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Ranthambhore 2013


lmSA84
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Hi,

 

I only recently found the great resource that is ST, when researching my impending trip to the Pantanal, and have found it so useful that I wanted to share a few of my experiences in the hope that they will be of use to others.

 

My first trip report is from Ranthambhore – for context we visited the park in June 22nd – 26th 2013.

 

I’ll start with a few tips for anyone considering visiting:

 

1. Try to travel in late May to June – there are three good reasons

a. The vegetation is thinner which makes viewing easier but also…

b. …it makes the Jeeps a more appropriate form of transport because the higher ground clearance provided by the cantors (large 20 person people carrier) is not required. For context all vehicles should be provided by the park service and they offer two forms – Cantors (20 person carrier) and Jeeps (6 person carrier) – you can pick your vehicle when booking your trips into the park. All vehicles appear to have seen considerable action in the Vietnam War, are in a horrendous condition, will at times literally disintegrate during the course of the safari and have no suspension which will lead at times to severe pain in your back and legs (for context I’m 29, moderately athletic and these trips still hurt at times)

c. It is the low season and if your lucky (as we were) you might get unseasonable rain shower which will turn the park an emerald green without over thickening the bush.

If you do go I would recommend either Khem Villas or Ranthambhore Bagh. We only stayed at Khem Villas but the owners of Ranthambhore Bagh were very useful whilst planning our trip and are clearly very wildlife centric. There is no accommodation in the park.

 

There are four good reasons to stay at Khem Villas, particularly if go during late May/June.

 

a. Khem Villas has a wonderful wild estate (excellent for bird watching) whilst providing good value luxury – which is required after the daily beating which you take in the park

b. The best thing about Khem Villas is Nidhan Singh – Nidhan is their resident naturalist (former Ranthambhore park warden of ~15 years) and he is available as a private guide during the low season. The benefit that we derived from having Nidhan as a private guide was critical to our success

 

c. During the low season they are able to facilitate booking private jeeps (still park vehicles) so that you go into the park with just your party and Nidhan

d. The customer service at Khem Villas is exceptional all the way through the organisation from the ownership through to to the manager, Nidhan and the waiters

We only booked their standard rooms in the main building rooms but given they were so empty we were upgraded to a cottage with a view of a small man-made lake. On one night we were only guests at the resort and they served us a private candle lit meal, very romantic and testament to their belief in customer service. I’ve shared some images taken in Khem Villas below.

 

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The cottage we stayed in, (I think it was cottage no.8 but honestly I can't remember), the image is taken from path leading to the small lake

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Purple Sunbirds feed by the cottages

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Fledgling Spotted Owlet in the tree behind the cottage

 

Now to the actual safaris. In total we booked 5 safaris into the park and a one day trip to the Ranthambhore Fort followed by an evening drive along the park fence looking for Leopard (actual night safaris are not permitted in the park).

 

During our safaris we saw an excellent range of wildlife including Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer (Chital), Nilgai, Indian Gazelle (Chinkara), Wild Boar, Mugger Crocodile, Small Indian Mongoose, Jackals, Grey Languars, Rufous Tailed Hares, Monitor Lizards and Tigers (4 different Tigers in total). We also saw a great range of birds, ~80 species including a few local specialties - Painted Spurfowl, Great Thick-knee and Painted Sandgrouse.

 

Day 1

 

On day 1 we were allocated zone 1 for both our morning and evening safaris. Zone 1 is one of the first zones you enter when entering the park through the main gate. It has a large thick forest in what I understood to be its northern portion whereas the southern half is comparatively dry and open. It has a river running through it (was dry when we were there) and is a small zone with limited tracks – as such drives in this zone often involve a stop for 20 mins to kill time (each drive is meant to take circa 3.5hrs).

 

Nevertheless, it was a productive zone for us with Sambar Deer, Grey Languar, Nilgai and one excellent sighting of T24 in the morning safari and a second glimpse in the afternoon trip.

 

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T24 was stalking a Nilgai when we first saw him. He actually snuck up on us and a whole group of vehicles. He had been previously spotted by a wildlife documentary crew, hence all the vehicles were waiting around. Unfortunately, the hunt ended prematurely when the melee of scrambling vehicles that ensued startled the Nilgai.

 

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This a great example of how good Nidhan was during our trip. When every other vehicle drove towards the tiger we drove against and away from the traffic to the top of small dry river bed and waited. It took 5-10mins but eventually T24 walked past the traffic, into the river bed and directly towards and eventually within touching distance of our vehicle. Frankly a bit close given he's believed to be the 2nd biggest in the park at >200kgs.

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T24 ate grass next to us for a while before walking off

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Day 2

 

On day 2 we were again given zone 1 but Nidhan had it changed (its meant to be a random allocation but there is some flexibility if you keep getting the same zone) and we visited zone 4 in the morning and zone 3 in the evening.

 

Zone 2 and 3 are both much larger than 1 – at least they certainly have more tracks. They both have large bodies of standing water and are largely comprised of dry scrub land. The distinction between them is that Zone 3 is the most beautiful given that it has the iconic lake side ruins and Zone 4 has large mountainous ridge which you need to climb up onto and traverse.

 

In the morning we didn’t have much luck in zone 4 other then adding Wild Boar, Monitor Lizards, and Chital to our list.

 

In the evening in Zone 3 we were much more successful with wonderful sighting of Indian Gazelle, Jackal pups, large mixed groups of Sambar / Chital, a Honey Buzzard raiding a beehive and 2 sub adult Tigers (both male, roughly 22 months). The sub adults are part of a group of 3 cubs raised by T11.

 

Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the female cub or the mother (it actually appears that aside from Machali the females are comparatively shy) and in the case of the mother they think she might be dead (at the time they hadn't seen her for a while and were becoming concerned).

 

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Zone 3 - iconic view

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Indian Gazelle

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Brahminy Starling

 

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Muggar Crocodile - interestingly when I showed my photos to a group school children this was their favourite, even above the Tiger's, they explained that they have a special reverence for Crocodiles.

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Jackal pups at dusk - there were 3 but only one had the bravery to pose

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Male sub adult ~22 months, one of the three cubs of T11

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This isn't a great photo but the behavior is interesting. This is an Oriental or Crested Honey Buzzard (depending on your bird book) feeding on a beehive. The hive is located in the crook of an old tree and the bird is reaching down into the hive. I'm a keen birder and I've seen European Honey Buzzards before but it never occurred to me that a raptor of this size would actually feed on honey.

Day 3

 

On day 3 we were given zone 5, which is a large zone, heavily forested in parts with a dam and some mountainous terrain. It was in this zone that Nidhan did a particularly wonderful job – he knows the routine of T6 very well and as soon as we entered the zones we raced to a spot in the road where the frequently marks his territory and there he was. It was a wonderful experience and most fortunately it was a private experience, we spent nearly 20mins following him as he walked down the road without a single other vehicle (very rare in Ranthambhore)!

 

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T6 early morning scent marking

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This was my favourite shot of our journey. For context T6 is smaller and younger than T24 but you can see that by comparing his paw size and the vehicle track next to it, that's not undersized by any means.

 

Overall, we loved Ranthambhore and I would recommend it to anyone. As I noted though at the top it is important to pre-plan and if at all possible visit in late June.

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Great pictures. Zone 3 especially looks very beautiful. (Never got to that one unfortunately when I visited the park.) You certainly were lucky with tigers - great encounters, and even "private" ones - wonderful! Love the jackal pups as well.

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@@lmSA84 Welcome SafariTalk it's always good to see a few tigers making an appearance.

 

Seeing an oriental honey buzzard attacking a bee’s nest is a good thing to see, despite their name these birds are not actually buzzards they're more closely related to kites and they don’t generally eat honey either. They are predominantly insectivorous and almost specialise in taking bees and wasps and hornets particularly the larvae but they also take the adults so I think it’s more likely the buzzard was after the bee grubs than the actual honey. The scientific name of the European honey buzzard is Pernis apivorus the species name means bee-eating.

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@ImSA84 thanks so much for posting this very scenic TR from Ranthambore. Fabulous tiger photos and Nidhan certainly came up trumps with his knowledge of T6s routine. I especially like the peaceful photo of the ruin across the lake with the chittal in the foreground and all the different shades of green.

 

I am planning an Indian safari for Feb-Apr 2016 and have Ranthambore on my list with a stay Khem Villas.

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Thanks for the kind comments and especially to @@inyathi for the knowledge.

 

@@inyathi I enjoyed your Pantanal trip report and I wanted to ask which bird guide you used in the region?

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@@lmSA84 thanks

 

On my Brazil trip the guide was Andrew Spencer from Tropical Birding who arranged the trip; they are a specialist birding company based in Quito Ecuador that operates birding tours around the world but with a particular focus on South America, they do also now offer photography tours as well. Certainly if you want to do a birding tour to the Pantanal & elsewhere in Brazil or to most other parts of South America (except Guyana where they don't go) then I would recommend them, their guides are always excellent.

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  • 2 months later...

@@lmSA84

 

This is a good bird guide

 

Wildlife Conservation Society of Brazil

BIRDS OF BRAZIL

The Pantanal & Cerrado of Central Brazil

4 authors : Gwynne, Tudor, Ridgely &Argel

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Really great recommendations for Ranthambhore and really great pictures. Thanks so much! Do you have Nidhan Singh to thank for your avatar picture?

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Excellent pictures and details. Ranthambhore is a park that has had a lot of problems, but good to see the superb tiger viewing you had.

 

Have you seen this video of a tiger chasing a jeep with tourists there- note: poor quality video and having to endure a minute of a phone ad before viewing, but still worth seeing.

 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqzkEYf6YEU

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@@Bush dog - thanks, I have actually just returned from the Pantanal and I used both the WCS guide and the Ber Van Perlo guide. You're absolutely right though that the WCS guide is the better choice - the drawings are comparatively poor in the Van Perlo guide.

 

@@Atravelynn - thanks. Yep my avatar is T6. All thanks to Nidhan.

 

@@AKR1 - thanks. No, I hadn't seen it!! The tourist's commentary really makes that video. I'm frankly not surprised. All the tigers we saw seemed to be completely unfazed by the vehicles and we were told that T24 is believed to have killed two pilgrims (no idea if its true or not but that is what vehicle guide said!).

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Nice report. We stayed at Khem Villas as well, this past February, and very much enjoyed their food and hospitality all-round.

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Nice report, thanks for sharing!! One correction, T11's area is no where close to zone 3. Zone 3 has only one dominant female and that is T19 and is very much alive and is nursing a litter of 3 right now. This pic is of T64 (male) from the first litter of T19 and not T11

 

Regards

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