30. - 31.01.2014: Ranthambore National Park

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Thu, 30.01.2014: Ranthambore National Park, sunny, 21°C

We got up at 5-50 am, made a cup of tea and I went down to make sure they knew we were on a Jeep safari as opposed to a Canter. The first is for up to 6 people and costs more and the second is a larger vehicle for 20 people and cheaper. They confirmed that we were on a Jeep and we both were back down in the lobby at 6-45am and our Jeep arrived at 7-05 am. It was only just getting light and bitterly cold. The Jeep seats were very wet from the dew so they gave us blankets. Good job because without those blankets we would have got hypothermia!!

We drove to the park with the blankets wrapped around us to protect us against the wind in the open Jeep and picked up four English people at a hotel just before the entrance gate to the park. This was their third safari, they'd already had two yesterday but hadn't seen any tigers. This was their last chance but we didn't see any either!

There are around 40 tigers in the park, they live for only 16 to 17 years and the females only give birth every three years. Male cubs stay with their mothers for 2 years and the female cubs stay for three years. Then they leave to find their own territory.

The safari lasted 3.5 hours and we were in zone 3. The guide was very knowledgeable and we stopped and listened several times as he heard warning calls from the sambar deer - the tigers' favourite food. The warning calls sounded like loud coughs and our guide tried to work out where the tigers might be and told the driver where to go.

The warning calls stopped though and that meant the tigers were lying down and no longer on the move. In other words we wouldn't see them in the tall grass or bush. The best time to see them is early in the morning so we ignored the other wildlife along the route in an effort to get a sighting. We came back the same way and then stopped for photos of sambar deer, spotted deer, cranes, egrets, cormorants, lapwings and various other birds, monkeys, wild boar and crocodiles.

We were in a zone where there are two lakes and, although it was freezing cold, we really enjoyed it despite not seeing any tigers! We knew we had another chance this afternoon but the others would be leaving without having seen them.

We got back to the hotel at 10-30am and went for a late breakfast at the hotel - boiled eggs and toast. We chatted to a couple from Sweden and then went back to our room and worked on the computer for a while. Then we went back down to the hotel lobby at 2pm for our second safari.

We had our blankets ready as it would be cold again on the return drive and the hotel's tour manager came out to tell me that our Canter would be arriving shortly. I immediately corrected him and told him that we were booked on a Jeep safari.

It went downhill from there! We waited and waited and waited. Everyone else from the hotel was picked up immediately by there respective Jeeps and Canters and we were left behind. We were starting to get worried because we were losing time. We kept going out to the road to check but no one came for us.

Eventually we were told our Jeep was there so we went out to the gate but it was a Jeep that had been parked there the whole time and then another staff member got in to drive us and we turned the wrong way. The park was left but we went right.

We drove through the wrong end of town and then were left parked in the sun and the driver disappeared. We saw the tour manager arguing with another man who came over and introduced himself as our guide for the safari. We were joined in the vehicle by the tour manager and a different driver.

The manager tried to fob us off by saying that they had been waiting for four other people who didn't turn up. We told him to turn around because we were already too late and we would get on a safari the next morning instead. He told us that the best time for seeing the tigers was between 4 and 5pm anyway.

We ended up going into an area (zone 10) where we saw locals illegally taking wood and a large earth excavator was being used to gouge out the ground to build something, whilst listening to ear-splittingly loud music!! Firstly, if there are people around then they know there aren't any tigers; secondly, if the locals are doing something illegal, they will only do it where they are not expecting to get found out!

There was no way that we were in the right area of the park and we were the only ones there until we got through a blocked junction to join a different route. We told them not to stop for the other animals as we already had photos and we had to ford a very deep river where the driver hesitated in case it was too deep. There was a big discussion until we just drove through!

We got to the end of the road and then drove back the same way out. The driver put his foot down and we went so fast that all we could do was to hold on to the rails to stop ourselves from being bounced out of the Jeep. Our guide kept shouting "Watch Out!" to remind us to duck away from all the branches hitting us as we sped past.

It became a bit of a farce when the guide shouted out the various names of the animals we sped past and we would have had to look behind us to catch sight of them. We were driving very, very fast!

Ranthambore Tiger Safari Day 1

Back at the hotel we asked to speak to the manager. We had to wait a while but were then told to speak to the tour manager - the same man who had been with us on the tour. He tried to fob us off again but got a phone call when I was going through the list of complaints. He put his hand up and said "One moment" so he could answer the call. I told him to switch his phone off ... now!

He realised we weren't going to just go away and finally offered us another safari the next morning on a Canter and he would get us into zones 1 to 6. We discussed (in German) and, although we could have asked for a Jeep, we decided not to push our luck and accepted.

We had a late meal, and let Yadav know that we wouldn't be leaving until after the morning's safari. We were still angry that we had had to go through all that. Why hadn't they just admitted that they'd booked us on the wrong safari and put us on one the following morning instead of just trying to get away with a bogus tour and trying to fob us off?

Interestingly, one of the men at reception was really happy that we had stuck to our guns and complained. He seemed really excited as if it was the first time he had ever seen a woman put her foot down! Well, maybe it was!

Fri, 31.01.2014: Ranthambore National Park −> Bharatpur, sunny/foggy, 22°C

Our Canter arrived at 7am the next morning and we were not only armed with blankets but we were wearing thermals!! We'd learned our lesson! We stopped at about 6 different hotels to pick up people on the way to the park and our vehicle was full.

Before we even got into the park, we pulled off onto a track to see a hyena running away with a kill in its mouth. It happened too quickly for photos but we saw it at least. It was a good start and we got into the park at 7-40am.

We went to zone 5 and it looked like we were on our own for at least the first 45 minutes. It was also very cold and foggy. We saw spotted deer, sambar deer, kingfishers and crocodiles but we didn't stop long.

Then we heard the warning calls of the sambar deer. We stopped and then turned off onto a different track. We heard the calls again, did a U turn and took a different track. That's when we saw the tigers running in the bush on our right.

They both stopped and lay down but we were very close to them. It was absolutely wonderful to be able to see such beautiful animals in the wild. We knew that we had been very lucky to be able to see them and we were really happy that we had complained enough to get onto this safari! Thank God we hadn't pushed for a Jeep because we ended up being the only ones to see the tigers that day!

We stayed for over 30 minutes, watching the tigers and getting photos and videos until they walked off into the bush. Then we had to leave because we needed to get back. We didn't care because we'd seen the tigers!! Yeehaa!!

Ranthambore Tiger Safari Day 2

We didn't get back to the hotel until 11-30am and asked if we could still have breakfast even though it was so late. We had boiled eggs and toast whilst chatting to one of the other women who had been on our safari.

We finished our packing and loaded up the car. We left at 12-30pm and drove about 225km. We stopped to see Abaneri Stepwell which was very big and built in the 8th to 9th Century and a Hindu temple where they had done their usual trick of gathering together chunks of carved rocks and pillars and erected them into a wall around the temple.

It got very cold and foggy along the way and we finally arrived at our hotel in Bharatpur at 6pm. We had to ask for clean pillow cases, (ours had been used), extra sheets as there were no top sheets on the beds, and an extra blanket and towel.

The "clean sheets" we were given had stains, holes and rips and the blankets on the bed smelled of something unpleasant! Kirsten tried the hot water tap but there was no water coming out at all. So I went down to ask and one of the men came up to check. After realising that there really wasn't any water he said "one moment" and left. He never came back!

The hotel was definitely below standard. It was already very cold and the marble floors made it even colder. Later I went back downstairs and asked for a heater. The heater was brand new and worked!! At least that was something.

It had been a very long day but we were so happy that we had actually managed to see the tigers!