Monday, 22nd March - Dover, England
Tuesday, 23rd March - Benaulim, Goa
Wednesday, 24th March - Benaulim, Goa
Thursday, 25th March - Benaulim, Goa
Friday, 26th March - Hampi, Karnataka
Saturday, 27th March - Hampi, Karnataka
Sunday, 28th March - Hampi, Karnataka
Monday, 29th March - Hampi, Karnataka
Tuesday, 30th March - en route to Ooty
Wednesday, 31st March - Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Thursday, 1st April - Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Friday, 2nd April - Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Saturday, 3rd April - Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Sunday, 4th April - Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Monday, 5th April - Kollam, Kerala
Tuesday, 6th April - Houseboat, Kerala
Wednesday, 7th April - Houseboat, Kerala
Thursday, 8th April - boat to Alleppey
Friday, 9th April - Kochi, Kerala
Saturday, 10th April - Kochi, Kerala
Sunday, 11th April - Kochi, Kerala
Monday, 12th April - 2625 Kerala Express
Tuesday, 13th April - 2625 Kerala Express
Wednesday, 14th April - Friday, 16th April - Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Saturday 17th - Wednesday 21st April
Leaving Agra at 4:00am to catch our train to Ranthambore the day didn't start off that well. Agra at that time in the morning smelled awful and it was enough to make you ill on it's own. Topped off with the fact that the train was also running 2hrs late and the flies on the station were crawling all over us we couldn't wait to get going.
At last the train pulled in and we were on our way. Arriving at the Tiger Safari hotel around 1 o'clock we checked in to a much better room than the one in Agra, and we were able to unpack all of our belongings. We weren't going on Safari until the following day so we took a short walk into the little town to get a few provisions. It was around about 3 o'clock and the temperature by now was touching 50c in the sun and the scary thought of having to go on a safari that time the following day was in our minds. How would we cope perched on the back of a jeep with no way of getting out of the sun?
The hotel was very nice, but it seems that you can't get everything as the staff were another bunch of oddballs. We also had a swimming pool here which was a welcome relief to escape the heat and cool off.
Sunday was the time for our first Safari. The National Park is split into five zones and we were heading to zone one. Hopes were high, as a fellow traveller had seen a tiger in this zone the previous morning. Unfortunately our guide was not the best and along with no Tiger we saw very little wildlife at all, most disappointing.
Later that day we set off again this time for zone three. We were told that a tigress usually slept in this area during the afternoon and would normally wake up around five-ish. Our guide this time round was spot on - although it took some believing as she was so far away it was difficult to see her. He was right though as just after 5:15 she awoke and started to head off in our direction.
We managed to take a few nice pictures as the tigress headed across a bridge to another island area containing some longer grass, ideal for stalking prey. Whilst trying to anticipate her next move the driver quickly drove the jeep around the safari route to another viewpoint hoping she'd appear out of the grass, as we all held on tight on the bumpy dirt track. Unfortunately she didn't appear and time was getting on. The National Park had a strict ruling that you had to be out of the zone by 6:30. As we made our way out, another tiger was spotted, this time a male. There was just enough time to take a few quick photos, but no time to observe. Still two tigers on our first day was a good result and we were both pleased.
The following day saw us up again at five, ready to leave. This time we went to zone five. On entry we managed to hear the grunting of a leopard and with good eyesight and binoculars we managed to see one that was sitting high on the top of the hill. Unfortunately out of range for pictures, even with Safari Serena's camera. A good start to the day. We didn't manage to spot a tiger but our guide was excellent and we saw many Samba Deer, Spotted Deer, Antelope and an array of birdlife.
After that morning's safari we decided to take breakfast at the hotel which Jacqi & David had booked into just 100yds down the road. Enquiring as to whether they had arrived the young chef come housekeeper wasn't too sure as his understanding of English wasn't that good. He was however very cheerful and happy and a very good cook as well. We decided quite quickly that we would eat quite regularly there as he made very good chai as well and lots of it.
As we were about to leave David appeared as he'd ordered food a little earlier in the day followed shortly afterwards by Jacqi. We discussed our morning's adventures and before we left we arranged to take dinner with them after that evening's safari.
After a swim and a little relaxing time we were off again on safari, this time to zone two with the guide Samir. He was an excellent guide who had worked on wildlife documentaries for the BBC quite recently. He was also the only guide of the six we had, who possessed his own binoculars & bird book. Something we found very strange that the National Park didn't provide each guide with before setting out. Up until then both of us had been passing our binoculars to and fro and sometimes from jeep to jeep to allow others a better view of the Tigers.
Samir quickly took us to another zone as he knew we would sight a tiger in zone three very quickly before proceeding to the zone we had been allocated. Whilst in zone two we had our closest view of a tiger but unfortunately only a view from the side of it laying down, and despite several attempts by the jeep driver to get it to move it wasn't going to. Still another two tigers to add to the two the previous evening was very good going indeed.
We returned to our hotel and it wasn't long before we came over very tired and much to our disappointment we felt unable to make our previous dinner arrangements.
The following day was a rest day for us and we decided to visit Ranthambore Fort, perched on a hill high above the National Park, where views were wonderful. It had similarities to Dover Castle with vast amounts of ground surrounded by a huge wall.
At the furthermost point a community of people had set up home and offered a variety of food and drink and most important some chai. Lots of the people asked for their photo to be taken not only with Serena but with me also. One of the guy's in particular was very fond of his cricket from around the 70's, not surprising as they had no TVs up there to watch recent cricket matches, and asked me to tell him some famous cricketers from Kent. As it happened I also could only remember from the 70's so we had quite a laugh remembering the older players together.
We spent a few hours at the fort then headed back for some breakfast hopefully to catch and apologise for not making dinner the previous evening. Jacqi & David had had a wonderful sighting of a Tiger the previous evening, and had captured some lovely photographs. Unfortunately Jacqui was not feeling too clever and was leaving for hospital in Jaipur very shortly. We exchanged email addresses before leaving and hopefully we'll meet up another time. In the meantime I hope she made a swift recovery.
The last day at Ranthambore, we set off again at 6 o'clock, again to zone one. We didn't get too excited due to our previous encounter earlier in the week, and although a little more enjoyable we didn't see the tiger.
After swimming and relaxing we set off again later in the day. We went to pick up three Indian students from a nearby resort and things didn't look good as we were hanging around for 15 minutes waiting for them to arrive. Late into the park we headed to zone two and within minutes we spotted a tigress asleep at the waters edge.
We stayed there observing as she slept, with the occasional roll over to keep us guessing as to what time she'd wake up. Serena had predicted around 5:10, and almost on cue the Tigress woke up with a big stretch and a leisurely stroll to the right. We were able to take some lovely photographs almost all afternoon.
Our five nights in Ranthambore were a treat and definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Thursday, 22nd April - Jaipur, Rajisthan
Friday, 23rd April - Jaipur, Rajisthan
Saturday, 24th April - Pushkar, Rajisthan
Sunday, 25th April - Pushkar, Rajisthan
Monday, 26th April - Pushkar, Rajisthan
Tuesday, 27th April - Delhi
Wednesday, 28th April - Delhi
Thursday, 29th April - Delhi
Friday, 30th April - back to England