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Old 31st October 2016, 11:28   #1
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Default Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

Ranthambore. Just the name conjures up images of tigers, bold & unafraid, uncaring of the dozens of tourists clicking away on everything from cellphones to those big bazookas. I visited the place last week, as part of a tour organized by Toehold and came back with a card full of photos of not just tigers but also of some of the other wonderful animals that inhabit this forest. We did totally eight safaris and we sighted a tiger in three of them. Twice it was the same tiger and once a different one. Now, I'm told that for Ranthambore this is a below average ratio of safaris to sightings, but the forest was so lush and green after some of the best rains in 20 years that we may have missed a couple of sightings. Every single rivulet and stream is flowing merrily and the lakes are full to the brim. In these conditions, tigers won't come out for water as often as they would in summer or in one of the drier years, as they would be getting sufficient water wherever they happen to be. So we were fortunate to sight whatever we could.

I have a Nikon D7200 and I had hired a Nikon 200-500 mm lens for the tour, so all photos you see below are taken using that combination. I've been debating whether to purchase the lens, but somehow I'm not willing to swipe the card just yet.

All tigers in Ranthambore have a number and a name, following a system by the Forest Department. The names are generally based on the markings seen on their face or body. Ranthambore is also divided into ten different zones, five of which (Z1 - Z5) is on one side of Sawai Madhopur and the other five (Z6 - Z10) is on the other side. When we visited, Zones 3, 4, and 5 were having the most sightings with the other zones having very few. Zone 8 is a nightmare if you have a bad back, since it is full of steep rocky terrain that needs to be negotiated. We didn't visit 6, 7, 9 or 10. The other zones are mainly flat land with a lot of lakes, so riding around in a safari Gypsy is not a problem there.

First day, first show. Zone 4. T-28, the Star male. When we came across him, he was relaxing in the shade probably after a heavy meal.

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5316.jpg

He looks up to see who is disturbing his slumber.

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5317.jpg

And in a very, very human looking gesture he starts waving his front paw, as though to say "Go Away!". He was probably swatting flies, really.

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5330.jpg

Ah, something out there grabs his attention.

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It is this pair of Sambar deer, unaware of who lies in wait. They are slowly walking towards him.

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5340.jpg

"Don't they look tasty?", says Star. At this key moment, my camera decides to focus on the grass in the background for whatever reason! :(

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5363.jpg

"But I'm too full and just want to sleep. They look like too much work to me!" And I have the focus back.

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5369.jpg

"Ah, escaped!" thinks the stag before running way with alarm calls and raised tails.

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Thus ended the first safari. Oh we did see some other interesting things like this owlet keeping a close watch on proceedings:

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5423.jpg

Next up was Zone 5. While we didn't see any tigers there, we did catch a glimpse of a very rare King Vulture. This bird is now classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN list, meaning there are not many left in the wild.

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5586.jpg

I also managed to capture a brightly lit Spotted Deer against a dark background. Had to go down to -2 EV to get this shot:

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5636.jpg

The next day, we were in Zone 8 which as I mentioned is terrible territory. But we did get some good photos in great light. Like this Nilgai mother and kid:

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A closeup of the kid, with thorns sticking on its face:

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A Sambar family pose for their portrait:

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5695.jpg

We were in Zone 3 later, when T-85, named Pacman put in an appearance:

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5842.jpg

He really looks fierce and willing to take on the world. See that mark over his right eye? It kind of resembles Pacman, doesn't it? Hence the name.

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This is how close he came up to the safari vehicles. Notice the guy holding up a mobile, in which the tiger is also seen. Talk about picture in picture!

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This was also my closest encounter with a tiger. I couldn't zoom out any futher and I could've just reached out my hand to touch him.

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5941.jpg

Early the next morning, we found him again attempting to cross the river to get to his resting place:

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5971.jpg

He snarls at a crocodile in his path, demanding he get out of the way:

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And then leaps into the water!

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Gets up on a thin strip of land leading to his haveli:

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Swims the final bit across:

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And goes away.

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That ended our tiger sightings for the tour. We were happy to have seen these majestic beasts in their natural habitat and thankful for getting a lot of photos. We also saw a few other interesting birds and animals, like this pair of Scops Owls, one of which looks at us with one eye, as though to ask "Who goes there?"

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb6121.jpg

And this baby croc on a rock:

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We also spotted a Stork Billed Kingfisher, a big representative of the KF family:

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5809.jpg

And a Red Vented Bulbul, with a fresh catch:

Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more-rtmb5823.jpg

All in all, it was a very satisfying trip and I sure hope to go back sometime soon. As usual, I hope you enjoyed seeing the photos as much as I did taking them. Comments and critique are always welcome. Until next time, ciao.

Last edited by Stryker : 31st October 2016 at 11:32.
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Old 31st October 2016, 16:54   #2
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 31st October 2016, 17:55   #3
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

Good photographs and crisp narration. Seems you had a good time. I particularly like the shot of the pair of owls. Good to see that there are many who enjoy the forest for what it is, and not just tiger centric.
So what is the judgement on the 200-500mm f 5.6? Were you also using a TC along with it? Some photos look soft, maybe due to the low resolution attachments here in the forum?
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Old 31st October 2016, 21:00   #4
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

Yeah, I certainly had a good time there. I try to enjoy the whole forest, it's atmosphere, it's animals and birds. There are some who are so cat centric that they don't even take out their cameras for other creatures, but I've always had more fun photographing the more common denizens, like Spotted Deer and Langurs.

The 200-500 is quite good, but you are right. Some of the photos are a bit soft even at full res, maybe my particular lens had some focus breathing issues. I've had better results with this lens in the past. Hired lenses can probably only give you that much, you never know what they've been through. The first time I used this lens on a different trip it was almost brand new and the sharpness was much better.

Oh and no, I wasn't using a TC.
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Old 1st November 2016, 08:38   #5
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

Nice pictures Stryker and a pretty funny narration. Very good to hear that you snap other forest inhabitants along with big cats. I have a similar approach. Of course, big cats are generally more glamorous and considered the icing on the cake because they are rather rare, but every creature in the forest is interesting to observe and photograph.

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Old 1st November 2016, 10:03   #6
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

True, Aditya. A tiger or a leopard sighting is very thrilling for various reasons, they are rare, they represent the pinnacle of the food chain, they are far more glamorous than their more mundane co-inhabitants, etc. But I'm not generally too disappointed if I don't see one on a safari. I know a few people who get very depressed when a couple of safaris go by without a sighting and they start resorting to all kinds of funny things, like lucky shirts, caps, waking up at a certain time, you won't believe the superstitions!

The drivers/guides too tend to concentrate on these cats, as their tips are dependent on sighting them. So one has to literally force a driver to stop to shoot deer or langur and also bear mumbling and grumbling from co-enthusiasts.
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Old 1st November 2016, 14:36   #7
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

Fantastic pictures, thank you for sharing! I visited Ranthambore a few years back and managed to see a tiger, though no way how close you've seen. Great stuff!
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Old 1st November 2016, 14:47   #8
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Nice narrative, excellent pictures.

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Old 1st November 2016, 15:19   #9
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

Hello Stryker,

Nice to see your travelogue again, nice pics and narration, especially the king vulture pic. Since the time I had started following T-BHP (4-5 years back) I read your, Nilanjanray, abheekg 's travelogues multiple times, great passion for wildlife. Also, nice to see Ranthambore with full green cover and lakes/drains are full with water, good for our nature.

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Old 1st November 2016, 20:49   #10
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Brilliant Pictures!!! The proximity of the Tiger is mind blowing. Thanks for sharing them.
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Old 2nd November 2016, 11:42   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dghosh80 View Post
...I read your, Nilanjanray, abheekg 's travelogues multiple times...
Wow, you are including me in much better company! Thanks for that. I'm not in the same league as them. Yet!
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Old 2nd November 2016, 13:04   #12
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

You are absolutely right in calling Zone 8 as a nightmare. I had visited this place in last November and took 2 Safari's. The 1st one was post lunch and was in Zone 7. Trust me it was an absolute waste and we didn't get to see any tiger. The drive was also an old gentleman who was least interested in showing us anything. All he wanted to do was to end the trip as quickly as possible. The next morning safari was in the nightmare zone and honestly we left thoroughly disappointed of not having a single sighting.
My colleagues who took a single safari went through gate 2 or 3 (cant recall now) but got to see a female tiger. That was some ratio & luck they had.
It was then we were told that the best sightings happen from the 1st 5 gates, the others are pure luck if the tigers decide to wander there.
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Old 2nd November 2016, 13:53   #13
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

It is generally true that sightings are better in Zones 1 to 5, but that is mostly because of the territory and the lay of the land. Not because of the tiger density in these zones. See this link for a better idea of tiger distribution in zones. It isn't a fully updated, as of now information, but will give you a fair idea of where you can find tigers best.

Sighting a tiger in Zones 7 & 8 is very, very challenging because of the terrain. Even a small clump of rocks can mean the difference between seeing one or not. Even if you do get to see one, the photo opportunities are quite limited, mostly to record shots. I would say it is the same with Zone 2, although there are a few spots where photography would be great. We didn't see any tiger in Zone 1, 2 or 5 for that matter. All our group's sightings were in Zones 3 and 4. Again, that was just those few days. The tigers are in no way confined to their respective zones, but they don't tend to move out of their territory either.
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Old 3rd November 2016, 14:53   #14
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Very good photo-logue, interesting narration Jaisimha. Appreciate your enthusiasm to click smaller animals and birds.

I have been to many safaris in the South, yet to go to one up North. I believe chances of tiger or leopard sighting is comparatively less down South. I have gone for safaris at Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu, Bandipur & BR Hills in Karnataka, and Tholpetty in Kerala, but never encountered a big cat.

Never disappointed with any of these safaris for not seeing the cats, but each safari was thrilling and enjoyed every moment. Few snaps from my Bandipur trip is in the below link,

Mysterious Bandipur (A tryst with the mysterious Bandipur)
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Old 3rd November 2016, 22:10   #15
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Default Re: Ranthambore - Land of Tigers and more

Quote:
Originally Posted by earthian View Post
Good to see that there are many who enjoy the forest for what it is, and not just tiger centric.
My experience from 3 safaris in Ranthambore is that the guides and drivers of the Gypsies are all focused on showing the tourist only one animal - the tiger. Throughout the safari they keep looking for just one animal. Perhaps it is our collective fault because most of us want only that.They say a lot of lofty things before the safari like how important it is to enjoy the jungle as a whole but when it comes to it they don't care to stop for the smaller birds or other animals.

Every time I saw a thick knee or a painted sandgrouse or even a sub-adult leopard I had to hiss through my teeth "stp stp stppppp, aare roko bhaiiii". And then when he stops, he does it so abruptly that itself makes the birds fly away.

In this rush to see the tiger, our driver in fact almost drove into the leopard !!! My driver was so careless on one occasion that an entire flock of jungle bush quails disappeared into the forest within seconds. The only non-tiger but very elusive and shy animal that we saw peacefully for quite some time was a sloth bear.

I think the park management should do something to really educate the drivers on how not to chase away birds while driving.
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