Ranthambhore – 2018
The success of the Indian Government in increasing its previously declining population of wild tigers has been due largely to the establishment of several National Reserves.
Of these Ranthambore Nature Reserve in Rajasthan, south of the “Pink City” of Jaipur, is perhaps the best known possibly due to the convenience of combining a visit with a ”Golden Triangle” tour of Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal) and Jaipur.
Unlike safari tours of the grassy plains of East Africa, where big cats (especially lions and cheetahs) are visible both at distance and from “close up”, the tigers of India inhabit denser cover. Some Reserves are dominated by tall marshland grasses with a tiger only fleetingly visible, typically from elephant-back.
Ranthambore Park is dominated by towering cliffs of the edge of the Aravalli Hills. The Park is a 400 sq.km. area of scrubby bush, usually quite dense with occasional areas of more open grassland and acacia trees.The tigers naturally frequent the bush, water-holes and river banks.
It has gradually been expanded in area by moving small villages which are provided with generous support from the Indian Government together with compensation for any cattle lost to predation. The Women’s Craft Centre in the nearby town of Sawai Madhopur is an example of the help provided.
Safari tours of the Park are well organised by the Park Authority with the Reserve divided in to Zones with the number of safari vehicles allowed at any one time in a particular Zone being strictly controlled. Some Zones are deliberately left un-visited due to, for example, sensitive male/female tiger interactions or to prevent disturbance to a pregnant or nursing female tiger.
Other predators in the Reserve are leopard and sloth bears. Prey animals are mainly species of antelope – the Sambar being the largest.
Spotted deer are the most common. Occasionally wild pigs or monkeys are taken as well by predators.
This local hotel was our base for 2 days with 3 planned safaris – the first in the afternoon of our first day then 2 safaris on day 2 (with a 6.45 start for the morning safari !) with each being in a different Zone. The same guide accompanies each of your safaris so a good relationship develops with the guide.
An open-top “jeep type” is used for small groups but for groups up to 20 people an open-top “bus” is available
To say that a safari without seeing an elusive tiger was a disappointment would be wrong – there is much other wildlife including the antelope species and plentiful bird-life. Long-legged wading birds frequent the water-holes and river banks. Parakeets were common on the more open areas and their alarm calls would often indicate the closeness of larger animals. However, although the hope of even glimpsing a tiger was high yet the expectation was always low !
Then late on our second-day afternoon safari we “captured” our tiger !
Our guide had decided to park under shade and to wait for alarm calls – he probably had an idea that a tiger was in the area as we had seen paw prints (pug marks) of a female tiger along the sandy tracks. We had been waiting for over a half-hour when suddenly a sambar deer gave its alarm “bark”. More alarm calls over the next half-hour indicated that the tiger was on the move. Then- a much closer alarm calls from spotted deer lead to our hell breaking lose as we dashed along sandy tracks, dodging overhead thorny branches, towards the river bank !
There she was ! – just walking nonchalantly towards the river – flopped her hind quarters in and turned to watch us ! We sat spell-bound for more than a half-hour with shutters clicking and whispering wonders. She took no notice of our vehicles with our guide referring to her as the “Film Star”.
What a Show !!
Rita & Les Moore