The Tigress of Ranthambhore

We traveled half way around the world to photograph tigers at Ranthambhore National Park. This fantastic location in Northwest India offers some of the best tiger viewing in the wild. Even so they can be elusive, we had heard stories of photographers coming here and not having a single tiger sighting for several days. We were with one of the best guides in the park so we felt good about our chances. A good guide and a positive attitude make all the difference.

Spotted Deer. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Spotted Deer. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

On our first outing it was really quite beautiful to see a large buck, standing up to it’s shoulders in a lake munching aquatic plants and herds of spotted deer. Beautiful but not why we were here. We also saw monkeys, wild pigs and the occasional crocodile. As the afternoon wore on, the light became magical. In combination with the animals and 10th century ruins that dotted the landscape, the light helped created a fairytale landscape. Darkness began to fall and we’d had no signs of the elusive tigers.

The next morning we were up before dawn. Our jeep was the first through the ancient stone gates and into the park. Almost immediately we were greeted with fresh tiger paw prints and the alarming howls of monkeys. Monkeys are the first to see these predators due to their high vantage points in the trees and excellent vision.  Our guide was very methodical in tracking the big cat. Judging by the prints, it was a female, a tigress. Stopping every few minutes to examine the ground and listen to sounds, he narrowed the search to a section of jungle that was inaccessible to our jeep. Maybe she’ll continue to move or maybe she had already had her morning kill and was bedding down for a nap. For the time being we set off in another direction to explore other known tiger territory and discussing our options.

Borrowing a little from William Blake and a little from Hindu religion, Christy came up with a mantra in an attempt to induce a tiger to reveal itself.

“Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, Carry Durga Day and Night”

Stalking Tigress. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Stalking Tigress. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

We all joined in the chanting. Within a few minutes we came across another guide stopped in his jeep. A tiger had been spotted about a kilometer up the road. We kicked up a big cloud of dust as we took off toward the sighting. Slowing to a crawl we pulled along side two other jeeps. Their camera shutters were clicking away, lenses pointed across a gulley through the jungle undergrowth. I didn’t immediately see her but with some effort I spotted her head at least 50 yards away half hidden in the tall grass. She was intently watching a heard of spotted deer. Several minutes passed, then she stood and began to stalk, like lighting she was gone into the trees.

Christy, myself, the guides and the driver all looked at each other and chanted.

“Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, Carry Durga Day and Night”

Tigress with fresh Spotted Deer kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Tigress with fresh Spotted Deer kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

A minute later she reappeared, carrying a small spotted deer in her mouth and she was walking right toward us!

“Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, Carry Durga Day and Night”

Tigress cleaning her kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Tigress cleaning her kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

We all held our breath, pressed our shutter releases and marveled as she walked past our jeep and continued down the road. She settled under a tree a little further along and began licking her kill. She stayed there for about five minutes before moving further away into denser cover. It was the most marvelous experience we had ever had. Our guides agreed and told us this was only the second time in 10 years they had seen this happen. Jai Durga.

Tigress with fresh kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

Tigress with fresh kill. Ranthambhore, India. 2016

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