Road Trippin continued

Jeep safari Ranthambore

Jeep safari Ranthambore

After Udaipur, we were headed to Sawai Madhopur also in the state of Rajasthan in India. The main motive for going all the way was to be able to do jeep safaris in the Ranthambore National Park, home of the Asian tigers!

After a point from Udaipur, the road quality deteriorates so the going can be quite slow. The roads also get narrower, poorly lit and quite isolated so its advisable to do the entire run in daylight.

Well we did have to cover some distance after the sky lost its color and it wasn’t the best drive we’d had. The drive further becoming treacherous with the invasion of dogs, cows and camels right in the middle of the highway. And a near miss from a head-on collision with a discarded piece of machinery carelessly left on the side of the road.

Packed up for the jeep safari

Packed up for the jeep safari

The place we stayed at was quite nice and after a piping hot dinner on a wintry night, we called it a day. The next day, in the wee hours of the morning, we mustered all our will power to go out in an open jeep exploring wildlife on a winter morning, in the middle of a jungle surrounded by hills. As we started out, we were chilled to the core but as the sun descended the weather became better and turned to a cool sunny that we actually enjoyed.

Jungle stopover at Ranthambore

Jungle stopover at Ranthambore

We went for three safaris in three different forest zones. The zones are allocated based on availability as the authorities do not want to crowd certain areas only. Zones 1-4 are known for the best tiger spotting and its advisable to book these zones 3-4 months in advance. Online bookings are supposedly available which we weren’t aware of.

The safaris turned out to be pretty great. The early morning crisp air, the sunrises and the jungle terrain, plant and wildlife spotting, the interesting and at times amusing conversations with the jeep guides and drivers, stopovers in the middle of the jungle, and the unbelievable ease with which the 4×4 jeeps navigated through almost any ridge and depression of the stark jungle terrain.

Spotted deer at Ranthambore

Spotted deer at Ranthambore

Bird feeding at Ranthambore

Bird feeding at Ranthambore

For three days straight, we sloshed about in the jeep exploring the zones and always on high alert for any tiger trails. At the end of it all though, it was worth it as we did spot the elusiver tiger. Tigress actually. We considered ourselves lucky as there are only about 60 tigers in an area of 392 sq. km. On top of that tigers are known to be one of the most lazy animals. So that doesn’t help either. The hot and dry months (May-Jun) are said to be best for animal spotting in Ranthambore as the animals laze around the man-made water holes to beat the heat. Besides the big cats, there was a decent dash of other wildlife – deer, sambhars, boars, gazelle, neel gai, monkeys, bird species and plant varieties.

Tiger at Ranthambore

Tiger at Ranthambore

The third day, after our safari and a satiating breakfast of aloo poori, we bundled up once more and headed for our last road trip destination – Agra, where friends and family awaited us.

We reached Agra well in time that day, unwound and ate a lot over the next few days and enjoyed one of the most memorable New Year celebrations.

And did I mention the most delicious dhaba lunch we had on our way to Agra? Still makes my mouth water 😛

Into The Wild: Visit to Gir Forest

Looking at pictures of the Gir Forest by a colleague reminded me of my own trip to Gir with my office colleagues/friends in Nov 2010, while I was working in Gujarat.

We wanted to go for a good trip after months of monotony.  One of my friend suggested visiting Gir Forest and also covering Diu on our way back. It was a good idea and different from visiting the usual places like Ahmedabad, Mumbai etc. We welcomed a short stint away from city life!
There were four of us and we had hired a Taxi, Indicia. We set out after work on Friday night from Baroda so that we could reach Gir early morning and catch the morning safari. All arrangements of taking a safari (the permit) and our stay were made in advance by our colleague. 
We set out in high spirits, listening to music and all excited about the trip. The travel was longer than anticipated and we entered Gir early morning on Saturday.  Even though we had travelled the whole night I was fresh with excitement … the weather was slightly chilly and the air was fresh due to the forest cover. It felt great!
 


We were allotted one of those Safari Jeeps and we set-off into the jungle. The road tapered till there was just a narrow muddy track. On n On it went taking us more into the depths of the protected reserve. The first animal we spotted was the deer. Abundant in numbers and easy to spot.  The jungle was full of them. Ample of food for the lions I guess :-p

 

We rode on further, spotting owls and some varieties of birds, sambhar, jackals and wild boars. The main attraction of Gir is ofcourse … The Asiatic Lion! The only place it’s found today! We hadn’t seen any yet! We had to see the lion, otherwise this trip would be incomplete! The guides in the other jeeps exchanged info. if there was some lion spotting so they could take their tourists to the spot as well. There seemed to be some alertness among them, the way they signaled to each other.


We moved on and a few meters ahead we saw about 4-5 jeeps parked, everyone very quiet and peering at something behind the trees. Our guide declared … “lions”. Whaat I thought … Where … I couldn’t see any … I looked into the direction where everyone was looking … still I couldn’t see anything … then slowly my vision became clearer and I spotted a full grown-up lion … it was so very well camouflaged in the trees and bushes. Along with him was a lioness sitting opposite to him. Our guide informed us that it was a mating pair. Wow I thought as I looked at these majestic creatures, in their natural habitat, so much at ease. What if they come charging at us like right now? There was pin-drop silence at that spot but my heart was beating with joy.  We hung in there for sometime along with the other jeeps. Clicked pics and willed for the lions to roar. They never did! Lazy creatures! We completed our safari and went back to our resort for a shut eye. YaY for spotting the elusive lion!

Shortly post lunch it was time for the evening safari. This time it was a different route. Unfortunately, we did not spot any lions this time. Actually winter is not the best time to visit Gir. Summer is better because the lions come out to the man-made tanks for water and spotting is easier. Also, the shrubs and trees dry out and you can see much farther inside the jungle from the tracks. However, the most amazing aspect of this route was that the forest opened up into this magnificent lake. It was so beautiful … although there were crocs criss-crossing in it … in hundreds … which reminded me of khoon bhari maang … lol! And we could GET DOWN (that’s something!) from the jeep and go to this observation tower. 

 

We came back out to for a splendid late night in front of a bonfire in our resort!