A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed, and is, thereby, a true manifestation of what one feels about life in it's entirety. . . I believe in photography as one means of achieving an ultimate happiness and faith! - Ansel Adams

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Ranthambhore National Park II - Charge in the Rajbagh Lake

Portrait of Tigress (T-17 / Sundari), Ranthambhore National Park
Portrait of T-17 / Sundari Tigress

It was a cloudy evening on our third day in the Ranthambhore National Park. As I looked heavenward, I said - well, bad light to add to our woes! Thank you! So far on our current trip, we had tasted limited success with tiger sightings - none worth photographing (see details at the end). Hence, for our fifth safari in the jungle, we were at the same time desperate for a decent photography opportunity as well as nonchalant about the prospects. We were getting closer to a tiger with every passing safari and we still had two more to go after this one!

For a slide show of complete set of pictures from Ranthambore National Park, please click Here.

Also read about my previous visit and a detailed note on Ranthambore National Park Here.

For the evening we were allotted the scenic Zone 3. In the morning, during our tour of Zone 2, we happened to learn that the tigress T-17 (affectionately called Sundari) had been spotted around the Rajbagh Lake. We were hoping to sight her again in that area, praying that she would have chosen a spot in the adjacent bushes to rest during the day. We were completely oblivious to the fact that Goddess Amba (one of the most worshipped Goddesses in Hinduism and who has the tiger as her vehicle) had already given her blessings for this safari and what awaited us today was something we would cherish for a lifetime! As we neared the Rajbagh Lake we saw a few jeeps stationed near the bushes with the tourists inside animatedly motioning towards something behind the rocks. When we neared the spot, the guide pointed towards a stepped rocky area and said in a voice full of excitement "Sir, woh dekho pathar ke peeche T-17 tigress hai" (Sir, the T-17 tigress is sitting behind the rocks over there). We were struggling to spot her as the rock was also surrounded by bushes. Intermittently she would bob her head and that is when we would catch a glimpse of the stripes. There was not much happening for a good 20 minutes. An army of jeeps and canters had come rushing to the spot in the meanwhile. Our driver Mahesh, quietly moved the jeep away from the din and parked it in such a position that if the tiger were to move he would be best positioned to manoeuvre the vehicle.

Mahesh - safari jeep driver waiting for the tigress T-17 to emerge from the bushes
I was peering through my binoculars and suddenly heard the rustle of the leaves and saw the tigress beginning to make a move. The whole crowd was now in a state of heightened alertness - like the army officers on battlefront! What followed was absolute madness! No sooner would the tigress take a step in a particular direction, than the battery of vehicles would start moving in that direction... come to a screeching halt and then move backwards again... trying to match the tigress' move step for step. Mahesh kept his cool all the while and began driving only when the tigress had started moving decisively. It was a mad scramble out there as everyone was trying to out manoeuvre the other and there were some close escapes. In the meanwhile, the tigress was walking straight behind the spot where she was resting...a path which would lead her to the other side of the Rajbagh Lake. The drivers sensed this, and rushed to the spot from where she would emerge.

Habitat shot: Tigress (T-17 / Sundari) walking beside the Rajbagh Lake, Ranthambhore National Park
T-17 walking beside the Rajbagh Lake
The light was bad and I was worried whether I would be able to get good shots. But the moment the tigress emerged in plain sight I started firing away. I also spared a moment or two to soak in the magnificence of the animal - the sight of a tiger always has such a profound impact on the beholder that he / she gets lost in the moment and needs to be stirred out of his stupor! The mad race for a vantage position amongst the jeeps was still on and sometimes we would have a clear view of the tigress and sometimes not. As such we were shooting from a moving jeep. However, luck was to be completely on our side from here on. We were helped, in large measure, by our driver Mahesh who manoeuvred the jeep like Lord Krishna manoeuvring Arjun's Chariot on the battlefield in Mahabharata. He drove on steep inclines by the track side and also managed to fox other jeeps to give him room to drive ahead. We were now ahead of everybody else, including the tigress. A supremely vantage position as the tigress was walking straight towards us - giving a full frontal view, sans the radio collar!!!

Profile of Tigress (T-17 / Sundari), Ranthambhore National ParkHere I must take a small detour and tell you an interesting fact about T-17 / Sundari. T-17 is the 4 year old daughter of the legendary tigress Machali (Machli) and lords over the territory around the Padam Lake and Rajbagh Lake. She has a radio collar around her neck which is used to undertake scientific studies on aspects such as tiger movement, extent of area covered, etc. It is strictly NOT used for tracking the tiger for the benefit of tourists during tiger safaris. The presence of a radio collar poses a peculiar problem for photographers... in that, nobody would love to have a picture of a wild tiger with a collar around its neck! The solution is to either photograph her from the front or at an angle such that the collar is not visible... but then, the angle is not under one's control since the tiger is the King of the jungle and it does not move as per a tourist's whims and fancies!

Tigress (T-17 / Sundari) walking on the safari track beside the Rajbagh Lake, Ranthambhore National Park
T-17 treads slowly on the vehicle track
The moment T-17 arrived close to our jeep, she was barely 15 feet away, she nonchalantly glanced towards us (Bah! Tourists - I could read it in her eyes!) and I managed to get some nice portrait shots of this sundari (beautiful) animal. She then moved out onto the vehicle track and sat down a few metres away from us. The jeeps behind us were yelling, because for them the tigress was almost out of sight! She sat there for a few minutes (her backside towards us), wagged her tail, glanced around and then she stood up and started walking, albeit slowly. Everybody instantly realised that she had now begun stalking the three unsuspecting Sambar Deers who were cooling themselves and feasting on the grass inside the Rajbagh Lake. She slowly descended from the tracks into the bushes abutting the lake. We were so positioned that our jeep, the tigress and the deers were all along the same line of sight!

Tigress (T-17 / Sundari) stalking Sambar Deers inside the Rajbagh Lake, Ranthambhore National Park
T-17 Stalking the Deers - damn the light!

For around 20-30 minutes, which seemed excruciatingly long, she was stealthily making her way towards the deers. At times even we couldn't spot her - she was so well camouflaged. The light was fading fast now, damn! It wasn't to be long though. She was now within striking distance. There was an eerie calm all around. The spectators were watching in mute silence, numbed by the proceedings and the heavenly sights on display. It was to be a rare moment for everyone.

T-17, however, appeared to have revealed her cards a bit too soon as one of the Sambar Deers sighted the tigress, perhaps in the nick of time, and gave out a loud alarm call. At this very moment the tigress leaped into the waters, creating a huge splash akin to a tidal wave. But the Sambar Deers proved a bit too agile given that they got a few crucial moments between the sighting and the leap to run for their lives. The tigress charged in the waters after the larger of the three deers and also chased it for a few yards outside the waters in the woods. But, finally, she had to give up on the hunt. It was a kill not to be, sigh! The whole episode was over in less than 15 seconds!

Chase sequence (1/4): Tigress (T-17 / Sundari) charging after Sambar Deer for a kill inside the Rajbagh Lake, Ranthambhore National Park - taken in the wild

Chase sequence (3/4): Tigress (T-17 / Sundari) charging after Sambar Deers for a kill inside the Rajbagh Lake, Ranthambhore National Park
Sambar Deers running for their lives!

All this while we had concealed our excitement and focused on capturing the wonderful, action-packed moments in our cameras. Once the tigress disappeared into the woods, we all broke into animated conversation and like sports commentators were giving suggestions on how things could have been different for the tigress. But the tigress, just like sportsmen, cares a damn for the commentators. We looked at each other's pictures, revelled in the memories and thanked the lady luck, our driver Mahesh and the guide. Back in the hotel, I showed the pictures to Desh Bandhu Vaid (the Guru of Ranthambhore). He was happy at what transpired and remarked that the sight of a tiger charging inside the Rajbagh Lake is a rare one and a photographer's delight!

For me Ranthambhore had once again lived up to its reputation. Long live the Tigers of Ranthambhore!

General brief on our trip and sightings - 
We sighted six different tigers during our trip -
Day 1, Evening - Zone 4 - Nil
Day 2, Morning - Zone 3 - missed T-17 by a whisker (she crossed over from Jogi Mahal to Zone 2)
Day 2, Evening - Zone 1 - T-24 Male and his female partner T-39 (they were mating) who we couldn't sight. T-24 was resting far away in the bushes near Kala Pani area.
Day 3, Morning - Zone 2 - Nil
Day 3, Evening - Zone 3 - T-17
Day 4, Morning - Zone 4 - Mating pair @ Berda: T-6 male and T-41 female - far away in the bushes! Also sighted Machali (T-16) near Adi Daggar but again far away in bushes!
Day 4, Evening - Zone 1 - Mating pair T-24 male and T-39 female. We had clear view for a while but from atleast 100 metres away!

Other mammals sighted - Nilgai (Bluebull), Sambar Deer, Chital / Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Striped Hyena (in the night when out for a drive), Common Langurs, Pair of Mongoose.

Mr. (right) & Mrs. (left) Painted Sandgrouse
Mr. (right) & Mrs. (left) Painted Sandgrouse
List of birds spotted during the trip - Bronze Winged Jacana, Shikra, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Darter, Little Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Black Kite, Black Winged Stilt, Great Thick-knee, Common Greenshank, Pied Kingfisher, White Throated Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Asian Palm Swift, Black Drongo, Long Tailed Shrike, Red Vented Bulbul, Jungle Babbler, Purple Sunbird, Chestnut Shouldered Petronia, Greater Painted Snipe, Common Moorhen, White Browed Fantail, Collared Scops Owl, Long Billed Vulture, Red Headed Vulture, Painted Stork, Lesser Whistling Duck, Crested Serpent Eagle, Woolly Necked Stork, Painted Spurfowl, Eurasian Collared Dove, Rock Pigeon, Asian Paradise Flycatcher (female), Black Redstart (Id doubtful), Asian Koel (male), White Bellied Drongo, Painted Sandgrouse (male & female), Grey Heron, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Crested Bunting, Spotted Dove, Laughing Dove, Grey Francolin, Oriental White-eye, Indian Peafowl, Great Tit, Rufous Treepie, Large Billed Crow, Brahminy Starling, Common Myna, Common Tailor Bird, Oriental Magpie Robin, Indian Robin, Common Iora, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Red Wattled Lapwing, Pied Myna, Greater Coucal, Black Rumped Flameback, Eurasian Thick-knee, Indian Cormorant, Great Cormorant, House Crow and House Sparrow.

Copyright Maneesh Goal. All Rights Reserved.


joshi daniel said...

close and intense!

Anonymous said...

Stunning pics esp. TIGER. Came across this post in www.indli.com and really enjoyed your post.

Unknown said...

Manish - i can tell you i am so very jealous. saw my first tiger in kabini but from 100 mtrs aware. this is just about awesome! killer shots man. didnt know about the collar - is T39 tagged too?

The Legend Returns said...

@Mayank: Thanks so much for stopping by and am glad you liked the post :) As far as I know, T-17 is the only one who is tagged... and that tag too, from what I have been told, has stopped working and they might get it removed!
Kabini must have been an awesome experience for you... I am eager to go there but no luck so far :(

@Daniel: Very intense and a priceless experience!

@Anonymous: Thanks a lot for the visit and for liking the post :)

Ten Year said...

Excellent Trip Report, Maneesh.
Great pictures ... Haven't been to Ranthambore yet ... It's getting warm now, perfect time to go to National Parks for pictures ... Will need to convince wifey :) ...
Madhu http://www.10yearitch.com

The Legend Returns said...

Dear Madhu, thanks so much and welcome to my blog :)
Yes, summers are the right time and you'll need to do the convincing fast, lest you miss out on the bookings :)

हमारीवाणी said...

Submit your blog into http://hamarivani.com.

Hamarivani is an Indian Blogs Aggregator.

Mridula said...

What a sighting!

The Legend Returns said...

@Mridula: Many thanks for stopping by!

magiceye said...

WOW!! Fascinating account and superb images!!

The Legend Returns said...

@magiceye: Many thanks Deepak :)

Groupdmt said...

Thanks a lot for blogging this, it was unbelieveably informative and helped me tons.
photo correction

The Legend Returns said...

@Groupdmt: Thanks so much for your kind words... I am glad the write-up proved useful to you :)

PWT Sports Racing News said...

Beautiful pics Thanks for sharing

PWT Health Tips said...

Fabulous post .thanks for sharing :)

marriage bureau in jaipur said...

this is mind blowing post

Himalayan Trekker said...

Awesome photos. Great clicks!

Karantraveller said...

Excellent Pics and a very informative blog!!! I too went there recently and written a small article with photos..http://karantraveller.blogspot.in/2013/06/ranthambore-national-park-land-of-tiger.html


The Legend Returns said...

Thank a lot to each one of you for visiting my blog and appreciating the content. Apologies for the delay in replying. Cheers!

Unknown said...

very nice sharing.. I like these all images. Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is one of the biggest and most famous national parks in Northern India in Rajasthan. The park is to be found in the Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan, which is about 130 km from Jaipur. Living being considered as one of the famous and former hunting foundation of the Maharajas of Jaipur, today the Ranthambore National Park and Ranthambore Hotels land is major wildlife tourist attraction spot that has pulled the concentration of many wildlife photographers and lovers in this goal.
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve


Awesome post for sharing i am impressed your post thanks for sharing
Ranthambore Tiger Safari

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