Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ranthambhore - A Trip to Remember.. Forever. Day 3

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Day 3 – 29 Oct 2011

I was up and ready on the last day of my trip. The events from the previous day had led me to believe that I was gifted with a lot of luck, when it came to tiger sightings. But that belief did not last long as I waited for the canter. The park gates open at 7 am, but there was no sign of the canter even by 8 am!

The canters are released by the forest department only after all the seats are filled. Therefore, if all the 21 seats in a canter were not sold, the remaining passengers had to wait patiently at their hotels. Further, the canters pick up passengers from their respective hotels. This can further delay one’s safari, especially if you have fellow passengers who do not know the meaning of punctuality.

Morning Safari

By the time the canter entered the park gates, it was close to 8.30 am. We had lost about 1.5 hours of safari time. My last safari was not looking good.

In the next half an hour, we spotted Langur monkeys, Sambar deer, Spotted deer and a Ruddy mongoose. 

Ground Inspection - Grey Langur

Ruddy Mongoose

Amongst the birds we saw a Black Kite, Black Drongo and a Rufous Treepie.

Face-to-Face - Black Kite and Black Drongo
The mood in the canter was subdued. The body language of the naturalist was not positive. He appeared to be going through the motions. The long delay in the morning must have frustrated him. The best time to sight tigers in the wild are early morning and late evening. Tigers avoid exerting themselves during mid-day because of the heat. And we appeared to have missed that early morning window due to the late entry.

Ranthambhore Landscape
But, all of a sudden the mood in the canter changed dramatically. A passing canter informed us that a tiger had been sighted about 10 minutes away. We did not need any further persuasion. The canter rushed to the spot where the tiger had been spotted. There were a couple of canters waiting at the scene.

And sure enough, sitting in the grass was a radio-collared Tigress. The Tigress glanced curiously at each canter and it’s occupants. The Tigress lay down on it’s belly still surveying the canters. It was a classic Tiger pose. And the cameras started clicking away to glory. 

The Queen grants an audience to her drooling admirers 
I've got my eyes set on you - Tiger T-17
Each canter spent some time at the best viewpoint and then made way for the other vehicles. Therefore all the vehicles got a good view of the Tigress. We spent a good 20 minutes with the Tigress and then it was time to head back to the park gates.

The Different Moods of the Queen T-17 - Clockwise from Top-left: Cold Stare, Bored Yawn, Curious Gaze & Grimace
As we learnt later, this was T-17 (a.k.a. Sundari), daughter of the legendary Machli T-16 (a.k.a. Lady of the lake). T-17 now ruled the Lake area after dethroning her mother T-16. The queen tigress had a royal look about her. She appeared to be bold and oozing confidence.

The Tigress had saved what was otherwise turning out to be a very frustrating day. It brought back the excitement, thrill and smiles in the canter. Happy faces and excited chatter filled the canter upto the park gates.

At the park gates the Langur monkeys were also happy and chattering away. It was fun photographing the Langur monkeys especially a sad looking loner.

Hmmphh! The Tourists only care about Tigers - Grey Langur

Thanks for noticing me. But make it quick please. I need to get back to my sulking ways - Grey Langur
I returned to the hotel, quickly finished my breakfast & bragging and set off for Jaipur to catch my flight.

It had been a trip that had exceeded all my expectations. The number of sightings and the quality of those sightings had left me awestruck. Either, tigers were easily sighted in the wild or I was blessed with extreme good luck. [I would realize a couple of years later that both were not true. But that’s a different story and will be covered in a later post].

Not only the tigers, the healthy population of other animals as well as the beauty of the forests and it’s lakes had left me breathless. I knew that I would have to return to this magical place again (and again).

Goodbye Till we meet again - Ranthambhore
With fond memories it was time to bid adieu. Hasta La Vista Ranthambhore!

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