India: Mission Accomplished

Thirty-seven long hours after leaving Darjeeling we found ourselves once again in Sawai Madhopur and Ranthambhore National Park. We learned from our visit one month earlier that in order to secure a spot in the core zones of the park we needed to book them in advance online- so that's what we did. Without having to worry about the park bureaucracy we could just relax and enjoy our daily safaris and final days in India. We booked a total of 5 safaris spread over 3 days: 3 morning safaris and two evening ones. On our first morning safari the weather was miserable and it poured for nearly two hours solid. The weather all over India had been abnormal as of late, but rain in Rajasthan in April was probably the greatest anomaly of it all. This was very unlucky for us because we were there to see the park's star attraction, tigers, and cats don't like getting wet. It was still an enjoyable safari though and it was kind of comical to see all the other animals sopping-wet and slightly uncomfortable looking. The weather improved for the remainder of our safaris but our luck in sighting tigers didn't. Of course there are many other animals to see on a safari in Ranthambhore. Over our days we saw thousands (literally) of spotted deer and langur monkeys, as well as many sambar deer, blue bulls, wild boar, and countless species of beautiful birds. There were also crocodiles, mongooses, turtles and many more that I'm likely forgetting.

Top: a pair of kingfishers Bottom: an owlet and a peacock lookin' to impress

However, we had seen all these animals during our first outings into the park so we were really only focused on the tigers. People are always saying how lucky we are to see all the animals we have seen during our travels. This trip alone we've seen leopards and lions and it was a goal of ours to see all of Asia's 'big three' cats before returning home. Yet after a combined seven safaris we still couldn't find a tiger. Many other people were seeing tigers while we were out there, but not us. It looked as though our animal-spotting luck had run out. We decided at that point to spend one extra day in Ranthambhore in lieu of one more day in Delhi, a last-ditch attempt in our quest for tigers. So in the evening we signed-up for one more safari. That was the one we were waiting for!

Finally we found what we came for

We had an amazing 15 to 20-minute-long interaction with a beautiful tigress who had wandered across the road from her usual territory. She was gorgeous and at times was just a few short meters away from us. It wasn't luck that accounted for our tiger sighting this time, but rather sheer determination. Our quest for the 'big three' was complete and we could return home with all our boxes checked. Our final safari count stood at nine and we covered all the core zones except zone number one. Our decision to revisit Ranthambhore was a good one. It was a relaxing and exciting way to wind down our trip and we really enjoyed spending time with Vishnu and his staff at Hotel Green View. The next day we took a very uncomfortable train ride back to Delhi, but at least it was the last of our trip through India.

Our final two days in India were spent in Delhi and were intentionally low-key. Delhi has many interesting attractions to visit, but it was hot and we were spent and just wanted to relax before our long journey back to Canada. So we ate good food, we drank strong coffee, we did some last minute shopping in the buzzing bazaars, we took a few short walks, watched a couple movies in our room, and I finally got the chance to get caught-up on this here blog. The rest of Delhi will have to wait until the next time, and there is no doubt in my mind that there will be a next time.

Truly the most magnificent of Asia's cats

265.5 is the total number of hours that we spent on public transportation during our 110 days in India. If my math serves me correct, that's over 11 full days of road and rail travel. It is a lot of time, and much of it unquestionably uncomfortable time, but there really is no better way to experience the real India.



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