Ranthambhore is a legendary tiger reserve, but unfortunately not one I have visited. My good friend, Govind, however is a frequent visitor, boarding on a fanatic. I found his description of Ranthambhore and what it means to him so moving I asked him to write it down. He did, and here it is. I hope you enjoy it! :)

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About the author

Govind Naik is an engineer and wildlife enthusiast...  in fact he is one of the most enthusiastic wildlife photographers I know, taking 36 hour trains chasing the shot, arriving shattered but ready to go! :)

I met him in Bandhavgarh a long time ago, and love to following his photographic journey! This is a great example of networking while on safari (as i mentioned in top tips for an Indian safari part II), you will get to meet amazing people like Govind and hear their stories.

You can follow his work on Instagram : @govind_v_naik


Why 17, 19, 24, 28, 39 are not just numbers to me...

There comes a moment in everyone’s life when, it changes the way you look at the things around, it changes the way you look at yourself. That moment forces you to a transformation which you enjoy. That moment came to me when I sighted my first Tiger and looked at him in his eyes for like 15-20 sec without blinking. That Male tiger from Ranthambhore had that habit. Never shy of the local pilgrims going to temple or the tourist vehicles around, that male was special. In those 15-20 seconds I realized how small, little and helpless I am and how powerful, charismatic, confident, arrogant yet tolerant these big cats are. Those 15-20 seconds gave me a lot more than what my entire schooling gave me.

Magnificent Tiger, T-24 Ustaad, he is the first tiger for many people around the globe, like me.He used to lock his eyes with tourist without blinking for a long time.

Magnificent Tiger, T-24 Ustaad, he is the first tiger for many people around the globe, like me.He used to lock his eyes with tourist without blinking for a long time.

Having seen few parks across Indian continent for its flora and fauna, it is only Ranthambhore National Park that connected quickly and thickly. Being easily connected by rail and Air from Mumbai as well as Delhi gives it an advantage. When we talk about Rajasthan, all we think of is majorly as sand dunes, Forts and Palaces…. The Royal culture and Rajputana living style. Ranthambhore, in Rajasthan is very very unlike the visual we have about it. It is a thick (in season) but dry and deciduous forest with amazing flora and fauna connected integrally with it. The high point of which is the National animal of India, the largest cat of the world, the Royal Bengal Tiger. Forest here have even the ruins of forts and its structure in place, which are now part of core forest and tigers rule them around. The dynasties keep changing with the prime time of tigers life.

T-28 Star male near Padam talao and its island with the great Ranthambore fort in backdrop. Copyright Sharad Sharma (with permission)

Couple, Star Male (T28) and Krishna (T19) at Badaa Gate. Copyright Sharad Sharma (with permission)

Sub adult Male wondering around ruins of the fort.  Copyright Sharad Sharma (with permission)

Most of the tiger documentaries are from here. Even Ranthambhore was once suffering majorly from poaching threats. It was Mr. Fateh singh’s, the then Forest Minister’s initiative to start the tourism in the forest. He realized that it was the only way to save the forest from human encroachment and its fauna from poaching.  That way he started learning and teaching tigers to his young team of nature guides and naturalists. One Tigress in particular gave a HUGE contribution in tiger study. Sometimes I think, it was only because of her that we could manage to study the tigers from that area and save them for overall betterment. That wild tigress was known as MACHALI. She is still the most documented and photographed wild tigress in the world as well. It was her extra-ordinarily non-shy nature with human being’s movements in her core territory that allowed us to learn and protect tigers. Without her Ranthambhore would not have survived the way it has. Even till date, 60% tigers in Ranthambhore are her linage. She passed away in October 2016, making another world record of being the oldest wild tiger (Age 19) in the world. She was cremated with all the due respect.

The Great and Mother of all. Machhali the Tigress. Copyright Sharad Sharma (with permission)

Her linage still continue to rule those pieces of lands and lakes. Rajbaug Lake was her prime territory for nearly 10 years. After her it was ruled by her daughters and now by her grand daughter and grandson.

T-84, Arrow head, granddaughter of Machhali ruling the rajbaug lake presently.

It seems she had passed it to her kins, how not to be shy with human beings. It is this special feature of the tigers which helped me connect faster. 17, 19, 24, 28, 39 these are not just the numbers for me anymore, they are individual tigers, each with a very particular nature. All of them being super OK with the tourism around. The quality of sighting in Ranthambhore is far better than anywhere else across India. Main reason for it being the extra dryness of the forests in summers which improves the visibility through the foliage and the super tolerant behavior of the tigers with the tourist vehicles.  The overall terrain across the Aravali mountain ranges adds anxiety and thrill to the safari round. It gives us spectacular and unbelievable views. Big lakes, granite cliffs, ruins of royal monuments, presence of temple worshiped actively, few haunted and dark patches of the jungle are just few of the visual treats for the eyes. Presence of the herbivores and the apex predators in these backgrounds are just unforgettable moments and memories for the visitors here.

Beautiful sub adult female cub of T-41.

Beautiful sub adult female cub of T-41.

T-6, Male tiger Romeo. In one of the natural caves.

T-6, Male tiger Romeo. In one of the natural caves.

I feel myself lucky to have that connection with the Jungle here. Every time I go there now.. I can feel the entry gate welcoming me…. the roads giving me the joy ride… the trees, cliffs and monuments waving a hand to me as if they know me well and are happy to see me again and again. Last but not the least, whenever I am able to listen to the sounds and calls from jungle I get the information of the whereabouts or movements of the predators. Believe me, Ranthambhore is not just about the tigers, it’s actually a lot more than that.

 Pacman T-85, entering from Badaa gate just below the fort.

 Father T28 (Starmale) and son T85 (Pacman) sizing up each other at Legendary Rajbaug Lake.

 Tigress T-60 with one of her three adorable cubs.

My all-time favorite Tigress, Noor (T 39).

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