Tigers and Birds

So, after the delights of Udaipur we’re off to the tiger reserve at Ranthambore hoping to catch a glimpse of the big cat. This is the only activity which we booked from the UK before we left, as the safari drives into the park book up really quickly. We are staying at a moderately posh establishment, Ranthambore Bagh, in a sort of a tent. It has tent walls and roof, but a hard floor and it’s own bathroom. It’s a cut above our usual establishment, which costs about 15 quid a night for a double room, and where you usually have to ask for the hot water to be turned on.

Safari drives happen between 07:00 and 09:30, and between 15:00 and 17:30. The park is closed to the public at other times, which gives the wildlife a bit of down time. You are assigned at random to a vehicle, in our case a 6-person jeep, and the vehicles are assigned at random to a zone in the park. All this helps to ease pressure on the guides and the wildlife. Whether you see a tiger or not is completely down to luck.

These guys are everywhere, though.

There is a lot of other wildlife to look at, and the park is beautiful. These are Spotted Deer, drinking at a waterhole.

We had signed up for three safaris: afternoon on one day, then morning and afternoon on the next day. Two or three safaris, it was said, would be enough to spot a tiger. Our first two were tiger-less: in fact the first, which was on a Sunday, was more like a vehicle rally in the country, with traffic jams in the tight spots and lots of revving and shouting. If I was a tiger, I’d be elsewhere if this was going on, I thought. The second was more tranquil, and we saw a lot more of the park, but still no tigers, and saw only a couple of other vehicles. Finally, on the third, we spotted a tiger, an 18 month old male called Sultan. He didn’t seem to care about being photographed by at least 100 people. The group photography thing notwithstanding, tigers are doing ok in the park here, and they are absolutely magnificent when you see them. We saw more of Sultan later on, but couldn’t get any photographs.

The following morning, we move down the road to Bharatpur to visit the Keoladeo bird sanctuary, and internationally renowned wetland. This is way more relaxed than the Tiger sanctuary, and we have our own guide.

Again, the animals seem pretty oblivious of man, and you can photograph them easily.

There are python in the park but we didn’t see any 🙂 Here’s a discarded skin, though.

It’s quite a big park, and the easiest way round is by bike. Mine has probably the worst saddle I’ve ever sat on, not helped by it being tilted upwards at the front like the launching ramp on an aircraft carrier, forcing me to lean backwards to preserve my, er, composure. That’s what you get if you hire a bike for 20 pence.

There’s also a large colony of Painted Storks, and we saw many other animals, including antelope and jackals.

There was a small drinks kiosk in the centre of the park, with several dustbins. As usual, the Rhesus Macaques took a great interest in them, hoiking out anything remotely edible, and quite a few things that weren’t.

All in all, a jolly good week or so of wildlife watching. We’re off to Agra now, to the Taj Mahal.

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