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Old 19th July 2021, 01:07   #1
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Default 20 years of Ranthambore!

When the Rajathan summer hits its peak, the lakes run dry, the earth is parched and every moment in the sun makes you question your existence, it's time to step out and meet the tigers of Ranthambore. This may sound slightly over-dramatized (almost like the build up to a cold drink advertisement, whatís life without a bit of theatrics ) but it is how we have spent every summer for the last 20 years!

Long before Ranthambore became a trending instagram location thatís frequently flogged by celebrities and politicians, and even long before the advent of social media, our family fell in love with this place and made it our annual pilgrimage.

The seeds were sown in 1997 when my dad visited the place as part of a medical camp and met Mr. Fateh Singh, a tiger conservationist often regarded as the tiger man of India and the principal architect of the success of Ranthambore. On being asked why he didnít have any weapons at his house (which was right next to the forest) for self protection against the curious predators that often paid a visit, he said that Ďman is the most dangerous animalí, a statement that left a long lasting mark on us. It probably sounds a bit cliched now and is thrown around in every other wildlife post on the net but it was another thing coming from a person who literally lived by it everyday. On a side note, it feels weird that small anecdotes from your childhood feel like a piece of history now .

Our first visit to the park was 4 years later (when I was in 7th standard!) and I distinctly remember the thrill of exploring a jungle for the first time, the stern hushes of the guide, looking out for the alert calls, tracking the pugmarks and a euphoric culmination of spotting a tigress and her cubs, albeit from a distance. What a majestic animal it was!

That feeling kept drawing us back, again and again. When I see a timelapse of these years in my head, I can see a lot of changes in the periphery - the cars(from an Ambassador to an Indica to a Fabia to a Vento to now an Octavia), the road conditions (from a 4 hour journey on patchy two lane roads to a breezy 2.5 hours drive now), our travel companions (we had a lot of friends and family members accompany us mostly out of curiosity around our obsession with the place), the safari booking procedure (waking up at 2 am to get in the line for getting the desired zone to the comforts of booking it online now), the sheer number of tourists, and the tigers (from the legendary Machli to the majestic T-24 who was put in captivation after a couple of unfortunate human encounters to the latest camera loving duo of Ridhi-Sidhi). But amidst all these changes, the only constant I see is the excitement on our faces as we head towards the forest.

We had a lot of great encounters, some even too close for comfort and of-course some disappointing trips too where we didnít spot any tigers, but I guess this uncertainty is what added to the drama. For the initial few years, we didnít have a camera so we went to just 'see' the tigers and not worry about getting the right camera angle. In the last few years, we have managed to capture a few of our memorable encounters and I am sharing them here.

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Are we over commercializing the place now!
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A few final post credit statements:
  • If you are in Rajasthan, its summers and you are interested in wildlife, Ranthambore should be a must visit.
  • Itís just over a two hour drive from Jaipur, we have done multiple trips where we have returned home within 24 hours.
  • Zones 1-5 are the core zones (there have been a few sightings in zone 6 too, you can definitely avoid zones 7-10). The safari bookings need to be made online well in advance (it's more cut-throat than Tatkal bookings on IRCTC)
  • For the hardcore enthusiasts, now there are full day safaris too which donít have a fixed zone but are significantly more expensive.
  • <Cliched statement alert> Finally, even if you donít see the tiger, be rest assured that the tiger would have seen you! So go back because the law of probability would be more favorable now.
  • All these photos are from a point and shoot camera. A question for the experts out there, any recommendations for the right camera and lens combination if I want to graduate to a DSLR now.
  • Last but not the least, special kudos to @sknair for his similar post (20 years of Kabini journeys | Nagarhole National Park) and inspiring me to shake off my slumber and write this post.
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Old 19th July 2021, 08:14   #2
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

Nice report with some good photos, and a good perspective on Ranthambore before it became so famous on social media. Nice to see you have had so many tiger sightings over the years. Thanks for sharing this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by animeshc View Post
All these photos are from a point and shoot camera. A question for the experts out there, any recommendations for the right camera and lens combination if I want to graduate to a DSLR now
I am not an expert at all, but taking liberty to share my thoughts since I went through exactly this. I recently graduated from mobile phone camera to a DSLR, and oh boy, it has made a huge difference! I also took online courses to learn the fundamentals of photography and the camera techniques. Luckily I have some friends who are experts and they taught me a lot too. This has improved the quality of photos I take now, but more importantly, now I get much more joy from photography. Taking each photo now has lot more thinking from my side. I enjoy the process and love the art now. So I definitely recommend you move on to a DSLR as soon as possible.

Regarding which camera/lens combo, again I am not an expert but let me share my thoughts based on my experiences. Start with a relatively good but not too expensive DSLR and good kit lenses. Do no buy expensive lenses at first. Use the camera for a few months and learn what you like the most and what kind of lenses would be best for your photography. Then start adding lenses later, when you know exactly what you need. I recently bought my first fast prime (35mm f1.8) after using the kit lenses for 6 months, and I love this fast prime now.

I started with Nikon D3500 with two kit lenses - 18-55mm and 70-300mm. The 70-300mm lens is good for wildlife photography, again as a beginner. For wildlife, you will need at least 400mm equivalent focal length. If you get an APS-C camera (lime my D3500), then the crop factor will be 1.5 and the 300mm focal length becomes effectively 450mm. This is good enough as a start for wildlife photography.

I would say any good APS-C DSLR from Nikon or Canon, with a good telephoto zoom lens of about 300mm focal length (450mm effective) is a good start for wildlife photography. I would recommend Nikon D5600 with the 70-300mm kit lens. It is a very good camera and that particular kit lens is great for wildlife photography.

Of course, if you have a big budget, you can directly buy a full-frame camera, but I would not recommend that unless you are really serious about this and would be willing to carry a heavy camera and heavy lenses around all the time. APS-C cameras and lenses are lighter and relatively more compact, and are easier to manage for day-to-say casual photography as well.
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Old 19th July 2021, 08:51   #3
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

What a treat! Thank you so much for sharing.

I have been to Pench twice, and I saw numerous animals, but the tiger.
Bappa willing, the next time I will get to see one. Till then I have to be satiated with such awesome pics.

All pics are fantastic.
My favourite is the one where the tiger has just come out of the water and the water, still dripping from his body, is sparkling in the sunlight.

My least favourite is the one which has the most vicious and sadistic predator on earth in vehicles photographing His Majesty.

I wish forest reserves are actually reserved only for the animals. CCTV cameras can be installed at numerous places whose feeds can be streamed online so animal lovers can watch at their leisure.
CCTV will also help reduce, if not eliminate poachers. Like I said before, vicious and sadistic predators.
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Old 19th July 2021, 09:22   #4
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

Nice coverage. Felt like being in Ranthambore. The place in my ever growing list of to be visited. Thanks to COVID this year and last year has been a typical white wash with very less travel.
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Old 19th July 2021, 09:23   #5
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

Quote:
Originally Posted by animeshc View Post

The seeds were sown in 1997 when my dad visited the place as part of a medical camp and met Mr. Fateh Singh[/list]
Your post is really well-written.
I, too, have a strong affinity towards animals. That's most evident in the fact that Fateh Salim is a combination of Fateh Singh and Salim Ali (Birdman of India) .
This piqued my interest in learning more about this wonderful gentleman - Fateh Singh Rathore (10 August 1938 Ė 1 March 2011).

For anyone interested in learning more about him, I've attached a link: Fateh Singh Rathore: A Human Tiger

Quote:
The first task he had to face in the area that became the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve (RTR) was to arrange a tiger hunt for Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain when she visited India in January 1961. In those days, wildlife tourism meant hunting, and many ex-Maharajas organized hunts for their visitors as a source of income for themselves. This area of Rajasthan was the hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Jaipur.

Hunting was banned in the early 1970s, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi realised that the number of tigers in the wild had fallen dangerously low, merely 1800 as compared to around 40,000 at the beginning of the twentieth century.
20 years of Ranthambore!-fateh-singh.jpg

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post
I wish forest reserves are actually reserved only for the animals. CCTV cameras can be installed at numerous places whose feeds can be streamed online so animal lovers can watch at their leisure.
CCTV will also help reduce, if not eliminate poachers. Like I said before, vicious and sadistic predators.
Yes, I completely agree with you on the final photo. The tiger appears to be a small child who has been disoriented at an exhibition. Instead of absolute prohibition, I believe that limiting safari traffic would be a better option.

When it comes to CCTV/motion capturing cameras, several have been installed in the Mudumalai national park to deter poachers.
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Old 19th July 2021, 10:17   #6
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

It sure is special looking at the transformation of your favourite haunt over the years. Very well compiled narration. Ranthambore has been on my to-do list for some years now. Could you please elaborate from a user perspective as to how one would go about visiting this place? Will be helpful if you can recommend some places of stay as well.
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Old 19th July 2021, 13:26   #7
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

Such beautiful photos and a good walk down the memory lane, thanks for taking us along.

The photos that you have taken by point and shoot are brilliant and drool worthy enough, I wonder what you will cook up with the DSLR. Do keep the thread going and post more photos when you do acquire DSLR.
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Old 19th July 2021, 14:00   #8
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Such wonderful photos animeshc and your narration style is superb. Ranthambore has been on the bucket list for long but somehow never materialised. Literally everyone in the family, except me have visited the place. As a matter of fact, parents have visited thrice. Do lend some special tips about planning a visit here and how best to ensure sightings. I got to know from some people that the guides there just fleece you if you appear ignorant.
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Old 19th July 2021, 16:28   #9
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

I have travelled to Ranthambore three times. While I was not lucky enough to spot a tiger here, the landscape more than made it up for me. I always enjoy visiting the Ranthambore, especially during the winters. Some of the pics of the three times I visited the place.

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Old 20th July 2021, 10:16   #10
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr.AD View Post
I would say any good APS-C DSLR from Nikon or Canon, with a good telephoto zoom lens of about 300mm focal length (450mm effective) is a good start for wildlife photography. I would recommend Nikon D5600 with the 70-300mm kit lens. It is a very good camera and that particular kit lens is great for wildlife photography.

Of course, if you have a big budget, you can directly buy a full-frame camera, but I would not recommend that unless you are really serious about this and would be willing to carry a heavy camera and heavy lenses around all the time. APS-C cameras and lenses are lighter and relatively more compact, and are easier to manage for day-to-say casual photography as well.
Thanks a lot for the pointers. The concern around carrying a heavy camera and lenses was there at the back of my head, so special thanks for addressing that too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post

I wish forest reserves are actually reserved only for the animals.
I think it's a case of 'necessary evil' to a certain extent. The revenue generated by tourism is immense and crucial to the maintenance of these parks so probably some middle ground is needed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fateh Salim View Post

For anyone interested in learning more about him, I've attached a link: Fateh Singh Rathore: A Human Tiger

Instead of absolute prohibition, I believe that limiting safari traffic would be a better option.
Thanks for the link Fateh and yes, very interesting relation b/w your name and
your interest in wildlie . I agree with the idea of limiting the safari traffic to a certain extent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BeantownThinker View Post
Could you please elaborate from a user perspective as to how one would go about visiting this place? Will be helpful if you can recommend some places of stay as well.
Quote:
Originally Posted by IamNikhil View Post
Do lend some special tips about planning a visit here and how best to ensure sightings. I got to know from some people that the guides there just fleece you if you appear ignorant.
I think a few things to keep in mind:
- Most important, book the safaris online a couple of months in advance (as I mentioned above, preferably something b/w zone 1-5). There is an option between a Canter (an open bus with a lot more co-passengers) and a gypsy. Though the gypsy is costlier, it gives a better chance to spot the tigers because of its accessibility to more corners of the forest.
- Summers (Mid April to June) is the best time to visit if you want to spot a tiger.
- Getting there: You can drive from Jaipur and is just 2.5 hours away or take a train to Sawai Madhopur from where its just 10-15 kms away.
- Stay options: There are a plethora of hotels, from the economical yet comfortable RTDC Hotel Vinayak to the newly constructed Hotel Nahargarh which has great online reviews to the ultra luxurious Oberoi Vanyavilas. Off-late, we have been personally staying at Hotel Dev Vilas, which is a good balance of luxury without being overly expensive.

I personally haven't had any bad experience with the guides and they also try their best to sight a tiger in anticipation of some extra tip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AtheK View Post
The photos that you have taken by point and shoot are brilliant and drool worthy enough, I wonder what you will cook up with the DSLR.
Thanks a lot for the kind words, hopefully will graduate to the DSLR before our next trip!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sahil624 View Post
I have travelled to Ranthambore three times. While I was not lucky enough to spot a tiger here, the landscape more than made it up for me. I always enjoy visiting the Ranthambore, especially during the winters.
Yes, the forest is a lot more beautiful during the winters but to give yourself a better chance of sighting a tiger, try once in the summers too.
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Old 20th July 2021, 10:36   #11
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Quote:

Yes, the forest is a lot more beautiful during the winters but to give yourself a better chance of sighting a tiger, try once in the summers too.
Yes, I visited the forest at the onset of summers in April 2018. However, I was not lucky enough to spot a tiger.
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Old 21st July 2021, 13:00   #12
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

Fantastic report and spell binding images. A few of the clicks with the eternal piercing gaze of the majestic animal especially had me gaping in awe. Thanks for bringing this to us.

You mentioned 'camera loving' Ridhi and Sidhi. Could you tag a little further please? Are they too easy to spot and not deterred by the nuisance of humans around them? Is there any specifics that you can enlighten us with?
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Old 21st July 2021, 18:41   #13
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You mentioned 'camera loving' Ridhi and Sidhi. Could you tag a little further please? Are they too easy to spot and not deterred by the nuisance of humans around them? Is there any specifics that you can enlighten us with?
Yes, I just meant that they don't seem to be people shy and are rather frequently spotted. In our last two outings, they were out in the open and walking along side the vehicles for more than an hour.
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Old 21st July 2021, 22:46   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by animeshc View Post
.<Cliched statement alert> Finally, even if you donít see the tiger, be rest assured that the tiger would have seen you! So go back because the law of probability would be more favorable now.
All these photos are from a point and shoot camera. A question for the experts out there, any recommendations for the right camera and lens combination if I want to graduate to a DSLR now[/list]
Awesome Thread. I had been to Ranthambore a couple of years back and it probably is one of the more scenic forests in India and is very different from those in MP/MH and also TN/KA.

However, the amount of commercialization now is crass and all the guides want to do is show tigers. The gypsys race around like there's no tomorrow and I saw a squirrel as a road kill thanks to the melee.
Sworn never to go back to Ranthambore, I know the loss is entirely mine, but cannot make myself a part of the crazy things happening there.

Onto the DSLR, if not a professional (I'am not one) a APSC one like canon 1300 would suffice. The new gen also has wireless sharing to phones etc and the software bundled is good enough.

As a added benefit, when I use (rented) the L series lenses on my APSC, it comes with a crop factor which pretty much works like a 2x zoom if you can live with imperfections not visible on standard sizes.
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Old 25th July 2021, 10:51   #15
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Default Re: 20 years of Ranthambore!

Quote:
Originally Posted by animeshc View Post
[*]All these photos are from a point and shoot camera. A question for the experts out there, any recommendations for the right camera and lens combination if I want to graduate to a DSLR now.[*]Last but not the least, special kudos to @sknair for his similar post (20 years of Kabini journeys | Nagarhole National Park) and inspiring me to shake off my slumber and write this post.[/list]
First of all, thank you for sharing such lovely pictures, amazing with a point and shoot. btw. the shot of that Sloth bear at eye level is a killer shot!

About moving to DSLR: Dr. AD provided a nice balanced view of how someone could move to a DSLR range gradually, here is a slightly different perspective which I went through.

If you are in love with nature, travel and especially wildlife, then moving to a mid-range like Nikon D500/80-400mm or 200-500mm will be better. Else there will be additional bodies and lenses in the backpack or shelf which would rarely be used.

Another option is to try out rentals if available nearby (I think Ranthambore may have that option), In Bangalore we have many rental opportunities.

One more option:
go for a used lower range full frame body and 70-200mm lens + the new and fabulous Canon R6+ 800mm f11 (not too heavy on the pocket).
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