India Safari, 2011

Our 2011 India trip was challenging, at times difficult, but ultimately a huge success.

We arrived in Delhi alongside the Pakistan Cricket team (losing to India in a nail biting match during the 2011 Cricket World Cup) and travelled from there to Ranthambore, Rajasthan by train. Train travel in India continues to be an interesting or the most challenging mode of transport on the continent.

India is a dichotomy, an assult on the senses, all of the senses and all at once.

The train network was built to last; it’s the beast, the thundering rhinoserous of travel.  The shear miles covered by the trains network, the age of the trains and the number of passengers they carry, it is astonishing to find that the train time table is invariably something you can set your watch to and rely on!

Rajasthan is a stunningly beautiful area of India. The lakes, ruins, flora, fauna and bird life are quite extraordinary and leave you with a sense of peace and calm. Unfortunately, the quantity of tiger in the reserve are sadly lacking. A recent survey showed the tiger numbers were on the increase. I would question how this research was carried out in comparison to the last survey and on what basis they consider the numbers to be rising. Sightings in Ranthambore would suggest that in that area at least, numbers are on the decline. Please visit www.saveourtigers.com and www.wwfindia.org for more information on how you can help.

Wildlife Photography - Tigers - Sam Frize - 005

We had six safaris at Ranthambore – the first four of these safaris proved fruitless. I practiced my photography skills on deer and butterflies – yes butterflies (not easy actually)! By the 5th safari we were happy to see a tiger for about 10 seconds in the distance, no photographic opportunity, but at least it proved there was at least one tiger at Rajasthan. The 6th and final safari took us to route 6. In a reserve 400 square miles the terrain can change dramatically and the dry, dusty, almost desert like panorama of this route was astonishing.

Two hours into the safari we found nothing and decided to take a leisurely drive back to the hotel. Within a minute we came across another vehicle who had spotted a tiger in the undergrowth. T37, a female of 4 years, came over the brow of the small hill. She is magnificent. Undeterred from stalking prey whilst being followed by our vehicles, she gave a display lasting some 45 minutes. This was by far my best sighting in 3 years of travelling in India. www.ranthamboreregency.netfirms.com

Following our final success at Ranthambore we had high hopes for Bandhavgh. Whilst tigers are more prolific at this reserve, problems with Tiger kills – by other Tigers and human foe – continues to be an issue. This, coupled by high visitor numbers, means the reserve has restricted access to many areas, making sightings more difficult.

Whilst we were there, the afternoon safari was more akin to the ‘Wacky Races’, where vehicles are obliged to complete their given route under strict time constraints, difficult in the time available if you are given the longest route to complete. Sightings were better here, but invariably mobbed by vehicles, whilst viewings were cut short by time constraints on completion of the routes, randomly allocated. Post trip note: Sid, our guide for the second year has told me since coming home, that the system has now changed and the rush to complete routes has been scrapped!  Good to know that someone, somewhere has a drop of common sense.

Would I go back to Bandhavgh – absolutely, yes.  Would I go back to Rajasthan……only if I had booked at least 6 safaris and had time to spare, so yes! Our relationship with Bandhav Vilas, Manish, Vijay and the team continues to fill my heart with warmth and joy. Thanks again to Sid our guide and friend. They are all my family in my India home at Bandhav Vilas and I hope to see them all again soon. www.bandhavvilas.com