the amber eye

7 Nov

Truth is, we almost cut Ranthambhore. Rhanthambhore National Park is where the majority of photographs of tigers in the wild have been taken. It is also where seeing a tiger is iffy at best. There are thirty five tigers roaming the almost 900 square kilometers of the Park. So do the math. Needle in a haystack? Kinda.

We debated endlessly about taking two days of our itinerary for a crapshoot. But we were feeling lucky. As it turns out, we should have bought a lottery ticket.

Out of the rooms at 6am, before sunrise, and for the first time in India, it’s chilly. We’ve had the briefing and learned that the great maharajas (and unnamed British royalty) nearly decimated a tiger population that numbered more than 40,000 less than 100 years ago. Now down to below one tenth that amount and only thanks to Indira Ghandi’s moratorium on tiger hunting and the formation of the national park in 1972.

Into our jeep and we’re off. In Ranthambhore there are five routes the jeeps can take, each is assigned at random and we draw route 3. Along a bumpy dirt trail, one could hardly call it a road, we go in search of Shere Khan. Tigers aren’t the only wildlife to be on the lookout for, says our guide. We see deer, spotted owl, antelope, gazelle, monkeys, wild boar (as ugly as you can imagine) and dozens of varieties of exotic bird. But no tiger.

Three hours later, it is time to leave the park after the morning ride and we’ve been skunked.

We head back to the hotel looking on the bright side, but feeling pretty low.

The afternoon ‘safari’ starts at 2 and we’re back in our jeep with a new driver, an new route and a new sense of anticipation. This time we’re sure we’ll see tiger, we can feel it. Our jeep heads off onto route number four and after about 500 yards we run into a little traffic jam of a couple other jeeps and lorries. There’s a buzz across the vehicles and lots of talking in Hindi between the guides. There’s a tiger just in the brush, our guide tells us. We crane our necks to see as we are not allowed out of the jeep. Sure enough I see a flash of orange in the brush and suddenly our jeep lurches forward dodging other jeeps to get a spot where our guide thinks the tiger is headed. Meanwhile we are all scrambling to get our cameras ready. By the time we stop and turn in our seats, there, peeking out between the branches are those two amber eyes. A little twist of position and I can get a clear view of the tigers head looking right at us. This is awesome.

We spend about 15 minutes watching the tiger and snapping pictures like little kids having our first ice cream cone. We spend the rest of the ride seeing wildlife of every shape and size, but it doesn’t matter. We got our tiger.

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6 Responses to “the amber eye”

  1. richard cohen November 7, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    im finally so jealous Ill be there 9am on tuesday You just cannot do this alone
    Dad and MJ

  2. richard cohen November 7, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    M&M
    Congratulations! You found the Eye of the Tiger!! I knew you’d find one! Great photo- Love the monkey and their body language.
    They appear to be enjoying the parade !! You look great!
    MJ

  3. Pam November 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    I love the monkeys.

  4. isabelforrest November 8, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    you haven’t missed a thing-even sighting a tiger-good for you

  5. Jackie Kreiner November 8, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    Monkey #3 (from left to right) has excellent manners! I love the blog M&M!

  6. edwin November 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    Those monkeys look oddly familiar…(from left to right) Rich: very happily relaxing, Jake: casual intellect, Abbe: attempting a guise of courtesy, Rob: off playing with something

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