Holy crap! She’s right here!

“Holy crap! She’s right here.” Those were Kristi’s words. In the evening, we were driving around in an infrequently visited part of Ranthambhore looking for a pair of tigers with their 3 cubs. As we approached a water hole, Sheelben saw the cub scurry about in the thicket. Our driver stopped the Jeep in front of the water hole as we looked in the undergrowth and saw the three cubs. Two were on the left side about 20 feet from our Jeep, but the third one was about 10 feet from me. When I spotted her, I pointed her out to Kristi as she exclaimed, “Holy crap! She’s right here.”

She was a mere 10 feet from us lazily staring

She started at us with her almond-shaped steel-green eyes. She was young and curious; and yet ferocious. We could hear her breathe; her belly full of food and heaving slightly as her mouth was open and her tongue lazily moving back and forth. It was hot; the temperature was easily above 110 degrees.

I have to admit that it is a bit unnerving to see a cat weighing 200+ pounds staring at you coldly. This one was a cub and therefore weighed a lightweight. Adult males can weigh more than 600 pounds! Tigers are the third largest carnivores in the world  after the polar bear and the brown (grizzly) bear.

All three tigers just lay there as we took a few dozen pictures. We could smell some nasty-smelling raw (and slightly stale) meat. It was obvious that these tigers had just eaten and wanted nothing to do with anything but sleep.

Will and Kristi waiting for the Jeep to arrive at Hotel Naharghar

This morning was a bit chaotic as there was some confusion with our Jeeps. The day started a little late, but we were on our way to a place called Amba Chowki in the heart of the jungle. The plan was to get there as fast as possible and look for a family of 5 tigers. About half-way through, our driver decided that there wasn’t enough petrol in our car! Our plans changed, but it turned out to be for the best.

Langur Monkeys at the entrance of the jungle
Langur mother walks the perimeter wall with her baby

We saw the usual sights; peacocks dancing, mongooses darting by, blossom-headed parakeets flitting about,  dozens of wading birds (painted storks, egrets, herons, storks) fishing, chital and sambhar grazing under trees infested by langur monkeys, wild boar digging in the muck, a jackal walking aimlessly, a gorgeous orange sunset, etc. etc. The jungles of India are special…

Chital stag is unfazed by our Jeep
Painted storks look on a a spoonbill does its thing looking for fish
A jackal ambles across the hot dry landscape
A sambhar in perfect evening light
A herd of wild boar digs in the mud at Malik Talao

The highlight came late in our morning round. After we stopped to take a few photographs of a peacock dancing and a stag chital sitting by the road, Amiben noticed the wading birds had formed a curious circular formation in one of the ponds. Were they fishing? Was it some sort of strange mating ritual? Our curiosity drew us closer only to realize that it was a crocodile feeding frenzy. About 25 crocodiles were gorging on tiny silver fish as the birds waited for the fish to escape from the crocodiles directly into their waiting beaks. The crocodiles were diving, jumping, twisting and lunging after the fish. You could hear the water splashing as the fish flew out of the water as crocodiles approached. Spoonbills were doing their strange feeding dance outside the crocodile circle. To add to our joy, male and female paradise flycatchers were flying from branch to branch right in front of us!

Crocodile feeding frenzy at Ranthambhore

On our way back, we saw Star and Krishna (the two tigers we saw yesterday) doing their mating rituals; except in perfect daylight.

Star and Krishna mate in the late morning

We have spent two days in Ranthambhore now. So far, we have seen 8 different tigers and a variety of other mammals, birds and reptiles. I feel completely at home in India. Yes, it is hot but I love the heat. The food (while sub-par at the hotel) is rich with flavors and Indian spices, the people are welcoming, and it is (and always will be) home.

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