A wilderness success story in the desert and “mine is MUCH bigger than yours!”
Today was beyond superlatives (other than “wicked” sunburn…so I’m contradicting myself in the first sentence, but I’ll carry on and ignore this…) in the Ranthambhore National Park, which is Bengal tiger country.
A sunrise outing covered in heavy wool blankets, a sweater, jacket and a toque (its was 10C) was a pretty relaxing, just bounding along the trails, and admiring the stunning landscape, until we heard tigers roaring and a distress call (likely from a deer).
Then all hell broke loose, on the human side only, with about 5 jeeps jockeying for position on a single lane trail/path trying to figure out where the fighting tigers were (the guides assumed they were fighting/playing).
all things Ranthambhore
Picture… a traffic jam, in the middle of nowhere, with 400 hectares of open wilderness around. Leave it to us upper echelon primates to create mechanical chaos anywhere we can.
I almost missed her, amusing myself at the man-made melee, but we were blessed with a very short (about 10 seconds) view of the local tigress Machhali, also known as T16.
The afternoon was six hours in the sun, underneath a 1,000 year old fort, along lakes, open grass fields and 300 year old banyan trees, but the tigers stayed hidden. Totaled about 40km in two routes in the park (sections 3 and 6).
Ranthanbhore, as part of Project Tiger, is a huge success story as a nature reserve! Despite some setbacks from deaths (one tiger received a military funeral) the population of healthy tigers has grown from 24 to over 60 since 2004.
So much wildlife here: today was deer, hawks, crocodiles, wild boar, turtles, monkeys (so many monkeys) and birds of all sorts (and one snake…)
38 mammal species
315 bird species
14 reptile species
402 plant species
Oh ya, and the human superlatives? Turns out that, all things being relative as always, I had a very, very small camera zoom lens today…
My jeep mate for both rides (Charinder…I think… a very sweet guy) from Southern India has this big monster (600 zoom, see pic below, sandbag included). Some other dude all on his own in a super fancy jeep (with gold emblems, really?) had one he could barely carry. Definitely a place where the boys like to show off their toys (said tongue in cheek as the lovely British lady behind me had three massive lenses).
And a pretty sweet sidebar story: Sharon from Costa Mesa, CA sat between Charinder and myself this afternoon. She has been following all the tigers on Facebook for years, as an artist idolizes the man who makes art out soot, Vijay Kumawat (check out his work, pretty stunning), and hopes to meet him here in Ranthambhore and… who kids freaked out here going off to this strange country to meet people she only knows from FB. She basically told her kids to take a pill and left the country for 6 weeks. Good on you Sharon! I hope you get to meet and make art with Vijay and I really hope you get to see a tiger on the next safari!!
I am once again reminded of how lucky I am to have had the love of travel and adventure, tied to the lesson of how damn lucky I/we are, instilled in me at a very young age by two very wise and patient parents!
and ya – more sunscreen dummy!
all decent pics @Topher_Vollan on the Instagram
PS – managed to brush my teeth three times using the correct tube of stuff today. Pat on the back and a banana for me!