On Republic Day 2021 in India, I’m delighted to share this guest blog from Wildlife Blogger Crowd member, Nishand Venugopal, about his incredible experience exploring Ranthambore National Park in search of Tigers and other native wildlife...
It’s Not Just About Tigers…
Ranthambore is famously known as the ‘Tiger Land’. If I say I went there with no expectation of spotting a tiger then of course that isn’t true.
Yes, being able to see a wild tiger roaming freely in its habitat is one of the greatest ambitions of a wildlife enthusiast.
The moment I got down at the Sawai Madhopur Railway Station I saw an interesting picture on the wall. The image got me thinking − what is the importance of the tiger as a flagship species? What is more important − the land or the species?
I came to the conclusion that neither is exclusive; it is because of the tigers that the land survives and the land ensures the tigers prevail…
The first safari was exciting. The jeep passed through the hamlets, by the temples that dotted the landscape regularly and various big and small human settlements to reach the main gate of the national park. After entering the park, we were divided according to the zones given to us.
We continued our journey on a path from where we could see the Fort of Ranthambore and some raptors flying high over the fort. In the hurry to cover some ‘favourite’ spots where the chance to see a tiger was higher, we missed stopping and giving our time and attention to the raptors.
The guide showed us a cave and said it was earlier used by a tigress to rear her cubs. The search for tigers continued while sporadic spells of rain had me rushing to keep to keep my prized possession – my camera – inside my bag.
As we moved further, the single line of communication between tourists was ‘Tiger dekha kya?’ (Did you see a Tiger?)….
For me, though, it was not just about being lucky enough to glimpse a tiger. I enjoyed being inside the jungle; we saw a Ruddy Mongoose on a rocky terrain and a few birds too.
If I had my way and more time, I would have preferred the journey to be a bit slower. In the rush to find a tiger, we seemed to be missing on the many other bounties that this land is known for.
However, with the majority of safari mates being keen only on spotting a tiger, it was impossible to swim against the tide.
After a while, we finally got information about the location of a tigress and her cub. As we reached the spot, the sight was nothing less than breathtaking.
The mother and her cub walked majestically through the tall yellow grass and into a dry river bed.
The young one was almost of the same height as his mother. He would soon leave to find his own territory, but for now he stuck with his mother to learn much-needed hunting techniques. One day, I thought to myself, he would be fit enough to rule his turf.
Even though it was drizzling, we stayed glued to our spot, watching both the mother and her son. We witnessed a failed attempt to hunt by the tigers after which, they left.
Soon we were reminded by the guide that it was time for us to leave, too. As the day quickly shuffled towards a dark evening, we headed back hoping we would get as lucky tomorrow and get to see more wildlife.
Return to Ranthambore
The next day, our jeep arrived in front of a big gate inside the national park. A lot of people had gathered there, since they had got the information that there were two male tiger cubs waiting for their mother at the top of the gate , where the tigers can climb using the mud mounts nearby and the stairs in the structure.
They were resting after having their meal. One was sleeping on the top of the gate; the second cub had apparently climbed down to the lower part of the gate, but wasn’t visible to us.
While everyone waited patiently for a long time, I was busy observing something else. I was noting how people behaved in such a scenario. Some waited quietly, but there were others who couldn’t keep calm.
The weather was getting hot. Suddenly I heard a ruffling nearby. I turned just in time to see a painted spur fowl running away.
Within a few minutes, there was a commotion amongst the gathering — we noticed a group of men walking from the other side of the gate, ignorant of the presence of tigers.
One person from the group sat in the shade of the gate, so quickly the people on the jeeps warned those pedestrians of the danger they were in. Some tourists said they were pilgrims visiting a temple inside the area. All they had for their protection were long sticks.
The pedestrians left in a hurry after hearing about the tigers, but still there was no sign of the big cats and people started losing hope.
Eventually, our wait didn’t go in vain; we saw the young males and their mother, too.
For the evening of the second day, we visited another zone of the national park. This time we were lucky to get a lead about a tigress sighting as soon as we entered the area.
A young tigress still dependent on her mother for hunting was lying in the pool, playing with a twig. She was not in the mood to move from the spot.
After some time, many of visitors on the jeeps present became impatient, and left the spot search for some ‘action’.
We too followed them. Having searched high and low and not finding anything, a few of us returned to the same spot. The young tigress was still there, lounging in the comfort of her preferred place to relax.
However, there was a difference to the setting this time. The ambience of the place changed suddenly. Who would have thought that there were birds waiting for our roaring jeeps to leave?
A water hole is the best place for insects and insectivores, who, by the way, seemed to be having a field day!
White Bellied Drongos, Fan-Tails, Bulbuls and Peafowls were in the mood to forage. The tigress seemed least bothered with the presence of so many birds around her.
What a sight it was to see a majestic-looking tiger sprawled near the water hole and surrounded by resplendent birds! It seemed like we had been awarded by nature for our patience and ability to remain silent and not disturb the environment of the original inhabitants of the area…
Appreciating the unexpected
That day finished with an opportunity to see Dusky Eagle Owls on our return journey as we wrapped up our safari, leaving the forest to its wildlife during the night.
On the third day, again, the passengers on the jeep were anxious to see the tigers. On our way through the winding paths of the jungle, we spotted a shy sloth bear rushing out from an open area.
It is risky for a bear to stay in the open for long, especially in a place that abounds with tigers. As the bear moved across the road, it smelt the earth with its long nozzle to find termites and feed on them.
I felt so grateful to see an animal which remains inconspicuous most of the time during the day in this part of the forest.
That evening, at another waterhole we were lucky to spot a pair of tiger siblings. But what others might have missed were the birds near that area.
To my delight, I saw Jungle Bush Quails for the first time in my life. And to top that, there were some colourful Indian Pittas among Red Vented Bulbuls too.
While we were returning, simultaneously tired and satisfied with all that are eyes had feasted on, I wished for another opportunity to explore this beautiful national park but with much more time on my hands.
With this wish in my mind I bid adieu to the famed ‘Tiger Land’ of Ranthambore, where I there is more that meets your eyes than the famed tigers…
About the Author
A wildlife enthusiast, writer and nature photographer from India, Nishand Venugopal spent 15 years working for the News channel. He has since taken a leap of faith and is working towards conservation awareness initiatives. “I use works on my website nishandphotoark.com & social media to try to spread the message to observe the biodiversity around us. I would like to inspire people to preserve the records of their flora and fauna as citizen science programs and love to share optimism towards conservation.“
Learn more about tigers
- Read about TigerTime Now
- Uncovering the truth about Avni the tigress and her cubs: Guest Post by Bella Rebell
Learn more about India…