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I recently spent three days in Ranthambhore, a dry deciduous forest, and had an incredible time. We saw lots of birds and were always on the lookout for wild cats. After spotting a tiger, everyone was all smiles and shared their own sighting stories. Although some people were disappointed not to see all the tigers on their list, the adrenaline rush of spotting fresh pug marks or hearing close alarm calls made up for it. We also had some discussions on conservation and late-night talks about tigers with like-minded people. It was great to reunite with some "friends of tigers." What made this trip special was the absence of unwanted calls or SMS. Overall, Ranthambhore was at its best as usual, and I'm already looking forward to my next trip this month.
One thing missing this time was FSR, the late Fateh Singh Ji. Although he's no longer with us, he's still alive in the hearts of those who respect and love him for his work, passion for wildlife, and Ranthambhore and its tigers. Most of the guides, drivers, and guards referred to him as "Sahab," and he is surely a legend here. I had the chance to meet Kallu bhai, one of the oldest drivers and a close associate of FSR during his initial days at Sariska and Ranthambhore. He had tears in his eyes and numerous stories to share. Two hours with him were too short to relive those 25-plus years, I guess.
In terms of highlights, we spotted a male tiger in zone IV marking his territory. Some people call it T6, while others believe it's T29. I've sent the pictures to DFO for stripe identification and will update shortly on the correct ID. The good news is that this tiger is all set to provide Ranthambhore a new generation of tigers in the days to come. It's currently with T41, a female tigress from Berda, waiting for mating confirmation. All the best, mate, your act will surely go a long way in securing the future of your species.
Other news includes Nallamuthu, the guy who made a documentary on Machli and T17, "Wild Tiger Queen," is making another documentary on T17, the current queen of lakes, a tigress with a collar. I briefly chatted with him during a safari on zone III. There's also been increased leopard activity around Fort Road and Singhdwar, with almost daily sightings reported. It seems there's a female with two cubs in this area. Machli is still around and in good shape, though T28, a star male, snatched the bait put out for her some three days back. She's spending most of her time around Baba Ki Gufa, Adi Dagar, and nearby areas. The cubs of T5 are still around, eating 7-8kgs of meat daily. The forest guys have started putting the food inside the cage to protect it from hyenas since there were incidents of hyenas snatching the meat from them on more than one occasion.
According to bird enthusiasts, the inflow of migratory birds is less this time, at least by 20-30%. One reason behind this could be the lakes being full of plants and algae, which results in birds being unable to find fish and worms. I'm not an expert on birds, and the views expressed above are from a friend who happens to be a serious bird watcher whom I met during one of the safari trips.
There are reports of trees being cut without any control from Kachida, Soleshwar, and Khandar areas of the forest. Hopefully, the forest top guys are listening. The poor forest guards with a bamboo stick in hand cannot protect the forest from villagers entering the forest in groups of 15-20, sometimes armed. Recently, a group of 15-20 villagers entered Kachida chowki on zone V at night, located in the heart of the forest. They forced the forest guards to cook food for them, ate food, and rested there for a couple of hours. The poor guards being outnumbered had no option but to obey them.
Lastly, please do not plan any visit next weekend if you're planning to do so, as there are already heavy bookings. Even this week, there were a lot of disappointed tourists who could not make it to the park.
For those interested in traveling, the alternate routes from Delhi are Delhi-Jaipur-Chaksu (45 km from Jaipur)-Kothun (7 km)-left turn to Lalsot-Lalsot town (42 km)-right turn from T point towards Sawai Madhopur (63 km). The road is very good, mostly a 4-lane toll road except for some 6-7 km around Lalsot.
For pictures of this trip, please see the picture page on my blog. I'll upload them in the next 1-2 days.