Tiger Trails

LEAD r

Wildlife-lover Siddharth Sihag talks about his rugged Ranthambore safari for our series of Weekend Adventure with Zippo.

A vacation in the forest is my most awaited holiday. To usher in the new year, I—along with my family—visited the Ranthambore National Park through the small town of Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. We set out from Delhi by road and while we were thoroughly impressed by the road, it was an exhausting drive. We drove via Sohna and Alwar, but as you approach the national park, the roads become less crowded and the villages less prolific. After some eight hours of driving, we finally reached Ranthambore and checked into Nahargarh hotel. The best time to go to the park is in the winter months, because you can spend a lot of time outdoors. And, even during the peak season, you will manage to get a guide for your safari into the jungles. It is best to take a local, because they know the inner tracks and are excellent in spotting wildlife.

I’d been on several safaris before but this one was different. Early morning on December 31, we took our first safari. We entered the national park’s Zone Four, where a tiger had been spotted recently. So, we figured our chances of spotting a tiger would be high. After about an hour of waiting and looking around, a tigress appeared in front of our SUV. Not just that, she was accompanied by two cubs.

As we struggled to keep up with them, they found their way into deeper bush. Thirty minutes later, we heard the tigress roar. As we followed the sound, we saw her chase down a mongoose. But her prey managed to give her the slip. It was a scary moment, though. Soon, however, the tigress calmed down, seeing so many people. She gently crossed the path of our vehicle but kept her eyes out for us.

We lost her again but the expert eyes of our guide kept spotting her. And, suddenly, what we saw left us speechless. The tigress had raced towards a deer, and overpowered it with her speed and force. She then dragged it to her two cubs. That’s when we left the scene.

On our second safari the next day, we once again spotted the same tigress. She lay near a waterbody. We were advised to stay in a group because it would be safer. We did, however, undertake a few short treks with our guide. The forest was dense and the sheer diversity of fauna was overwhelming. It was a trip that I will never forget—not just because we saw a tigress. But because we saw a family.