Text and Photos by: KARTIK JINDGAR
Let me narrate my experiences from yet another interesting rendezvous with nature. My desire for experiencing nature in its true form took deep roots with my first trip to Tadoba about 3 years ago. Ever since I have been part of number of such safaris cum photography trips organized by the school or with my family. This time I travelled to Ranthambore on a school trip from 5th to 8th October. We enjoyed the journey in the company of school friends.
Green hillocks dotting our way caught me a bit by surprise. We reached Om Rudra Priya around lunch time. After a quick lunch, we visited the once majestic Ranthambore fort on the first day of our trip. The fort wall is about 13 km long, thus making it the second largest fort of Rajasthan. It’s sad to see these magnificent structures in their current state of ruin. One cannot help visualize how full of life these would have been in their heydays. Once you reach the top of the fort, you get a breathtaking view of the park. The park extends endlessly on both sides of the fort. The setting sun enhanced this picturesque view.
Next day we visited a tribal village located at the periphery of the forest area. Maize crop in the fields was almost ready for harvest. It was early morning, farmers were going to their fields, some accompanied by children; women were busy in household chores, kids were busy playing in the village courtyard and shrill calls of peacocks perched on distant trees were shattering the tranquility, thus creating a picture perfect village scene. We met some children at the village. It was exciting and thrilling to hear their experiences with tigers and other wild animals of the forest. Surprisingly they unanimously said that even though wild animals kill their cattle and destroy their fields, they (villagers) don’t harm the animals. This has surely helped preserve whatever is left of the fragile ecosystems of jungles. It also got all of us thinking, would we be lucky to have a safe encounter with the regal and elusive tigers and other wildlife of this forest. After returning from the village we prepared for our first safari.
As is always the case, everyone was very excited and therefore reported almost 15 minutes early. The safari was in zone 1. We saw different bird species including kingfishers, Crested Serpent Eagle and Rufous Treepie. Some of us were disappointed at not having sighted the tiger or any other exotic animal but experience has taught me to be patient and to restrain the feeling of disappointment.
We started really early the next day and went to zone 2. We had been told that there was a very good chance to spot the tiger, so there was pin drop silence. When we had consumed almost two thirds of our allotted safari time searching for the tiger without any luck, we started giving up hope. But then our group leader Bharat Sir, a very experienced wild life photographer and enthusiast, sensing the general feeling of disappointment advised us and said, ‘Enjoy the jungle, enjoy its every element and when you do that, you will get to see what you want to.’ Most us heeded to that advice and started noticing what the forest had to offer, most of which we can’t even dream to see in the cities. And to our amazement soon we heard a distinct alarm call of a spotted deer from not very far.
We rushed in that direction. Everybody set their cameras and wait with baited breath for something to happen. There was a perceptible sense of expectation and suspense in the air. We soon found a number of gypsies already waiting and people pointing towards a small bush. We immediately turned our attention to that spot. And there it was, T-19 along with its cubs. To start with, we could not see them clearly since they were in a small water body behind the bushes. As Paulo Coelho says,”The Universe conspires to make dreams and sincere wishes come true”. It certainly did in our case! First the mother came out towards the road and then her cubs followed her. Not one, not two but three. As the mother walked across the road there were ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ all around accompanied by the incessant sounds of camera shutters. There was a flurry of photography action, shutters didn’t stop clicking. It was as if we were in a printing factory with metallic clicks breaking the silence of the forest. Everyone was mesmerized by this magnificent creation of God. Nobody moved their eyes from the eyepiece of their cameras. Soon they went back into the bushes where they had come from.
Photo Credit: Kartik Jindgar
The tiger has this unique aura which makes me shiver deep down, every time I see it or even think about my past experiences. On the way back, as the cool air of the forest blew against my face, I relived the experience and let the feeling sink in that we had once again been fortunate to see the tiger in its surrounding with its cubs. We are so privileged. I was so immersed in my thoughts that I didn’t realize we had reached our resort. Maybe that is why tiger is what it is..!!
We ventured out for two more safaris and we saw and experienced the diverse biodiversity of the jungle. I felt nothing but contentment. We spotted and clicked many more bird species including kingfishers, woodpeckers, storks, ducks, water hens, eagle, vultures, herons and sighted blue bulls (neelgai), sambar deer, spotted deer, golden langoor, mongoose and monitor lizards to name a few.
After our last safari Bharat Sir organized a meeting with Sh. Valmik Thappar, a renowned conservationist and tiger expert. We were privileged to have a conversation with him and that too in Rannthambore. He shared some interesting and important information regarding the park and its members. He has best summarized the feelings about sighting the tiger and I quote, “At last I saw it. The unmistakable glow of the striped coat; the powerful, unhurried, silent walk. It was my first tiger, confidently strolling down the middle of the road. The power and pure beauty of the moment cast a spell which was to become a driving passion in my life in the months and years ahead.”
Photo Credit: Kartik Jindgar
Though none of us wanted to leave the calm, peaceful and serene forests and return to the maddening hustle bustle of our cities, it was time to bid goodbye to the park and we left for Delhi. Although we enjoyed the visit to the old fort (now in ruins), tribal village and 4 wildlife safaris, without a doubt highlight of the trip was sighting T-19 and her cubs. On the way back we relived the many unforgettable moments of the trip, which I am sure will stay etched in our memories for years to come. For me, it was another experience which left me feeling content on one hand and yet craving for more. Just as my first sighting of the tiger in Tadoba transformed me, I think this trip would have also kindled the fire / passion in some of my fellow students to become nature enthusiasts and to contribute to the cause of saving not only the tiger but also the environment. This also makes me strongly believe that there is still hope that we will eventually save the tiger from extinction.
In the end, I would like to express my gratitude for our guide and mentor Bharat Sir and teachers, headmasters and principal of Modern school for organizing this trip.
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