We finally succeeded in getting our train ticket, and the next day set off for Sawai Madhopur, the nearest town to Ranthambore National Park. Our hotel was located in a quiet, residential area of town and we enjoyed lunch on the rooftop terrace. The heat was intense. As the sun went down, we watched boys playing cricket in the street and monkeys leaping between the buildings opposite.
That night was a challenging one. Not only did I spend hours attempting to unblock the toilet, but we had an infestation of bugs in our room. All night long, they were buzzing in my ears. That was bad enough, but then one of the bugs flew into my ear! It was horrible – sometimes I could hear its wings flapping in my head and then just a loud droning sound. I tried to wash it out with water, but am not sure whether or not I succeeded. For all I know, it drowned and it is still in there. The next morning, we asked to switch rooms.
We were up at daybreak (despite the night from hell!) to wait for our jeep to the park. We were on a mission to see a tiger! The light was exquisite. A mother and baby hog made their way along the dusty street and a cow waited at the door of the house opposite for a morning treat.
The jeep made its way along the main road as the town was beginning to come alive. Ranthambore was the main reason that most visitors came to Sawai Madhopur. The area around town was quite rural. We entered the park’s gates and before long, we had spotted monkeys and lots of varieties of deer. Nice, but not what we had come for!
Fifteen minutes later, our guide caught sight of a beautiful female tiger emerging from the forest. She came straight towards the jeep, oblivious to us, her mind very much on prey. It was an incredible sight. For the next couple of hours, we watched as she patiently stalked a deer.
Sitting by a lake, she didn’t take her eyes off her prey. Ironically, it wasn’t the original deer that she eventually pursued, but a younger one. Unaware that the tiger was lying in wait, a young deer wandered towards her. The tiger spotted it and took off, chasing it across a shallow lake. The deer was too fast. The tiger was left standing there, staring in disbelief, as the deer disappeared into the depths of the forest.
Not only were we lucky enough to witness one tiger, but as we were leaving the park, we saw a male strolling along a ridge, past a troupe of monkeys. It was definitely a lucky day for us. It goes without saying that tiger sightings can't be guaranteed. To see one at close range was an amazing and unforgettable experience.
The following day, we hired a jeep to take us to Ranthambore Fort, a huge construction dating back to 944 with seven kilometres of ramifications. It was busy with Indian pilgrims, who were making their way up the two hundred steps to the temples and tombs within the fort. We spent a couple of hours exploring the fort, and being entertained by langur monkeys who were hanging out on the steps.
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