Day 142: Hunting tigers out in Indiah (they bite, they scratch, they make an awful fuss)
Ranthambhore National Park Travel Blog› entry 192 of 260 › view all entries
Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Ed (Netherlands)
The Ranthambhore National Park is one of India's prime reserves for the near-extinct Bengal tiger, the largest cat species in the world. It is estimated that there are only about 3200 tigers left in the world, less than half of them living in the wild. Although only about 25 tigers live in this 1334 sq km reserve, Ranthambhore is the place where you are most likely to spot a tiger in the wild in India (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter).
Traffic is restricted in the park, with only 40 vehicles allowed per day. The park is generally closed during the monsoon months, which is the main mating season for tigers and tracks often become impassable after rains. The keen reader will have noticed that this was the monsoon season, so howcome we are here?
Well, this is India, after all, where rules and regulations are merely guidelines and enforcement depends on how much money is involved.
Let me start by saying that I don't generally condone this kind of thing. I take environmental conservation seriously and I know they close the park for a reason. But sometimes the flesh is weak and temptation to high to resist. Besides, we weren't the only ones. There was a German couple on our tour as well and inside the park we came across another Jeep full of Indian tourists.
Well, call it karma, but we didn't see a single tiger that day. Mahinder had told me we'd had a 99% chance of seeing one in Ranthambhore, yet during the tour our guide told us that during the monsoon all tigers move into the highlands, so chances of seeing one in this period are next to nothing.
Our guide was utterly useless. His English was terribly bad and all he did was pointing out what he called 'beautiful bird'. Every bird was a beautiful, bird, I suppose. And sure, some of them were nice indeed, but after seeing a peacock for the seventeenth time, I couldn't care less about them anymore. We did see a few antelopes, deer, a couple of monitor lizards and a jackal, but for the most part the animals were hiding today. Or we were driving to fast to see anything.
At one point we were driving through a very dense forest and he explained to us that this was called tiger forest, as this is the place where many tigers live.
So the landscape was beautiful, the tour itself was worthless. The guide wasn't just a poor wildlife guide (he was barely able to explain anything about the animals we saw and I often spotted them earlier than he did), he also had the guts to start asking for tips halfway through (“Rs 500 for spotting animals, Rs 1000 if we see a tiger”).
I was beginning to see a pattern here as this is pretty much a summary of my experience of India so far: a beautiful country, yet as soon as people are involved the enjoyment factor drops. With the exception of Mukesh, our driver, I hadn't seen anyone not doing a shit job at their work so far.
Back in the hotel we had dinner at the hotel restaurant. There wasn't anything else to do in town (this being off-season it resembled a ghost town) so we just relaxed in our room and had an early night.