Tiger Safari...

Rajasthan Travel Blog

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 Virander and I set off for Ranthambore National Forest.  All through the trip, when I’ve mentioned that I’ll be in Ranthambore to other people, they say “Good luck seeing a Tiger.”  There are very few tigers left in the world, and they’re very solitary creatures.  People from all over the world come to India to see tigers, and they’re usually disappointed.  I booked my safari for 6 in the morning for the following day.  At 5:45 the restaurant manager came to bring me breakfast, as he’s taken to “helping” me whenever money’s involved.  We set off on the safari soon after.  The way you explore Ranthambore is by jeep or canter.  You’re not allowed to set foot in the park, so make sure you use the bathroom before departure, as I didn’t.
My Carriage.
  No biggie, I’m a big guy.  I can hold it.  Others couldn’t, and we had to stop several times at hotels on the way into the park.  Once inside, we met our guide.  He hadn’t seen a tiger for a full week, and most of his colleagues hadn’t either.  He explained that for the first hour or so, we’d be searching almost exclusively for tigers, but don’t get your hopes up.  Following that, we’d search for other things such as deer, monkeys, crocodiles, etc.  

The park is mainly deciduous forest, with grasslands, lakes, banyan trees, and a little jungle mixed in.  There’s a giant fort with banyan trees, and tropical bushes growing out of it.  It looks like an ancient temple long forgotten by men.  I felt the Indiana Jones in me would force me to explore the place.
My Screen saver. The Maharajahs old hunting lodge.
  Thing is, it’s used everyday by the locals…probably no treasure there anyways.

We drove around for an hour looking for tigers.  After a while it became obvious to everyone in the canter that we weren’t going to see any.  It’s just too hard to find them.  Several times we would see tiger tracks in the road.  They were always several days old, and always leading into the wrong direction.  A few times the canter would stop and cut off its engines.  Wondering why, I asked what was up?  The guide was listening for distress calls from other animals.  He said that anytime a tiger is spotted, the forest animals create an uproar.  We gave up on the tiger.  We went to a lake and saw crocodiles, and many deer.
I'm still pretty upset about this.
  I was sitting there thinking to myself “There are at least 75 deer in the meadow, and there’s long grass to hide in.  This should be a tiger buffet, with all of them in the park invited.”  While sitting there thinking my ever-clever thoughts, one in our group shouts that he sees a tiger.  We all turn behind us, and he explains that it’s just gone into the grass.  The guides look a bit skeptical about this, and I can see why.  There are at least 10 deer right where he “sees” them, and they seem none too excited.  The guy is also in his late 60’s and is wearing coke bottle glasses.  Turns out he just saw a deer go into the thicket, and he believed it to be a tiger.  Sometimes believing is seeing.  

Before I take you to our next stop, you have to hear about the Kingfishers.
My Tiger. I named him Taco.
  These birds whom the national beer is named after, are everywhere in India.  They’re also the most beautiful birds I’ve ever seen.  There’s many species of them, and they’re all remarkably colored.  At the lake, we saw Kingfishers that were shaded scarlet with green and black, a few that were turquoise and black, and a few others that were royal blue with black and white.  They were darting in and out of the water with great rapidity, and they always seemed to come up with at least one fish.  

We eventually left the lake and plodded around for a few hours.  During this trip, I’ve had a few minor obstacles to overcome, and a few times, things didn’t go just according to plan.  These instances are far outweighed by the amount that has gone right.
Two stags. During rutting season.
  Luck, karma, whatever you want to call it smiles on me, for when we were about to leave the park, the canter abruptly stops.  The guide, shouts/whispers “There’s a tiger on the road!”  We all stand to look, and the most beautiful tiger walks right along the road besides the canter.  We’ve all seen tigers in zoos, but this was a different specimen.  Its coat seemed to glow with color, and it walked along with a regal indifference.  The guide and driver even seemed genuinely excited.  This is apparently very rare, as most sightings are from around two to three hundred yards away.  We were about 6 feet from this giant cat.  We backed the canter up and it passed along the road for another few seconds, and was again out of sight.  The whole thing lasted maybe forty-five seconds, but it’s burned into my memory forever.

The only downside to the sighting was that I couldn’t get a good shot off.  The people in the front row were standing up, so that we couldn’t see the tiger.  By standing up, these people were actually distancing themselves from the cat.  I did get a few shots, but some lady flinging her camera about ruined the best shot of the day.  I had the tiger perfectly framed, and she for some reason decides that’s the time to give the camera to her husband.  The camera was placed right over the tiger in my shot.  Took a few others, but the tiger was in the bushes by that point.  Too bad, but really, if that’s all I have to complain about, then I’m doing pretty well.  Every time our canter happened upon a jeep or another canter, the driver and guide would brag to the other drivers and guides.  We met a group of Americans who’ve been in India for 3 weeks on a safari park package.  They’ve been to six parks, and have only seen two tigers, and they were both about two hundred yards off.  I saw the group back at the hotel, and they nicely asked that I not share my experience with them, as they had grown quite frustrated by that point.  

Everything is working out on this trip so far.  Anytime you travel, you have to expect a few mishaps.  It’s raining in a place you were very much looking forward to, or the museums closed on Wednesdays, or whatever.  These frustrations have been largely absent from this trip.  I really hope this trend continues, as I have so much left to do.  I’ve already done Bangkok, and I did it well.  I did Phi Phi and Krabi, and I rocked them both.  India, while a rough transition has turned out to be as amazing as I hoped.  There’s plenty left though.  I’m planning on going to Dharamsala, home of the Dali Lama.  It’s called “Little Tibet.”  Following this, I’m headed to Kerala, which is known in India as “Gods Country.”  Once in Europe, there will be much to do.  I’m planning on going to an English Premier League soccer match.  I’m trying to go to Italy’s official carnival party in Rome, as well as official Easter celebrations in Sienna.  I’ll be in Norway for “Supt de Mai” 17th of May, their July 4th.  I’m going to try to hit all the festivals of Europe that I can.  I’m meeting my mom in Greece on June 2nd, and hopefully Rob in London sometime in the spring.  I then head to Paris for “Fete de music,” one of the coolest days to be there.  I will also try to hit Wimbledon in late June.  I head to NYC to hang with my buddy Chase for about a week, and then head home.  I hope to arrive on July 3rd…just in time for one last festival…

Ape says:
Nice blog! And Virander is an awesome name, heheh!
Posted on: Mar 04, 2008
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My Carriage.
My Carriage.
My Screen saver.

The Maharajahs…
My Screen saver. The Maharajah…
Im still pretty upset about this.
I'm still pretty upset about this.
My Tiger.  

I named him Taco.
My Tiger. I named him Taco.
Two stags.  During rutting season.
Two stags. During rutting season.
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