Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Ranthambore National Park - 2nd trip, Tiger encounters (North India - Day 3)

Tuesday morning then dawned with us both excited and nervous. The staff at Khem Villas kindly provided blankets that had been heated with hot water bottles for us to drape across our legs as we headed into the park. Our bird guide had sorted out the gypsy and the team and we had a different route that would at least enable us to get some good birding done.

We headed into the park and even before the part where routes 2, 3 and 4 divide we found a Tiger. Admittedly a Tiger asleep mostly concealed by grass but still a wild Tiger!

The guide photographed me stood on the gypsy hand holding the 500 trying to snap the beast:

You can see both how chuffed I was and how mad it got with a pile-up of vehicles all trying to get in sight of the Tiger. I was persuaded to stay in the jeep and finally they broke up the traffic and we were moved on.

We took our route and headed further into the park but stopped promptly when the guides heard deer barking in warning. We worked with another jeep to quarter the area and ended up parked on a narrow lane with a small track just to the rear of our vehicle.

A forest worker wandered up, took a look around and headed up the path, stopping to circle a tiger footprint. Then he looked up. At this point he went very pale, turned and walked to us, climbing promptly on to the back of the gypsy. Once on the jeep he said breathlessly 'she's sat three metres up the trail'. We waited.

Sure enough a Tigress appeared walking slowly down the trail:

She looked right up at us. I was shaking with excitement and trying to take decent quality pictures at the same time. My one regret is not being able to rotate the camera though 90 degrees to get the whole Tiger in the frame. Still, not bad...

She rapidly got too close for the lens I was using:

At this point I asked Helen for the smaller camera with the shorter lens but it was still in the bag as Helen had sat transfixed during the encounter thus far. I grabbed the camera and started taking more pictures as she walked from the trail, behind our jeep, at one point less then two metres away:

Then headed off down the track:

We gather she was picked up by other vehicles and followed for around 15-20 minutes, ensuring lots of visitors to the park saw a Tiger that morning. I do count us very lucky indeed to have been so close and virtually alone during this encounter. As with all big predators, it's a very primal and quite a moving experience and one I would recommend, particularly as numbers of Tigers in the wild continue to diminish.


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