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Ranthambhore, India


mvecht
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I have just finished a short business trip that took me to Kota in Rajasthan. On the way back to Delhi I stayed 2 nights in Sawai Madhopur to potentially see some Tigers. I stayed at the Ranthambhore Bagh which had a very intersting homepage. The rate was very reasonble, 57 Euro pr night including all meals. Rooms were very basic but the food was reasonable.

I had booked 4 drives into the park and had to decided to spend alittle extra and have a private vehicle.

Every drive I would have a different driver and a different guide. The quality of the guides varied quite a bit with two of them showing very little interest and only having the most basice knowledge of the birds in the area.

In Ranthambhore there are seven different zones (read loops). Every drive you are alotted a zone and also told which direction you are to drive this loop. You are not supposed to do any detours or turn back along a route you have already taken. The loops vary in length, topography and your chances to see Tigers.

On each loop there will be a predefined number of jeeps and 20 seater open buses. Sightings can be quite chaotic as you can have 7-8 jeeps/buses at the same sighting and especially the buses are quite noisy. It is accepted practice to stand up in the vehicles at a sighting.

According to the park webpage they have numerous species of mammals but most of the species are either rare or nocturnal (drives are only conducted in daylight). You will see a lot of deer, some warthogs, Mongoose, Squirrels and then potentially Tigers and Leopards.

My first drive was in zone 3. This is by far the smallest zone but it has a lot of water and is therefor an attractive zone that offers good Tiger sightings. On this drive I did not see Tiger but did see a male Blue Bull. The guide was not very good and his birding skills were poor. The next mrning a different guide. He showed up early and we were the first people to enter the park. This time zone 3 again. Both the guide and the driver did some tracking of a male Tiger and said it would be on the border between zone 2 and 3. We took a spin around the lakes and came back to the place where they believed the Tiger would be. Other jeeps in zone two had seen the Tiger move into some thick vegetation and after 15 minutes it was found laying down in the thick vegetation. For the next two hours it would remain sleeping and we would drive away a couple of times and come back. We were starting to run out of time but when we returned the Tiger had started moving into zone 2. The guide took a quick decision and took us into zone 2 (at this time we had picked up a park official with a camera, this may explain why the driver risked going into the other zone). For 15 seconds we had a decent sighting but the Tiger looked to be headed in the wrong direction.

My guide rushed the driver to go in an (for me) unexpected direction, and soon all the other vehicles from our zone were following us. We got in position but after a few minutes wating the guide repositioned us, resulting in all the other vehicles following. One minute later the male Tiger appeared on top of a ridge and then slowly moved in our direction crossing the road in front of our jeep. It then procedded down to the water and made a shallow water crossing where it tried very hard not t tried not get wet in true cat fashion. This guide also new his birds and plants

The weather had been a bit strange and we actually had some rain and heavy wind gusts and in the afternoon it turned even worse. We had been given zone 1, which is not a very attractive zone from a sightings and topography point of view. We hardly saw any mammals but did see a snake attemting to kill a frog. Very late in the drive we came across a Leopard and her cub. They were quite shy and impossible to photograph but still a good sighting. The female Leopard had killed a male Spotted Deer, only five meters from the road. There were only two vehicles at the sighting and the other vehicle took of after a few minutes. We were running out of time and also had to leave the sighting to get out of the park in time. At the site there were several good "Leopard Trees" so I asked if there was any chance I could get back to this zone on the fianl morning. The guide promised to arrange it but the next morning I found myself in zone 4!. An attractive zone but no significant sightings. This time a had a really bad guide who hardly spoke and English. He made it even worse when we left the sone check point. ANother vehicle passed on the main road and told that there was a Tiger on the main road not very far away. Our guide quickly turned around and told the vehicles behind us about the sighting whereafter he rushed the driver to take us out of the park away from the Tiger! I asked why and he told me that we had run out of time!

All in all I enjoyed the trip but I would not paln a trip solely around Ranthambhore.

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Thanks for the very interesting report. Sounds quite an effort to view Tigers.

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Michael, thanks for your report.

Despite having a couple of reasonable sightings, your report confirms why I will not return to Ranthambore until the system is overhauled. I was extremely lucky to have some great sightings during my 3 nights there but found the zone system very frustrating. I agree with the intention to spread visitors across the entire park but dislike the forced routes, some of which are such long loops that the drivers are forced to speed the guests around in order to get back out on time, unable to allow more than a minute or two at a sighting.

Guiding standards in general are quite low, though this is one area in which money talks - staying at the high end properties tends to give best chances at being assigned a better guide.

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Very informative. Thank you.

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Brian's Art for Animals

As someone who wants to go see a wild tiger hopefully in 2011, i found this informative. I guess the best thing is to go to 2 parks and pray hard, and not to expect the amount of game you would see in Africa.

I often thought the wild tiger is in trouble due to the nature of its being. It is harder to see (thus harder for people to enjoy/appreciate) and less eco tourism is built around it.

BUT in seeing that in many places in Africa you almost trip over lions seeing them so often, and they will sleep often in the open allowing a million pictures to be taken of them..but yet they are in trouble as well with their low numbers.

 

Thanks again for your report.

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  • 2 weeks later...
madaboutcheetah

Hi Michael,

 

True. Can be quite frustrating -but, atleast you saw the Tigers.

 

Besides that, hope you enjoyed India and hope you return soon.

 

Shall email you over the weekend.

 

Cheers

Hari

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  • 4 weeks later...
madaboutcheetah

Michael,

 

Hope you don't mind my addition to your trip report, thread.

 

I just heard from friends who returned from Kabini (Nagarhole reserve) in Karnataka - they saw Dholes (Indian Wild dogs), A Tiger, a Leopard, Hundreds of Elephants and Gaur in their visit from last weekend.

 

Apparently, they saw Tiger every day during Jan and Feb of this year in that reserve.

 

Cheers,

Hari

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  • 2 months later...
USAnimalfan

We went there a few years back and did three game drives and saw zero tigers. We did see a rare caracal early one morning though. Poaching is a big problem in India. I really liked seeing peacocks in the wild.

 

I have also heard that there are other areas in India where it is easier to see tigers, but these locations are more difficult to get to.

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