On the hunt for a tiger
Up before dawn we made our way sleepily to the foyer of the Ranthambore Regency Hotel. (Little did we know we’d need to be up even earlier the following day!)
The foyer was crowded with people having tea and coffee. A quick wake up, and warm up, before we set off on our journeys.
First to leave were the people heading for Sawai Madhopur station. That would be our journey the following day to catch our early morning train.
Next to leave the hotel were the safari groups, eagerly looking forward to spotting a tiger.
Being pre-dawn in January, it was dark and cold as we made our way outside the hotel. No worries about trying to get a window seat as the canters were large open-topped buses. But there were concerns about us being cold. After all, we’d been expecting India to be warm, and had only expected to wear our coats to and from the airport. We hadn’t foreseen we’d need to wear them virtually every day. To allay our fears, we were each given a blanket as we boarded our bus. And boy did we need them.
The vehicles sat two people each side. Well, two small people. Those of us with larger rears had a job fitting two side by side on the seats. And that was before we set off…more on the journey later.
Exploring the wildlife
Ranthambore National Park is Rajasthan’s first tiger reserve. This wildlife sanctuary is a former royal hunting ground and home to tigers, leopards, marsh crocodiles and loads of birds. It is also home to Sambar Deer, the largest species of Asiatic deer, and spotted deer. Hardly surprising I suppose, as this is one of the tigers favorite prey.
Our journey started with a short drive from our hotel to the wildlife reserve. Not a bumpy ride going there (unlike the journey home) but definitely a cold one. After booking us in, the tour guide explained about the park and the wildlife as we journeyed deeper into the park.
Through the misty morning we glimpsed the spotted deer. The canters stopped to allow us to take photos.
Later we saw the Sambar Deer.……
And Wild Boar……
And various birds………
And lots and lots of amazing landscape…..
But Did We See A Tiger?
Yes, we did.
I don’t have a photo of it because, as Mrs. Lovett says in Sweeney Todd “I’m telling you them pussy cats is quick”. It was lying under a tree, hidden by undergrowth, when it suddenly leapt up and and stalked off before I could focus the camera.
The closest I got to a photo (apart from my blurred photo of a bush) were these paw prints.
There are times when driving four hours on a dirt road can be memorable for all of the wrong reasons.
Like breaking down in Tiger country.
Our guide decided we deserved a better sighting (and photo opportunity) so we set of in search of the tiger, spotting other wildlife en route. Our canter headed towards the watering hole. Our guide told us it was a favourite spot for tigers, especially in the summer, and although it was winter, there was a good chance that was where the tiger was heading.
Unlucky for us the tiger was not there.
Or, as it turned out, lucky for us the tiger was not there, as our canter got stuck on a rock while performing a three-point turn and we broke down in tiger country!
At first they asked for a couple of people to help push the canter.
But that didn’t work.
So it was decided we needed to lightened the load a bit more……
But that didn’t help either.
After assessing the situation it was discovered the canter wasn’t stuck in a hole, but was wedged on a rock.
So the group had to push the vehicle off the rock to get us back on the road.
Although the incident may have damaged the suspension, because the journey from then on was excessively bumpy. Yes, the dirt roads through the park had been a bit rough, but now we had passengers literally bouncing off the seats and into the aisle. (Looking at you Margaret).
A dusty, bumpy ride home for breakfast at 11am.
Having just finished breakfast, lunch was served at 1pm. Why so soon after breakfast? Well we were supposed to go on a second safari in the afternoon, that would encompass lakes and birds.
Unfortunately we were too ill to go.
Instead we stayed at the Ranthambore Regency Hotel, expecting to have a nice hot bath and wash off all the dust from the morning.
Alas that was not to be. The beautiful 4 star hotel only has hot water at set hours of the day. A notice in our room informed us that hot water would not be available from 12 noon until 5.30pm.
On the plus side, there was a fan heater in our room, so we were able to warm up at least.
The park includes the 10th-century Ranthambore Fort. In 2013, together with 5 other forts of Rajasthan, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the group Hill Forts of Rajasthan. We were not given the option to visit the fort, but passed close by during our morning trek.