Three Days in Tiger Paradise
Authors: Varun Sharma & Anshul Sikri
DAY 1: The Journey
Getting right to the point for me and Anshul the slightest excuse to bunk work & rush to Ranthambhore National Park is always valid & justified. This time our reason was mammoth, to take a dear friend to RNP before his wedding in November. So, after giving our folks at home & colleagues at work this very valid reason the 3 of us left for RNP by road on 14th June….
Our only agenda to go to the park in peak summers was to catch as many tigers by the water bodies, but destiny had other plans. Leaving with us from Delhi were dark grey skies & heavy rainfall, slimming our chances of a sighting. We pacified ourselves by telling each other “So what if we don’t get to see the tiger at least we get to be in the forest & enjoy it at its most beautiful”. If reaching Sawai Madhopur at the stroke of midnight wasn’t enough Anshul made sure to add enough drama by making us follow the park boundary wall religiously for a lucky leopard sighting. As expected, we did not see a leopard (the fact is that many lucky people have) but a striped hyena acknowledged our presence. The first time we had seen one & were very excited to see this shy resident of RNP. We considered seeing the hyena a good omen. How much of a good omen it was you would find out in Day 2.
Day 2: The bandits of RNP
If you are not careful, chances are that the bandits of RNP will mug you, don’t take me seriously I am talking about the Langoors. All ready & over-excited about our first safari we 3 were ready at 5:30 am & were frantically calling our now dear friends Kailash Bhai (ace safari driver) & Irshaad Bhai (our expert naturalist) to meet us at the gate latest by 6 am, we didn’t want to miss a second of our allotted safari time.
While leaving our resort we had one of their very hospitable staff chase us with a box, with water & 3 sandwiches telling us that we will need them during the safari. Sharp at 6:30 we entered the reserve. As expected, the forest was dull & quiet, it had rained heavily the last day. We kept our moods upbeat by telling ourselves that any moment now we can hear a call, well nothing of that sort happened.
At 9 am we were starving, what we did was we were aware that it's an absolutely NO in a forest & I would strictly request any tourists to indulge in it. Not able to control our hunger pangs we asked Kailash to stop in a wide grassland to ensure that there were no animals close to us we opened 2 sandwiches & ate them sooner than we managed to open them. We asked Kailash to drive on as we were done eating & would manage to last a couple more hours, But Anshul had other plans. ..
As soon as we started driving, he opened up the last sandwich & in hushed voices were quarrelling over how the 3 of us would split & that’s when we heard Irshad’s voice “Oye Langoor” & before we could realize the dude was in our gypsy sitting between Arjun & me. His only objective was to take our food, the expression on his face made it quite clear. Without contesting we gave him our last sandwich, which was gobbled in front of us. This incident turned out to be funny but there is a thin line between funny & dangerous in a forest so please try not to eat.
Amused at what just happened we laugh about it to date & Arjun was hysterical blaming the poor Hyena (from day 1) for bringing us not good but bad luck. I to date tell Arjun that the hyena was sitting behind a bush & heard all the profanities hurled at it by him & since that day is on anti-depressants Besides this incident our day 2 was mundane & dull. The forest landscape was at its most beautiful ever. We ended our day in the fine company of Anurag Bhai (Anurag Sharma), Shivang Bhai (Shivang Mehta).
Day 3: Irony, Shock, Ambush & Awe
Like I initially said our motivation was to go to RNP in peak summers and try to catch as many tigers by the water bodies, we were expecting the forest to be dry, pale & hot but it was emerald green & very pleasant. Ironical as it may sound it isn’t half of what happened to us on the day-3 morning safari.
We were at RNP zone 4 gate sharp at 6 am (like the previous morning), overcast sky, fresh air with a tinge of wet mud smell & a cool breeze. Our safari was in zone 4 & I was very excited, I find it the most beautiful. While entering the zone we were laughing about how we expected to see many tigers in a dry, hot forest & there we were lush green forest so green that it would put an emerald to shame, the grey skies & the cool breeze. It was like the entire forest ecosystem was coming together to make our safaris the most pleasant experience ever.
As we reached the hillocks where the now legendary tigress Machli now lives, it started raining heavily. Heavy rains & ice-cold winds were giving us shivers. We were drenched & shivering. For some reason, our spirits were still high & again the 5 of us were laughing about the IRONY, THE PLAN WAS TO TOUGH IT OUT IN the HOT WEATHER & SCORCHING SUN, CATCH AS MANY TIGERS NEAR THE WATER BODIES & NOTHING AS PER PLAN HAPPENED. The forest was dull & lazy, with hardly any movement not even the herbivores. Our second last safari ended in us being drenched & shivering. Our last safari was in zone 6. We had no idea what was in store for us. As usual not the ones to have dampened spirits we got ready for our last safari, as we reached the zone 6 gate, we were informed that T – 24 was sitting in a water body since the morning. As usual, we were the first ones to enter the zone & were excitedly approaching the water body & when we finally reached WHAT WE SAW COMPLETELY HAS US IN AWE OF HIM.
Lying down in the man-made pond, he was barely 10 feet away from us, only a few gypsies in the beginning the crowd began to pour in as the word spread out. The shock experience of the sighting was followed by the “AMBUSH”. Attracted by all the vibrant colours & designer colognes thousands of bees came calling, and thus began the snap & sting contest, people trying to ward them off & the bees stinging in retaliation. Thanks to Irshaad who told us to not move a muscle when the bees were around, we were saved but others were not as lucky.
Owing to the bee attack many vehicles ran for their lives & by the end of it all it was just a few vehicles & the majestic T-24. The location was now very peaceful & ideal. That’s when T 24 decided to get up & go for a stroll around his territory. I don’t know whether we were lucky or was this majestic beast obliging us with the best poses. There were times that he was within 6 feet of us, aware of his no fear of humans we were dumb & awe-struck but we got to see him like no one has ever seen. I don’t know what was it, whether it was his false reputation (of being a man-eater) or his sheer size & dominance that scared all the other vehicles. No one was ready to come near him & requested us to lead & follow him. Whatever the reason we had him all to ourselves while he strolled & marked his territory
Just like all our previous visits the tigers of RNP did not disappoint us & yet another one of our trips ended in us being mesmerized by the magnificent creature. The more I get to see them the more I fall in love with them & more rigid becomes my resolve to do whatever I can in my power to save them & their habitat.