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Old 31st May 2014, 18:23   #286
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

T 73 - two year old female

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0169.jpg

Lifts her head to see who all have arrived and as if asking - "Is there someone whom I know"?

I almost replied - "Oh yes darling, I knew your mother too well. You may call me Uncle if you like".

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0173.jpg

Then Rajesh saw an opening and asked the driver to move the jeep there. That was a smart move. I was now in her direct line of sight making wonderful eye-contact. With the 300mm/f2.8 mounted on the monopod, I let it rip. Let the pictures do the talking.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0195.jpg

Good morning Uncle..!

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0218.jpg

ठंडा ठंडा - cool cool

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And then another canter with some very noisy occupants arrived. Probably this was too much for her. She got up from the water and started going inside the thick bushes away from the prying eyes.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0254.jpg

Before vanishing, she turned around and gave an irritated look for having disturbed her siesta. SORRY dear.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0265.jpg

to be continued.../-
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Old 1st June 2014, 11:10   #287
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

T 73 vanished into the bushes and there was no point in waiting. As we thought of moving ahead since only an hour was left to exit the forest, a silence fell through and in hushed tone somebody said - " टाइगर आ रहा है, सत्तरह का मेल है ". Oh boy, what a bonanza? Was the forest atoning for the Hare jinx of yesterday? Three Tigers within a span of 45 minutes...!

Sundari or T 17 had given birth to three cubs - Female and two Males. They were numbered as T 73, 74 & 75 respectively. We had, by now, already seen a male (T 75) and a female (T 73). Now this was T 74 - a male. He was coming to drink water & cool himself. We turned our attention & cameras towards him. By the time we reached near the spot, he had already settled in the water.

I had inadvertently switched to Matrix metering resulting in two photographs turning out underexposed and I do not and not know how to post process.

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I realised my folly and switched to Spot metering.

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The heat & the commotion was too disturbing, hence he got up and ambled away into cooler shades.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0332.jpg

It was already 9 am and by 9:30 we had to be out or else heavy penalties would have to be paid. Headed for exit thinking the morning safari had ended on a very good note.

to be continued.../-
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Old 2nd June 2014, 10:18   #288
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

Awesome pictures sir!!! What a feeling it must have been to see the tigers one after the other. Amazing!
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Old 2nd June 2014, 12:00   #289
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

Thank you so much. In other words on that day it rained Tigers..

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Originally Posted by JASMEET MATTOO View Post

Awesome pictures sir!!! What a feeling it must have been to see the tigers one after the other. Amazing!
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Old 3rd June 2014, 17:48   #290
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

Only men of valour deserve swords n' horses. Similarly, a conservationist like you deserves all the sightings and photography opportunities with this great animal. I am glad the trip took a high note with zone 5. Sir we must do sariska again before the park closes. It's 46/47 degrees at the moment, isn't it opportune? How is machli doing without the bait from officials?
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Old 8th June 2014, 10:12   #291
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

Thank you Samridh for the kind words.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samridh View Post

Only men of valour deserve swords n' horses. Similarly, a conservationist like you deserves all the sightings and photography opportunities with this great animal. I am glad the trip took a high note with zone 5.
Yes indeed. I've just returned yesterday from a back-breaking 7 safaris from RTR. My body needs a bit of time to recover. Bones getting older you know..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samridh View Post

Sir we must do Sariska again before the park closes. It's 46/47 degrees at the moment, isn't it opportune?
Machchli is doing pretty fine for herself without assistance. Last she had killed a Neelgai and that was simply amazing. Her coat is glowing like it was in her prime. Though I could not see her but most of the guides & drivers told me so. Is that a sign of the flame flickering brighter before getting extinguished? I shudder to think of it even. The general talk is that if she survives this June, then maybe she would regale again in the next season. But I wish her all the very best always.

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How is machli doing without the bait from officials?
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Old 8th June 2014, 11:16   #292
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

In continuation of post #: 287

We had seen three different Tigers and couldn't have asked for more or so I thought.

As we drove towards exit, half-a-kilometre away at Jokha water body saw this Male Paradise fly-catcher. A very skittish bird, it doesn't sit still. I always wanted to capture this bird in my camera but had never been successful.

Well, this photograph is not so good at all but this is the best that I did manage.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-3560.jpg

While I was photographing this bird I heard Rajesh exclaim - "सिंगल जीप खड़ी है, लगता है टाइगर है जोखे के पानी में. मच्छली हो सकती है, सुबह आस-पास ही थी". What a fourth Tiger? God or rather Tigers had never been so kind to me before.

We rushed there to find the big dominant male of Rajbagh - the Star Male or T 28 cooling in the water. This was not his area and he was seen in this water body for the first time.

He did venture into this area a few days back and was beaten and chased away by his own sons T 64 & T 65 litters of Tigress Krishna (T 19) and in the process had injured his front leg that one of the brothers had caught in his mouth.

Why would he come back again here? To re-establish his dominance? One to one he would belt either of them in the first round itself, but against two would be a tough act.

Banishing all those thoughts from mind, I concentrated on my photography..

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0355.jpg

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Shaking the water off

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Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0405.jpg

The injury mark on the neck

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Juicy two-legged creatures...!

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Time to get-up & go - this photo was taken by my guide Rajesh Gujar from my camera D800 with the 70~200/f2.8 with TC-14II

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Traffic comes to a halt as the King crosses the road

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The clock read 9:10 am and we had 20 minutes to reach the gate. Rajesh asked us to sit tight and the driver let the jeep fly. We made to the gate just in time. Yes, the bones did rattle all along and the butt was sore with all the jumping & bouncing in the jeep. Phew...!

Thoroughly satisfied we came back to our room. All of a sudden I was feeling ravenously hungry.. Ordered a sumptuous breakfast and readied to download the pictures on to the HDD, thus emptying the memory cards. What would evening hold for us??

The score - 4 Tigers in 3 safaris

to be continued.../-
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Old 8th June 2014, 11:31   #293
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

27th May, 2014 - Evening

Around 2 pm had a cool refreshing shower and was ready by 2:45 waiting for the jeep that arrived around 3:10. Again there were no occupants and it was exclusive for both of us. The zone allotted again was 5. Well, I did not mind that since there were good chances of bumping into the Grand Dame Machchli, T 25 and two Tigers in Bhakola.

Machchli is now 17+ and is being pressurised from the new brood out of which 6 are her grandchildren. She has been changing places; till June 2013, she was at Lakkardah in Zone 4 and now in the current season is being sighted in Zone 5. Earlier the Forest Department used to provide her bait as without her canines and loss of one nail she was finding it difficult to kill. But that was, according to many experts, interference with the nature. So, the NTCA ordered the Ranthambhore authorities to stop giving her bait.

Surprisingly, Machcli started hunting & killing against all odds. This Tigress has not ceased to surprise & regale us all. However she would find very difficult to survive. Maybe after monsoons we might not see her.

Machchli had killed a Sambar two days back near the Handpump area and was coming there to drink water.

As we reached Singhdwar to make entries, heard that a forest guard had seen Machchli in the Handpump area sometime around 1 pm sitting in water. So we raced to that place hoping she would come back again or would be resting nearby. There was no activity around the Handpump area. Scanned the area thoroughly and also waited for a brief while but since it was hot there wasn't any chance of her coming out if she was resting in a shade.

While waiting spotted this pair of Common Flameback Woodpeckers.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0423.jpg

Moved ahead and lo behold a Canter was parked near the Dhakda stream. Was there a Cat? Sure enough it was T 73 again who was grooming herself.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0441.jpg

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Regal Pose

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Killer hardware

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0480.jpg

She showed no signs of getting up or moving. There was no further point in waiting. Rajesh suggested that we should go back to Handpump & stake-out.

I deferred and said that we must explore the Bhakola area for T 41 & her cub and Romeo the T 6. While we were discussing this, a jeep came from the Kachida area and stopped near us. We pointed them to T 73 and they informed that nothing was at Bhakola as they were coming from there.

Rajesh looked at me in a quizzical way but don't know why I insisted. Some sixth sense urging me to go to Bhakola...!

to be continued.../-
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Old 8th June 2014, 14:47   #294
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Beautiful set of photos, and good to see new updates in every page. I cant stop but admire the shots of those tigers. A inspiring travelogue i have come across. Animal safari's were always a dream of mine since i was a kid. Your head made me plan one soon!
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Old 10th June 2014, 21:01   #295
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

In continuation from post #: 293

In deference to the wish of my mentor/guide/advisor in photography, Sankar Sridhar, I'm writing an exclusive post of what I witnessed on the evening of May 27th, 2014 and dedicating to him.

लैला ओ लैला लैला, ऐसी तू लैला.....

I know that this line from the film Qurbaani has surprised you and you all must be wondering what is the relevance here in the Tiger Tales...! Well, as I mentioned that I had a hunch to go to the Bhakola area of the jungle while Rajesh, my guide for the last 4 years, was in disagreement. I overrode him and insisted that we go to Bhakola.

Bhakola in Ranthambore is one of the most serene & beautiful place with a perennial water body. This area is ruled by the huge T 6 who is also known as Romeo or the Bherda Male and his consort the lithe & beautiful T 41 or Laila. She gave birth to a cub about 13 months ago - her first litter.

Under the new rule imposed by the Forest Department, in any case we had to go to the Anatpur Chowki, the last post of Zone 5 to register our prescence and we headed there. Rajesh made entries there while we freshened up. He came back and said that the foot patrol had returned and they too drew a blank at Bhakola.

I was adamant and we headed to Bhakola. While approaching the Bhakola area near the water body, there is a small bridge that gives a bird's eye view of the forest. Since I do not generally take landscape photographs, I cannot show you all as to how beautiful the place looks like. Near this bridge three Sambars - two male & one female were grazing peacefully. Rajesh again looked at me as if saying I told you so. I responded - "it is fine but let us go till the last point of Bhakola".

As we went ahead further, saw a VIP forest jeep coming over from the Zone 4 side (well, they can jump zones as they have no restrictions) and gestured us to slow down and keep quiet. This meant they were following a Tiger but had not yet made any visual contact. We slowly moved ahead and Rajesh croaked - "Tiger on the left. Tigress Laila". I slowly turned my head and some 20 feet away hidden behind dry bushes & twigs, this gorgeous mother was sitting. We immediately stopped on the side and indicated the VIP jeep about its location. Not once did she look at us. Her gaze was locked on to something else - and that something else were the Sambars. Was she on a hunt? Since there were no alarm calls the Sambars were not alert and when I checked the direction of the wind with my kerchief, Laila was downwind hence the Sambars could not even smell her. Smart Tigress.

Laila was hungry as she had to feed her cub as well and was on a hunt. I was shivering with excitement, took some deep breaths, handed over my D800 with the 70~200 + TC14II to Rajesh who needed no instructions. My wife had switched on her iPad and was ready to make a video. I was manning the 300mm/f2.8 mounted on a D7100 in 1.3x crop mode fixed on a monopod. Since the AF would not work properly due to the various twigs & bushes, I switched on to manual mode.

Instead of my boring monologue, I would rather now let the pictures do the talking.

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Killing Machine

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Crouching Tigress...

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Patience is the key

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Stalking

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Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-3975.jpg

One of the male Sambars turned around & looked at us puzzled as we were not moving at all. Immediately Laila went behind a bush to avoid detection.

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Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-3986.jpg

Waits for the Sambar to feel relaxed and resume grazing. It was here that I took the D800 back from Rajesh as I needed some wide angle.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4005.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4006.jpg

Stalking resumed

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She freezes, as the Sambar turns his head towards us. Laila was in the open and I wondered as to why the Sambar did not see her. The the realisation hit me - animals see in black & white and Laila had totally merged into the surroundings standing still. Not even a muscle twitched. Her raised left hind leg was frozen in the air.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4030.jpg

Realising that she could be detected any time, she changed track and moved away from their vision.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4031.jpg

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Though a Tiger can run at 60 kmph, it can do so only for a short distance. A sambar can outrun the Tiger anyday. The key to a successful hunt is to reach as close as possible to the prey and then launch an attack. Surprise is the key element. And Laila was doing exactly the same.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4035.jpg

Laila was within ten feet of the unsuspecting Sambars. Her body was like a coiled spring about to release with every muscle taut.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4036.jpg

She launched into an attack.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4037.jpg

In this process she dislodged a boulder and the Sambars spooked by the sound bolted without even knowing that their life was at stake.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4041.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4042.jpg

While the two Sambars bolted to the right, one ran across the stream and Laila changed direction and went after him. I guess that was a mistake.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4043.jpg

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Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4047.jpg

to be continued as I've reached my maximum limit of 30 photographs in one post.../-
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Old 10th June 2014, 21:15   #296
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The Sambar escaped to our side and climbed the hill. The hunt failed by a whisker, to say so literally. Laila stood dejectedly watching the escaped Sambar.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4052.jpg

Laila turns around and looks at us sheepishly.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4053.jpg

Then she sits down in the water cooling, drinking & licking herself.

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Her cub was hungry and so was she. This evening she had to get food. She got up and moved ahead in the direction where more prey was available. By night, we were sure, she would have made a kill.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0532.jpg

My guide Rajesh Gujar has taken the below pictures from my camera. I concede that he takes better pictures than I.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4093.jpg

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4096.jpg

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Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-4104_bw.jpg

Our time too in the jungle was up. We left her to gather food peacefully & returned. It was an exhilarating experience & sight that I would never forget.

Given below is the link to the video of this entire sequence that my wife shot on her iPad.


After all this excitement got over, I tapped Rajesh on the shoulder and looked at him with an eyebrow arched. He responded and I quote - "बॉस, आप सही थे और पहली बार मेरा चौबीस साल का अनुभव फेल हो गया".

to be continued.../-
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Old 10th June 2014, 21:24   #297
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
In continuation from post #: 293

In deference to the wish of my mentor/guide/advisor in photography, Sankar Sridhar, I'm writing an exclusive post of what I witnessed on the evening of May 27th, 2014 and dedicating to him.
Sir jee, this is absolutely brilliant. I remember our conversations several years back when you were like the rest of us, i.e seeing deer but not tigers. The gods up there have surely been blessing you with sightings!
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Old 10th June 2014, 22:09   #298
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

Hitanshu, for ten long years since '91 I had been roaming the jungles without a sighting and was getting dejected & demoralised. In Jan '11 Sariska blessed me and since then the floodgates seemed to have opened. God & Tigers have been very kind to me.

Otherwise I'm still like the rest of you all only..

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Sir jee, this is absolutely brilliant. I remember our conversations several years back when you were like the rest of us, i.e seeing deer but not tigers. The gods up there have surely been blessing you with sightings!
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Old 10th June 2014, 22:14   #299
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Default Re: Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!

In continuation of my post #: 296

With this awesome scene I thought I had had enough and we had to be at the exit gate by 7 pm. The driver told us to sit tight and let the jeep fly since we were at the farthest end of Zone 5 and it would almost take one hour to reach. As we reached the Dhakda area saw a lone jeep standing near the water stream. Curiosity took us there and what do we see? T 73 again; sprawled over a cool damp patch near the stream.

Heat doesn't spare anyone, be it the King, Queen or the Princess. It was almost 45 C inside the jungle and all that action by Laila made us feel nothing. Seeing T 73 spread like this made us realise that indeed it was very hot. She just lay there looking at us without even moving a muscle.

I almost wanted to install a water-cooler there for her.

Gurgaon - Ranthambhore - Jodhpur - Gurgaon: Big Cats call again..!-0571.jpg

I gestured the other jeep to slowly back off & leave. We also did the same. Didn't feel like intruding in her privacy. Thus ended an action packed safari for the day. This was the second last safari of my trip. Next day after the morning safari, we would head back home.

The score till now - 6/4

to be continued.../-
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Old 10th June 2014, 23:32   #300
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Brilliant narration along with even better pics. Loved every bit of it. Way to go!
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