You might be an ace wildlife photographer but your first rub-on always remains the most special of all. The very first time when you were smitten by the sight of a tiger in an open jungle – Wildness, fear, excitement, adulation, and adrenaline rush; all would have been at once.
I have been a rolling stone all so far. It was winter of 2014 and a friend of mine was going through some challenging times. We decided to go on a trip to ease the situation. And when you are going through a bad time, run to a forest. The forest can sort out a lot of mess that you have acquired in cities.
For us, the forest was majestic Ranthambore. Now Ranthambore Tiger Park is not a usual National Park for Tiger Safari in India. It has a unique bond of trust between animals and humans. The animals over here do not fear human presence. They return human kindness with frequent appearance and showdowns. And that makes Ranthambore, a photographer’s delight. It offers you the closest presence to your subjects and pictures that are a pious treat to eyes.
We reached Sawai Madhopur at the wee hours of the morning. It was my friend’s idea to book our accommodation right in the lap of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve to feel the tranquillity. So, we hired a taxi and reached the Ranthambore Tiger Heaven Resort that was at a stone throw away distance from the Tiger Safari of Ranthambore.
The ambiance of the resort was royal, opulent, and palace-like. The helpdesk at reception was well equipped with all the necessary information and arrangements that travelers would need at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. We comforted ourselves and enjoyed the lush gardens of the resort and
nearby landscapes. Our receptionist arranged for a meeting with a tour planner who was an expert in Tiger tours and Wildlife Holidays. He elaborately explained to us about the Safari that we would take the next day for tiger sighting. We finally decided to go for the first Safari after dawn, the next morning. This is the most probable time to sight a tiger and if you are unfortunate you can still be happy about sighting beautiful birds, Antelopes, deer, and Barasingha on your way to Jungle.
And finally, the moment arrived for which we have been waiting for. We woke up early and got ready with the right lens and accessories. It was a beautiful dawn. The sky was dramatic and the weather was cold but comfortable. The lawn of our Jungle lodge was drenched in mist and the breeze was festooned with birds chirping. I can never forget that memorable morning. We clicked some photos with the aesthetic backdrop of the vintage resort. It was like a Rajputana palace.
The Safaris arrived on time and we were graciously greeted by our tour guide. As we neared the entry gates, we stopped for a quick tea break to warm ourselves. The temperature plummets as one wades deeper into the forest.
The Jeep was an open Safari with a forest guard sitting next to the driver. I was terrified to know that we were meeting the ferocious tigers in an open Jeep. But everyone felt comfortable and excited. Our jeep started sneaking inside the forest. The jungle was dense and majestic. And within five minutes of our drive, the camera shutters were in full swing. Stunning birds sat on the steel frame of our jeep with a friendly swag. I loved the sight. There were numerous other animals like deer, rabbits, and barasinghas.
And suddenly our driver saw something that made him stop the jeep suddenly. He got down and checked the ground and with a cheerful face returned to us. We were baffled.
He said, “Stay calm, we may see a tiger at any moment.”
And the next minute his prophecy came true.
We just couldn’t believe our eyes. A full-grown, beautiful, muscular adult tiger was on a royal walk in the meadows. It saw us but did not react. Our driver told us it was a tigress, a Royal Bengal Tigress. The beauty was beyond words. I haven’t seen anything so ferocious and beautiful at the same time. Her walk was classy. She ruled the kingdom and we were her crazy admirers vying for her slightest glimpse.
And suddenly that meeting seemed unquenchable. We wanted to go near, as close to her as possible. The more we saw, the more we wanted to go nearer. Our guide had a good rapport with the Tigress and he crept the vehicle at a distance of merely 20 m from the wild beast. We saw her in full grandeur. We were in a catch twenty-two situation for not knowing whether to click pictures or to enjoy the sight with fixated eyes. I did not click pictures initially because I knew there are thousands of masterpiece pictures from renowned wildlife photographers. I wanted to satiate my eyes before I looked her through the lens of my camera and I am still proud of the choice I made that day.
The Tigress was yawning and stretching before us. She wasn’t caged, we weren’t protected by iron grills either. And for those few seconds, the only thing that kept the equilibrium was faith. A faith where death seemed a myth. She kept her promise maybe because she knew were her admirers. She was used to the sight of humans and she knew she is loved and revered. And before we could discuss her, she made her way into the bushes; into a territory that was forbidden for us.
It took a moment for me to come back to my senses. I realized I wasn’t hearing anything so far. I was in a trance, for the minutes I was glued to the Tigress.
And now I heard the sobbing of an old lady. She was from Italy and had been to India umpteen times to witness a tiger in full regalia. But all her previous endeavors failed. She had never seen a Tiger. She cried in happiness and said – I did not want to die without seeing a tiger in its natural habitat. And
I am glad I finally saw one.
It is she who made us all realize how lucky we were to have sighted a tiger on our first ever Safari. I thanked someone above in sheer gratitude.
Ranthambore is by far the most sought-after destination for lovers of nature, tiger, and bird watchers.
I did my tour arrangements and planning under the guidance of Mr. Sachin who is now a part of India Wild Safaris.