Around the same time last year, I was in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, as part of my backpacking trip which included Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur. It also happened to be my second visit to this picturesque tiger reserve.
Few drives into various zones in Ranthambhore had not yielded any big cat sighting yet. Knowing that we had good a chance of tiger sighting in the Rajbagh lake zone, we set out with renewed energy that morning. An ever enthusiastic Nagendra Ji kept our spirits high and at the same time was keeping watch for pug marks and tiger trails. Alarm calls, fresh pug marks and exchanging information from other jeep drivers/guides led us nowhere!
As Nagendra Ji instructed the driver to take a narrow track and drive along that route, I eased back into my seat and was soon lost in my own world. Halfway journey into my dreamworld, the jeep eased to a stop. While all the occupants were off their seats, my dreamy self tilted to the right inspecting what had caused this interruption! Yeh toh Arrowhead hai! An excited Nagendra Ji called out!
For the next thirty minutes, she yawned, laid down, posed for the camera and also did a brief cat walk leaving us immensely satisfied. The rest of the day was spent only reminiscing the sighting.
Elephants have been called gentle giants, primarily because of their graceful demeanour and large size. I’ve had the good fortune to sight, spend time and observe various behaviour of elephants at late Mark Davidar’s (a dear friend and inspiration) home.
Of the many elephants that frequented Mark’s home, was a tusker who Mark fondly called Rivaldo. He would visit daily to quench his thirst at the waterhole near the house but there was always the more enticing idea of being fed a fruit or two from Mark’s hands.
Though he would come quite close to the verandah where Mark and I would be sitting, he maintained caution whenever there were a few more people around. To see a wild elephant from such close quarters was an exhilarating experience.
On occasions, he would playfully chase away other visiting elephants and wild boar lest they steal his tidbit. And there were times he would have friendly interactions with other elephants especially males.
More stories about these gentle giants from home and around in future posts.
As the last rays of the sun were fading, I decided to put away the camera. I turned it off and lowered the camera down without letting my eyes off the surrounding. From a distance, I spotted a figure ‘trotting’ in our direction. As it came closer and closer, I let out a subdued yell… HYENA!!! This one came very close and paused for a few precious seconds. Secretly praying for it to not move, I lifted my camera, shot up the ISO to 3200, under-exposed to get a better shutter speed and fired away! Incredibly lucky to see this “near threatened” species at such close quarters.
On 1st Jan, I landed in the front seat of the safari van for my maiden safari of the year.
As the vehicle turned onto the track leading to the closest waterhole, our driver Siddhu suddenly stopped the van and loudly whispered “Kittu Sir! Kittu Sir! Leopard!! Leopard!!” Having slept in the wee hours of morning after welcoming New Year 2016, I was fast asleep. I woke up with a start wondering what was going on! He then thrusts the camera on me and points towards the leopard.
In my groggy state, I focused and fired away! Thankfully the leopard was stood still, contemplating his next move. A minute or less later, he decided to walk beside the track. Disinterested as he was with our presence, he walked casually into the bushes and disappeared. Everybody in the van rejoiced… a fantastic beginning to the year!
Two things here, the image was shot with the same settings applied at the birding hide earlier that morning. Exposure -1.3 (yikes!) and ISO 400 (thank god!). Lesser ISO resulted in retaining the details and hardly any noise in the image.