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Tigerland Trip Report

SAVE INDIA'S TIGERS: FIELD TRIP TO RANTHAMBHORE AND BANDHAVGARH NATIONAL PARKS (INDIA) WITH WILDLIFEINDIA CO UK (PART OF INDIAN NATURE TOURS) 2005.

We first visited Ranthambhore National Park to go in search of Panthera Tigris Tigris. We went beginning of Jun 2005 to mid June to both parks before both parks closed for the rainy season to catch our first glimpse of this species in the wild. June 2nd to Jun 6th was spent at Ranthambhore mainly ,and between Jun 7 to Jun 10 in Bandhavgarh.

RANTHAMBHORE (Jun 2nd-Jun 6th)

The hotel we stayed at with Wildlife India Co Uk (Indian Nature Tours) and which comes highly recommended is the Ranthambhore Regency hotel. We arrived at the hotel on the evening of Jun 3rd. In all we had taken 5 jungle excursions in a gypsy or jeep in all during our stay at Sawai Modhupur, Ranthambhore, covering as many routes as possible in this period giving a better chance of seeing a Bengal tiger. We were lucky enough to travel with Manoj Sharma, Company Principle of Indian Nature Tours and wild life expert for last twenty years or so. The new website of Indian Nature Tours is WWW.WILDLIFEINDIA.CO.UK which can be found on the useful links page. It is due to him that we saw as many as up to 7-9 different Bengal tigers, of course he was our interpreter as well as guide throughout the trip offering first class service.

NUMBERS OF PASSENGERS IN GYPSY THROUGHOUT TRIP TO RANTHAMBHORE: 4 (DRIVER, MYSELF, MANOJ, FOREST GUARD/ GUIDE) FIRST JUNGLE EXCURSION (June 3rd) MORNING

1.Departed from the regency 05.45, arrived at 06.00 at National Park entrance. Every time we visited the park there were many salesmen, selling memorabilia like Ranthambhore park guides, pens, hats, books, playing cards etc.. There was also a list of rules to abide by when visiting the Park , some are don't step out from jeep , do not tease the animals and to pay 200 rupees for use of video camera in the park, cameras are free whilst professional photography is anything between 3000-5000 rupees, these are only some of them I don't want to go into to much detail though. Every day pilgrim's could be seen visiting the Ganesh temple at the Park.

On most days the first subject matter would be Tiger, so once we entered the park we always asked the guide or forest guard with us questions like, when was the last sighting of a Tiger, if any recent Pugmarks in the area to give us indication of where tiger or tigers are located, which one, how many, perhaps calls were heard recently from tiger's prey. Any way back to our drive, we had taken route 2 of 7, which are possible to take at the park. On this route we passed a waterhole with a sambar Deer drinking the water.

Fifteen minutes later returning from the forests guards home which is half way point to the route, we suddenly heard a langur call (coughing sound) and sambar call (honking call-highly possible from the same sambar we saw quarter of an hour earlier), simultaneously these calls were made, clearly this meant that a tiger or tigers were nearby. The tiger's prey in most cases always makes an alarm/warning call warning others in the jungle that his predator is about part of the jungle system. It was here that Save India's Tigers had had its first ever sighting of Panthera Tigris Tigris in the wild totally -different complexion, beauty to those found in captivity. There was more expression in their face, more peace and tranquility about them here in its natural habitat. A shot was taken of our first sighting on Ptt in India page.

The tigress after seeing the approaching jeeps went into the waterhole to protect her one-year old cub, snarled at us a little, but seemed to enjoy the coolness of the lake. Three to four minutes later the tigress was first to come out from the waterhole, We could still hear constantly langur calls throughout this sighting. The animals, which made the calls as well as the 4 jeeps carrying tourists i felt were responsible for the departure of both tigress and cub back into deep jungle. While the tigress was making its move we could hear the cub calling out to its mother and eventually they were together once again. All jeeps at this moment followed them both the whole time as they left the waterhole, with green backsides, slowly strolling on the roads and into the other side of the jungle area of the park.

We were over the moon to have seen 2 tigers together in one location on our first day. The tigress main concern from the first moment we saw the tigers was the cub, which was her pride and joy, always on the look out for dominant male tigers which may kill her cubs, Some of the shots we took of our trip to Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh can be seen throughout the website.

Departed park around 08.55

JUNGLE EXCURSION 2 (Jun 3rd)

AFTERNOON
1.Arrive 15.45 at the park. This time we once again had taken route 2. On this afternoon/evening drive sighted our first tiger which was a tiger cub underneath one of the trees of the park taking shade from the scorching sun. Unfortunately as it was under the shade and in a distance it wasn't clear and there wasnt much activity going on there as it was taking an afternoon nap, alright for some . This cub was a different cub to the one we saw in the morning and believed to be of eight months old slightly younger. Around 17.15 soon before our departure from the park a tigress with its two cubs could be seen below on much lower ground, besides some caves to the mountains. Even with binoculars the sighting wasn't clear to the naked eye, it was only a call from langur which lead us to the movement of these three tigers. The genders of both cubs to this tigress were not known, which i found bizarre, the park guides knew of the ages of the tigers yet they did not know the genders. This could either be because of poor management system or someone is not pulling their weight around which was clear to me I don't mean to make accusations but i think all guides and forest guards should at least have good knowledge on the parks tigers.

Departure at 18.15

Animals we have seen today: Sambar, nilgai (blue bull), chital (spotted deer), fish, and kingfisher, bengal tigers, antelope, wild peacock (national bird of India), langur monkey, jackal, wild boar.

JUNGLE EXCURSION 3 (Jun 4th)

MORNING

1.Depart from Regency 05.45 arrive at park 06.00 2.This morning we had taken both routes 1/2. Main highlights were Ranthambhore Fort and met some of the forest guards at entrance to the park. We noticed sloth bear pugmarks via this route but yet no bear was spotted. 38 tigers have been reported in the last tiger census prior to the one recently taken on 25th May the report on recent tiger census in all parks will published later this year. A count on its tigers is done annually according to what our guide told us. There was a nilgai alarm call around 07.30 which informed us that tiger was just in front of us. We noticed that the jeeps ahead of us on route had already viewed a tigress with cubs, but by the time we got there it was already too late, they had disappeared into the forest. Later we discovered more pugmarks of her cubs. We were a little unfortunate not to have seen a tiger today, but tourists can have many days without a sighting.

Departure at 21.15

JUNGLE EXCURSION 4 (Jun 4th)

AFTERNOON

1.Depart Regency at 15.30 arrive 15.45 park. 2.Today we took route number six/seven. During this time of year some parts of the park are green in colour whilst others are not simply because of the availabilty of water in these areas have been low. Last time it properly rained here was in November 2004. Many routes which are in the park were made during the raja period. The highlights of this drive was that we visted the big lakes areas mianly Padam and Rajbagh. It is here that tourists can see a whole array of species like sambar, chital, crocodiles, stork, wild boar, and on many occasions tiger has been seen here. One of the great valleys of the park is the Makarda Valley, during this dry season we could see most of the lakes were dried up but padam was full of water, malik lake was totally dried up. Our guide for the day told us about the 'lady of the lake'which is the tigress of the lake which has been seen a few times inside the palace on the first floor looking down on the lake wondering it can have for its dinner, yet still out of sight from most of its prey. It was around 17.20 we saw a bengal tigress clearly with one of its cubsthe view of tigress was great but not of the cub. I t was the calls of sambur and langur which immedately gave us clue as to the tigress whereabouts. It was the same tigress that we hads seen yesterday but much nearer to our higher level of ground this time round.Wepassed a frewall which was built in case of forest fires but i couldn't see how it could prevent other areas f the park . The forests trees which are decidous and banyan wood it is made from were very prone toforest fires.Forte last two days now we realised that this same tigress was seen sometimes alone or with its cubs in and round the same caves and around the same time this is its territory it seems. The caves offer great shelter from enemies i.e dominant male tigers. I could tell that at the end of today we were never gonna see a male tiger in this park, i felt there was some sort of cover up it just didn't seem right to me.

Departure 18.45

Animals seen today were:Nilgai, bengal tigers, magpie, chinkara, langur monkey, squirrel, peacock,crocodiles, wild boar, stork, spur fowl, paradise flycatcher bird, butterfly, woodpeckers, chita herd, grey tits.

JUNGLE EXCURSION 5(Jun 5th)

1.Depart 05.55 Regency arrival 06.15 park. 2.On this last drive of the park route 2 was taken. A few animals were seen but no tiger sighting on this morning's drive, there were some tiger pugmarks though which could have been made earlier in the morning. We visited once again a forest guard's home. The forest guard had told us of the many times he has seen tigers near his family and home but it didn't bother him to much as he knew the animals behavior very well.Here we had an opportunity to play and tease the chital outside their home, this was great fun and was the only time we could get out of our jeeps.The chital was very friendly towards us.

Animals seen today:Patridge, chital, sambar,, wild boar, no tiger spotted, monitor lizard, quills.Normally
there are many birds seen in this park but because of dry seasin many have migrated, Ranthambhorewas presently dried out trees and lakes not the best place for birds this time of year. Only a few green trees were seen on our visit.

BANDHAVGARH (Jun 7-Jun 10)

For our visit to Bandavgarh park we stayed at the Nature Hertiage resort acoomdation. It was a 5-10 drive to the park. Acompanying me was as Manoj Sharma of INT and architect Anande Dhote.

NUMBER OF PASSENGERS IN GYPSY THROUGHOUT TRIP TO BANDHAVGARH(Jun 7-Jun 10):5

MYSELF.MANOJ,ANANDE,DRIVER(GUDDU) AND GUIDE.

FIRST JUNGLE EXCURSION (Jun 7th)

AFTERNOON

1.Depart heritage resort at 16.00 arrive Bandhavrgarh park 16.10. 2.Route taken was number 2. Name of the driver for the whole duration of our visit to the park was Guddu, who has been a forest guard for te last en years. His whole life he has lived in a small village next to the park.His fatehr was a mahout as well as a professional wildlife expert and photographer who was fortunate enough to work for the likes of the BBC. We were told that in the past there has been as many as 52 gypsy's in the park at any one time but this only 6 were in operating. The park is split into tourist area and known to have 22 tigers and 43 tigers in non tourist area atotal of 65 bengal tigers in 110 sq km of park area.Here this time of year we saw lush green trees totally different setting and outlook compared to Ranthambhore with its dryness , Bandhavgarh was almost the total opposite. 3.On this drive main highlights was the rare sighting of a sloth bear which sat right in front of us on the road. We watched its movements for almost 5 minutes until it ran away in to the jungle forest out of sight. Seeing some prehistoric caves dating back to 10 AD part of Bandhavgarh fort caves. The caves and trees to the fort is undoubtedly one of the central beauties of the park. First time ever for meto see a feather falling off from a hawk eagle ,this feather was taken back with us as a souveneir to this sighting.

In the later part of this trip we managed to see an elephant camp with two elephants one female and male who couldn't live without each other and both were eating some woof from the forest. From lower ground we could one of the main watchtowers to the fort. No tiger was seen this afternoon hoewever we were lucky enough tohave some pugmarks of a tiger cub.

Departure 06.45

Animals seen on this afternoon drive were:Wild boar, barking deer, sloth bear, indian fox, stork, rat snake, peacock, langur, chital, sambar, paradise flycatcher, hawk eagle, but no tigers.

JUNGLE EXCURSION 2 (jun 8th)

MORNING

1.Depart 05.00 heritage resort arrived at park at 05.10 2.First sighting today of tigress around 06.15 , second sighting around 06.35 of a preganant tigress by B2 male tiger in grasslands of Gopalpur area. This tigress was spotted after we heard a chital call. Soon after we could see that th etigress was surrounded by two elephants with mahouts and tourists. We were in the jeep at the time in the distance and only caught little glimpse of tigress, on hathi however view must have been great , at first tigress was moving towards the road which formed part of our route but it remained in the grasslands area because of the elephants in its track so it retrieved into its original position for the duration.We viewed from a distance a courthouse belonging to one of the rajas to the park.Today first time twe saw scratch marks of charger tiger to mark his territory.He is now is now dead but with sita tigress also dead they gave birth toB1, B2, B3 tigers only the b2 male dominant tiger is left in the park B1 was electrocuted and B3 went missing.

Departure 08.45.

Lakes seen:Gopalput lake Animals seen on this drive:Cricket echoes, paradise flycatcher, wild boar , bengal tigers, sambar,serpent crested eagle, hornbill bird, kingfisher, peacock, spur fowl.

JUNGLE EXCURSION 3 (Jun 8th)

AFTERNOON

1.Departure 16.30 heritage arrive 16.40 2.We heard chital call as we entered the park but no sign of tiger. On this drive also route 2 we drove to the highest point of the park, climbed a little and the most magnificent view of the park. First time we saw some of the villagers on the park boundaries (buffer zone) seperating tourist and non tourist area. Guddu our driver asked one of the villagers if they saw a tiger recentlly and the name which came up in their conversation over and over again was B2 the male dominant tiger whose territory is really the whole park. It strays from tourist and non tourist when it likes. fortunately here many cattle are not killed but in many other parks they are killed and a result there are revenge killings on the tigers when villagers are not compenstaed. This afternnon we did see a few tiger pugmarks but could not tell if they were fresh or not, may have been from the morning sightings. Not many flowers can be seen during dry season but a few orchid flowers were blossoming on the trees of the forest. First time to see chital fighting with their horns, besides a lake. On higher ground we could a vulture's nest and its bright white colour made from its own droppings.Just about we were returning we stumbled across a group of vultures eating a carcass of either chital or some sort of deer.

This indeed was a rare sighting.

Departure 19.05

Animals seen on this drive:Wild boar, wild chicken,langur, crested eagle, chital, sambar, cricket echoes, stork, indian fox, vultures, but no tiger.

JUNGLE EXCURSION 4 (Jun 9th)

MORNING

1.Departure 05.10 arrival 05.30 2.Today main highlights were the prehistoric caves of bandhavgarh fort. First time we actually went inside these old caves and to my amazement there must have been hundreds of bats there it was a gruesome experience as i had never encountered this before. Th e first tiger sighting today must have been around 06.00, am male cub lying on some rocks in the kinogi area.Later it walked on nearby roads, growled from time to time and was calling for his mother and family.However most cubs here were pretty much independent compared to Ranthambhore cubs.06.54 sighting of a female tiger cub.

Th e biggest highlight today though was first ever sighting of B2 at 07.47 which suprised ast it came out of deep. It was the best view of our visit so far. At first we were sure that it was the tigress we saw earlier but as it approached the road we could see more clearly it was more bulkier tiger, clearly it was the king of this park, in its slow stride it was a magnificent creature and was a great joy to see him as he walked from the right side of us on the road and then to the far left. The roar it gave was the most awesome sound of authority over all other jungle creatures and ecosystem.It was clear in my mind now that tiger is definetly head of eco system, after seeing b2. The reason why we couldn,t see any nilgai in Bandhavgarh is that they could only be seen outside the park.

Departure 09.00

JUNGLE EXCURSION 5 (Jun 9th)

AFTERNOON

1.Depart heritage 16.30 ,arrive at park 16.45

2.Main highlights today was a claear sighting of the same pregnant tigress we had seen on the second drive it was now on left side of our route.This was at 04.45.I t slowly came down from the rocks and aprroaching the marshlands there was a chital in the line of sight of the tigress.We could see it lookin straight at it, at that instance we could see the fright of the chital as it ran off into deep jungle out of our sight.As soon as more gypsies arrived on the scene the tigress dissappeared into deep grass land area.

Depart 18.45

Animals seen today:Elephants, wild boar, chital, peacock, stork, cuckoo calls, sambur, spur fowl, bengal tigers, squirrels, wild chicken, kingfisher,bats,, group of chital

JUNGLE EXCURSION 6 (Jun 10th)

MORNING

1. Depart from Heritage resort 05.00 arrival at park 05.10

2.We took the jeep on route b today.

3.In area called Gopalpur there was much activity within the frist couple of hours. It was around 06.00 we stumbled across B2 male tiger on our left. This time we had a mcu longer and clear view of him. a mahout and mahout and hathi we could see were following his tracks in the high grasslands for 20 minutes or so IN this area we heard chital , hathi and langur calls, suddenly we was told by the mahout on hathi that B2 had killed a langur monkey, later he makes scats and leave his scent on a tree by urinating on it. Next thing which amazed us all was on the opposite side a sloth bear was slowly coming down from hills alogside our route just as B2 was.To actually see B2 and sloth at the same time coming from left and right was extremely rare sighting indeed. From the right side the sloth bear believed to a female crosses the road in front of us to left side and into the pond to cool off, but the female bear was now in B2's territory. Sloth bears have sharp claws and have almost the same weight as a tiger, but because B2 is of similar size one could never tell who would succed if a fight we to occur. Sloth bear on many occasions have been able to kill a tiger by jumping on them from trees suprising the tiger but this wasn't going to happen today.The sloth a few seconds after entering the pond runs off into deep forest as it sees B2 on its left, a sloth does not know that a tigress could also be in the area therefore 2 tigers versus B2 wouldn't be a fair match. B2 on the other hands does chase off sloth bear but the bear did most of the running, after the bear's disapperance b2 comes down into the marshland area. B2 would not let anything come to his cubs harm not even a bear this size this is his job to protect its litter. We did try to get a glimpse of his cubs on the hills by hathi which was seen by another mahout but we were unfortunate to have missed them. Later B2 came on road many times, we had taken some great shots by camera and video camera.Finally after its long stroll B2 had a nap. The tigress to the cubs late r appeared on the scene at 08.45when we were returning back from the hills to see her cubs.She was laying in her cool spot of the marshlands, we could see by her expression though that she was either half sleep or didn't like us around her, it looked quited saddened. I can definetly saythat today's drive was the best of all just because of the rare sightings and it was like something from a movie never been so excited in my life.

Animal seen on this our last drive of the trip:Peacock, stork, spur fowl, wild chicken, chital, wild boar , sloth bear, bengal tigers, elephants, langur monkeys, chital.

The most popular parks visited are Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh, Corbett and Kanha simply of there shere
beauty different landscapes and good chance to see tiger.Next time we visit india we will visit Corbett and Kanha National parks look out for our report and photo gallery in future.

If want to know a bit more about Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh , Corbett or Kanha parks which Save Indias Tigers
will eventaually vist go to www.wildlifeindia.co.uk and www.wildlife-safari-india.com, it is here you will also find some of the images that we have taken on this 2005 trip.It is in our opinion that more has work has to be done with Ranthambhore park management as well as more patrolling to be done over rainy season which is best time for poachers after jun 30.

We were quite
suprised to have not seen any male tigers in Ranthambhore and agree that it is under red alert.In bandhavgarh we were happy with the number of sightings we had of tiger on our drives and agree that accomdation was great at the Ranthambhore Regency Hotel and Nature Heritage resort.Why not take this trip yourself with indian nature tours contact Manoj sharma of www.wildlifeindia.co.uk.

Footnote

Regarding tiger census which was last done on 25th May 05, we were not aware that most of the census in the parks were done annually whereas we had impression this was done after a few years or so.

Prior to 25th May the Prime Minister of India Dr. ManMohan Singh visited Ranthambhore National Park for two days to get a better picture of what problems were facing the national animal and saw his first tiger in the wild.

According to some leading magazines of India, the problems being faced by the National Parks in India are generally management related. Due to some recent adverse reports featured in the leading dailies, the Government of India was forced to initiate remedial action to save this magnificent creature. The Prime Minister of India called a meeting; in this he created National Wildlife Crime Prevention Bureau Unit to see problems confronting tiger and a special Task force to report on Project tiger.

You can now view the full report made by the Tiger task force by going to the Project tiger link on the useful links page, its called 'Joining the dots'.

YOU CAN NOW VIEW MOVIE FOOTAGE OF OUR TIGERLAND TRIP TO RANTHAMBHORE AND BANDHAVGARH BY VISITING WWW.WILDLIFEINDIA.CO.UK





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