Monday, March 24, 2008

A Wild Weekend

Usually, long weekends just seem to creep on us and we are never left with enough time to plan anything. This year, I have started marking the holidays in my planner so I knew in advance that I had Thursday and Friday off last week, giving us a nice 4-day stretch to plan something exciting. After some discussion with my mom (who was to join us for the trip), we froze on Sawai Madhopur, which is home to the tiger sanctuary of Ranthambore.

We arrived in Jaipur on Wednesday evening and left for Sawai Madhopur by car after breakfast on Thursday. The car journey was almost three and a half hours long and Ayaan surprised us by being reasonably manageable through the drive. He slept through the first hour or so but even when he woke up, he was chatty rather than hyperactive.

We reached our hotel just in time for lunch and figured out that there was a safari planned for 5 in the evening and signed up to go for it. But Ayaan was pretty pooped after the morning excitement and come 5 o’clock, he was still fast asleep. We decided to let him sleep and by the time he woke up, it was already getting dark so we decided to save the sanctuary visits for the next couple of days. So the evening panned out into a relaxed affair over drinks and dinner.

On Friday morning, we wasted no time in getting bundled into the jeep to head out to the sanctuary. We had been warned that the tiger sightings can be a matter of chance so we had kept our expectations low. And the first 45 minutes seemed to be in line with those expectations – we saw deer, peacocks and monkeys but no signs of the elusive tiger.

We decided to catch breakfast at this lovely little jungle lodge but before we could settle down to eat, the jeep driver told us that a sighting had been reported not too far from where we were. So off we went in the direction where the sighting had been reported.

After driving for about ten minutes, the driver suddenly screeched to a halt and pointed deep into the foliage. We looked and looked and then finally were able to make out the head of the tiger through the dense foliage. It was amazing that the driver had managed to see it while he was driving! He also told us that it would pass right by us since it seemed to be taking a break on its way to the watering hole, which was just beyond us.

And sure enough, it soon got up and ambled by our jeep, barely three feet away. And just when we got over the shock of that, three more tigers proceeded to do the same! The forest official with us told us that this bunch was a tigress with her three fully grown cubs and that’s why they were all together. But it seems the kids are just about ready to leave the nest so there have been a lot of fights in the family. And we were witness to one such fight when the tigress walked up to one of her kids, reared up, roared and then swatted him across his face! Here's a picture from just before she did that:

And then one of the other cubs decided to take a break and sat himself down just two feet away from where we were parked:

We made it back to the hotel well before lunch time so my mom and Jai took Ayaan to the swimming pool at the hotel. But the intrepid tiger-watcher was having none of it and refused to get into the pool. So other than when my mom carried him around the pool, he had a fun time playing on the edge of the pool.

After lunch and Ayaan’s afternoon nap, we headed off to another part of the sanctuary, where a baby panther is being bred in captivity. She was found wounded and abandoned by her mother when she was just a few days old and the forest officials have adopted her. There was a lot of discussion on whether this was the right thing to do. Because her chances of being able to survive in the wild are slim and her most likely fate will involve the caged walls of a zoo. There was some talk about how this current solution interfered with the way of the jungle and that the panther cub would have otherwise ended up as jackal food, which is how it should be. Cruel though it may be, I am inclined to agree.

Our Saturday morning trip to the sanctuary was also fruitful but it paled in comparison to the previous day. We saw a tiger cross our path just as we entered the sanctuary but after that we spent a back-breaking, bone-rattling hour on a wild goose chase for another sighting before giving up and heading back to the jungle lodge for another sumptuous breakfast. But you know what they say about the mountain coming to Mohammed and while we were eating, the staff there picked up some distress calls and told us that there was a tiger in the vicinity. And when we went on to the porch, we saw a tiger sitting at the edge of the grounds, peacefully sunning itself!

Anyway, we left for Jaipur on the Saturday afternoon train. It was Ayaan’s first train journey and it was a bit chaotic since Ayaan threw a tantrum, pushed another kid and then topped it all by peeing through his pull-up diaper all over the berth (requiring not only a change but a complete scrubbing down of the berth with some sanitiser ). All in all, a journey I was happy to be done with!

We spent the night in Jaipur and Sunday afternoon saw us back home in Mumbai. Overall, it was a great trip. I think Ayaan had a ball and had a lot of new experiences – jeep rides through the jungle, wild animals, a train journey, and a starlit sky the likes of which he will never get to see in Mumbai! Here's to more mini-breaks!

Back to the tigers, funnily enough, the only moment when I actually got scared was when the tigress got aggressive with her cub on the first day because otherwise they seem to be so habituated to the jeeps and didn’t bother to throw more than a passing glance our way. Also, the forest guys accompanying us were so chilled out about our proximity to these wild beasts that one could not be blamed for thinking that we were watching some perfectly harmless jungle fauna! But the enormity of it all struck me when I saw the shock on the faces of my colleagues at work today when I told them that I was in an open jeep less than five feet away from a dangerous, wild animal!

44 comments:

  1. Now that is a perfect long weekend! Here in London it ws snowing and blustery and cold and most Londoners stayed snuggling at home.

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  2. Now wouldn't I like to spend a long weekend like that :) Lovely pictures.. that was some awsome luck finding not one but 4 tigers. Cool!

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  3. What fun - not only do you get to see a whole family of tigers up close, you actually see some tiger-style saas-bahu scenes! :-)

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  4. gorgeous pictures! and wild weekend alright, an open jeep!? damn, i've done safaris, but i don't think i'd ever be able to do one in an open vehicle!

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  5. What fabulous pictures and totally terrific weekend! I totally envy you.

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  6. [Planethalder] Our next holiday is in London in May, when hopefully it will be done with being cold and blustery.

    [Dotmom/ Hillgrandmom] It was awesome! One of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences...

    [Candyfloss] Much scarier than a saas-bahu scene though!

    [Mona] Actually there is no choice. even the tourist vehicles are open jeeps and vans. I don't think I saw a single closed vehicle when I was there.

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  7. Hey, Check if you have leave on April 14th (Monday) and April 18th (Friday). If you do, you can take three days off and can a ten day break.
    Zen.

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  8. WoW!!! Beautiful pics.

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  9. oh wow he's grown so much! i mean Ayaan! i love tigers!. They have a white Siberian one here in the Nashville Zoo and he is SO yummy!
    Glad you had a trip with the family, even though there were some fussy spots. Cant get better than time with family!

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  10. Wow, 4 tigers a couple of feet away! And they say Corbett has the maximum tigers, but we were disappointed!You might like to read about it at
    http://cvlakshmi.blogspot.com/2006/11/murphys-law-at-corbett-park.html

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  11. Deepa8:46 pm

    Awesome post!
    But I'm dying to say just this one thing( hope it's appropriate)- your mum is one helluva sexy lady!

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  12. Deepa8:46 pm

    Awesome post!
    But I'm dying to say just this one thing( hope it's appropriate)- your mum is one helluva sexy lady!

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  13. Deepa8:47 pm

    Awesome post!
    But I'm dying to say just this one thing( hope it's appropriate)- your mum is one helluva sexy lady!

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  14. OMG! when the title said 'wild wkend', I didn't expect it to be this wild!! that must have been totally thrilling and glad to see Ayaan enjoyed the proximity of tigers rather than be scared of them. how cool! we need more vacations like this :)

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  15. what wonderful pictures rohini. and ayaan must have had a blast on the safari.

    a cousin i am close to called barely few hours back describing her trip to ranthambore over the weekend. and she could not stop describing the sight of seeing tigers 6 feet away.what a coincidence that i read this post soon after!

    i told sanah about the tigers and her eyes widened with awe. now i must tell her that along with her massi, ayaan saw the tigers too.

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  16. WOW. ro, thats awesome, and what a mindblowing experience for Ayaan. Must start harassing couch potato hubby to get moving...we never go anywhere...I'm tearing my hair out now.

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  17. [Zen] Only have Monday off so seeing what we can do for a three-day weekend.

    [Sunita] Thanks :)

    [Grafx] Completely agree. Most of our holidays end up having something to with family - since we have no family in Mumbai

    [Lak] Yeah, lady luck was truly shining down on us...

    [Deepa] I am sure she will be thrilled to hear that!

    [Kodi's Mom] He doesn't yet think the tiger is something to be afraid of. In fact, as we were leaving the sanctuary, he tossed a bit of his biscuit out for the tiger to eat :)

    [Sur] What a coincidence - maybe we passed each other :)

    [Kiran] One number couch potato hubby in my house as well. But I am really good at prodding!

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  18. Wow!!

    I mean...

    Wow!!

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  19. Wow! Not one, but 4, and you get to see some swatting in real life like we only saw on Animal Planet! WOW! Awesome weekend.

    as a total aside, I wonder why animals don't tend to stay as a family like we do..? Can you imagine swatting Ayaan so he'd go away from you and make his own life?

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  20. now we know where u take those chiseled look genes from :) ur mom is happening in that photo :)

    wild weekend is defly wild...and it must have been thrilling for Ayaan to come in close qaurters with tigers..not one but four :)

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  21. You must have had a great time- we did something similar at Corbett

    BTW your mom is so fit!!

    Am in Mumbai now- busy catching up on friends and family

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  22. Hello I just entered before I have to leave to the airport, it's been very nice to meet you, if you want here is the site I told you about where I type some stuff and make good money (I work from home): here it is

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  23. Happy Birthday Ro. Would you stop by my blog please? :)

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  24. Hello I just entered before I have to leave to the airport, it's been very nice to meet you, if you want here is the site I told you about where I type some stuff and make good money (I work from home): here it is

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  25. Happy Birthday...came from Tara's :)

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  26. Tigers and an open Jeep. That is just way too cool. Nice pictures. Looks a lot warmer in your neck of the woods.

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  27. Hi Rohini,
    Wish you a very happy birthday! Coming from Tharini's blog

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  28. Happy Birthday Ro !!

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  29. Happy B'day! and Many happy returns! :-)

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  30. [Y/ Choxbox] I know! I am still buzzed

    [JLT] Actually, from what the forest guys told us, it's the cubs who are misbehaving as they are getting territorial and don't want to share space/ food with their mother. It seems one of the cubs had fought with her earlier and taken away her prey too. She actually had a bleeding tooth when we saw her which they said might have been a result of another of their fights.

    [IBH] Actually, the tigers were as exciting to him as the deer, and probably a little exciting than the peacocks!

    [Nanands] Yup, hope to go to Corbett some day too.

    [Tharini/ IBH/ Compulsive Dreamer/ Poppins] Thanks!

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  31. [Alan] Warm bordering on hot actually. It's going to be a hellishly hot and long summer!

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  32. Don't count on it being non-blustery in May in London!

    The tiger park journey sounds and looks lovely, you lucky things!

    E-mail me at 30in2005@coolgoose.com so we can meet when you are in London. I'd be glad to do a round of sightseeing or have a meal with you....

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  33. Many more happy returns of this day!! Wish you loads of love and happiness.

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  34. You know, I was grinning to myself all through. Giga went to another sanctuary and her vivid accounts of being called to see 'nonexistent' tigers played in my mind while I read your story.

    Am considering sending her the link. ;)

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  35. Happy Birthday Rohini!

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  36. Wish you a very happy birthday Rohini!
    What a wild time you have had! Yeah really - can't believe you were in an open jeep that** close to a tiger...I didn't think about it but somehow I imagined a closed vehicle - only in the last line I realized it was an open vehicle. That is pretty bold of you! My God!
    Wish you the very best - enjoy your day!

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  37. Happy Birthday Rohini!!! Hope you had a loverly day.

    Lovely pics!! Open jeep!!! Very brave of you i say.
    I'm too chicken to even go to the Bannerghatta park yonder!

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  38. [30in2005] Will mail you

    [Lavs/ Shobhana] Thanks

    [Sue] That would be mean ;-)

    [Noon/ Aqua] Actually, all the vehicles that go into the sanctuary are open. I guess that's just the way it's done. And as long as you don't et out of your vehicle, there is no chance of being attacked.

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  39. i agree...looks like a well spent long weekend..love the last picture, a moment well captured!

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  40. That does sound like fun! At least you weren't getting out of the jeeps and chasing after the tigers for photos, like the idiot tourists do the bears and the moose (who are just as dangerous as the bears) on the sides of the road in national parks here.

    Although the open jeep part at the end surprised me! You gutsy girl, you.

    (Also, your mom is pretty. She has beautiful skin. I can see where you get your looks from.)

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  41. You were really lucky with all the tiger-spotting. Most of the time all you see is some Nilgai and a mongoose or two.

    Wow, now I want to go back to ranthambore - we spotted a tiger family there when we had gone years ago.

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  42. digging in your archive for this post. I am taking my 3 year old to a jungle lodge in August and wanted to check on how yours went. Any words of wisdom ?

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