“Tigers are solitary, and they are territorial”, said our guide Satish Verma. All of us in the open Canter vehicle were eager to see tigers in our safari in Ranthambore.
“Tiger no. 19 named Krishna is in the territory where are travelling. She has laid three cubs — they are 5 months old now”. This piece of information really heightened our expectations — will we be lucky to spot the tiger that too with three cubs?
This was our first trip to Rajasthan. We are no wildlife buffs but since we had two kids (aged 5 and 3), we decided to go to a wildlife safari. We had booked Air Asia return tickets from Jaipur and wanted to visit a place somewhere nearby. With Google it was easy to zero-in on Ranthambore but heard that the forest gets closed for 3 months during monsoon. Luckily, we got safari tickets for our family to travel on October 1st 2014, which was the first day of opening of the park for trips after monsoon.
Just as the Canter entered the ancient guard gate, we saw many peacocks and Langur monkeys. “Look at that huge monitor lizard” someone shouted and the lizard immediately disappeared into a Banyan tree. Soon we saw various kinds of deers including Sambar, Spotted Chital, and Nilgai. Our vehicle crossed the Rajbag lake for a momentary halt. “Crocodile! Crocodile!” — someone from our Canter pointed at the back of a large crocodile. It could be more than 10 feet long — if we could see their full body! And our guide sank our spirits: “Crocodiles are cold-blooded animals — they come out to the shore and laze for hours together in Summer — but not now”.
A Jeep crossed our Canter and the driver said they have heard “warning calls” from other animals near the other end of the lake. “When tigers are visible and around, deer and birds give ‘warning calls’. We should listen to them to spot the tiger — that’s why you all should keep quite”, and with that all of us shut our mouths and started looking out for tigers. We only saw a group of wild hogs running around. Here a fox, there a hyena, but no tigers.
On the way, our careful guide noticed fresh Tiger footprints on the mud road. “She should have just crossed this place and should be somewhere around here” and with that we waited for 20 minutes. That quiet waiting time helped us observe the forest closely. First we noticed a huge white butterfly and then many other species — it was clear that the jungle had amazing variety of flora and fauna. A Sambar deer came near our vehicle and suspiciously looked at us. Another jeep crossed and they said that they heard “warning calls” near the lakeshore. Our driver rushed to the huge Padam Talao lake.
In the lakeshore, a surprise awaited us: a 10-foot crocodile was taking sunbath in the shore. And we could notice large ripples of water in the lake — which could mean many such crocodiles in that one single lake!
In search of the tiger, we forgot to look at the breathtaking views of the huge lakes and ancient forts in front of us.
It was evening and the orange sunlight was partly blocked by white clouds. In the side were tall winding hills with an ancient fort on top of that (with the background voice of our guide: “This fort was built in 10th century and is 7 kilo-meters long. It overlooks Rann and adjoins Thambore and that’s why it’s called Ranthambore”). We could also find many old man-made structures that are now crumbling. The evening sunlight made colorful hues and the added effect was the background noise of parrots and birds. Gentle breeze touched us. Add to it the crocodiles silently swimming in the lake at the foot of the hill. That made for a mesmerizing scene and reminded me of Rudyard Kipling’s Seoni forest in which his Mowgli story was set.
A Jeep wheezed past us and the driver shouted “we saw the tiger” and theirs was Track 2. Our guide told that ours was also on the same track, but somehow missed it.
After the safari, we realized that we were in a mess with lots of sand dust settled on us. With no good restaurants nearby, we managed to eat whatever we could get for that day. Also the “red-and-black stripes” eluded us. Nevertheless, it was best wildlife safari for us — we’re keen to visit Ranthambore again, not in search of tigers but to see the spectacular Padam Talao lake!
Photos by: Dhinakaran K, Dhivya G D, and Ganesh Samarthyam