When Ranthambore Roars !

“In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks”

When the world around me seemed like an infinite concrete jungle, my only wish was to escape to the wilderness of a real jungle! Drawn by a deep desire to explore the famed national parks, I decided to try my luck for a tiger sighting at Ranthambore, one of the best wildlife reserves in India. With an extensive plan, I set on for a 700 kilometre long road trip from Ahmedabad via Dhulev, Udaipur, Chittor and Bundi which was amazing in its own way. Cutting the long story short, my rendezvous with Ranthambore began with an early morning drive from Chittor at 4 AM. With a brief stopover at Taragarh fort in Bundi for a peek into its ruins (which left me mesmerized- read my blog on my experiences in Bundi here) we drove nonstop to reach Sawai Madhopur at 1 pm.

Call of the wild ! (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

Criss-crossing amidst kutcha roads, we headed off towards our wilderness abode at Ranthambore -"Machli"- A wilderness Home. Unusually named after the famous tigress of Ranthambore, the resort is located in the midst of lush green farms in the outskirts of Sawai Madhopur town. Though difficult to reach, the bumpy narrow track  leading to the resort is a short adventure in itself. Conceptualized by a few young professionals from Delhi, this wilderness home offers its visitors an amazing experience of the wild side of Ranthambore by providing quality accommodation to the lovers of wildlife, as well as, an opportunity to spend time with those who dedicated their entire life for the betterment of the wildlife in Ranthambore. From our stay at the luxury tent to the hospitality offered by the staff, the stay at Machli was one of the best I have ever experienced.

After a quick shower and a sumptuous lunch, we headed towards experiencing our first ever Tiger Safari. Excited to the core, I was experiencing butterflies in my stomach !

(Tip: Advance booking of Safaris is a must. Safaris in Ranthambore are conducted in 10 designated zones. Limited number of vehicles are allowed on each safari zone during each shift so that vehicles are evenly distributed across the park. A safari can be done on a cantor (an open air bus) or a Jeep. The bookings should be done 90 days in advance on the online portal : http://www.rajasthanwildlife.rajasthan.gov.in/bookTrip.do  or directly with the hotel in which you stay. A single cantor seat costs around 700/- whereas a reserved jeep for 6 persons will set you back by Rs. 15,000/- )

Machli - A Wilderness Home (Source: Resort Website)
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve lies on the junction of Aravali and Vindhya Hills in Eastern Rajasthan sprawling over a varying and undulating landscape. A tenth century fort also blends amicably with the background. Three big lakes – Padam Talab , Malik Talab and Raj Bagh – are a part of the vast forest that are abound with aquatic vegetation including duckweeds, lilies and lotus. Along with the Royal Bengal Tiger, Ranthambore is home to a variety of birds including Owlets, Langur, Leopard, Caracal, Hyena, Jackal, Jungle Cat, marsh Crocodiles, Wild Boar, Bears and various species of Deer.

When the wilderness welcomes us !

Our first cantor safari at Ranthambore started at 3 pm from Zone No. 2 of the reserve. The narrow forest roads led its way through Langurs, peacocks, Sambar deer, spotted deer, crocodiles and various birds. The dry woods offered magnificent views of these animals in close vicinity. Every moment was tense eagerly waiting for a glimpse of the king of the forest - the Royal Bengal Tiger. Each glimpse of wildlife would result in squeals of excitement and a range of shutter sounds. The safari reached the point from where the cantor would return back to the gates without any luck with the tiger sighting. A break of 10 minutes allowed us to play and feed the friendly birds.

Sambar Deer (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

Spotted Deer (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

Spotted Deer. (c) All rights reserved, Arpit Shah, 2016 

Keeping a watch (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

A sense of hope was lost as the safari was about to end. The road back to the zonal gate was covered very fast, even the driver did not stop on occasional wildlife sightings. As the dusk was approaching, the feeling of returning without a  tiger sighting was dejecting.  Suddenly we noticed gypsies and cantors lined up ahead. A warning alarm from the sambar deer had been heard, the tiger was bound to be nearby. Two louder roars followed, alarming all. Yes the tiger was near for sure - tense moments followed yet the tiger was elusive. One has to hear the roar to experience the sense of fear it brings with it ! So fearful yet so exciting ! The wait was painful, with all fidgeting in their seats, eyes in search of the tiger. Suddenly the barks of the sambar deer grew louder - a flash of yellow was seen from the bushes below. All rose from their seats craning their necks searching for the majestic beast. Suddenly, the grand tigress "Aerohead" climbed its way up the ridge and passed by the jeeps and cantors nonchalantly granting an audience fit for the queen ! Even the short momentary glimpse of the tigress for a minute made our day !

A glimpse of Aerohead (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

Happy and content with our wonderful tiger sighting, we made our way back to our resort where our cozy luxury tent awaited us for the night!  After a relishing dinner we heard tiger stories form the staff over a bonfire amidst chilly temperatures.

Our Cozy Luxury Tent (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

Interiors of the tent (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

We started the next day's safari early in the morning at 7 am in Zone 5. The pleasant temperature of around 15 degrees was accompanied by strong chilly winds. The cantor led us to Zone 5 which was typographically very different than zone 2. The entire zone had sparse vegetation unlike zone 2. The dried trees and bushes dotted the way. The safari continued for minutes and not a single animal was spotted. As informed by the guide the animals had ascended uphill and would return only after sometime. Occasional sightings peacocks and spotted deer gave us company.

Peacock (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

Lazy crocs (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

A herd of spotted deer. (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

At around 7:40 am we saw a cantor returning back from its safari and it's driver told our driver - bhaag ke "Dhakhde" pe jaa!!, indicating that a tiger was spotted in that area which was almost 20 mins away. The driver accelerated in the uneven kutcha road of the zone not even slowing down for sightings of another animals.  Covering the distance in less than 10 mins, we found 3 cantors and 2 gypsies waiting for the tiger to emerge. " Roars aa rahi hai, idhar wait kar!!" was the message given by another driver to ours. However our experienced driver had different plans. Instead of waiting there he moved ahead taking an inside route through the bushes. Meandering it's way through the small cobbled pathway, the drive was difficult as the occasional nailed shrubs would brush against the cantor hurting all the passengers. Our guide admitted that he himself had never traveled so deep inside this zone. After couple of tense minutes searching for the tiger, we spotted a gypsy jeep ahead taking his Jeep back shouting " Gaadi Back karo ! Sher aa raha hai !" All the passengers sprang up on their seats hearing the name of tiger ~ and there it was, a 4 year old male - "Sultan", majestically walking on the path ignoring all the attention of the humans and cameras around ! The sharp look on the face, its walk, its grace, its roar is enough to know why the beast is known as the "Royal Bengal Tiger". The driver made a sharp shrill noise giving signals to other vehicles nearby indicating that the tiger was spotted.

The piercing gaze (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

When his majesty walks. (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

Sultan . (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

Within a few moments many vehicles joined us in watching the young tiger making its way through the roads occasionally spraying its urine on trees marking its territory so that other tigers stay out of his area. The tiger stayed with us for more than 10 minutes giving us a treat of a glimpse of the royal animal . The shutterbugs went crazy and clicked as many they could. The tiger walked so closely to the cantor ignoring the attention completely. After some time the tiger went back into the dense forests giving us a treat of a lifetime !

Post the safari we visited the historical fort, home to fascinating ruins and temples , a must visit for all the tourists. A Digambar Jain Temple and a famous Ganesha temple attracts many visitors to this fort as well. Do stay away from the hordes of monkeys there otherwise you will have to part with your belongings ;)

How to reach:

Air: Nearest Airport is at Jaipur, 160 km away.

Rail: Nearest railhead is 11 km at Sawai Madhopur 

Roads : A network of buses connect Sawai Madhopur, the nearest town, to all the major cities within Rajasthan.  A car or taxi can be hired from Kota to Ranthambore. Kota - Ranthambore is a mega highway and can be covered in 1.5 hours.

Stay : Do plan your stay at the Machli wilderness home. Visit : http://www.themachli.com/ for details. 

Duration : Atleast 1D/IN. Take a minimum of 2 safaris. Not all are lucky as me !

Bidding Goodbye ! (c) All rights reserved , Arpit Shah, 2016

Comments

  1. ausum...........literally felt i ws der myself.....good penning Arpit.....(Y) keep it up...
    Look forward to more such experience thru' ur eyes n writing...........hope ur journey of writing nvr ends..!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I lived your exciting journey after reading you post.. Amazing yaar.. You people enjoyed alot.. Next time I also want to join you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sure ! you are most welcome to join us ! :)

      Delete
  3. Very interesting !Loved it

    Checkout our package golden triangle tour with ranthambore ,we provide guided staff and car rental services at cheaper cost.

    ReplyDelete

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