Let’s get one thing straight, the whole motivation for this safari experience, wasn’t really to see wildlife in general, nope. It was to see tigers in Ranthambore – that’s what everyone was excited about and looking out for – the tigers.
We’d leave the hotel at 6.30am 😴 (since tigers hunt early and sleep most of the rest of the day) and seeing a tiger is the main attraction….we’d be back at the hotel for breakfast by around 10.30am at the latest.
That said, the National park (split into several zones) is home to over 250 types of bird, 12 reptiles and 30 different mammals, so there’s a lot more to see than just tigers.
Jeeps are only permitted within approx 20 percent of the park, while the rest is uninterrupted by humans.
Speeding off at what felt like at least 100mph, gripping tightly to whatever we could get hold of, two of the morning game-drives got off to a very cold and dark start.
There were lots of jeeps taking small groups of 4-6 people (sometimes with people from other hotels), and each jeep passenger was provided with a much needed thick heavy blanket.
Hats and gloves were absolutely necessary too. 🧤 🧣
Wild boar and domestic pigs making a very early start on breakfast, munching through rubbish on the sides of the road, sometimes joined by the odd cow, as we whizzed by.
Two game-drives in, I’d seen some interesting wildlife and beautiful scenery, but no tigers.
The very first animal I saw was a hare/rabbit, trying to out-run the jeep along the well driven road track. 🐰
Giselle, antelope (which are huge, not like a small deer – more like a small horse), hyena, water buffalo, monkeys and partridges (the ‘ partridge in a pear tree’ type) were amongst the wonderful wildlife we encountered.
We literally chased the hyena away, poor thing – it seemed a bit nervous that we were watching and following, then it literally jumped a wall, crossed a road and went back into the park on the the other side.
Apparently, tigers also cross this road at times, and the guide said he’d seen them when driving along, many times.
So why did the tiger cross the road….? (Answers on a postcard please 😄).
We saw the nooks and crannies in cliffs where vultures like to nest and leopards prefer to go for a walk.
We saw bear prints, but no bears, tiger paw prints, but no tigers.
Oh, and lots and lots of peacocks.
Need the Loo?
Having never been on a safari before, this was a whole new thing for me – like the toilet breaks (which our guide referred to as ‘a natural toilet break’) in the bushes – keeping an eye out for tigers, leopards and bears while you’re at it – I’m serious. 🚽
There was a point where we passed a fire wall (wall built in the wilderness to help slow the spread of any potential fires); the driver suggested ‘us’ ladies might want to go behind it for a toilet break!!! The offer was declined.
Tip 😉 don’t drink too much before your (very bouncy) jeep ride – and I don’t mean alcohol, but I’d advise against that too!!
I think there were one or two portable loos – depending on where you were, but this national park is so vast, there’s no guarantee you’ll be near one.
We drove through dry rivers, that would normally be gushing with water during the rainy monsoon season.
We stopped numerous times while the driver tried to excite us by saying ‘Shhhhhhh’, ever so dramatically, signalling for us to listen out for a distress call from the dear, or the monkeys, to help us locate a tiger.
By the third and final game-drive, I’d almost given up and wondered whether it would be worth being up and ready to leave at 6.30am for the hotel pick up.
This guide was a no-nonsense guide. He’s what we’d been waiting for our whole life (in terms of tiger spotting).
He had bags of authority, and was telling other jeeps off for breaking little rules and kept telling us that “today we will NOT be stopping for anymore dear, no more antelope, no more – we’re going to find a tiger” and he was super confident about it too – I think he’d already had the heads up about where to find one.
We were in zone 4 this time.
He made a few calls and next the next thing you know, in a matter of fact tone, he pointed and declared “there’s a tiger there”.
In a blink we’re spinning 180 degrees at break neck speed, dust in the air and zooming off to ‘wherever’ the tiger was.
Oh happy day!!! 🎊 🎉
Speeding like there was no tomorrow!!! The stuff of action movies.
Then it happened…..
Wow x 100!!!! There must have been at least half a dozen jeeps in the area, but our guide made sure we weaved into the best spot.
This was probably the highlight of my entire India trip.
We saw two female tigers and some cubs hidden in long grass.
One of the females came and stood a few meters away from our jeep – she was in hunting mode, and looked as if she was listening/looking/waiting keenly into the distance….we tried not to disturb her!
Thankfully she decided not to jump up on the jeep and have one of us for breakfast!
It all sounds a bit ‘yeah whatever’ until you experience this sort of thing yourself.
I don’t think you really know how you’re going to feel – honestly, my heart was racing, I was so excited, scared and quite humbled all at the same time – pretty emotional.
A fellow traveller sat next to me in the jeep literally grabbed and shook me with a silent excited scream as soon as we saw the tiger walking towards us – it was a crazy moment, one I’ll never forget. 🤩
I mean, how are you ‘supposed’ to act when you see a magnificent tiger walking towards you, calmly, gracefully, with only the sound of bird calls in the air.
I kept wondering if another tiger might creep up and pounce from behind – I mean how many were there in the area, not to mention leopards – which some others from my group were lucky enough to see.
She (Ms tiger) didn’t seem remotely interested in all the jeeps and people gawping at her, camera buttons clicking away – she was quite the celebrity, very comfortable with her audience, unaffected by the limelight!! Fabulous.
I couldn’t believe how close we got, to admire this beautiful, majestic animal, in her territory, especially when she finally gave us a quick glance and casually strode past the side of our vehicle…..at which point we were revving the engine again, to follow in hot pursuit, on our guide’s, command.
We also saw her sister too, with some teenage cubs not far away.
Tiger cubs grow up seeing the jeeps come and go, they’re used to seeing us….
Apparently, none of the tigers are microchipped – they used to chip them, but found that it started to interfere with their reproductive behaviour, and the females stopped getting pregnant, so the chips were removed.
Alarm Bells 🚨
I was slightly concerned about just how exposed we were in our small, low level jeeps – especially when one of our guides confirmed that tigers will often come right up to the jeep. Right up to the door. Hmmmm…..
Despite their apparent lack of protection from wild tigers, the jeeps did deserve a medal.
No really, they did – how they crunched over some of those awkward rocks and dealt with some pretty tricky bumps I’ll never know.
Others (in another jeep) had a puncture, and they all had to get out of their jeep while the tyre was changed…..again, just keeping a close watch for tigers, leopards and bears – nothing to worry about!
Not all Golden Triangle Tours include a Ranthambore safari, but I’d highly recommend it, I didn’t realise it would turn out to be the best part of my tour until after I’d done it!! 🙌