27th July, 2017
The routine in Ranthambore was quite similar to what we had in Kruger, South Africa.
Wake up call: 5:00 a.m.
Tea & Coffee: 5: 30 a.m.
Morning Safari: 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Breakfast: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Lunch: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Hi-Tea: 3:30 p.m.
Evening Safari: 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Drinks and dinner : 8:00 p.m. onwards
As we slept through our first night, the rain Gods wrecked havoc in Ranthambore. Loud thunderous sounds of clashing clouds marred our first night sleep. We kept on praying for the rain to stop but all efforts went to vain.
We woke up to the 5:00 a.m. wake up call. By this time the heavy rain had subsided but it was still drizzling. We had our morning coffee and at 5:30 our car had arrived.
We had booked a Gypsy for ourselves which had our Guide (Mr. Ajay) and our Driver (Mr.Vinod) who would pick us up from the hotel at 5:30 a.m. for the morning safari and 3:30 p.m. for the evening safari.
MIRINDA fun facts – There are 2 vehicles allowed in the national park. 1. Gypsy, which could accommodate 6 passengers along with one Guide and the driver. 2. Canter, which is a cheaper way which carries around 25 people. We would not recommend going in a canter as it dilutes the safari experience. As there are too many people in one Canter so it is difficult to get a good view. Plus the diesel engine of the Canter makes a lot of noise scaring away the animals.
Unfortunately, our driver hadn’t gotten us rain-coats and we were sitting all wet, open to the rain in the Gypsy. With the moving car and the breeze, the rain was splashing right into our eyes – it was getting more and more uncomfortable. But we had no choice. In the excitement of spotting the tigers, we could have tolerated anything.
Zones in Ranthambore
Ranthambore National Park is divided into 10 zones.
Zone 1 : The entry to the zone through Singh Dwar. This zone is more of a buffer zone which is home to T-39 and T-57. This zone has been very popular due to return of Noor (T-39) along with her 3 cubs and numerous sightings have been reported during end of 2016 and early 2017.
Zone 2 : This zone is one of the most important zone and a good number of sightings are reported from this zone. The important points in this point where there are sightings are Jogi Mahal, Phuta Kot, Phuta Bandha, Lahpur Tiraha, Nal Ghati.
Sightings of leopard from this zone are reported too.
Zone 3 : Jogi Mahal, Padam Talab, High Point, Raj Bagh and Mandook. Are primary points where there are sightings reported. Padam Talab is one of the vantage points where the you can wait to see some big cat action.
Zone 4 : This zone has lots of places where the shy cats come out, this also used to be home of the most famous tigress of Ranthambore – Machli.
Zone 5 : The entry to this zone is same as zone 4 and has a few common spots for sighting. The points are Singhdwar, Anatpur, Jokha, Dhakda, Kachida,Baghda and Bakola.
Zone 6-10 were added later to the sanctuary and access to these zones is at exact opposite end as that of from 1-5. To enter these zones the gypsies and canters go through the old city.
Zone 6 (Kundal) : Shares its boundaries with zone 1 and there are high chances of spotting T-39 (Noor) with her cubs here too. Landscape of this zone is quite different from zone 1-5 and has more open grasslands with huge mountains in the backdrop. You can spot the indian gazelle and have opportunity to spot birds too. (Including the endangered Red headed Vultures)Since this zone is close to village, cattle do go astray and reports of Kumbha (T-34) killing and feeding on the cattle have been reported.
Zone 7 (Chidikho) : This zone has a fewer points compared to the rest.
Zone 8 (Balas) : The tigers spotted here are same as the ones in zone 7 (T-8 and T-34).
Zone 9 (Kuwal ji) : This zone is about 45 minutes away from the Tiger reserve and is located at the banks of river Chakal river. This is home to T-42 (Fateh), an aggressive male who is known to chase the forest department vehicles and has been captured on trap cams killing a sloth bear too!This zone is also home to Caracals, Sloth bears and aquatic birds.
Zone 10 (Aantri): In this zone other than Birds the tigers can be spotted at Aantri ,
MIRINDA Suggests – A general perception that people have is that the tiger sightings are only at zones from 1-5. However zone 6-10 has tiger sightings too. We would recommend you to stick to 1-5 zones as they are the best safari zones and have higher chances of sighting.
The rains had dampened our hopes of spotting the tiger. But we still were looking forward to exploring the wonderful jungle. Today we were going in Zone 2.
MIRINDA Suggests – While each car can pick its own zone for each safari, we strongly advise you leave the decision of picking the zone to your agent and guide. They are in constant touch with other drivers, guides and forest officers and have the best knowledge of which zones are best suited for spotting.
MIRINDA fun facts – While selecting a car for safari, you have an option to either share it with other passengers or choose an exclusive vehicle. Each car accommodates a maximum of 6 people. If you are lesser than 6 people and you are choosing an exclusive vehicle, you will have to bear the cost of the other vacant passengers. While we recommend choosing an exclusive vehicle, the cost aspect is entirely subjective. The benefits of riding in an exclusive vehicle is that it saves time by not collecting passengers from other hotels and also there is no difference of opinion as to what each member wants to see. We had chosen exclusive vehicle throughout our 5 safaris.
At 6 am, we were inside the Zone 2 which our guide informed to us was a home to 9 tigers including T-57 (Singhsth) which was one of the largest males in Ranthambore.
The guide was aware that the Male Tiger T-57 had made a kill of a Sambar deer a couple of days back and was expected to be roaming around the same vicinity. We straight away headed to that location. Within less than 5 minutes of our first safari in Ranthambore, my dad spotted an adult male Bengal tiger. Wow !! He was huge. He was just resting there beneath a small water body with its kill next to him. He was gorgeous. What a handsome creature!! We observed him for a good half hour, as he just kept lying there, making lazy movements. We couldn’t believe our luck. For the first time, we come to Ranthambore and within the first five minutes of our safari, we spot a fully grown Male Tiger.
The India Tiger
The Bengal tiger, also known as the Royal Bengal Tiger or the Indian tiger, is the subspecies with the largest population. It is the national animal of India, where its image is part of the traditions and the culture. The largest populations of Bengal tigers are in India, but there are some smaller groups in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. It may also be present in areas of China and Burma. Bengal tiger habitats usually are tropical rainforests, marshes, and tall grasses. Like most cats, tiger is a solitary animal that rests in the shade during the day and hunts at dusk or dawn. The female gives birth to 1 to 4 cubs in a place between the vegetation or in caves or crevices and begins to breastfeed them during 3-6 months after birth. At an age between 5 and six months, they start learning how to hunt, and at the age of 2 or 3 years, they begin their solitary life.
Our guide, Ajay, was super knowledgeable about different animals and their behavior patterns. It was quite amazing as to how accurately he answered every single question of ours. As we were waiting for it to get up, Ajay pointed out that generally the tiger only gets up after yawning a few times and it doesn’t look in the mood of getting up anytime soon.
After a good half hour of observing him, we finally made our way to find the Tigress and the cubs. As we tried looking for pug marks in the rain and listened intently to any alarm calls, we spotted some wonderful species of birds as well. Again, Ajay was hands-on with the different species of birds, their origin, their sounds etc. It’s just so comforting to have an amazing guide along on a safari. We felt that it takes the entire experience to another level. We learned so much from him.
As we moved along the jungle, we saw abundant population of Sambar deer, Chitals, monkeys and peacocks. It looked like a great habitat for the tigers and leopards.
We tried very hard to spot the Tigress and her cubs, but it just seemed today wasn’t our day. On our way back, we were hoping that the male tiger would be still there but he also had moved along. However, just as we were exiting the zone, our guide spotted a Saw scaled viper snake on the road. Our guide Ajay was in awe that we saw the snake and told us that it was the most poisonous snake found in the jungle, its bite can kill a person in less than a minute.
At 9:30 am we made our way back to the hotel. Post a nice fusion breakfast of Rajasthani and Continental specialities, we decided to take a power nap before lunch.
MIRINDA suggests – We had booked our hotel on an fully-loaded basis i.e. inclusive of all meals. While different hotels have different policies, we suggest you stay at one hotel and have all your meals there. The main focus of the trip is the safari and it is quite exhausting. So it’s better to save time on travelling from one hotel to another.
After a relaxing nap, we had a lovely lunch at Dev Villas. Food throughout the trip was exquisite and full of local Rajasthani flavors.
MIRINDA fun facts – The best part about Dev Villas was that they would ask the guests their food and meat preferences beforehand and cook as per their choice and taste. We got to taste delicious Rajasthani dishes like Laal Maas, Ker Sangari, Dal Bati Churma along with their continental and Italian specials.
It gets quite hot in the summers in Ranthambore. Local beers are nice way to beat the heat. Post our lunch, we opened up a few beers and waited eagerly for the evening safari.
At 3:30 pm, our driver and guide were at our hotel to pick us up. We were so impressed with our guide Ajay, that we booked him for the rest of the safaris. In the evening safari, our agent had picked up zone 3 for us. Zone 3 is home to 6 tigers. This was the Zone of lakes and forts like Jogi Mahal , Raj baugh, Padam Talab, surrounded by the dense jungle.
After a lovely surprise in the morning safari, we were hoping the same luck would be with us in the evening safari. We roamed around the beautiful landscape of zone 3. In the words of our guide Ajay, “it’s like an African Savanna” – Huge lush open green fields with various animals and birds. It was extremely picturesque.
We drove around various paths, examined all the water-bodies, tried looking for any pug marks, listened carefully to any alarm calls – but it didn’t seem to work. We kept on searching intently for any signs of tigers. In the meanwhile, other animals were again in abundance. Apart from Sambar, Chital and Monkeys, we also saw Indian wild boars, a few crocodiles, Nilgai. We also saw the extremely cute and shy Indian Hare. It was so cute just as I saw in the bugs bunny cartoon. As our car crossed, it went quickly into hiding but not before I got some nice pictures.
We saw a beautiful bird in the morning called the Golden Oriole. I was so intrigued by its bright golden color, its small beak and its unique chirping. It looked so pretty and beautiful. Again in the evening, we spotted it in zone 3. I felt as if it was following me from the morning safari.
As we were nearing sunset, we realized it was time for us to head back. Just as we were heading back, right outside the exit, we saw around 4-5 Gypsys gathered around one spot. They were all looking at the Tigress “Arrowhead” across the lake from that spot. Wow!! Finally in the dying minutes, we again got lucky.
MIRINDA fun facts – Arrowhead aka Machli Junior is the current show stopper of Ranthambore is surely living up to her name quite literally. Popularly known as Machli Junior or M3 due to similar fork like markings on her forehead as her grandmother Machli aka T16, this young female is current favourite of all Ranthambore visitors. Bold & confident like other female members of her clan this young female started showing signs of independence at a very early age as she made her first kill at a very early age without help of anyone & decided not to share it with any of the siblings.
It was a beautiful sight. She was resting in the shade, while gazing at the setting sun. Clearly, as compared to the male we saw in the morning, she was much smaller in size. But still she had all the charisma. It just felt like “Royalty” looking at her. The beautiful stripes, the lovely orange color and her seductive walk. I just loved that sight. We saw her for a good 15 minutes making different movements before she finally got up and headed back into the bushes.
At around 7:30 pm, we were back to our hotel. Once again, we were lucky to spot a tiger. “Two in Two”- Not bad for a first timer I said, boasting in front of my Mom & Dad. We were super exhausted and hungry after a long evening safari and quickly made way to the dinner table.
Dinner at Dev Villas
The thing that I love about boutique luxury hotels is that the staff and the management connect with the guests to give that personalized experience. Tonight we were hosted by Mr. Balendu Singh, who was the owner of the property. Co-incidentally it was also his anniversary and he and his wife hosted us to a wonderful spread of alcoholic drinks and dinner. He was born and brought up in Ranthambore and had tons of stories to share about the forest with us. He and my father told us numerous stories of their Jungle experiences, about how the jungles were so less commercial earlier. Stories about the late Fateh Singh Rathore and his journey as the forest officer of Ranthambore, Project Tiger, etc.
It was a delightful night filled with numerous stories.
Finally, after a delicious dinner, at around 11 pm, we called it a day.
Coming up next ..Day 02 – Can we spot the Tiger today? Ranthambore National Park
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