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Rhinos in Kazairanga and Tigers in Ranthambhore


Brian's Art for Animals
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Brian's Art for Animals

I recently got back from a 10 day safari (Feb 23-March 4) in India in which I visited both Kaziranga and Ranthambhore National Parks. I will eventually do a proper video report like my other Youtube Safari Series, but for now I wanted to do this quick photo report. I have the next video for my ‘Tanzania Strikes Back’ series for anyone following that video blog.

 

India: I visited two parks and did 5 drives in each park as well as a morning trip to the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary.  (2 hours away from Kaziranga.) All travel plans booked by the excellent small company TIGER JOURNEY.

Kaziranga: After a bumpy and interesting 4 hour drive from the Guwahati airport I settled in at the beautiful Infinity Lodge, which was about 10 minutes from the Central gate. The staff, food, and room all were great. Before this trip I thought the only real way to insure you see Rhino was to book an elephant safari. Well, on the way to the lodge we could see rhino off to the distance from the road, so I had high hopes in seeing many while officially in the park. I took my first jeep ride the following day in the Central zone and then the evening ride in the Western Zone. Both zones offered many excellent viewings of rhinos both in the fields and right along the road. I had an old 75-300mm lens but it was more than enough to get some close up photos.

What I liked best about Kaziranga was the pace of the drives. It felt a lot like Africa in which you see multiple species and slowly make your way around. As anyone who has been to India knows your usual safari drive there is racing around either listening for alarm calls or waiting for your driver to get a phone call about a tiger crossing the road. It’s all about tiger, tiger, tiger. But even though Kaziranga has the highest density of tigers, actually seeing them there is very rare. One goes to Kaziranga for rhinos, of which there are plenty.

 As for tigers, I did see one cross the road (I was the only one at my lodge to see a tiger there in the past 10 days) and it was nice and unexpected, even though the guy in the jeep in front of me partially blocked my videoing of the tiger.

 I did a side trip (2 and a half hours away) to the Gibbon Park. Pretty much 8 square miles of forest surrounded by tea and rice fields. I did a walk with my guide and an armed guard from the Park for about 90 minutes. We saw the hard to find stump-tailed macaque up high in the canopy, and sitting on the side of the main road was a  pig-tailed macaque. Our guide and guard were both very happy as I guess both species were not seen in a long while. And on our walk back we found a few of the hoolock gibbons. (The only ape found in India.) I would strongly suggest to anyone making their way to Kaziranga to also include this side trip to go look for gibbons.

 That night back at Kaziranga on the PM Safari (usually 2:30pm to 5pm) was when I saw the tiger crossing in the Eastern Zone. I did do one AM elephant safari since I had pre booked it. It was ok and all, but nothing I would do again since you can easily see the rhinos from your jeep. I guess during the rainy season when the roads are washed away, the elephants are your only real option. All in all, Kazirana is a beautiful park with lots of wildlife including hog deer, eagles, owls, elephants, rhino, and tigers (which sadly you probably won’t see).

 The second park visited was the famous Ranthambhore. I stayed at the Kothi lodge (excellent pool, rooms, food, staff) which is located off the main road a little, but still 5 minutes from the gate for zones 1-5, which currently are the better zones for tiger sightings. I did five drives and had tiger sightings on two of them. The other drives were stilled filled with sambar deer, eagles, crocodiles, many bird species, giant fruit bats, boars and on one drive I saw the elusive jungle cat crossing the road, and on another the more elusive leopard. The video link is from the quick leopard sighting in which it had a still alive peafowl in its mouth. I shared the jeep there since it cost more than Kaziranga, which I was able to book a whole jeep for myself. The people I shared it with for a few drives were kind of annoying as they wanted to keep going no matter what we saw., They had no idea or appreciation on how hard it is to see leopards and to some degree tiger. I did meet a nice couple at the train station on the way home that took 6 safari drives and didn’t have a single tiger sighting. I felt sorry for them as on all three of my India trips I have seen tiger. But I make sure to book at least 4- to 5 drives per park and listen to the guides when they want to sit still after hearing alarm calls and wait. Some other jeeps were lucky and saw sloth bear, but I wasn’t that lucky. I liked the views at Ranthambhore a little more than Bandhavgarh (which I visited on my first two trips to India), but really both parks offer you the best chance to see tigers.

 After Ranthambhore it was a 7 hour train ride to Delhi, a 4 hour flight to Abu Dhabi, and then 15 hours back home to Chicago. (Where sadly I learned my wife had to have our rescue Friesian horse put down while I was away.)  Still getting over that sad event. But hopefully time will help heal. At any rate, I hope you enjoy the photos and video and feel free to ask any questions you may have.

 (I can figure out how to post photos..will do that soon..when I learn....for now here is a video of that leopard experience..)

 

 

Edited by Brian's Art for Animals
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Wow, very cool leopard sighting. We had an equally brief (but a bit less exciting!) leopard sighting in Ranthambhore last year.

 

Currently planning a return trip to Ranthambhore for next year so I'm glad to hear you liked Kothi Lodge---that's one of the lodges we are considering--still undecided about lodging. The first trip we stayed at the Ranthambhore Bagh, but that is closing down this June (and I wouldn't have gone back there anyway...it was too far from the gate and there were some other minuses.)

 

I look forward to the rest of your report and photos.

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Very cool sighting, we must jphave just missed you as we arrived Ranthambhore on March 4th.  Our l’ASR drive was in zone 5, and we had a nice sighting, but not of a leopard.  

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Looks like you had an exciting trip.  Instructions for photo posting will be coming, I believe.  Then we'll see your rhinos and tigers.

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Brian's Art for Animals

Janzin, yes the lodge was very nice. Very friendly staff and they helped me when I needed to change more money for tips etc... The area actually has too many lodges and that is why some are closing. There are only so many tourist and one driver told me many of the lodges are charging just enough to stay open.

At any rate I loved Kaziranga. I think I was the only American I came across. Doesn't seem to get as much attention as the other parks.

 

 

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Great leopard sighting. It was so surprising to recognise you sitting in the back of the jeep! Pen

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Brian's Art for Animals

Yes that leopard sighting was just minutes right before our jeeps crossed (along with seeing so many students on safari that week, all from the University at Seas program). It was funny you said you were from SafariTalk. We should all get "SAFARITALK" hats or something to wear out there on Safari so we know who the real serious safari people are :)

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Brian's Art for Animals

I should mention about the photos above (hopefully they are showing through..)

 

the top one is from Kaziranga. Not the best rhino photo I took, but it was the one with the biggest horn.

Next is a gibbon from the HGS park.

The third photo is Ranthambhore (Zone 3) tiger (Arrowhead) with her two cubs. We had to wait a long time for the cubs to finally show themselves. I was impressed at how quiet a ton of people across a small creek in jeeps can be. I wish I had a bigger lens and photo skills for that shot. I hope the two cubs are still alive and well.

And last was from zone 5 and my last minutes of my last drive in Ranthambhore. A young tigress poked her beautiful self out of the woods after no one was seeing anything but trees and birds..it was worth sticking it out and hoping for the best. We were the only jeep to se her that drive. She slowly walked across the street after sniffing a tree for a while. It was perfect.

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Great tiger cubs.  Can you tell us how you arranged Ranthambhore?  So nice to learn the spectators were behaving admirably.

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Brian's Art for Animals

Thanks..my old canon rebel and the basic 75-300mm lens held up in all the travels and dust.the entire trip was done by Vedant at TIGER JOURNEY www.tigerjourney.in. I used him last time (Oct 2017) for my zookeepers group and it was excellent service. His uncles are both guide/drivers in Bandhavgarh.

I might go to N. India/Nepal and try to see the red pandas sometime late 2020, early 2021?? and again I would use Vedant and Tiger Journey. He knows to get which zones are best for the tigers and has a great reputation amongst the lodges/ drivers/ parks etc...

 
As for getting there-after 3 days at Kaziranga I took a flight from Guwahati to Jaipur (went sightseeing for a day in beausitul Jauipur) and then was driven a few hours away to Ranthambhore.

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