With the gloomy winters seeping in January; we decided to give mountains a break and visit Ranthambore National Park. It turned out to be the perfect weekend getaway to enjoy the winter sun and of course, budget friendly too.
Over the next few weeks, it was a marathon of extensive research through the plethora of available information. From selecting the best safari zones for maximum probability, watching numerous tiger safari videos (mostly scary ones to mentally prepare ourselves), deciding on which seats to occupy for safety, to concluding on our own that no flashy colours should be worn. We did it all.
Here’s the link to a travel guide on Ranthambore – Home to “THE BIG CATS”
Taking an overnight train from New Delhi, we reached Sawai Madhopur (SWM) at 5:00 the next morning. Unlike the traditional arts of Rajasthan, the illustration on the walls here are dominated by the wild cats. Autos are easily available from the railway station. Being a cold January morning, it was still dark at 5 AM. In the silence of morning hours and our auto driver’s stories; it seemed a wild animal would appear any moment from nowhere.
Everything moved on smoothly for next two days. Be it the affordable price, location, peaceful atmosphere and the personalized bonfires in the garden area – Ranthambore Vatika Resort was the perfect choice. Mr. Devendra Sharma, the manager, helped us throughout and made it hassle free. Being a wildlife enthusiast, he shared his experience and guided us really well.
The safari duration is 2 hours and canter pick-ups are usually done an hour prior to it. There was an utter disbelief when our scheduled evening safari for Zone 3 changed to Zone 1. It was for the safety of newborn cubs in Zone 3. As the safari began, the guide told us how to look for tiger pug marks on the tracks or be attentive to the sounds which are calls for a wild cat being nearby. The constant plea by our guide to remain silent and not disturb the animals fell on deaf ears. In their eagerness to spot a tiger, people constantly made noises, abuses without a breather. All we saw was a dry, worn out jungle and could only spot sambhar deers, crocodiles, peacocks throughout.
It was almost evening and we were still within the park approaching the exit gate when our canter suddenly stopped due to technical failure. Getting down or leaning from a vehicle is strictly prohibited. The excitement was slowly giving way to an unknown fear. Within half an hour, everyone was somehow shifted to other canters passing by. Even the seconds of distance between the two vehicles seemed like a death trap.
We were disappointed with no tiger sightings; however, the entire hotel management took it as a personal mission to keep our spirits high. The evening was spent in conversation with Mr. Mahesh (owner) and his friend Chandrakant who had a lot of stories to share. As the evening progressed, we heard numerous stories of the wild cats – briefed in Legends of Ranthambore National Park.
End of a beautiful evening
We were speechless. Emotional and educational, it was like listening to the tales of kings, queens and their golden era.
Tiger spotting, as we were explained, is all about luck. It was their home and the choice was theirs, not ours. One should not stress much rather enjoy the nature; see how other inhabitants of the planet live, understand the ways of the majestic creatures. Still, we couldn’t sleep in anticipation of the next morning. In the deadly silence, we watched the documentary on Macchli till late while keeping our ears open for any growling sounds outside. Everyone secretly wished – what if we could see at least one. After all, the evening session had increased our curiosity by many folds.
Early next morning, the safari was scheduled for Zone 4. Enjoying the jungle in the morning hours was simple bliss. Fortunately, the company was a sensible lot compared to the previous evening. After an hour of wild chase following the dust tracks and forest territories, suddenly the news of tiger sighting spread like a wild fire. All the vehicles reversed their directions to reach the spot. With only one binocular available, we took turns to take a look. Away from an edge where all the canters lined up with impatient onlookers on board, two tigers were lazing around camouflaged in the tall grass and in no mood to move even an inch. Raising their heads for a while, they quickly got back to their business. Yes, it can be said that we spotted two – spotted.
Right next to ours, we saw Daulat Singh Shekhawat in the Sher Bagh jeep with some guests. He wore his trademark dark glasses, commanding authority while clearing up the traffic created by vehicles, instructing the drivers to be careful and not harm any bushes or trees around.
What we saw instead :)
We named the outing as “Mission 3 Tigers” – in anticipation of spotting at least three. From the moment we stepped in till we left (and we were completely at home marking our own territories as guests), there was only one topic of discussion – of course, about tigers. We lost count of the times we might have asked similar questions and everyone was willing to answer the simplest of queries with equal enthusiasm. What started as mere curiosity turned out into a crash course on wildlife. It was heart warming to see how people are so passionate and caring towards these creatures else ferocious to others.
The stories of wilderness lasted for many days to come – with us educating everyone around with our newfound knowledge and respect for the wildlife. We are yet to go back and complete our mission 🙂
The information provided is based on firsthand experience. For any further queries, feel free to leave a comment below or email. I will revert at the earliest.