Tale of two Tiger sightings in Ranthambore
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan in India is one of the most celebrated tiger parks in world alongwith Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh. Ranthambore has been home to one of the most revered tigress ‘Machli’, a lead in one of the most well known wildlife fights between a tiger and a crocodile. Sighting a Royal Bengal Tiger in its territory is altogether a different experience. I had the chance of doing it twice in two days. On a cold winter day, after a blank morning safari, we had a lucky afternoon to watch tiger T-20 (as the tigers are normally named) in its full glory but not before we had a sprint (ofcourse in our zeep) in the wild upon hearing a call about presence of tiger in the Rajbagh area of park. So here it was, in front of us enjoying his evening stroll in a quite playfull mood, sniffing, relieving and quite oblivious of tens of pairs of eyes glued to him. He was star-eyed… he had star mark on his face above both his eyes. He came, he conquered and he disappeared in the woods…
But it was next day which had more drama in store for us, a real adventure of Tiger in the wild. A thrill in the adventure is when what you love happens at the time when neither it was expected nor anticipated. After a day long visit to the Ranthambore Fort (it is equally majestic), we were returning to forest guest house. There is a long stretch of four kilometres from Sherpur Gate of the Tiger park to the Fort gate. Just opposite to the fort entrance is the main entrance to the core area of Tiger reserve, from where effectively the safari starts. The road from Sherpur gate to Fort is largely frequented by local, villagers, tourists (going for safari as well as fort) as well as believers going to famous Ganesh temple in the fort. Not surprisingly this road stretch is even covered on foot by many daily.
So on this stretch while returning from fort to the Sherpur gate, we were in our vehicle with a guide. We two were on the backside of the zeep. It was near Bhairon Ghati, where I saw a small stream and wondered with my guide whether that too had some crocs in it. But even before, I could finish I couldn’t believe a majestic Tiger behind our vehicle just coming out of woods and going on the road, in the opposite direction (towards the fort).I quickly asked the driver to stop and move it reverse towards the big cat. There was nobody in the sight besides our vehicle and the Tiger itself. Cameras kept clicking for next 20 odd minutes, when the Tiger finally left the road and disappeared again in the woods. By the time few more passers by had joined as spectators. But it was a breathtaking experience. It was only later in the evening when we reached back to the forest rest house, that we came to know that the particular tiger was T-5 who had actually killed a few people in that area. Our adventure grew manifold upon hearing that!