When you go to a tiger reserve in India, you of course wish to sight the tiger. But remember it is a wild animals, it has a free will of its own. The only place where a tiger sighting is guaranteed is the zoo. In the jungle you have to do tapasya to see it. These were the words of Anish Andheria who runs the NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT). I wholeheartedly agree with him. However, if you care there is more to the jungle than just tiger. This was a #saveourtigers with Aircel.
1. Clean Air and Beautiful Tress
Dhonk Trees are quite prominent at Ranthambore. They give such a soft look when they have dropped their leaves. There were many other beauties like Jamun, banyan and peepal. Also if you pay attention you will realize you can breathe easily on lungful of air without feeling choked. If you are visiting from a big city in India, chances are such clean air is not available for love or money!
2. Small Things
I love birds, this was my first sighting of the plum headed parakeet. It was sitting on the flame of forest flowers was a bonus. If you get obsessed and upset about tiger sightings, chances are you will not even notice beauties like these. So, the next time the guide or the jeep driver points out a bird, do take a look. I also managed to spot my first Paradise Flycatcher but it was such a fleeting glimpse, there was no chance of clicking a picture.
3. Wildlife at the Lodge
Most of the jungle lodges are situated in peaceful environments. The lodge I stayed at Ranthambore was buzzing with butterflies. Same goes for the birds. Some of them get visited by leopards too! Now I certainly do not wish for a leopard sighting at the lodge but I am quite happy with the birds and the butterflies I get to see right there! Anish made an interesting statement about butterflies. He said men like to identify with big things, like tiger, hardly any male would admit that they love butterflies! Go figure.
4. A Philosophical Langoor
What to do, you get to see the langoors in such numbers in any forest they hold no special charm. Now if only they were elusive as the tigers, I am sure we would value them more. I have often enjoyed watching them in herds with little ones. A languor was also of invaluable help to us this time as it was his alarm call that finally gave the tiger away!
5. Sambar Deer on Morning Walk
When I saw the deer on their morning walk, my heart stopped for a while. It was such a beautiful sight to see them crossing the road in line! The early morning clean air, the open spaces and the joy of being in jungle is in itself exquisite. The backdrop of the mountains and deer crossing made it made it extra special. I rarely ever click from a moving vehicle as I can hardly hold the camera still even when we are stationary. But to me this sight was so extraordinary that I did. And I glad the picture came out as half way decent.
6. Spotted Deer
My daughter calls them dot deer and kisses their picture in a book. They are one of the weakest in the food chain, one of the cutest in the animal kingdom. Once again Anish said “if you wish to curse someone, tell them they would be born as deer in Ranthambore.” These pretty creatures are always skittish not knowing when they will become tiger food! Not a pretty thought, I know but such is the animal world or should I say the world?
7. Water, Peacock, Flowers, Mountains
Water, peacock, flowering trees and mountains- when they all of them come together it can be magic. I was fortunate that at this point we were allowed to get out of our vehicles. Otherwise you are strictly required to remain in your vehicle within a national park in India.
8. Water Snake
If it were not for the trained eyes of the driver and the guide we city slickers would have never spotted the water snake. I am no fan of snakes but from a distance they make for a pretty picture.
9. A Young Crocodile
Crocodiles are damn good at camouflage, but then so is the most of the animal kingdom. There have been times when crocodiles have been pretty indistinguishable from the rocks they choose to sun on. I am not sure why this young crocodile made itself so conspicuous!
10. The Selfie of a Peacock
If a peacock was able to take a selfie I wonder if it would be similar to this? I would like to think that it would resemble my picture but then I guess the bird itself would put on display its magnificent feathers too.
So the next time when you go to jungle, I know it would be thrilling to spot a tiger. But even if you do not, don’t worry the supporting cast is alluring too, but if only you would take an interest. After all there is more to the jungle than just tiger.
Sariska Tiger Reserve is just a hop and a skip away from NCR which makes it an ideal weekend getaway! If you don’t like to drive (like me) Shatabdi Express Train is a good option. You need to get down at Alwar and then take a bus going to Jaipur. Sariska is on the way. It is 40 km away from Alwar. I was wondering if I would get a taxi just by turning up at the Alwar Railway Station but no one came to me asking if I wanted to hire a taxi. I took a cycle rickshaw to the bus stand. The bus stand is dingy but what to do? Chhavi didn’t like the bus but we had no other option. It was a short journey and the bus fare for the two of us was less than 50 rupees! I am told the taxi charges are 2000 rupees. Now that doesn’t make sense to me.
I had already booked a room at the Tiger Den, RTDC. This was the first jungle trip for Chhavi. I initially thought we would not go on a safari the day we arrived but as the kid showed no sign of tiredness, we ran away to the jungle after an early dinner.
At the start of our safari our guide showed us a village inside the tiger reserve. There are a few villages still remaining inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve. It is the same for many other forests that I have visited in India. I wonder how it would feel to live in close proximity of wild animals on a daily basis! The government is relocating the villages in many national parks as they are flash points for human-animal conflict.
When you see deer do you think tiger food? Not the most romantic way of thinking about these beautiful creatures I guess. But many a guides do describe them like that. When I pointed them out to Chhavi telling her they are called Spotted deer, she firmly declared they are dot deer and not spotted deer.
There are a lot of monkeys around the hotel as well as the ticketing window. If you have any eatables in your hand they can come near you to snatch it away. Here was one, having a gala time with some tomato sauce.
And here is another one making monkey faces because mom is pointing the camera at her. I wonder what pleasure she derives in giving me a hard time if I want to click her picture!
There is a temple right inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve, the Pandupol Temple. On Tuesdays and Thursdays private vehicles (not sure if they allow only Rajasthan registered cars or any cars) are allowed to visit the temples. I even saw a BMW on those bumpy roads. There are a lot of langoors near the temple. You can buy eatables and tea at the shops near the temple.
These two langoors were sitting high up on a tree near the temple, behaving as if they had the responsibility to keep an eye on everyone below. Meanwhile their friends and family members were busy climbing cars and trying to snatch away eatables.
And here is another one who believes in climbing up high. While we were waiting at a spot for a possible tiger appearance she climbed on the bars of the gypsy! Her hair as well as mine got the special Sariska dust pack in adundance!
And while we were waiting for the tiger, there appeared a jungle cat! I had never seen a jungle cat before. I am told they are quite elusive. A young lad in our jeep spotted it first. I was quite excited to see one finally. About those elusive tigers, they never made an appearance. People who visit national parks in India are rarely interested in anything else., which I feel is a pity. There is so much to a jungle than the tiger. I agree it is the prime attraction but they are nobody’s pets, they can’t be produced at will.
For Chhavi and I, this was a good trip. We loved the forest and all the magic that it contains. When we came home Seshadri asked Chhavi, “so did you see the tiger?” To which she told, “no it never came out.” And then went on rattling about all the fun she had. I am sure given the proximity to Gurgaon we are going back to Sariska.
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quite my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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