Glories of the Woods

Seema-Mohanchandran

For anyone who’s ever felt that there aren’t too many interesting activities to partake in while facing the intensity of the Indian summer, here’s a holiday that’s sure to make you rethink that notion. Recounting a trip filled with unexpected wild wonders and other natural beauties, this week Seema shares the journey to the depths of Ranthambore that she took with her husband Mohanchandran, General Manager, Taj Krishna, and her sister Chetna.

Kumbha

It all started with Mohan and I looking for a destination for a short getaway that was easy to access. As wildlife is something that the two of us are equally passionate about, Ranthambore was an obvious choice. The focus of the trip was to experience the forest and, of course, to spot at least one of the famed majestic tigers. Moreover, the forest has always been a place that has held me captive with its trees, tranquillity, and that eerie silence where even the rustle of the leaves makes your heart jump.

Langur-with-her-baby

While there were several resorts in and around the Ranthambore forest reserve to choose from, including a Vivanta by Taj-Sawai Madhopur, we chose to stay at this charming and rustic eight-room ‘home’ on a friend’s suggestion. The two-year old Machli Wilderness Home was clean and spacious, with a cosy restaurant and an extremely accommodating staff that made us fresh home-cooked meals and catered to even our smallest of requests.

Magpie-robin

While there wasn’t much of local culture to experience on this trip, our drive through the towns and villages from Jaipur to Ranthambore gave us a glimpse of the native life. If you have the time, you could also squeeze in a trip to the Rambagh Palace or the Jai Mahal Palace in Jaipur. As we landed in Jaipur in the morning, we were able to make a pit stop at the gorgeous Rambagh Palace before driving on to our accommodation, which we reached at around 5:30 pm.

Rufus-treepie

The moment we began our explorations in the woods, we knew this was going to be a special trip. The most special moment was sighting not just one, but six magnificent tigers. With the help of our fantastic forest ranger, Ved Prakash, we spotted the large male Kumbha (king of Zone 6) and his lady love, T-8, with her two adorable six-month old cubs, and another tigress with her cub (in Zone 4). And what was even more enchanting was the huge Sambhar deer that mumma T-8 had killed to feed her cubs and herself. While we humans were busy gawking, the beautiful beasts were revelling in the attention.

Yellow-footed-green-pigeon

Apart from the tigers, we were rewarded with sightings of a host of birds including the elusive night jar (a nocturnal bird), blossom-headed parakeet, rose-ringed parakeet, numerous rufous treepies, and chirpy magpie-robins. We also spotted a ruddy mongoose that we were able to see because the forest was bereft of tree cover due to the hot summer. Apart from this were the nilgai, spotted deer, sambhar, and gazelles. Then there were wild pigs – natural prey for tigers – langurs, a brown fish owl, a spotted owlet, a scops owl, king vultures, and a monitor lizard lounging in the nest of a parakeet, probably with a belly full of eggs.

We’re glad we booked the safari well in advance, around January, and we’d definitely recommend the exclusive jeep over the Canter. It seats up to 30 people but can’t go too deep into the forest. While the jeep is slightly expensive, it is also worth it as you’re equipped with your own forest ranger and driver; two trained pairs of eyes to help track the animals.

Brown-fish-owl

Though we did miss seeing the sloth bear and leopard, we spotted their pugmarks on our last safari. But it’s the animals that are the real occupants of the jungle, and they will do as they please. So there is no guarantee that I will see the leopard and the sloth bear the next time I visit; I can only be hopeful. Nevertheless, the forest will always reward me with something, so it is for this that I will go back again.

It’s amazing how close the forest is to the main town or, rather, how the town had developed with its numerous hotels and related industries so close to the forest. The people we met were warm and simple-hearted. We enjoyed chatting with our forest ranger who was so knowledgeable. He had so many intriguing tales to share with us throughout the safari rides. He was pleasantly surprised when we told him that the tiger sighting would be a bonus, and that we were there to enjoy the forest and her spoils. So we were richly rewarded with our tiger sighting – all six of them! And that is the beauty of the forest; just when you go with no expectation comes the best gift you can ever ask for.        – Seema Mohanchandran