Tigers are cool. Whether it was Tony The Tiger on my morning cereal box as a kid, Richard Parker in Life of Pi, or Tigger in Winnie The Pooh, I have always been interested in tigers.
Sadly, these beautiful beasts have dwindled down to less than 4000 in number across the world (well, in Asia specifically). Needless to say, they are endangered and the future isn’t terribly bright. From poaching to protecting against attacks, tigers have largely lost the battle with humans for habitat.
In some ways it was a dream come true when I visited the Tiger Temple in Thailand in 2006. It happened by accident, being included on a day trip to the River Kwai. Though I appreciated these massive carnivores then, they were basically asleep having just been fed and baking under the harsh Thai sun. Below a picture with a tiger.
Ranthambore National Park
Ranthambore National Park is a 392 square kilometer (151 square mile) national park in the Indian sate of Rajasthan. It is one of the few free-roaming places tigers can enjoy left on earth.
The park is home to lots of other animals, such as leopards, nilgais, wild boars, sambars, hyenas, sloth bears, and chitals.
You have to rent a jeep to take you into the park. A guide goes too, trained in spotting these camouflaged animals and following their tracks. At the entrance you are assigned a portion of the park to visit denoted by a zone number. They hand out the zone and you have to place it in the back of the jeep. But, as with everything here in India, the rules are not followed at all. Every driver has counterfeit zone number plates that they change upon entering new zones.
Still, people come here to see tigers. Sightings are not guaranteed though. In fact, you only see a tiger about 25% of the time. Such is the gamble when you come to Ranthambore instead of a zoo.
I have to thank my friend Sharat. He and I worked together in Qatar and we had to coordinate where to meet as he works in rural Rajasthan and planned to fly off to Spain soon. In the end, we met here. It was truly wonderful to see him, the tiger was just a bonus!
I think the rest of this story is best told by the pictures themselves. Although I never got a stunning picture of the tiger, at least it was in its natural habitat (which you could argue humans have no business being in, but I guess that’s another story). These pictures were taken with my normal point and shoot camera, though the 20x zoom came in handy.