To visit to Ranthambore as a tiger photography tour came to my mind, when I saw the photo of a tiger drinking water from a water-body. This photo was beautifully captured by Mr. Somshri Patnaik while he was on the trip during June 2015 at Ranthambore National Park. That amazing photo really inspired me to plan a trip in the month of June only. Yes, I preferred Summer beyond worrying for the heat-waves. Even I contacted their trip guide Mr. Hemraj Meena, one of the finest tour guides of India and a very busy person. He responded to my request for the upcoming June Ranthambore tour. He took Photo ID cards of all the members and do the needful without asking for any advance deposit of money or booking amount. He also assured us that we will find opportunities to capture lots of photographs of Tiger during the safari. It gave us a moral boost, as both of our previous trips to Jim Corbett and Tadoba were not that successful.
We booked our tickets for the trip on the 14710 PURI BKN EXPRESS and on the 1st June, 2016 at 7:00 AM Morning our journey started from Bhubaneswar to Sawai Madhopur. The 32-hour journey was enjoyable for us, we chatted for hours and watched so many movies from the collections of our beloved expedition member Mr. Raj Kishore Dash. His movies also attracted other people from other compartments too, and made our berth a mini cinema hall. The only problem was food, as there was no pantry car for that express train. The train reached our destination around 1.50 PM which was late by 20 minutes.
We met the driver who was waiting for us with a Gypsy. We had to stay at the “The Tiger Home”, a home-stay of Mr. Meena, which was a 15-minute distance from the nearest railway station to Ranthomber. The weather was really very hot as it was around 48 degree Celsius temperature. Mr. Hemraj Meena himself welcomed us there and we were really amazed to see him. Our rooms were on the first floor, we felt the coolness of AC and very satisfied with the accommodation arrangements. The rooms were very neat and clean, spacious, even the bathrooms were large in size with all modern facilities. I connected my laptop to the internet, checked and replied some urgent emails right there. After that I took a shower and felt the refreshment. We had an excellent lunch there, especially the Alu Fulkobi Kasa was so delicious.
It was around 3 PM, Hemraj ji informed us, we can go for a canter drive into the jungle or we can do a trekking nearby forest area for birds and can visit the fort. As we have an interest in birds, so we preferred to visit the nearby area and capture some photographs of the birds there. It was around 4:30 PM, we moved towards the water-body which was close to the bird sanctuary. While entering the main entrance gate of the Ranthambore Sanctuary, we found the clear-view of the fort inside. The feeling was awesome and royal for all of us, at that moment. On the way, we saw the crested bunting birds which thrilled me and we started clicking photographs.
Our bird photography continued. We spend our time amazingly there by clicking the photos of the birds and the fort also. The sunset was very late compared to the regular timing at Odisha. We came back to our room and had tea, biscuits and pakoda. Around 8.15 PM we were called to the ground floor for the dinner. And it was also excellent alike the lunch. We rested for the whole night in our rooms and got ready with our gears for the morning safari at 6 AM. We were really interested for the Safari as Hemraj ji was to take us to the jungle that morning. We work up around 4.30 AM and got ready sooner with jungle printed dresses, hat and mask. The journey started after we had our morning tea.
After showing the permission paper on the entry gate, we move forward to the gate of Zone – 2. Again, we were asked to show the papers and fill-in details on the register, before entering into the jungle. Our open gypsy was very comfortable for all four of us. As Ranthambore is a dry deciduous forest, there were no leaves on the trees and we saw only dry trees everywhere. The view was completely different for me as a first timer to such forest. Muddy and bumpy roads with lots of path holes, so our vehicle was moving slow. I had to sit tight as the camera and gears may fall down also I had to avoid injuries. The mask really helped us to beat the heat waves.
We rushed to the water-body, as there was a chance to see the tigers resting there to overcome the heat. But, sadly, there were no such scenes available. We moved upwards to the hilltop area in search of tigers. We had not seen foot marks, so we returned back and followed other vehicles with no success.
While coming down from the hilltop, we heard one alarm call. Suddenly, our guide Hemraj ji instructed the driver to move upwards quickly and we reached there within few minutes. What a surprise, we saw a tiger resting on the roadside which is just 5 feet away from our vehicle. I tried to click the photos with the 500mm lens but I missed to capture it perfectly, as the tiger was very close. I saw everybody else were taking good photos and I was in frustration. It was my mistake that I missed to keep out the 80-400mm lens and stay ready for clicking photos during the safari, which I left in my bag. In a few minutes, after anticipating the move of the tiger, our vehicle moved towards the upside. Again, I missed the opportunity to click headshot photos of that tiger. Finally, I took a few behind shots of the tiger.
While coming back, we took many good photographs of Sambar, Wild Boar, Monitor Lizard and other animals there. We reached our room back and take a few minutes rest before going for the lunch. After that, we got prepared for our second safari to the Zone -4. The Safari 1 was not that amazing for me, but a good experience for all of us.
Day – 1 [Safari – 2]
While entering into the forest, for zone 4 safari, we found a lovely fort style entry gate. And the roads were in good condition as compared to the last zone roads of our Safari 1. There was an old Mahal building which created an attractive scenic spot there, near the water-body. While going towards it, our guide noticed a tiger sleeping there inside the dense bush. And the tiger was playing with the tigress or the female tiger. We waited for ten minutes there and continued to move upwards as there was no sign of waking up of the tiger.
Our guide Mr. Hemraj ji was looking around the places where normally tigers take rest. Suddenly, we heard an alarm call, so we moved back and rushed to the spot very near to the water body. There, we noticed few spotted dears were in alert position and they were going into the jungle from the water-body. We then searched for the tiger, but unable to locate it, so we parked our vehicle there as there was a chance of seeing tiger when it may come to the water-body for drinking. We waited around 30 minutes there, but nothing seen.
All of a sudden, we heard the Sambar alarm call, so we became 100% sure that the tiger need to be here somewhere. The guide instructed us to move further, and he pointed out a tiger laying on the ground inside the bush. We waited there and were watching the movements of the tiger. He started walking and our guide told the driver to cross other vehicles ahead and stop at a little distance. According to his anticipation, the tiger too crossed the road in front of our vehicle. It was a great opportunity for us to capture the complete movement of the tiger while it was crossing the road towards the left.
I noticed that our tour guide was murmuring seat seat seat at that time. And I found the tiger had moved to a little distance and seated there. I was really astonished and praised the expertise and anticipation of the guide wordlessly. We clicked many photos of that tiger in different positions there before other vehicles come near it. And we returned to the water-body where the tiger and tigress were resting.
There, we found the most beautiful point in time for capturing some excellent photos and complementing our touring idea. I will write about this moment in the next part of this expedition series. We returned back to the room and eagerly waited for the nest day safari.
Day – 2 [Safari 1]
Due to some work, our guide Mr Hemraj was not available for this safari. We accompanied by another guide for the Zone – 4 safari which was adjacent to zone 3. We entered into the jungle and the connecting roads were not that good, so we sated tightly holding our gadgets as the vehicle was moving totteringly. Even after traveling in the entire jungle, we failed to find at least one tiger.
Somehow, we got an information that a tiger was sighted near the entry gate. We we rushed to that spot and found the tiger was laying on the grass, inside the bush. We were only able to see the black patterns of his body. Other vehicles with tourists too reached there. We decided to move towards another direction, for finding of some owls, after seeing there is no sign of waking of the tiger soon. Unfortunately, we did not find any birds and came back to the place where the tiger was asleep.
After reaching there, tourists on other vehicles were signaling us. We moved our gypsy the road and while taking the right turn, we come to see a tiger is coming. We started clicking photos of the tiger and found some good headshots. The driver was unable to see and track the movement of the tiger so he turned the vehicle. Our vehicle was in front of the tiger’s way and we had the clearest view of the tiger coming towards.
We found that tiger was looking left and right, like searching something. He hid himself behind a tree, so we guessed that tiger is being ready to hunt a deer. We were very interested to see the tiger hunting in real and observed the movements of the tiger for a few minutes. Other vehicles left thinking of tiger has gone away, but we remain there. The tiger slowly moved towards the deer in the bushes silently and the deer left unnoticed regarding the movement of the tiger. The tiger took 15-20 minutes for the final chase. Suddenly, another gypsy came on that road and blocked the attacking route of the tiger. Tiger changed its direction, but the deer noticed it and flew away. It was really a sad moment for us as we missed the real chase. The tiger returned to the water-body and rested there. We took lots of photos of the tiger and came back happily.
Day – 2 [Safari 2]
It was a wonderful trip for us, in the morning. And for the afternoon trip, we had gone to the zone – 6 which was on the other side of the city. It was a different feeling, as the place was something different to other regions and a full hilly area where the gypsy need to drive upwards in hill area. Four wheel drive enabled vehicles are required for these routes and our vehicle was on the way of high inclination. It felt adventurous for me than other jungle tour experiences. We reached the top area and was looking for the tigers there. We came back to the jungle and moved inside towards other water body. We found many vehicles were parked there, so we thought there may a tiger sighted. But, people present there were taking picture of Indian flycatcher and other birds photograph and we too took a few shots. Others left, we stayed there to take some photographs of the birds. We came back without seeing any tiger and it was safari without any tiger.
Day – 3 [Safari – 1]
On the last day of our Ranthambore trip, we were expecting for another tiger safari. But there has been no tiger sighted since last few days in the zone 1. We decided to make it a bird photography safari and remain focused on birds. After passing the entry gate, we found foot mark of sloth bear who crossed the road and entered into another zone. We went inside and the first photograph we clicked was of spotted owlet and peafowl, fish owl male and female, and many other birds. Even we did not notice any movement of tiger or any other mammals. So, we came back to entry gate very early and it was a very small zone with no such activities.
Day – 3 [Safari – 2]
We returned to the room again and felt upset as we had not seen any tiger through last two safaris. We went to Mr. Hemraj Meena to guide us the last safari. He was with other assignments, but he he canceled his appointments and took us to the zone – 5. And this zone is famous for sighting of owls. I was very confident that we were having Mr Meena, so tiger sighting would happen for sure. After entering into the jungle, he noticed some recent footprints and we moved in that direction, we found the tiger was near the water body. We parked our vehicle near there and stared clicking photos. After taking so many photos, the tiger started moving towards the jungle. After staying there for 30 minutes there we could not trace the tiger and moved forward to capturing photographs of the birds.
We captured photographs of the Honey Buzzard and many other birds who came there to take a bath in the water. We started to come back as a finish to our tiger safari and the Ranthambore trip. After reaching the room, we started packing our bags and getting ready to reach the railway station. Our train was at 2:00 AM in the morning, our vehicle will took us around 1:00 AM to the station.
The whole trip was so exciting and memorable for all of us. We were completely satisfied with the arrangements there. Most importantly, the accompany of Mr Hemraj Meena was fantastic.