I always think, to really get a feel of a country, it is necessary to experience some journeys overland. Today was the first real road journey for my group and travelling by road in India is truly an adventure. The road to Ranthambore is certainly not smooth and we average about 20 miles per hour. However we see a lot of colourful, local life, villages and beautiful scenery en route.
We arrived in time to check in, have lunch and get prepared for our first safari. Once upon a time India was home to an abundance of tigers, literally thousands, sadly due to trophy hunting and poaching before and after independence, there are now only 1411 tigers here in India. The save the tiger campaign has been launched and the tiger is a protected animal, but is it a case of too little too late?
Here is Ranthambore the tiger population is on the increase and there are now 42 tigers in the national park, though five tigers have been sent to another park.
Many people visit Ranthambore National Park with the sole aim of seeing a tiger and while it is very special to see a tiger in the wild, I really think it is better to appreciate the beauty of the park and consider a tiger sighting a bonus. I have prepared my group and told them that they probably will not see a tiger. Actually every group I have taken to Ranthambore has had a good tiger sighting but I can’t really tell the group that, in case they do not see a tiger and then are disappointed. Better to lower their expectations.
We have 3 safaris – 1 today and 2 tomorrow. I always work with the same park ranger, who this year was on a short list of 7 for Park Ranger of the Year for the whole of India.
The safaris are taken in gypsies (6 seater jeeps) or canters (20 seater vehicles). I have 17 people in my group so we head off in a canter. The park is divided into 5 zones and each vehicle is designated 1 zone per safari. For our first safari we have zone 4 – a good zone with 2 lakes and not as dense as other zones.
We saw spotted dear, samba dear, crocodiles, bird life, but not a tiger. We had just called it a day and were leaving the park when suddenly the people on another canter wave us over and there on the dirt track appears a tiger. A females tiger, 4 and a half years old and she walked right past our canter, just 2 feet away from us. The tiger is so powerful but yet so graceful. The clients are ecstatic. We can relax now – mission accomplished, the clients have seen that elusive tiger and close up.