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India, looking for Tigers in Ranthambore National Park.

Whilst Elissa was in New York with her mum Pete decided to go to India to see tigers in their natural environment. India is the best place in the world to find these magnificent predators.

The best place (or argubly the best) in India to find them is in Ranthambore National Park which is central-northern India, 5 hours by train, south of New Delhi. When travelling through India, especially many different areas, a lot of visitors will hire a car – with a driver – at a negotiated cost. Although this is very convenient it wasn’t necessary for me as I was only going to one place. So I caught the train. And what an experience that is…..

There wasn't much room on the platform....

There wasn't much room on the platform.... In fact I've never seen a busy place.

This is just how I imagined them to be....

This is just how I imagined Indian Trains to be....

Indian trains are crowded and can be quite filthy, but if you book 1st or 2nd class with air-con they are bearable (you need to book in advance). They are also very cheap. The (best) train from New Delhi to Sawai Madhopur (10mins from  Ranthambore) is the Mewar Express from Delhi (H Nizamuddin) to Sawai Madhopur. It costs around $15usd – not bad for a 5hour train-ride in 1st class .

The absolute best, and the way I see it, only way, to book a train trip in India is with www.clearatrip.com/trains. The other options are painful…. trust me I went through them all and was so great cleartrip existed.

the best

Ranthambhore NP is the small green blotch right next to the red marker.

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Location of Ranthambhore National Park.

 

Ranthamhore National Park is about 400 square kilometres. Most of this is strictly tiger conservation area but the parts where tourists can visit are stunning. The area was once an old fort and a place where tiger hunting occurred. In 1961, before it was a protected habitat for tigers, it served as the backdrop for the last legal tiger hunting in India’s history. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip were part of this last legal hunt. The Queen didn’t kill one but Prince Phillip did. In fact his kill was the last legal kill in India….Hope he is proud of that!!!!

Queen Elizabeth with her hunting party in Ranthambhore National Park.

Queen Elizabeth (holding a bag) and her hunting party in Ranthambhore NP.

Fortunately in 1973 this piece of land became part of the Project Tiger system, an Indian government intitiated in 1972 to protect the Bengal Tiger species. In 1980, to the disagreement of the locals who lived there, it became a National Park. Along with an enormous amount of deer, monkey, peacocks and other wildlife, it is home to 42 tigers, including 18 cubs, born recently.

The locals are permitted to enter the NP so they can go to the Fort for worship.

The locals are permitted to enter part of the NP so they can go to the Fort for worship.

Ranthambore NP is world famous for its tigers. The Bengal tigers here have provided the world with 95% of all published photographs of tigers in a natural habitat over the last 50 years. The most famous Tiger photos are of Machali or “Lady of the Lake” who is a 15 years old tigress whom I saw on day 3 of my time here. She is the mother of the first tigress I encounted.

distance

My first wild tiger sighting! Safari number 3, Day 2 of my trip.... Her name is T19 but also goes by Princess of the Lake. She is the daughter of famous Machali (T16).

Each day I would wake up at 5:30am, have a cup of coffee and then be picked up in a jeep and go on a game drive from around 6 – 9am. I would then be dropped back at the hotel and have breakfast. I would relax during the heat of the day, and I tell you it gets hot (at least mid 30’s – dry heat) then after lunch at around 3pm I would be picked up togo on an afternoon safari.

tiger with jeep

The jeeps don't really keep there distance nor stay on the road when a tiger is around. The drivers go to great lengths, and speeds to give us the best vantage point...

It was actually a relief to see this tiger, as I hadn’t seen one at all the previous day. I was starting to think I might never see one. How wrong I was. For the next 3 days and 6 game drives I saw 4 tigers and a leopard, among other cool animals….

Tigress with Fort

Tigress (T16) in front of old palace ruins. I saw this tigress chase a deer next to the jeep, unfortunately she didn't catch it. It was Epic!! They only kill about 1 out 10 attempts.

 

tiger g

My first male tiger (T24 - is his official name). I stupidly screamed with excitment because I was the first to spot him and he got up and starting walking away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tiger on the move

We followed him for probably 45mins. That's a long and lucky tiger encounter.

Tiger scent marking

T24 marking territory - which can be up to 20 square kilometres.

Of the 400 sq km that make up RNP only 125 sq km can be seen by visitors. The area I visited (eastern side) is broken up into 6 zones. Each zone is only allowed a certain number of jeeps and cantors (big bus type vehicles) for the morning and afternoon game drives. This is excellent because it means that one area doesn’t get too crowded, perhaps like you might see in the Serengeti when a lion is present. This is great for the visitors but more importantly great for the animals…. there are drawbacks however.

tiger in bushes

In 2010 T24 killed but didn't eat, a man who snuck into the park to chop firewood. He is obviously dangerous but T24 is not a Man-Eater, which probably saved his own life.

Tiger at waterhole

Day 3, different zone of the park. Male tiger (T6) at a waterhole.

Some zones are better than others. And, unluckily I was on vehicles that visisted zone 3, for the first 4 safaris I went on. Zone 3 is beautiful (it has the lake) and I saw my first tiger here however when there are 5 other zones to potentially see, and I’d only had tiger sighting out of four visits to this zone, I was keen to see more of the park. I mentioned this to my hotel manager, who’d pre-arranged (recommended) all my safaris and the following day and each day after I went to other zones…

Tiger heading towards us....

T6 walking right past us. I almost had shivers running down my spine. These were truely incredible wildlife moments.

In the mornings I took a jeep for my safari but in the afternoons I tried to save a little bit of money (like $5) and took a cantor in the afternoons. The was a mistake. There were too many people on these vehicles and they are too loud. At one stage I had young children on with me, in 40 degree heat. They cried as soon as we entered the park. Safe to safe we didn’t see any tigers.

Tiger looking through us

It felt like he was looking through me....

Because the territory of the tiger, which is a solitary cat (except when raising offspring or mating), is so large there are actually only 10 or so tigers that can been seen in the zones that we can visit. So, although its almost gauranteed you will see a tiger if you go on several safaris, which most visitors do, it is certainly lucky and special when you cross paths with one.

Male tiger in walking away from all the hype...

Over it all. T6 walks away from all the hype... about 6 full jeeps were following him.

Lady of the Lake resting in the shade and in the water

This is the most famous wild Tiger in the World. Certainly the most photographed wild tiger anyway. Her name is Machali or "Lady of the Lake". Officially its T16.

Machali received the name ‘Lady of the Lake’ because her territory was once where her daughter T19 (my first tiger) now calls home. She used to rest in the big lake there and pose for the cameras. There are a lot of published photos of her in the lake.

Lady of the lake getting up and stretching

Lady of the Lake getting up and stretching. They are most active at dusk and dawn hence the times for our game drives. They generally hunt at night.

Lady of the Lake self grooming.

Lady of the Lake self grooming.

Lady of the lake

Machali was given a 'lifetime achievement award' last year by pressure group Travel Operators for Tigers after it was estimated she had earned $10 million a year for the last ten years by attracting tourists to India.

Lazy day for the most famous tiger in the natural world.

She is lacking teeth because she lost them protecting her offspring against crocodiles.

OK enough is enough, 4 million photos later, I've had enough, go away!!!

"OK enough is enough, 4 million photos later, I've had enough, go away!!!" She says...

I have included a lot of pictures of the other wildlife I saw at Ranthambore NP during the 4 days I was there, in the gallery below. On the safaris where I didn’t see a tiger I was content to see the beautiful spotted or Sambar deer, the Indian gazelle, Hanuman and common langurs (monkeys), or crocodiles and countless bird species including the beautiful male peacock.

The truth is I found travelling through India, although I didn’t go very far, very difficult and frustrating. It was quite vulgar in parts (I saw 3 public urinations in the first 20 mins of my arrival in New Delhi) and filthier than any other country I have ever been to. It was difficult to get anything done as well. I wanted to send a parcel to Australia but that was too much hard work for the post office in Sawai Madhopur apparently….

The view from the train as we came into a town. This dirtiness was a common sight as we entered any towns or built up areas.

The view from the train as we came into a town. This dirtiness was a common sight as we entered any towns or built up areas.

On the brighter side it does have some wonderful facets. Like the Taj Mahal. I visited this on my way back to Delhi from Ranthambore. This is seriously impressive and I didn’t even get to go inside because my train was late and I got there at 6.10pm (The Taj closes at 7pm but the ticket offices stops selling at 6pm). Needless to say I wasn’t thrilled I couldn’t get in…

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is an amazingly beautiful mausoleum. It is located in Agra, which is a couple of hours south of Delhi.

THe Taj

I didn't think I could visit India, without seeing the Taj Mahal. My vantage point was across the river in a lovely garden. Its open until sun down and costs a few bucks.

People say you either love India or you hate it. Hate is a strong word, but lets just say now that I have seen tigers in their natural environment I may struggle to return. I would, however, like to thank India for allowing me to see these amazing animals. It was a better than I had ever imagined and one of my most unforgettable wildlife experiences.

There are a lot of accomodation options with 7km of the park. The hotel I stayed at, which I highly recommend for its service and proximatey to the NP is called The Ranthambore Bagh. Visit www.ranthambhore.com and contact Aditya Singhor Gajendra Singh Jodha – gs@ranthambhore.com.

Check out my extensive gallery (maybe too many) of photos:

  • National Parks in India

     

    National Parks in India

     

     

    Cultural tourism includes tourism in
    different area of India  particularly historic or large
    cities and their cultural facilities such as museums and theaters.Heritage
    tourism is a branch of tourism oriented towards the cultural heritage of the
    location where tourism is occurring.But I think cultural and heritage tourism
    have same meaning.

    It’s so good article
    but I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get responses from
    other experienced people that share the same interest.

     

    Thanks..

     

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