Royal Rajasthan – Day 9- Ranthambore National Park

We woke up at 5:30, kept extra underclothes for Chutku – incase he had an urgency in the middle of the safari! It was freezing cold and the hotel gave us hot masala chai while we waited for the Govt. Canter to pick us up. By the time the canter came, it was day light outside but we realised that the canter was completely open! It didnt have the roof and windows. Thankfully, the hotel provided us with blankets and we were wearing warm clothes.

Despite all that, our noses and toes had frozen by the time we got to the gates of the National Park at around 7:45am.

Instructions given, we entered the Zone-3 of the park which is famous for its Tigress and 3 cubs. We drove around for sometime watching the scenery and parts of the maharaja’s hunting lodge and water ponds when suddenly the canter picked up speed and we were racing towards -God know what! And then, suddenly everyone was standing and whispering and rushing and pushing
– “There, there is the tiger!!”. I couldnt see a thing and thankfully, the guide called me up front and showed me where it was – Majestically climbing up a flat rock to sun itself.

Oh my! Even as I write this, Im getting goosebumps on my arms – that first sight is just etched in my memory. The tigress looked as if to say “Here they come again, Namoonas, dont even let me sit
and sun bathe also in peace, duh”.

Suddenly, there were so many jeeps and  canters and someone exclaiming, “Look there, there are the cubs” and we all see that 3 cubs are at some distance from the mother and trying to get to her. All the vehicles slowly moved back and the 3 cubs bounded to their mother. For about
45mins, all activity just stopped-the only sounds were of the cameras whirring and the click click click.The only time in my life I regretted not having a DSLR/Hi-fi camera and had to make do with my phone camera of 5MPixels 😦 For all the trips we had made to BAndipur and
Kabini and not sighted a single tiger- this made up for all of it… Husband was on the  ‘seventh heaven and kept exclaiming that the whole trip was worth it, just for this sighting. Tigers in the wild-that was a dream for him and he had his eye and soul-full that day.

One observation that I did, the cubs played on their on while the mother just sat or strolled around but the cubs never left the mother and wander too far. When they wanted to get back into the woods and we were in the way, the mother just proudly began to walk towards the woods and all the vehicles just slowly backoff without anyone making a noise. The Tigress was so close to us and when she turned and looked towards us with those golden eyes, it was thrilling and scary! Even the guide made sure that the canter door was locked and that everyone was away from the vehicle edges. But the tigress wasnt interested in us. She was more interested in the huge Nilgais and other Deer that we could see inside the woods and with the ears pricked she went in search of her prey. All the vehicles then unanimously decided to move out to give the animals some quite and do what they need to do. We then got back to the hotel at about 10:45am and were raring to go on the second safari that afternoon.

Despite sighting 4 tigers we werent satisfied and wanted more! We had booked another safari at 3pm that evening in a jeep this time and we started again by 2:45 from the hotel. This time it was Zone 6 and the land scape was totally different. All dry and dusty. Despite driving around for nearly an hour, we saw only deer and peacocks but no tiger. Then the driver told us that
he knows where the tiger is and is going exactly there but its quite inside the forest. This time it was a huge male tiger who had made a kill of a big Nilgai the previous day and had found a place near a small pond to eat and protect his food. When we reached there, there were 4-6 other jeeps surrounding the tiger-what was the tiger doing? He had eaten a real stomach full and couldnt even budge and trying to doze off. The constant buzzing of the flies was
bothering him and he kept lifting his head and swatting them off. This time too, we were hardly 30-40 feet away from him that too in a jeep which initially really worried me, but then the driver and guide both told us that this fellow had been eating and lying around there from the previous day and he was too full to even bother about us, leave alone attack. We wanted him to move, but when he got up and sat – all the jeeps instinctively just moved back as one 😀 We saw the left over parts of the Nilgai and after watching him doze for around 1/2 hr we headed back to the hotel at about 5pm.

The next day was the day of return and we had to pack. More than packing we had to mentally prepare that the holiday was coming to an end.

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