Tiger, tiger…where are you?

We came to Sawai Madhopur specifically to go to Ranthambore National park to try to see a tiger.
So, we booked a jeep for a morning safari. The process of booking a jeep is quite complex and is best managed by an agent, as there are quotas and bookings must be made within short time frames online, this is best handled by someone who knows the system and terminology.

Our jeep arrived at 6:30 am for our safari, there were five of us in a small open top jeep, plus the driver and our guide. We set off with blankets around us to keep warm in the early morning chill and the bracing wind from the speeding jeep. Once in the park, the guides began the search for a tiger, looking for pug marks and scat to see if any were nearby. The park is over 300 square kilometres and holds about 62 tigers. There are also leopard, deer, mongoose, antelope and many bird species.

Many times our driver stopped to listen to the noises of the jungle, because these are indicators of the presence of a predator. We heard the sambar deer call nearby and suddenly the race was on to find the spot where the tiger might appear. Along with a few other jeeps we found a place to wait. There was some commotion as one guide said they could see the tiger through the bushes. Now I can’t be certain but I have a photo with a thing in the distance which appears to be striped, and I am reliably told this is a tiger. Taken with a 600mm lens, so I could barely see it. Fairly unimpressive, I know, not what I would actually call a sighting. See if you can spot it.

We saw many other animals, mostly deer and antelope, a Mongoose, some monkeys and many peacock and other birds but alas, no tiger.

In the afternoon we took another safari, this time to a different zone of the park, further away from our hotel. In the back of our open jeep, we had a one hour bone crunching, hair raising ride over dusty, potholed roads amidst extensive roadworks, which incidentally did not mean that our driver drove more slowly or carefully, but rather just presented more opportunity to drive like some crazed Fangio. At one time we came across an excavator which was across the road, our jeep just drove right under the arm of the digger! (I didn’t get a photo, too busy having my life flash before my eyes)

We finally reached the park gate feeling grateful to have arrived. Again the process of searching for a tiger. This time our guide was rather unhelpful. We heard the roar of a tiger, so our driver decided to go in another direction, and was most uncommunicative. Suffice to say, we saw no tigers. Then we faced the return drive cheating death once again. On the whole, not a great experience, although when it comes to animals in nature, they are completely unpredictable so you have to expect some disappointment. A young woman we met had seen two tigers the day before, it’s complete chance, just not our lucky day, although surviving the drive was pretty satisfying!

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