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Taj, Tigers and Mother Ganga

Filip A

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Earlier this year I made my third consecutive trip to India.


In October 2018 we visited the leopards of Bera, the Jain temples in Ranakpur, Ranthambhore and Jaipur.


My visit last year in May-June 2019 was all about tigers in Ranthambhore.


This year, my daughter joined me as she had a week off after her university exams. We opted for a mixture of culture and wildlife (tigers).


Together with @Abhishek Sharma (Wild World India) we decided on the following itinerary :


Jan 30th          Flight from Brussels to Delhi via Munich (Lufthansa) -  Pride Plaza

Jan 31st          Transfer to Agra - Crystal Sarovar Premier

Feb 1st            Agra

Feb 2nd           Transfer to Rantambhore (afternoon game drive) - Ranthambhore Kothi

Feb 3th            Ranthambhore full day game drive

Feb 4th            Ranthambhore full day game drive

Feb 5th            Ranthambhore full day game drive

Feb 6th            Transfer to Jaipur - flight to Varanasi - Suryauday Haveli

Feb 7th            Varanasi

Feb 8th            Varanasi

Feb 9th            Flight from Varanasi to Delhi and international flight back to Brussels


We certainly didn't want to rush from one place to another. So we deliberately chose to stay in Agra for two nights in order to fully enjoy the fantastic Taj Mahal.

The same goes for Varanasi where we stayed for a total of three nights to experience the special atmosphere of this remarkable city with its ghats, sadhus and the holy river Ganges.


I have to admit that I'm a bit reluctant to start this report because there are already several fantastic reports on Ranthambhore and I certainly don't want to interfere with those of @Treepol and @janzin





Taj Mahal in the morning light



Probably the most famous and most popular tigers of Ranthambhore nowadays : two sub-adult daughters of T84 Arrowhead



View from our hotel room in Varanasi : sunrise over Mother Ganga

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Never too many reports from Ranthambore, everyone has different trips. 

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@Filip A there can never be too many trip reports on a magnificent park like Ranthambhore and it’s Striped superstars. I heard from Abhishek that you visited just before we did and I’ve been looking forward to your TR. Beautiful photo introduction, looking forward to more when you have time. 

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I never can get enough of Ranthambhore :) Being that I'm way behind on processing my photos from my trip (I got side-tracked with spring migration here)...which was a few weeks after yours...it will be awhile before I get to my report. So forge on with yours!


Edited by janzin
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On 6/7/2020 at 11:39 PM, Treepol said:

@Filip A there can never be too many trip reports on a magnificent park like Ranthambhore and it’s Striped superstars. I heard from Abhishek that you visited just before we did and I’ve been looking forward to your TR. Beautiful photo introduction, looking forward to more when you have time. 

@Treepol some pictures from the first two days of our trip will look familiar :)

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After a good night sleep and a nice breakfast we left Delhi for Agra, where we arrived around noon, after a four hour drive.


We stayed in Crystal Sarovar Premier, a pleasant but busy hotel. The hotel is situated outside the city center in an area which does not immediately invite you to make an evening stroll. On the other hand, Taj Mahal is only a short distance away (a few minutes by car).


The room was spacious, clean and comfortable, the food in the restaurant was great, the staff was very friendly and the hotel has a cozy roof top bar with a nice view over the city and Taj Mahal.




Room with a view


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The plan for the afternoon was to visit I’timad-Ud-Daulah and Mehtab Bagh.


I’timad-Ud-Daulah was built under the commission of Queen Nur Jahan as a mausoleum for her parents.

The interior decoration is considered to have inspired that of the Taj Mahal, which was built later by her stepson.

For that reason, the tomb is often called Baby Taj.
















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A good start … off to Mehtab Bagh or Moonlight Garden.


This garden complex measures about 300 by 300 meters and is perfectly aligned with the Taj Mahal on the opposite side of the Yamuna river.

From the gardens you have a fantastic view of Taj Mahal.





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The next day : a visit to one of the most famous and most wonderful monuments in the word : Taj Mahal.


Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum, commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favorite wife. It also houses the tomb of the emperor himself.


Our aim was to start our visit as early as possible in the morning in order to avoid the crowds but, according to our guide,  there would be (a lot of) fog coming from over the Yamuna river, so he advised us to wait until 9am, when it would be clear again.


We were a little bit sceptic about his idea but in the end we agreed.

And he was right, when we woke up, it was a very foggy morning, we couldn’t even see the monument anymore from our hotel room.


We started our guided visit at around 9am until 11.30 am. By that time the light was harsh and the place became very crowded.








Facing both sides of the tomb : two grand red sandstone buildings that mirror each other. This building is a mosque.








11.30 am




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Before returning to the hotel for our lunch and well deserved rest, we visited the Agra Fort.


The fort served as a residence for the Mogul emperors.

Nowadays parts of this enormous complex are open for public, another part is used by the Indian military services.
















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In the afternoon we had some time left and we both wanted to visit Taj Mahal a second time, just on our own, to enjoy the always changing colors, reflecting on the monument.






Just before sunset, a yellow color spreads a unique hue on the Taj Mahal, just wonderful !






We left at 6.15pm, I'm sorry for the overload of Taj Mahal pictures.


Tomorrow morning we're leaving for Ranthambhore.




6.15 pm

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Thanks for posting! Beautiful shots of Taj Mahal! Looking forward to more tiger pictures....

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20 hours ago, mtanenbaum said:

Thanks for posting! Beautiful shots of Taj Mahal! Looking forward to more tiger pictures....


@mtanenbaum thank you very much

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We both loved our visit to Agra very much but we were also looking forward to Ranthambhore.

For my daughter, this was her second visit to the park. For me, it was my third time and I was (maybe just a little bit 😊) anxious to, hopefully, see Arrowheads (sub-adult) cubs again.


We left Agra early in the morning for a six hours drive to Ranthambhore.


We arrived at the hotel around noon. Once again we stayed in Hotel Ranthambhore Kothi, a nice hotel, just 5 minutes away from the main entrance of the park.

No stress, enough time to unpack, have some lunch and prepare for our first afternoon drive.



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Our “dreamteam”, Mr Himmat Singh (driver) and Mr Rajkumar Gurjar (guide) were already waiting for us in the lobby. It was nice to see them again.


I’m convinced that the right combination of driver and guide makes a huge difference on both the quality of your safari experience and on your possible sightings.

Himmat and Rajkumar proved, once again, to be a fantastic duo.

Of course, it’s wildlife and you’ll never know what will happen, but we had some fantastic sightings we will never forget.


Safari timings in February are from 6.30 – 10.00am and from 2.30 – 6.00pm.


For this afternoon safari we were assigned zone 3, the zone of T84 Arrowhead and her two sub-adult cubs (approx. 15 months old).

During the morning drive the tiger family had been spotted nearby one of the lakes, bordering zone 3 and zone 4. We were hopeful they would still be there.


We parked our jeep and a few minutes later the first youngster came out …






... soon followed by her sister




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We tried to follow them as suddenly the Queen herself made her appearance.








Arrowhead gave us one last look and ran off into the dense forest.




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One of her daughters however was still there.














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A few minutes later, she reunited with her sister and both went back to the lake.




Their playground, and we had a spot on the first row. The spectacle was about to begin.




























By then it was already 5.30 pm so we had to go back to the gate. What a thrilling first drive !

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WOW, how fabulous to see the cubs playing in the lake! And on your first drive too! Amazing! Very jealous :lol:


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What a wonderful sighting of the cubs at the lake.


I am sorry that we didn't have any "tiger in the water" sightings, oh well maybe next time. For now, I am enjoying your TR very much.

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For the next three days we booked full day safaris. Before October 2019 this allowed people to have a free transit between the different zones for the whole day long.

Since October 2019 ,however, the rules have been changed. Forest department decided that all vehicles with a full day permit have to leave the prime tiger zones (1-5) between 10.00am and 2.30pm.

As a consequence they have to spend the 4.5 hours (between 10am and 2.30pm) in zones 6 to 10, which are considered as non-prime tiger zones.

By 2.30pm you are allowed to return to zone 1-5.


As there is no real entrance gate but just a chain hanging over the road, locked with a key we asked our guides how the forest department can monitor this situation. Apparently there are some patrolling officers in the park and every jeep carries a GPS-tracker. During our stay we noticed that all concerning jeeps (only 5 jeeps are allowed for full day safaris + some VIP jeeps) strictly followed the rules and timings of this new regulation.


Important remark is that the transfer to and from zone 6 can be done inside the park, so  you don’t have to leave the park and drive back via the normal route to Sawai Madhopur, which can easily take between 45 and 60 minutes depending on the traffic.


The transfer from zone 6 is possible via zone 1 and / or zone 2, which means there is always a chance to spot a tiger or other wildlife during this drive.

The comments / experiences regarding zone 6 are mixed. Sometimes tiger or other wildlife can be seen very easily but zone 6 can also be real frustrating without any sighting. I believe both @Treepol and @janzin didn’t have any luck in this zone during their stay.


A year ago zone 6 was really a top tiger zone with 5 different tigers (T8 Ladli with her two (almost adult) sons T108 Jai and T109 Veeru, T34 Kumbha and T39 Noor).

However, after the monsoon of 2019, the two brothers left this area to search for their own territory elsewhere. This was fatal for T109 Veeru as he got killed in a territorial fight in zone 10.

T34 and T39 are still there but they get a little older and occupy only a small part of this area.


T8 Ladli was also still there and, at the time of our visit, had three little cubs from about 4 months old.

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Our second day we started in zone 3 again but it was very quiet early in the morning.

Time to enjoy other wildlife and the beautiful scenery.


Zone 3 












Rufous treepie




Painted stork




Spotted owlet








Sambar deer







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Suddenly, while we were having breakfast (in zone 6) our guides heard some roaring and a few seconds later, both T34 Kumbha and T39 Noor came out of the dense vegetation, crossed the road, and started mating.


We were literally taken by surprise, so by the time we could react, the mating was already over.




Time for a rest




T34 Kumbha




T39 Noor




Second attempt … wrong place, wrong direction :angry:






And time for some rest again ...




We waited for a third attempt but Noor decided otherwise and left …






… soon followed by Kumbha




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