John Harvey Photo

RanthamboreGo to Slide Show

The place to see Tigers


India is a big place.  I had three weeks in the country and I knew I couldn't see everything (in fact, I couldn't see a quarter of it), so after I picked a few of the obvious things (Taj Mahal, a Camel Trip on the recommendation of a friend), I was quite surprised to find I had lots of time and not a lot of things to do.  I started looking into wildlife and discovered safari's.

Langur With Ruins Behind
India has several famous national parks, but for the part of India I picked for this trip (the North West bit) Ranthambore National Park kept getting mentioned.  The park is famous for tigers, but it's also scenic with ruins from hunting forts.  I did the trip adviser thing, found a resort/hotel with good reviews from photographers and took the plunge.  They gave me more detail of the bookings and we decided on 4 nights and approximately 7 safari's.


My original plan was to arrive by train, but I would up arriving by car.  Just after I arrived, I got into an impromptu tour in a Canter (a large truck like vehicle that holds about 30 guests) and got a sense of the park.  The canter stops at a number of the large hotels picking up a few tourists at each stop and then pulls up to the gate of the park.  The park is split into 5 distinct zones and the staff give each vehicle a "zone" that they are allowed to drive in for the morning or the afternoon.

Belly GroomingBaby LemurFeeding BabyStrike APose

Different zones have different features.  Early December is still pretty wet so animals aren't drawn to water holes.  Zone 3 has large lakes which make for some beautiful bird watching.  Zone 4 is hilly but still has some nice water.  Zone 2 has little water and some fields, but in the 4 days I was there, no tiger sightings.  You don't get to choose your zone - the guide is given the zone as he enters the park.  Caught in the wrong zone?  The guide, the driver and their vehicle get banned - perhaps a week, maybe a month I got different answers.

Intermediate EgretHerons Hunting In WaterVulture

Heron On PerchSambarWhite Throated King Fisher On Branch

Stilt WalkingIbis Near ShoreBlack Headed Ibis

Owl Near Nest
Even when there are no tigers, the guides do a pretty good job of trying to keep it lively.  Since the guides are here every day, they know the favorite perches and where to look for birds.  Some of the smaller predators like jackals can show up pretty much anywhere.

Owl Sleeping

Perched Orange Body Bird
Some of the birds are pests in India (the same way we see sea gulls or crows) but to the untrained westerner they seem quite pretty and a prize to see.  I was quite excited to see this bird (trying to get a snap) until it flew up to the vehicle to check me our.

Rufous Treepie looking for hand outs



Other birds (herons) seemed to me out of place.  Why is a bird I might expected to see in Canada hanging out here?  There seemed to be many more species here than what I'm used to seeing around Vancouver, but it's probably because I'm so used to the Vancouver wildlife.
 
Heron Stretching OutRed-Wattled Lapwing Flying By

The Food

The park has an impressive selection and density of herbivores.  During the wetter seasons there is a lot of food available so herds of animals form.  The park is quite large (the area traveled by the jeeps is actually only about 10% of the park) so there are lots of places for animals to go.  The prey species are very used to the jeeps riding by, although they apparently get nervous if the jeep just sits there, like they are waiting for something to happen.

Gazelle In GrassPeacock At Edge Of GrassSpotted Deer Male
 
Blue Bull Eating LeavesWild Boar Through GrassYoung Wild Boar

After your first few safari's you no longer stop to take pictures of the prey animals unless they are in good light or have a lot of visibility.  It can actually be annoying to be in a jeep with newbies when they point at every spotted deer and you just want to go find tiger, even if that means waiting somewhere for an hour while listening to alarm calls.

The Tigers

Everybody goes to Ranthambore to see the tigers.  At the end of each safari the people in your hotel will ask you if you saw tigers.  There are no guarantees and you are unlikely to see a tiger on any particular trip, but given enough safari's (the number seems to be about 6) you will get a sighting.  Not necessarily a good sighting, but a sighting.

Tiger DownTiger Yawn

Tiger Walking Away
I had my first sighting on safari number 2.  We were in a jeep that crossed into the wrong zone (intentionally) to follow a hint that the park wardens had given us.   The tiger turned out to be in thick bush and the best sighting was as he crossed the road between vehicles.  I was quite disappointed with the photos I got - most had unacceptable amounts of shake or were just two far away.  My Nikon 200 F2.8 was defiantly outclassed by the Canon 100-400 IS lens in the jeep.  I really hoped that wasn't going to be my only sighting.

Safari 7 (of 8) and we were going into zone 3 (probably the busiest, but with the most water) and made it perhaps 100m into the zone before we stopped - there was a tiger sleeping on the road.  Sensitized by my first experience shooting, I took lots of frames of a bum facing tiger on the road.  Every moment felt like a blessing.  The tiger was far from full frame, but there was enough there to get a good shot.  Our jeep was #2 into the zone so we had a really good shot.  Larger vehicles stacked up behind us but because there was only one way into the zone (this road) no one could pass.


  Vehicles Watching Tiger
After about half an hour, the tiger got up, stretched, and started walking.  I expected this tiger to move off the road and be lost in the brush, but she didn't.  She kept on walking.  Bum shots generally aren't compelling so while I was happy to see the tiger, I wasn't getting great shots.  As the tiger walked down the road, she passed a fork and then another.  The collection of vehicles behind us were unleashed and everyone jockeyed for a safe but good view.  My driver was brilliant - he went further ahead than other vehicles, but set us up for good shots as the tiger walked by.  These shots in the dry scrub are some of my favorites.
 


Tiger Walking Down RoadTiger Walking CloserTiger Side Face

The tiger found another nice piece of ground and went for another nap.  We waited for probably 45 minutes while this tiger napped.  We hoped she would attack some of the nearby sambar, but she didn't seem interested.  After her nap, she again got up and walk, and again we were positioned brilliantly for the walk by.

Tiger Near CactusTiger FaceTiger In Grass

  Tiger In Front Of Fort

The tiger walked nearer to the shore of the lake and into the taller grasses.   Again, jeeps tried to get in front and get the best shot and my driver did well in mix.  Eventually, this harried tiger walked into the taller grasses near the lake and because unreachable.  As she disappeared, we could hear monkeys giving alarm calls - no luck for the tiger.

The next morning, the park was closed.  The courts had ordered it closed because the ministry of tourism in Rajastan was not addressing a lawsuit in a timely manner.  The park remained closed for more than a week so I was very fortunate to have had the experiences I did when I did.



Vehicles Watching Tiger
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: India, safari
Peacock At Edge Of Grass
Species: Pavo cristatus (Common Peafowl, Indian Peafowl)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Tiger Side Face
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: India, safari
Tiger Walking Down Road
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: India, safari
Heron Stretching Out
Species: Ardea cinerea (Grey Heron), Ardea alba (Great Egret)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Tiger Walking Closer
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: India, safari
Owl Near Nest
Tags: bird, India, safari
Blue Bull Eating Leaves
Species: Boselaphus tragocamelus (blue bull, nilgai)
Tags: India, safari
Perched Orange Body Bird
Species: Dendrocitta vagabunda (Rufous Treepie)
Tags: India, safari
Tiger In Grass
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: grass, India, safari
Heron On Perch
Species: Ardea cinerea (Grey Heron)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Strike APose
Species: Semnopithecus entellus (northern plains grey langur, Hanuman langur)
Tags: India
Young Wild Boar
Species: Sus scrofa (wild boar)
Tags: safari
Tiger Yawn
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: India, safari
Tiger Face
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: India, safari
Tiger In Front Of Fort
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Altitude: 371m (1217 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: fort, India, safari
Herons Hunting In Water
Species: Ardeola grayii (Indian Pond Heron)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Wild Boar Through Grass
Species: Sus scrofa (wild boar)
Tags: India, safari
Spotted Deer Male
Species: Axis axis (axis deer, chital, spotted deer)
Tags: India, safari
Ibis Near Shore
Species: Threskiornis melanocephalus (Black-headed Ibis, White Ibis)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Vulture
Species: Sarcogyps calvus (Red-headed Vulture, Asian King Vulture)
Altitude: 304m (997 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: bird, India, safari
Gazelle In Grass
Species: Gazella gazella (Arabian gazelle, mountain gazelle)
Tags: India, safari
Sambar
Tags: India, safari
Tiger Near Cactus
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: India, safari
Tiger Down
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: India, safari
Owl Sleeping
Altitude: 303m (994 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: bird, India, safari
White Throated King Fisher On Branch
Species: Halcyon smyrnensis (White-throated Kingfisher)
Tags: bird, India
Rufous Treepie looking for hand outs
Species: Dendrocitta vagabunda (Rufous Treepie)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Intermediate Egret
Species: Egretta intermedia (Intermediate Egret, Plumed Egret)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Baby Lemur
Species: Semnopithecus entellus (northern plains grey langur, Hanuman langur)
Tags: India, safari
Langur With Ruins Behind
Species: Semnopithecus entellus (northern plains grey langur, Hanuman langur)
Tags: India, safari
Stilt Walking
Species: Himantopus himantopus (Black-winged Stilt)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Black Headed Ibis
Species: Threskiornis melanocephalus (Black-headed Ibis, White Ibis)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Red-Wattled Lapwing Flying By
Species: Vanellus indicus (Red-Wattled Lapwing)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Feeding Baby
Species: Semnopithecus entellus (northern plains grey langur, Hanuman langur)
Tags: India, safari
Tiger Walking Away
Species: Panthera tigris (tiger)
Tags: India, safari
Belly Grooming
Species: Semnopithecus entellus (northern plains grey langur, Hanuman langur)
Tags: India, safari
Tags: India(36), safari(35), bird(14), fort(1), grass(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > India > Ranthambore
From: John Harvey Photo > India > Ranthambore

Beautiful photographs, especially of the tiger.
Yogesh Sarkar
Friday, December 19th, 2008 at 05:05:03

Useful information and facts about the park.
Alok Tayal
Monday, January 5th, 2009 at 07:29:13

the photos are nice
kalpana
Monday, April 4th, 2011 at 08:03:47

beautiful shots.... very creatively taken....specially love the pictures of the tiger....
shamara
Monday, April 25th, 2011 at 20:20:46

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