Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ranthambore - Stalking the Tiger

Female Tiger Pose
Tigress, posing - Route 2 - afternoon - Safari 1


We reached Ranthambore from Bharatpur by the Golden Temple Mail (No. 2904). The train was running late by 2 hrs. We arrived at Sawoi Madhavpur RS at 3:15pm. We were received by a jeep that drove us straight to the Ranthambore Park Gate for our afternoon safari.

Tiger Yawn
Yawning Tigress - Route 2 - afternoon - Safari 1


On arrival, we were told by our driver, “We heard your train was late, Madam; so we have kept the tigers waiting for you”. A short 10 minute drive into the Park took us to our ‘waiting’ Tigers. The two female tigers, 24 months old, were waiting for their mother. They lounged about, unmindful of the excited tourists and cameras for an hour. They were splendid, majestic and frankly massive, and they posed like seasoned models.

Tiger Sisters


Nature does its best for Ranthambore’s Tigers. The landscape is breathtaking in most places and the vegetation is varied over the many safari routes of the Park.
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RanthamboreScape4

RanthamboreScape6

RanthamboreScape7

RanthamboreScape2


Ranthambore has five safari routes, labeled 1-5. Each route is allowed only 4 jeeps, which makes it a total of 20 jeeps in the park at a time. This is a small number, given the number of tourists that flock to the place. This limitation is what makes getting jeep safaris extremely difficult. Each route is also allowed 4 canters. A canter is like a large army truck with an open top and several individual seats (like in a bus). A canter holds nearly 30 people, while a jeep holds a max of 6.




RR Parakeet
RR Parakeet
Grey Francolin Cropped
Grey Francolin
Black Winged Kite
Black Winged Kite
Rufus TreePie
Rufus Tree Pie

Each forest dept. jeep is accompanied by a Forest department guide. The guides speak in broken English. Unlike in Kanha or Bandhavgarh, there are no private jeeps with guides.
Routes are extremely important in Ranthambore, no jeep is allowed to deviate from its assigned route. The route is picked through a lucky draw; a passenger from each jeep pulls out a number from a bag at the gate. This is routinely rigged; Rs1000 can get you the route of your choice in a jeep.

Caracal
Caracal - Route 4





Chinkara
Chinkara
Cute Sambar Deer
Sambar Deer
Caracal
Caracal
Mongoose
Mongoose


Route 1 is considered the worst, we did not see it to verify. Route 2 was our first safari which yielded 2 tigers and it is also very scenic, as is apparent from the photos. Route 3 is considered the best; it includes all of the lakes of Ranthambore and comes with guaranteed tiger sightings (we saw 3 – Machli and 2 female cubs). It is highly sought after and we were only able to see it in a canter. Route 4 is also very scenic; we took this route twice – yielding 1 leopard, 1 sloth bear and 1 extremely rare caracal. Route 4 also has a tigress with tiny cubs, and the famous tigress ‘Bachhi’. We did not see Route 5.

From our conversation with the guides, we learnt that there are far too many guides available so there is a roster system that determines who is working on which days.
I would recommend route 3 in a jeep, it is well worth the thousand rupees.

Accommodation
We stayed at TigerMoon Resort following our excellent experience with their sister resorts in Kanha(Wild Chalet) and Bandhavgarh(Tiger Trails). We were delighted with their service, simply wonderful. It is quite close to the Park gate, this is significant since the jeeps have to travel from the Park to the resort to pick you up.

They have a wonderful garden and several birds can be seen there (list provided below). Food was excellent as was the accommodation. Running hot water was available all day and night long. Mom had an upset stomach, carried forward from Bharatpur; we really appreciated the care they took of her.

Black Winged Stilt Stabbing
Black Winged Stilt



Bee & Eater
Bee & Eater
Pied Avocet Lone
Pied Avocet

Seen at Nature Walk, Tiger Moon resort


What I liked
Rajasthan actively promotes its tourist spots and connectivity between them is excellent.
Sawai Madhavpur Railway Station though small, is well maintained and has ramps and an SBI ATM.
Bharatpur RS has a book stall and sellers of fruit. The first class waiting room has clean toilets.
TigerMoon resort – a wonderful experience all round, well worth the expense.

What I disliked
We booked and paid for TigerMoon online, sadly their Mumbai office is extremely slow and inefficient. Several phone calls and reminders had to be given.

The safaris at Ranthambore are very Tiger centric. Much has been written about tourists hounding after tigers, it must be said that the guides from the Forest Dept also suffer from the same problem. They simply refuse to stop to see birds or other mammals and need to be sternly told at to wait at some points where the landscape is very scenic.
Some guides are frankly completely clueless and will simply roll off what ever species names they know. I once stopped the jeep to photograph a friendly Black Winged Kite that was posing, two Americans in our jeep asked for the name of the bird, Honey Buzzard was the answer they got.

Tiger Full
Tigress
Crocodile
Crocodile


Canter Safaris – must be avoided at all cost – too many people and far too much noise. If you must take a canter, take Route no.3 and sit on the left side. (All the lakes will come on the left)
It is an extremely commercialized park, hawkers of jackets and hats will hound you at the Park gate.

Unlike in Kanha and Bandhavgarh, the guides keep a watch on the clock (safaris are very short here - 3 hours long). The jeep drivers are uninterested and simply drive, where as in most parks (south or north) the driver too is a guide, giving us two pairs of keen eyes.



Sightings

Safari 1 – Route 2 (afternoon)

Tigers – 2, Juvenile Females
Small Blue Kingfisher
White Breasted Kingfisher
Blossom Headed parakeet
Rose Ringed Parakeet
Rufus Tree Pie - several
Oriental White Eye – Several
Fan Tail Fly catcher – 2
Indian Silver Bills
Red Vented Bulbuls (several)
Grey Tit – 2
Safari 2 – Route 4 (morning)
Leopard – 1 - glimpse
Sloth bear – 1- glimpse
Indian Roller
Black winged Kite
Chinkara – 1
Sambar Deer
Langoors – troupe
Shikra Hawk – glimpse
At the Resort – post breakfast
Small Green Bee Eaters – 4
Indian Robin (M & F)
White Bellied Drongo
Magpie Robin (M&F)
Oriental White Eyes
Bay backed Shrike – 1
Safari 3 – Route 3 (in Canter)
Tigers – 3 (Two18 month old cubs, Machli II – Lady of the Lakes)
Wooly necked stork – 2
Crocodiles – 5
Brahminy Duck Pair
Sambar deer
Spotted Deer with small fawns
Dancing Peacock
Safari 4 – Route 4 (again)
Caracal - 1
Painted Stork in flight
Wild Boar
Mongoose
Honey Buzzard in flight
Nature Walk
Purple Sun birds
Brown Chat
Indian Robin (M&F)
Pied Avocet – 1
Black Winged Stilts – several
Shovellers
Fork Tailed Swallows
Sand Martins
Egyptian Vulture – In flight
Teals
Red Throated fly catcher Female – 1
Female Red Start

Nitty Gritties
TigerMoon Resort – Rs. 3300 per person per night all inclusive (2 nights, 2 safaris per day)
Pickup and Drop from Station in Jeep Rs.900
Nature Walk at TigerMoon – Rs. 200 per head.

Jaipur

From Ranthambore we went to Jaipur by Train – Ranthambore Exp –No. 2465
Jaipur RS has prepaid autos. We stayed at Anurag Villa, 4 km from the RS. Not recommended for a stay longer than one night.
Shopping
Shops open at 10:30am in Jaipur. We shopped for Saris and shawls at “Purohitji ka Kotla” – at Jauhari Bazaar - it is a wholesale bazaar. The prices are extremely low and variety is mind boggling. Shops are tiny but neatly maintained and the shop keepers are extremely hospitable and enthusiastic.

Auto to Jauhari Bazaar from Anurag Villa – Rs.75
Lunch : (Rs. 45 per thali) at CM Regency a small hotel that serves excellent Rajasthani Thalis (jain) was recommended by our Auto driver.

Note:
Click on the photos to see a larger size.
Many thanks to Dad for lending me his caracal and yawing tigeress.

18 comments:

Keshav said...

Lovely post.. Loads of details.

I liked the first photo. I appreciate the fact that you noticed the diverse landscapes in a small territory.

I would like to see those photos a little bigger than you have posted.

anoop said...

The tiger pose in the first photo is just magnificent. the background in that particular photo accentuates the tigers presence even more.
I also like the Black winged Stilt for those long gorgeous legs ;).

I have the same complaint as keshav, some photos, for instance, that of the path way in the jungle could have been posted bigger.

Rohini Kamath said...

Thanks guys. Shall post bigger photos of the landscapes, Im rather fond of them too.

Anonymous said...

Sorry dont have a registered username here. While I loved your report and photographs, I dont think it was sensible to publish the goods and bads of the routes. I know the pain the park authorities face when everyone wants to go on the same route and sit in the same side of the canter. Some things are better left explicitly mentioned. Just my opinion.

Ramesh S.

Mohan said...

Oh...you saw a caracal, and made some images as well...awesome, for me, that sighting itself is worth a trip!

Shivakumar said...

Hi,

Its a really nice writeup and a beautiful set of images. Very nice to know that you saw a Carcal also in your trip. Unfortunately Route2 didnt seem to be that fruitful for us when we went there in October last year.

Would love to see more images from your trip.

Cheers,
Shivakumar

Neelu said...

Amazing post and photos. You provide such excellent details in all your posts, sure will be helpful to many.

ranjini said...

Very well-written Rohini & beautiful images.First time I'm aware of this animal called caracal-what a good-looker!
Ranjini

Ranjini said...

Lovely images & write-up Rohini.First time I'm aware of an animal called caracal.That's a good-looker!
Ranjini

Ranjini said...

Oops-sorry for the repetition!
Ranjini

Rohini Kamath said...

Thanks ppl for the lovely comments.

@Ramesh :
I agree with you that the park authorities do face issues where ppl insist on particular routes. However, they are not averse to taking bribes to ensure that you get your way.

These trips arent cheap, and when one spends a lot, one would like some good photos and nice memories.

It is sad but true that in Ranthambore, the Dollar can surmount any obstacle. From what we saw, it is regularly done, and route picking is rather obviously rigged.

I do hope the park authorities and tourists realise this and change the way they function, they could use Kanha as an example, its better handled there.

Its nice to know that there are people out there who object to this though! You are among a disappearing race! Thanks for your invaluable comments.

said...

Wonderful report; accompanied by wonderful photographs! The first photo is most smashing of the all!

Raju Kane said...

Lovely photos and very nice report. It is good to know that Ranthambore is slowly getting back its lost glory. What I wanted to know was how did you manage to get a jeep. In my last trip about three years ago, I couldn't get a jeep for love or for money. This meant that I was forced to take a canter full of screaming babies and women in brightly dressed sarees wanting to chat up my wife about Saas-Bahu issues. Is it done through the resort? Because our hotel couldn't get it done. Will be really grateful if you could write on rajukane at gmail.com.

Rohini Kamath said...

@Raju :

Thanks for visiting and for your comments!

The forest jeep bookings are made by the resort. In peak season, it is required to make the booking at least a month in advance.

We booked 2 weeks in advance for 4 jeep rides and got 2 canters, 2 jeeps. One we converted into a jeep by charm. [:)] not money.

The other Canter we retained so that we could see scenic Route 4.

It is possible to convert canters to jeeps by paying the resort, who will grease necessary palms to ensure that you get it.

I also personally saw discrete 1000 Rs handshakes from firangs to guides too. (literally handshakes - could see the pink 1K note )

Canters are noisy and one needs gymnastic ability to take photos. Esp if there are tall ppl in your canter (Im 5'2"). One needs to stand on the seat headrest with one foot on shoulder of the guide with other passengers steadying your legs as you get the shot.

Its really not worth the stress, according to me.

shiva said...

Informative, thank you for sharing.

MADHAV said...

Rohini
Its really great to watch the photo's & informations
Madhav anna- Dahanu Road

Rohini Kamath said...

@Madhav Anna,
Thanks for visiting! Glad you liked the photos.

Nithin said...

Excellent trip report with all details. Keep more reports coming..
Best wishes...
Nidhin GP
www.Nidh.in

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