THRILLING SAFARI EXPERIENCE- 3 FEET AWAY FROM TIGER T34 AKA KUMBHA IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK, RAJASTHAN , INDIA.
This blog is about my Tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan in India. We spotted the tiger Kumbha aka T 34 and watched its movement from a dangerous distance of merely 3 feet.
NOW YOU SEE A TIGER, NOW YOU DON’T:
We had barely entered the zone 6 when we saw the first tiger in the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, India. It was around 8:20 a.m. Balancing ourselves on the unruly safari jeep, we entered the ancient gate, built in typical Rajasthani architecture. A vestige from Rajasthan’s royal past, it sits incongruously amidst the wild. But neither I nor my co travelers are here for a heritage trail. We have our eyes peeled for orange and black stripes instead.
Occupants of another safari jeep had parked itself on a marked pathway, opposite dense dry forest. Someone mentioned, ’Tiger’! The mere mention of the ‘T’ word robbed us of the sleep and yawns. Suddenly shaken from our stupor, we tried all the tricks of the trade to have a look at the tiger. Binoculars, DSLR cameras with Telephoto lens, naked eyes, the works!
While some claimed they got a glimpse (“Behind the bamboo grove”, “Yes, yes, through the V shaped cut”), I failed to spot the Tiger despite the desperate attempts. Before I dismissed myself for poor eyesight and an untrained eye for wildlife, the Tiger saved the day for me.
TIGER SAFARI AT RANTHAMBORE IS WORTH IT. HERE’S WHY?
Till now only 2 safari jeeps had congregated at the spot. The Tiger emerged, walking nonchalantly in a natural swagger fit for the King. The tiger walked arrogantly in a self important manner as we held our breath collectively. The tiger was still at a distance. He made no eye contact and continued walking without a care in the world!
The view of Tiger was still hindered, since he was passing through the dry branches of the tree and vertical bamboo groves. It was like looking at occupants of the opposite railway platform while the train passes slowly. Now you see it, now you don’t! The sighting was still better than the winter months. Thanks to the extreme heat, the trees were bereft of leaves, making it easier to spot the Tiger. In monsoon and winter, the sightings are low due to the dense green foliage.
THE TIGER GIVES US A WARNING AND A CHILLING GLARE:
After much hide and seek, the Tiger emerged in full view just like that. By now, the news had spread like forest fire. More safari jeeps had parked themselves at the spot. Unmindful of all the attention, the Tiger continued walking and then did the unimaginable!
As I trained my telephoto lens on him, I found myself moving my eyes away from the viewfinder of the camera. My heart must have stopped briefly when the Tiger was just 3 to 4 feet away from me. I do not remember if I clicked from the viewfinder or not. The thrill of looking at a wild Tiger from such a close distance made me drop my jaw and all other pursuits instantly. This explains why the image of Tiger when he was closest to me is not as good as it should have been. It happened in a jiffy, before we could react. The tiger chose to walk just few feet away from the right side of the safari jeep we were sitting in. This is the closest anyone can get to a wild Tiger! I in fact, advise my readers against going this close to a Tiger, even if you are sitting in the safety of a safari jeep. But we had not planned it. We had responsibly parked ourselves without disturbing the Tiger’s movement. The tiger however stunned us with his unpredictable move.
THE TIGER OF RANTHAMBORE MADE AN EYE CONTACT WITH SAFARI JEEP’S OCCUPANTS:
The most thrilling moment was when the Tiger made an eye contact with us; brief but menacing nevertheless! That moment filled us with mixed emotions viz. thrill, nervousness, excitement, elation and perhaps also bordering on philosophical.
Later, a co traveler told me that was a warning. The Tigers at Ranthambore are used to the presence of humans and perhaps that is why it ended on just a brief threat. However, in that moment, I got the epiphany that how brilliant and complex nature is. And why we need to leave no stones unturned to preserve it. Any work done in the conservation of these majestic creatures is less.
WHO IS TIGER KUMBHA AKA T 34:
The tiger we had spotted is called Kumbha, a huge dominant male. All the images of tiger in this blog are that of Kumbha aka T 34. Kumbha is a male tiger whose main territory is in zone 6,7 and 8 of Ranthambore National Park. His residence includes the Jamoda Balas, Chidi-Khoh and Kundal area. Interestingly, Kumbha is Hindi version of water sign Aquarius. Kumbha has mated with tigress Ladali (T-8).
WE LOST AND FOUND THE TIGER AGAIN:
For sometime, our eyes followed the movement of tiger. Careful not to disturb his movement, we kept an eye on the tiger from a distance. We saw him for some-time and then lost him. We left when the browns and greens of the jungle swallowed the oranges and blacks. We parked ourselves next to a pond in search of another tiger. We didn’t see any tiger but the jungle impressed us with the biodiversity. Akin to a parade, one animal after another showed up, strutting their stuff and revealing their behaviour as we pretended to be dead in the safari jeep. We spotted monitor lizard, snake (unidentified), langur monkeys, spotted deer, shikra and many other species.
After sometime, we left the pond. As we drove again in pursuit of tiger, a commotion took us back to the ancient entrance gate we had entered from. Turned out the same tiger Kumbha aka T 34 was resting on the top of the gate. What was once a stronghold of royals is now the kingdom of the tiger. What was once the strategic location for guards to keep a watchful eye, is now a peaceful abode for the Tiger to cut the noise. I looked at Kumbha one last time as he slept like a baby. We were told it is his favourite resting spot. Watching him through the binoculars helped me see him up, close and personal without losing my limbs. I bid adieu to the tiger, hoping in my mind that may the Kingdom remain with Kumbha and his next generations. May the tribe win over human greed and unsustainable growth. May nature win! Once again!
TIPS ON WHAT TO WEAR ON A TIGER SAFARI:
Indian Summer, though unbearable, is a perfect time for wildlife safaris. It hovered around 45 degrees in Ranthambore National Park. Despite it being early morning, the heat was intense. I kept hydrating myself every 15 minutes . Luckily the Columbia Sportswear gears I was wearing saved the day further. The light and airy clothes helped me keep fresh. Those who know me personally know that I sweat a lot. However, the Omni Wick technology of Columbia outfits and shoes ensured that the sweat evaporated quickly. It kept me dry inside and out. Their Omni Shade technology also kept me protected from the unforgiving sun rays. I now know what to wear on safaris and even treks.
WHERE TO STAY FOR WILDLIFE SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK, RAJASTHAN:
I stayed in Ranthambore Heritage Haveli. It is in the middle of no-where. I could see only few other properties in the vicinity. My stay here was enjoyable. Not only was it located close to the zone 4 and zone 6 of Ranthambore National Park, it was also easily accessible from the main road. However the small patch from the main road to the property is bumpy and unpaved.
The air conditioned rooms at Ranthambore Heritage Haveli are semi luxurious with a huge attached bathroom. The property has two beautiful courtyards and the haveli like architectural style reminded me of my stay at the luxurious Alwar Bagh by Aamod Resorts, also in Rajasthan. It is lit beautifully in the night.
I sampled their buffet. While I liked the poha, bread pakoda, palak paneer and dum aaloo, their Rajasthani gatte ki sabzi and upma could have been better. Desserts were passable. The property also has private cottages, lawns for small parties and conference room. Overall, it was a good experience. It is close to the famed luxurious property Oberoi Vanya Vilas.
FUN PEOPLE I TRAVELED TO RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK WITH:
This trip was a part of a contest win organised by Columbia Sportswear in collaboration with Myntra and Red FM. I met interesting people like Vaibhav from Columbia, RJ Rocky and Sumit from Red FM, Prateek from Myntra, Malaika Vaz a young wildlife documentary film maker, Mahesh Reddy, a wildlife photographer and other winners viz. Antara, Kushagra, Sonu, Tony,Meenakshi. Check out the cool Instagram posts by Columbia Sportswear:
You may enjoy reading my other wildlife blogs:
Here's a look at our second winner of the Columbia Great Indian Safari! Abhinav Singh (@asoulwindow), a travel blogger and photographer is all set to experience the wild side with us. We’re glad to have you on board with us for this summer adventure. . . @columbia1938 #TestedTough #ColumbiaIndia #ColumbiaGIS #Safari
Despite meeting each other for the first time, we gelled quite well and shared camaraderie, jokes and erudite information on everything under the sun (or stars). The best memory was dining and talking by the poolside of Ranthambore Heritage Haveli by the night.
HOW TO REACH RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK, RAJASTHAN:
By Road: We took 9 hours from Connaught Place, New Delhi to reach Ranthambore via Neemrana and Dausa by road. The road trip is nondescript and you will not miss much if you chose to take the train. In my opinion, train is a better idea.
Kota Janshatabdi is a good idea. It is a chair car (CC)
Time taken from New Delhi to Sawai Madhopur: 4 hours 47 minutes.
Departure time at Hazrat Nizamuddin, Delhi: 13:15
Arrival time at Sawai Madhopur: 18:02
Train number: 12060
Tiger name and history
The view from my #SoulWindow is savage!
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