Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tiger time!

From Jaipur we made our way south to the Ranthambor National Park and tiger preserve. Pop culture followers will note that I was at Ranthambor at the same time Katy Perry married Russell Brand there. Added excitement! No, I did not see either of them.

The lodge we stayed at was beautiful, comfortable, spacious, and QUIET. This was a much-needed stop after so much bustle. I took some time to sit in the swing chairs staring at the moon after our first tiger safari.

On the first safari, I saw no tiger. But, I enjoyed the drive through the park, which provided majestic vistas and cozy nooks. I drew the sketch to the left as we sat and waited for a tiger. The drive through the wooded trails reminded me of a recurring Speed Buggy dream I had for many years. In the dream, I was stranded on an island with Speed Buggy, and we would be driving through wooded hilly trails getting from place to place. There weren't any wacky villains or anything. Strange that this place would remind me so much of my dream.

On the final safari, we saw a tiger for about a minute, as he milled about and disappeared.

But the second safari—OMG. We followed this tigress for 45 minutes. At first, she walked about leisurely, and stopped to yawn and lick her paws. Then disappeared into the brush. We'd have been thrilled with THAT. But suddenly, a solitary deer was freaking out, stomping her feet, inching closer to where we thought the tiger had disappeared to. She ran off, and in a moment, the whole herd returned, several getting dangerously close to the tiger. Repositioning the jeep, it became clear what was going on. The tigress has snared a baby deer, just a day old, and was playing with it as I've seen a housecat toying with a trapped mouse. The herd was stomping furiously, trying to draw the tigress away from the baby deer, to no avail. The baby let out a few meeps, and tried to escape, in vain. We then saw the tigress walking away from the area, baby deer in her mouth, legs kicking. As she walked toward us, the kicking stopped. She walked right past the jeep and disappeared into the shrub again. Within a minute or so, the heard ran off, and a minute later, the baby's mother did as well.

It was thrilling—and not as sad as I'd expected. I mean, if the tiger didn't do that, it would die. The herd would overpopulate and starve after the grass was gone. Our guide was ECSTATIC—in his 15 years as guide, it was only the second kill he'd witnessed.

My fellow jeep-ers got some AMAZING photos of the event and the tiger, which they've shared. I didn't bother with my little camera, but did get a few of me with the tiger in the background.

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