The journey took longer than we thought, as when we turned off the main highway towards Ranthambore the road was still under construction on and off. This meant frequent stretches where we had to come off the road onto the parallel dirt track. We eventually arrived at our destination, the Tiger Den resort, at just gone 2 p.m. without a care in the world.
We were met at the car and told to hurry up and take our bags to our chalet - we were meant to be doing a safari that afternoon. Not to worry about checking in, we could do that when we got back. This was all news to us - we thought we had the whole day free. Still, we did as we were told. As we got back to the reception area we were told we had enough time to get some lunch. We were staying on a 'Jungle package' basis (I guess everyone was) - all meals included, which were buffets in a large communal room next to reception.
It was probably closer to 3 p.m. when we were called to go. The safaris were conducted in large open-top jeeps (about twenty people per jeep) with a guide. We were the last people to be picked up by ours, and thus took a seat near the back. Our companions were all American.
Our resort was quite close to the park entrance, where the jeeps had to stop to find out which of the five areas of the park they were going to do. Our guide picked area 4 from the lottery ticket system - I guess at the start of the day they have a preallocated number of tickets for each area. The Americans seemed pleased - they hadn't done this area before. We headed into the park. A short way in we stopped again for the guide to sign in at the entrance to our area. This bird (which turned out to be very tame and common but I can't remember what it is) was perched in a tree right next to our jeep.
It turned out to be quite a tortuous route, with lots of slow climbs through jungly terrain. We eventually emerged into more open country and headed towards a lake. We then turned round and headed back again - I think because we had been so late setting out and all jeeps had to be out of the park by 6 p.m.
We did see quite a lot of deer (spotted deer and sambar) and monkeys, heard alarm calls at one point so we stopped, all peering intently in the direction that they came from, but not much else happened.
When we got back we checked in, unpacked and unwound before heading over for dinner. We were surprised at how many Germans we encountered here - I think their holiday firms must use this resort as standard as they provided a German-speaking rep.
We got an early night as we were due off again for a 6.30 a.m. safari the next morning.
Bleary-eyed we went and got a coffee while waiting for our jeep. We met two lovely ladies, Aldyth (a Jamaican now living in Canada) and Sarala (an Indian living in Canada), also waiting for the jeep, which eventually arrived after 7 a.m. This time we got area 5.
We spotted a kingfisher on our way in. Some of our neighbours have seen them on the Whiteadder, but we never have.
Where we stopped to check in there were a lot of monkeys and parakeets (and pigeons) - seed had been put out for them.
Once into our area our guide was convinced that there was a tiger nearby but we couldn't see it. We kept returning to the same spot, but no joy. We saw more deer...
We had breakfast with Aldyth and Sarala when we got back, and then chilled out/warmed up with our books sitting on the veranda of our chalet before lunch and the afternoon safari.
This time our jeep turned up empty and we were the first pickup, so we got seats at the front where we could hear the guide.
Our guide picked Area 3.
This was our most enjoyable safari so far.
The route was much more pleasant, being mainly over open ground. The presence of many small lakes meant we saw a much greater variety of wildlife, as well as the good old favourites - more deer.
Boars, crocodiles and a lot of water birds, including herons and egrets, to add to our list. There are a lot of wild peacocks in the reserve, but none of our guides seemed to think it was worth stopping to photograph them.
There are apparently two varieties of parakeets in the park, this one being a lot less common than the ones being fed at the entrance to area 4.
On our way back out we even had a very fleeting glance of the back end of a tiger as it disappeared into the undergrowth. On trying to track round to where it was heading our guide pointed out a small owl in one of the trees. We never re-found the tiger...
In the evening there was a barbecue with local folk music/dancing. We chatted to another English couple who had been jammy enough to see a tiger sleeping right next to the road on their safari! Our Italian chalet neighbours were persuaded up to join in the dancing, but we Brits were firmly glued to our chairs :)
Up again early the next morning. We met up with Aldyth again but Sarala had decided to stay in bed. We were split up, and we got area 4 again. We went further this time but still no tigers. Aldyth didn't see any either.
We did see some more wild boar, closer up this time.
And more deer.
And more monkeys.
And another crocodile.
Our last safari and Paul was invited to select the route ticket - and picked route 4 again...
This time, however, we had more luck. Our guide could hear a tiger roar, and with a little toing and froing we spotted it a little way away. Even more luckily I did manage to get a photo...
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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