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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ranthambhore - Day 04

As the end of our time in India get closer and closer we begun to grow our expectations; we have completed all 5 routes of the Ranthambhore National Park and we had already our preferences by that time, but the route assignment was not in our hands. Summit showed up on the morning bringing the Route 4 permit, we should start repeating the routes, not necessarily in the same order.

Route 4 is quite interesting, the big waterhole formed by the dam in the middle of the route, the other waterholes spread all over the area and the highpoints that provided a different angle of the region, were a plus in that Route. We have followed the main track

In the end of the track there was a gathering of some vehicles and we could see already the people taking pictures frenetically – this could mean only one thing: Tiger! Summit approached the narrow track that crossed the site where a tiger was lying near the edge of a waterhole. The whole place was very dry and the water spot looked really like a magnet for the tigers in search of a refreshing bath or for the thirsty ones.

Beautiful Male Tiger

Tiger Reflection on Waterhole

Male moving around

The tiger sub-adult was quiet and did not show any intention of getting up to drink from the waterhole – we had to be patient. Peace was frequently broken by new jeeps arriving and jostling for a good position – it seemed that we were around the main attraction of that route as the audience also included a canter (big truck converted into a safari roof-less vehicle for 20 people). However, even with that agitation of the people, the tiger did not feel disturbed at all.

Female Tiger waking up

Unexpectedly, we noticed a movement in a bush near the tiger, it was another tiger. That was incredible, 2 tigers in the same scene. Summit confirms our suspicion that they were brother or sisters; actually they were 1 male cub and one female cub. The one in the bush as the female while, the other one lying, down was her brother. The story about them was that their mother had been killed by a male tiger that was not the father of the cubs, so to defend her siblings she fought against the male tiger and lost. Now the sub-adults were completely by themselves.

Female tiger moving

The female raised his head and after, the body, she started to walk to the right where her brother was still lying down and decided to go for a drink on the edge of the waterhole. That was a scene we were so anxious for: a tiger drinking at a waterhole. The reflex of her head in the water was not so crystal clear, but it was a superb sight indeed.

Female drinking at waterhole

It doesn’t take too long for her brother to join her in the edge of the waterhole and drink together. Then we had 2 tigers drinking in that waterhole, if we thought ourselves were blessed to witness one tiger drinking at a waterhole, that scene we could not even dream of seeing.

Brother and Sister drinking water together

Both tigers were very comfortable with our presence, and continued to drink peacefully until they got satisfied and decided to go away. Despite our attempt to follow their path they soon crossed the boundaries of the Route 4 then setting the end of that great sighting.

Male is gone, Sister will take off soon

We return to the central waterhole to try check on the other tigress domains, but we could count only on a flock of painted storks and other birds as usual. The time to return to the hotel approached and we speeded up to get to the gate, the Dev Vilas swimming pool was waiting for us.

Sometime before lunch we are invited by the resident mahout of the hotel to meet Pawan Khali, the resident`s old female elephant. She is 75 years old and belongs to Mr. Singh`s family since she was acquired by Mr. Singh`s grandpa when she was around 20 years old. Unfortunately this elephant saw many tigers get shot to death in the times when tiger hunting was still legal in India and hunters rode elephants to go into the jungle in search of wild tigers. Now she is retired, but Mr. Singh is still responsible by her welfare. The mahout who takes care of her in the hotel called us to give her a bath.

Presenting Pawan Khali

Elephant Bath

One of us scrubbed a piece of rock to remove dead skin while the other used a hose to give her a good shower. Interaction with elephants is always a grateful experience despite we felt sorry about Pawan Khali have to spend her last days in that confined space in the backyard of the hotel. At least they still take care of her as they consider her part of the family.

Be happy Pawan!

After lunch we return to the park with Summit again, but this time we were not so luck again. We have been assigned to Route 2, and we could just spend the game-drive time visiting the waterholes expecting to see tigers relieving of the day heat. There were only deers, birds and crocodiles in the waterholes, including a mating couple of Sambhar Deers.

Mating Sambhar deers

Rose-ringed Parakeets Flock

In the way out to in the checkpoint, the platform in the middle of the checkpoint square was full of rose-ringed parakeets, lots of them – probably someone have thrown grains on the platform for attracting them. The scene was interesting.

In the end the day we still felt happy for having witnessed the couple of tigers in the waterhole in the Route 4 in the morning. That was really a great moment. The next game-drive would be the last one in this trip in India, but as for compensating all our lucky we had across the whole trip so far, we would see nothing at all – absolutely nothing…As if to say goodbye to us, Nature has turned its back to us and only the warmth of the air and the constant deep sounds of the forest have been reserved for our last safari in India. We were happy.

End-of-game drives in Ranthambhore

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ranthambhore - Day 03

Another sizzling morning in Ranthambhore and still a bit upset with the last day results, we tried to cheer up ourselves keeping our expectations high about our next game-drives. The 4th safari in Ranthambhore was about to start, we met again a new guide, Summit, who we should still have as our guide for some more game-drives (we will never understand the park rules to form the guide and driver teams with the guests – unless a private jeep hired since the beginning, the visitors have no clue about the game-drive organization).

As usual, we were picked up first and we went pick the other guests up in another hotel. The first good news was told by Summit – our group had been assigned to Route 3. We vibrated with this news since we had heard before that the Route 3 was the most beautiful one and the one with more chances to see tigers.

Entrance Lake

Rajbagh Lake

The Route 3 is actually the central route of the core touristic area of Ranthambhore where, in the heart of the area there is a lake called Rajbagh (literally the King`s Garden) with a small fortress in the center of an isle where the Mughal kings used to spend the Spring hunting the animals that approached the lake to drink water, including the tigers (not a thing that India can be proud of nowadays…). But despite the dark side of this lamentable heritage, the landscapes of this area of the park are breath-taking, and everywhere we looked there were birds, monkey, deer and hope of seeing a tiger was looking quite promising.

While no real tiger decided to show up, we had to warm-up with the “tiger-bird” (technically known as Rufous-treepie), and other added attractions such like the “snake-bird” (Oriental Darter), and the athletic Stork-billed Kingfisher.


Oriental Darter

Stork-billed Kingfisher

The Route 3 area does not extends far away from the Rajbagh lake, the best way to describe it is to say it looks like a star-shaped set of routes, where the lake is the center of the star and tracks starts from the lake and loops back to it to cover the areas around it. We went onwards and backwards along those tracks visiting and revisiting fresh pug marks which insisted to appear and disappear of the track around the lake, and checking on groups of spotted-deer that looked like suspecting of birds and alarm calls coming from a dense jungle near a more isolated region on the West side of the route. Nobody had seen any tiger so far.

But suddenly, we noticed traces of dust rising on the main track towards East – that was an unmistakable sign that something really interesting was happening there. We rushed to the same direction following the dust cloud when we came across another vehicle that confirmed it was a tiger spotted behind the Rajbagh Lake.

We approached the area and a swarm of jeeps came from everywhere to try guarantee a place in the “arena”. The tiger was still walking around the right border of the road aiming to reach the waterholes in the other side towards the lake in the left.

T.28 Approaching

The spotted-deer herd that were drinking at the waterhole backed-off quickly while the stallion watched carefully the movements of the tiger approaching the waterhole releasing loud alarm calls to ensure that the tiger knew that they have already seen him.

Chital on the run

T.28 Close-up

It was a huge male tiger, T.28, not very interested in the spotted-deer, maybe because it was too hot to run. The tiger steadily continued his walk towards the lake without hesitating until he was out of sight. We tried some way to see if he was going to appear in the lake shore, but he never did it, as he probably decided to stop to rest beneath the tree before the lake shore. We had no time to wait his next moves, so we set course to the beginning of the route.

T.28 Crossing the Road

T.28 at the Waterhole

In the way out, near the waterhole we saw again the chital herd that had not yet recovered the peace after the tiger was gone. The youngest ones were still feeling not so safe and crossed the road in a sprint, which we could capture in a panning shot, and not far from we finally saw an Indian Gazelle, quite similar to the Thompson Gazelles of Africa, but not so frequent in the lowlands in India.

Indian Gazelle

T.28 Leaving the waterhole area

As we got to the end of the morning drive, we could take really nice shots of Nilgai (or Blue Bull Deer) in open fields in the beginning of the route. That was really a high quality game-drive that made us recover the thrilling sensation of the previous lucky game-drives we had before.

Nilgai Close-up

Again stopped in the rangers’ check-point the langur troops were making their usual “show” and, of course funny and odd poses.

Langurs grooming each other

Full Examination

In the second half of the day, the game-drive would be led by Ravindar, the same guide we had in our 1st safari at Ranthambhore. If spotting tiger would depend on the guide’s luck, then we were optimistic about that drive. Completing the whole set of routes of Ranthambhore we have been assigned to Route 1, the only one missing.

The extreme dry and dusty lanes looked like never-ending tracks leading us to the center of the earth because there was no wildlife and temperature was getting hotter and hotter as we advanced into the jungle. This route was even drier than Route 2.

Dusty Winding Roads of Route 1

That route was particularly empty of wildlife. We spent hours following a straight line of dry bushes and trees, without seeing anything worthy of reporting – the route was very long with no derivations or alternative tracks to break the monotony. There was absolutely no trace of tigers in that area, and despite our initial optimism had already faded after so much time of poor game, hope always lasted till the end of the safari drive.

We made a quick stop to take some pictures of a young Nilgai eating the leaves from a tree branch, it was an unusual sighting and the light was excellent as the Nilgai was near the road and we had no obstructions to view it.

Nilgai grazing from the trees

And not far from there we cried to Ravindar: Stop, stop! What is that thing walking on the forest? – the vision was not clear; the animal or whatever we saw was 150 meter away and there were many branches and tree trunks in the way. “Looks like there is more than one animal moving and they are big, what are they?” – We asked. Ravindar asks the driver to go back to find a better point of view. In a matter of seconds the revelation comes up: “Sloth Bear, yes, sloth bear! And it is a female with cubs…Incredible!” – Ravindar reveals astonished. We were indeed astonished to see a family of sloth bears that hour of the day; they have a thick black fur coat and it was incredibly hot at that part of the park.

Sloth Bear family

Sloth Bear young cubs and mother

The mother bear was eating fruits dropped on the ground while the 2 cubs played around her, and sometimes scaling her back. They were really beautiful – for sure a fantastic sighting. We spent there almost half an hour betting on the chance of the family approach the road, but they were afraid of the jeeps, then they kept a safe distance, sometimes disappearing completely behind the rocks and tree trunks.

Back to the hotel Mr. Singh was very interested in seeing our sloth bear pictures – there was already 6 months since somebody spotted a sloth bear in Ranthambhore. They are not very common in the core area as they prefer the safety of the non-touristic area and even less common to see them during the day at the summer season. Amazing.

We were pretty sure that we would leave India without seeing the Sloth Bear as we had more chances to see it back in Bandhavgarh. We were happy we were completely wrong…

Note: you can click on the picture to take you to the original size picture in our Flickr album page, being better to see the photographs you like. Or if you may want to go straight to our Flickr page, please access the link Our Flickr Page

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ranthambhore - Day 02

Happy with the great start of the day before, we woke up that morning with the hope to keep the luck standard that has helped us seeing tigers everyday up to that moment. We met our guide at the hotel, but he was a different guide and there was a different driver as well – in Ranthambhore there is apparently not a logic rule that may leave us attached to a fixed team of guide and driver.

After picking up the other guests at a neighbor hotel, we are informed that the permit was for Route 2 in that opportunity, one of the most western routes. This route has a different checkpoint, a busy one we should say, since there is a still active Ganesh God worship temple inside an ancient fortress. We can clearly appreciate the walls of the fort on the top of the hill settled on the borders of the cliff facing the entrance of the route.

We have learned that some people saw T.17, the same female tiger we saw on the day before, on Route 3, meaning that she went exactly to the opposite side of our route, been totally out of our track in that morning.

Peacock Display back to us
Peacock Diplays Back

Lesser-Adjutant Stork
Lesser-Adjutant Stork

In a certain point of the route we stood by a small canyon where the people on a canter supposedly saw a tiger or a leopard climbing one of the sides of the canyon. Unfortunately we arrived late and we could not see any animal moving or scaling the rocks of the canyon – the sunlight didn’t help either since the rocky wall was totally on the shadow and the sun was still behind it completely obfuscating our eyes. If there was indeed a bigcat there, it didn’t matter how big the animal could be we would not be able to spot it.

In the end of the game-drive, by the gate of the check-point we profited of our pause there to check-out the park to observe and laugh with the funny performances of the gang of langur monkeys.

Langur Troop on a Banyan Tree
Langur Troop at Banyan Tree

Apparently there was a kind of dispute between 2 gangs of langurs. They did not fight, but they used any sort of place to escape of each other, jumping on car roofs, leaping between branches of a majestic banyan-tree in the middle of the check-point square, or just climbing the walls of the buildings around the Fort entrance. The locals did not appreciate too much the monkeys messing up on the jeeps roofs, and they just tried innocently to scare them away using handkerchiefs, obviously without any success.

Man Scaring Langur Off the Car Roof
Man Scaring Langur Off the Car Roof

Langurs at the temple
Langurs at the Temple

Langur Perfect Portrait
Langur Perfect Portrait

The morning game-drive came to its end without a single tiger sighting for the first time in our journey, but we had still our afternoon game-drive, and after refreshing in the swimming pool, watching the birds in the lodge gardens, and having lunch, we took a jeep back to the park again.

Rose-ringed parakeet at the lodge gardens
Rose-Ringed Parakeet at Dev Vilas Garden>

In that afternoon, the area to be explored was set to Route 5, a very dry route following the most eastern edge of core area of the park. New safari team again. The target for that game-drive was to try finding the male tiger T.5, seen in the morning game-drive by other people in that same route.

T.5 has a sister (T.6) and a brother (T.7); the three of them were frequently seen still together in the end of Route 5 where it rests the territory of their mother. The 3 sub-adults had been already expelled by the mother, but they were still around her domains and under her subtle supervision.

The Route 5 has no natural waterholes and the artificial ones are very small what turned this route less attractive, in our opinion; since there were also poor chances of seeing the local fauna around the water bodies as usually we could see along the other routes.

Along the road we took back towards the beginning of the Route 5 we asked the crew to stop the immediately the car – we saw a scene that we recall of having seen in photography books and also in Elliot’s blog where he told that he always wished to take a picture of a Langur surrounded by blossoms of the flame-of-forest tree. Inspired by his idea, as we had just spotted a couple of langurs on the top of a tree full of flame-of-forest flowers, we definitely did a stop.

Langur with flame-of-forest blossoms
Langurs with Flame-of-Forest Blossoms

The langurs were initially in the left side of the road where the sunlight was coming from, spoiling our attempts of achieving the ideal level of clarity and detail, but as they were very unquiet monkeys, they fortunately decided to change from that tree to another in the other side of the road where we could then see them with a more soft contrast in a more colorful background, despite having sometimes a branch blocking the view. Finally we could make it; we have got some frames of that fabulous ape eating picking and eating blossom by blossom until the tree had been nearly cleaned of their red flowers.

Langur eating blossoms
Langurs with Flame-of-Forest Blossoms

The joy of being with the langurs on those trees for so much time had been suddenly saddened by the fact that we should face the reality that our chances of spotting a tiger or another bigcat, such as a leopard, were absolutely exhausted. We returned to the hotel. That was the first day in our entire journey at the Indian National Parks that we could not see any tiger.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Ranthambhore – Day 01

Just after saying goodbye to all staff of Nature Heritage Resort we have been taken to the train station at Katni, where we took our sleeper train once again. We almost lost it, after having passed by a never-ending sequence of villages along the road between Bandhavgarh and Katni during the early evening hours; we have got to the train station just in time for getting in the wagon and go, and this rush had a cost, Cassio left his hat behind – most probably in the car back seat in the moment we parked in the station and took our luggage in the dark.

We passed more than 14 hours in that train, and finally arrived at Sawai Madhopur by the morning, and we have been taken to the Dev Vilas Hotel where we would spend the next 4 days to explore the Ranthambhore National Park. It was much hotter in Rajasthan than it was in Madhya Pradesh. The weather was extremely dry and we could notice differences immediately – there was that red dust everywhere and the scenery was mostly like semi-desert with dry and dry vegetation.

Typical Ranthambhore Scenery

The game-drives rules in Ranthambhore were different than in Bandhavgarh. There we had to share the jeep with guests of other hotels. The jeeps and guides did not belong to the hotel but to third-party companies hired by the Government; we were picked up by the jeep on the morning and afternoon, but it might be a different one each time – the guide/driver combination also changed, and they have a route assigned by the Forest Department before picking the guests at their hotels.

In Ranthambhore, there are 5 routes denominated by numbers from 1 to 5, being the Route 1 the one heading to the most Eastern side of the entrance while the Route 5 heads to the most western side of it – then the other 3 routes cover the East-Center, Center-Core and West-Center areas. The Route 3 is the one which covers the Core area, what is called the Heart-of-Ranthambhore where there is access to the Rajbagh Lake and it is the main area of the most famous tiger in the park: Machali, the oldest tiger in the touristic range if the park. Machali is to Ranthambhore what B2 is to Bandhavgarh.

Spoonbill Stork _MG_2693_F

In the first afternoon, we met our first guide: Ravindar. There was a main road starting in the first park gate that crosses a kind of Buffer Zone. This road took us to a second gate passing through a small canyon – after the gate, depending on what route we got, we could take a track to the right or to the left, or continue ahead. In that afternoon, we had Route 4, and then we continued ahead until reach the corresponding ranger’s checkpoint before entering the Route 4 itself. A very dusty track surrounded by rocky hills in both sides introduced us to this new environment, very different from Bandhavgarh.

Park main road

Welcome peacock
Peacock _MG_2785_F

We were still distracted assimilating the new scenery when the driver cried: Look! We immediately stopped the vehicle. There was something moving far away on the winding track ahead, but it was not close enough to distinguish what exactly animal it might be. We approached slowly and the guide then confirmed it was a tiger. That was really incredible that in the first 10 minutes of game-drive we could spot our first tiger in Ranthambhore – we were very excited with it.


The big cat was moving towards us actually, just walking calmly on the track, like a phantom not making any noise as the paw cushions smoothly touched the dusty ground. Despite the high temperature at that time, the tiger was moving around showing being plainly adapted to that tough weather. Ravindar explained that tigers would prefer to walk on the tracks indeed because the track would be cooler than going the rocks and bushes, but we indeed expected that they would be much more lethargic than they actually proved to be under such temperature.


T.17 is her name, a young but already adult tigress. In Ranthambhore the tigers do not get a name, but a number – less charming isn’t it? There are 34 tigers in the Ranthambhore core area and T.17 rules over a territory in the border of routes 4, 3 and 2, closer to the entrance. She does not have any cubs in the moment.


T.17 kept coming towards us and we backed off a couple of times along the route to give her more space. She walked to the left of the car making us think that she would go to the stream running just along the road, but then she turned to the right towards the hills and set her route away from us.


T.17 has 2 sisters, T.18 and T.19 and they are all Machali’s daughters (Machali is also known as T.16 – her official tag). T.17 had a female cub baptized of T.1, who was transferred together with T.18, her sister, to Sariska Reserve, the national park which has lost all his tigers to poaching. That is a truly sad story.


We could barely notice, but T.17 was wearing a radio collar for tracing. Ravindar said that 3 tigers use collars in Ranthambhore, and we personally guess that the collar may be necessary not for scientific research but to monitor T.17 just because her territory is on the edge of the core area, bordering the buffer zone where there are still active Hindu temples and many villagers circulating by bicycle or even by foot.


After T.17 vanished in the bushes on her way to the hills, we continued our journey into the Route 4, then feeling a big relief since we succeed spotting our tiger of the day. Along the route we saw many other animals and specially birds – and it was noticeable that the wildlife there was a bit different of Bandhavgarh. It was much easier to spot birds and frequently multiple species together.

Painted Stork
Painted Stork _MG_2717_F

Black-headed Ibis
Black-headed Ibis _MG_2722_F

The Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher _MG_2710_F

We came across a big waterhole in halfway to the end of the Route 4, where crocodiles were taking sunbath to raise their body temperature and chital deers browsed the grass and profited of the black drongos on their back to get rid of the parasites just like the well-known buffalos and oxpeckers symbiosis in Africa.

Crocodile Sunbath
Crocodile _MG_2728_F

Drongos and Chitals
Black Drongos on Chital Back _MG_2746_F

Framed by the spotted deer legs

Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt _MG_2702_F

Next we reached an area called Lakarda where a village used to exist before being relocated to the buffer zone. Lakarda is Machali’s territory, but there was no sign of her that afternoon. We then took the track to the very end part of the Route 4, a very rocky slope making the contour of a deep and shady valley. There we spent some time trying to track a leopard that lives in a cave around there; however we followed the loud Sambhar deer alarm calls for quite some time without success. Leopards are really extremely elusive cats. I already confess that despite all promising attempts, we had no chance to see a leopard in India. Maybe on next time.

Busy waterhole

Chital Stallion

The end of the first game-drive approached and we just made half-turn and went back to the ranger’s checkpoint and headed out of the park. It was a really great start, we could see an adult female tiger and many other animals – the Ranthambhore Park is different and beautiful.

Back in the hotel, the swimming pool was waiting for our evening splash. We went all the way back to the hotel already dreaming about the next safaris…

Langur Family
Langur Family _MG_2770_F

Baby Langur
Baby Langur _MG_2774_F

Note: you can click on the picture to take you to the original size picture in our Flickr album page, being better to see the photographs you like. Or if you may want to go straight to our Flickr page, please access the link Our Flickr Page