sipping my drink, Akshat brought a book from downstairs titled as 'The Tiger and The Banyan Tree' by Valmik Thapar, a well known nature writer. The book was a photo-journal of Thapar's family's visit to the Tiger reserve and it had some photos of Jogi Palace, where Thapar family stayed.
The Banyan tree was captured in a photo where Thapar's wife and son were playing near one of it's branches, where a Tiger appeared after some time...
After going through the photos, me and Akshat, once again said to each other -- Wish we get to see a Tiger at Jogi Palace...the place where we were hanging around two days back with Lima, Two journalists and Mr.Shekhawat...
And with these wishes, we went for a nap..as we had to wake up early by 5 AM to move for park visit...
Day 4 - 5th February.....
5-30 A.m. the gypsy was ready...it was chilling outside...me and akshat were all set, but got to know that we will have another family with us, in the gypsy. Though it hardly mattered to me, as my mind was set on something else. But in a
Far and Away
Click one of Tigress One on Day one..
few minutes I discovered that this family especially the lady was not an Eco-sensitive tourist, which she later on proved with her habit of littering and let me tell you, she was a journalist of a leading english newspaper 😊
So, spine chilling wind and first light of dawn followed us to the park...our last day excursion to park began, with this not-so-gentle lady, continuously talking to her hubby and her 3 year old kid in loud voice inside the reserve territory...which was irritating me....it was like killing the serene silence that wrapped around the scenic beauty of park...
as we moved on and on,for almost an hour, we spotted some deers, some birds, some tourist gypsies, some pug marks, but no Tiger. And this Journalist lady (indian journalists are particularly a dangerous species), started criticizing the park authorities and complained to the driver -- "They claim some 36 tigers,and I see not a single one.."....That was the moment when I couldn't control and said -- "Ma'm its not a street dog, its a Tiger, and it takes ages to spot tiger in jungle..."....But then to calm down the ruffled mood, I said -- "Ma'm, the moment you will loose
Away the two of them
Click two of Tigress one and tigress two - mom and daughter tigresses...
hope, Tiger will show itself"
Actually to be honest I am not so cranky and fussy with people but this lady spoilt my jungle mood with her irresponsible behavior which involved throwing biscuits wrappers and food stuff in the park area...that is so disrespectful to environment....
anyways, with her complaints and my bad mood, we kept moving inside the park...and once again I said the same thing to my cousin -- I wish we get to see a tiger near Jogi Palace...
And then happened EUREKAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...or call it DEJA VU...or call it PSYCHIC WISHES!!!!
Another tourist gypsy crossed us,and the driver told our driver that the "she has gone barefoot toward palace" (it means,you can find her pug marks on straight line)....
So the driver rushed the vehicle towards Jogi Palace...and there we were to see, what we were wishing since last evening.... - --- A Tigress,sitting at the boundary wall of JOGI PALACE, and the driver confirmed her as MACHALI (the tigress who attacks crocodiles)..
That was the sight....the ultimate...the majestic aura...the royal feel...the intriguing gaze...the shine coat...everything mesmerized me for a moment...The Tigress was easily at a distance of three jumps (Tiger jumps)...but she didn't appear bothered with
A bit closer...
Click three of Mom and Daughter tigresses
our presence.....For those 10 Minutes, I was blank...coz what I saw, was exactly what I thought of an evening back...-- The Tiger, The palace and to our left was Thapar's Banyan tree....
And then suddenly the silence was broken with that journalist's three year old baby shouting at his best...
To our right, and to our surprise was parked the vehicle of Mr.Shekhawat, the real administrator of this park, and he didnt seem very happy with the way we beat the peace out of Tigress....so he ordered the driver to take us back to our place...and anyways...ten minutes were over..to capture the moment of a lifetime....
After one hour, we reached back to our room, had some food and rest, and just couldn't stop talking about that moment of WILDLIFE NIRVANA....And I bet I fell in love with this Tigress...she was a beauty...wild yet majestic...
2 PM...Askhat took a train to Indore...and 2-30 PM I took a train to Mumbai, to continue with my work, but that Tigress...she still accompanies me, in my WILDEST MEMORIES 😉...
I hope you guys enjoyed this trip and my tigress 😊.....but my personal advice to all those who are going
One of the tigress is drinking water..look through the grass..and other is moving for rest..
to a national park....- " Don't go just to see a Tiger, you may return empty-handed..instead..enjoy the beauty, the calmness, the serenity, and the mysterious silence jungles have..for a nature lover and you will come back with moments for a life time"
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