On Safari in India: Stalking Tigers in Ranthambore

Game Drive

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 ๐Ÿ˜ด (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.

Good morning!!

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. ๐Ÿงค ๐Ÿงฃ

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.

Stalking Tigers

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. ๐Ÿฐ

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 ๐Ÿ˜„).

Now they may look like a small dog in pictures and on TV but my goodness, they’re actually huge in real life!! These photos don’t convey the true size at all. The fur looked really thick too – like a thick mohair rug!

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. ๐Ÿšฝ

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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.

The beautiful bird that stalked us throughout one of our drives. Every time we pulled over it would fly over – trying to land on one of our heads and enjoy our company!

Listen

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.

Silence.

Finally

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 lifeย (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!!! ๐ŸŽŠ ๐ŸŽ‰

The adrenaline!!!

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!

To see a big cat so close, in her own environment was a huge huge privilege – she was out looking for some breakfast, while we all sat in our exposed jeeps taking photos!! I guess it was reassuring to know that tigers don’t tend to attack humans unless they feel threatened….yep!

She absolutely stole the show – talk about a catwalk!! Those stripes are also found on a tigers’ skin, not just their fur!!

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. ๐Ÿคฉ

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.

Tigers are the largest of the big cats

Apparently a group of tigers is called an ‘ambush’….I’m not surprised!! Tigers are generally quite solitary animals, so it must be an incredible sight to see a group!

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 ๐Ÿšจ

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!! ๐Ÿ™Œ

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67 thoughts on “On Safari in India: Stalking Tigers in Ranthambore

      1. equinoxio21

        Better safe than sorry. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have started a series of posts on my “African childhood”. I can send you the links if you like… ๐Ÿ˜‰
        (I never post a link to my blog on someone else’s unless invited to…)
        Stay safe, Cherryl. Indoors as much as you can despite what politicos say. France is in lockdown, Mexico where we live, is starting to shut schools and universities down.
        “Play it safe”. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. Cherryl

          Please do – send me the links, I don’t mind at all – I’d love to read them – I ‘m forever curious now ๐Ÿค—……playing it safe in the UK – it’s all a bit wishy washy over here….plenty of recommendations but no unified national call to action like other nations, but thank you ๐Ÿ˜ŠI will veer toward playing it safe – stay safe over in Mexico too ๐Ÿ™

          1. equinoxio21

            Links sent. At least some. I have done close to a dozen african childhood posts… They’re easy. Plenty of material available.
            One of the learnings of this virus, is the return to total international selfishness. International cooperation seems to be in agony… I do hope it will pick up afterwards. Despite what many politicos anywhere claim, all our nations are just too small.
            Good reading.

      2. equinoxio21

        Here are a few links:
        https://equinoxio21.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/the-colonels-gardens-an-african-childhood/
        https://equinoxio21.wordpress.com/2019/10/22/an-african-childhood-the-mzungu-chronicles/
        https://equinoxio21.wordpress.com/2020/02/18/an-african-childhood-part-3-2/
        There are more posts on the subject. If you have time and are interested, related posts should be mentioned at the bottom of each of those links.
        Good reading.

  1. Carolyn Page

    That was such a wonderful post to read; Thank You!
    Tigers and cheetahs would have to be two of my most favourite cats. They are both so regal.
    I can understand how you must have felt being so close to the tigers. When visiting one of our ‘outback’ zoos in Australia I stood some 20 metres from two cheetah brothers. There was a high wire fence separating us from them and yet I still felt their power and majesty as they walked and pounced upon high rocks and trees. Enormously breathtaking. I know I would love the tour you had.
    As for the hyenas. I didn’t know, until recently, how very big they are. I watched a documentary where a man had raised some from birth and allowed them (in the main) to act more like dogs. His body paled in size and strength next to them. He stated that he was always aware of their propensity to return to their natural wild state… hmmmmmm..
    By the way: I also enjoyed your videos… What a great experience!

      1. Carolyn Page

        Hahah… Yes, they are more slender (sleek) and smaller than the tiger. However, Cheryl, they are very impressive. I’m very pleased to have seen them up close, but, with a fence in between. I know I wouldn’t stand a chance of surviving an attack. Such incredibly powerful animals. I adore them!
        Hopefully, we’ll both get to see the other (tiger or cheetah) in some future experience. ๐Ÿ™‚

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