I am writing this post in the train on my way from Sawai Madhopur to Mumbai, and so my trip to Ranthambhore comes to an end. As always I leave Ranthambhore adding to some fantastic memories and the feeling that I am leaving a place that is part of me even though I have no real links to it.
While I have no historical, family or any direct links to the place, the people there seem to make me feel that I am part of their family. The people where I normally stay while in Ranthambhore, The Ranthambhore Bagh, seem to be aware of my smallest of likes. For example, as soon as I went for a meal on first day, Ram Singh, the person looking after the guests in the dining room asked if I would prefer to have ‘Chaash’ or Buttermilk. He seemed to remember this from my previous visits, the last of which was three years ago. The same thing applied to my fellow companion on this part of the trip, Suhas. It’s not that Ranthambhore Bagh sees only few visitors / tourists…it is packed most of the year with dedicated wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and tourists from all around the world.
You may have noticed that I do not refer to the people at Ranthambhore Bagh as ‘staff’, this is because I have always felt that they are all a family. They welcome and treat you as part of that same family. Poonam and Aditya Singh, who run the place, have made it a home away from home, and I am fairly certain, every visitor to Ranthambhore Bagh goes away with that feeling. It’s not a fancy resort or luxurious hotel, but you feel relaxed and comfortable when you are there. You also return from there creating new friends and contacts. The feeling that you often get in some big hotels about being isolated and lonely if you are not with your family does not exist at Ranthambhore Bagh.
It would seem that I am writing a publicity blog or review for Ranthambhore Bagh which is not the case. I doubt that that they need any such publicity either. However, the biggest bonus of being at this place is learning and sharing the experiences from the people there. Aditya, or Dicky as most people call him, is an exceptional photographer and has excellent knowledge about wildlife. You always come back having learned something to enhance your knowledge or skills. Just a simple chat during evening dinner during this trip turned one whole principle of my photography knowledge upside down from what I had adopted since the time my father gave me a camera some 30 odd years ago. And now I go back with a complete different perspective about photography. Whether that improves my picture quality only time will tell.
Anyway, the final day circus that I referred to in my previous blog turned out to be an even better spectacle than I could have imagined. The final afternoon safari would have included no less than 60-70 vehicles going into the forest, with many of them being non-fee paying VIPs. Earlier during the morning safari a couple of vehicles had seen a male tiger going towards an old hunting lodge in the middle of a Rajbagh Lake. This meant that most of the vehicles in the afternoon, particularly the VIPs, were around that area hoping for some sighting of the tiger. We too had been allocated the same route (Ranthambhore has a compulsory route system for tourists). While I prefer avoiding areas where there are too many vehicles chasing an animal, I have always wanted a picture of a tiger appearing through one of the window of the hunting lodge, and so told our driver to hang around. Everyone was waiting with great expectation that the tiger will come out from his resting area in the evening, which usually would be around 5.30–6.00pm. Fortunately or unfortunately, you can take your pick, nature had something else in mind. Just around 5.15pm the skies changed colour to menacing grey within few minutes. The lake and the surrounding forest looked completely different, something that I had never witnessed in all these years at Ranthambhore. Initially strong winds started pushing dark low clouds over the forest and then heavens opened up in what can only be described as a torrent of rain. There was a mad rush of vehicles towards the park gate for shelter. The sight of serious photographers trying to protect their gear, tourists and VIPs trying to huddle together to protect from rain and wind was quite fascinating. In the end, the tiger and nature had their own way to deal with the mass invasion and disruption of privacy.
So while I did not get a chance to see a tiger during my last safari in Ranthambhore during this trip, I had an opportunity to view a magical sight of monsoon clouds which I share in form of a short video.