THE QUEEN OF RANTHAMBORE
When we left Rajasthan at 1 am and drove back to Delhi, we did some maths. We calculated that in total we had spent 35 hours in
a jeep looking for tigers and in that time, we were with tigers on our own for about 30 minutes. That equates to being employed for about 1.5% of the time and places this assignment right at the low end of what we do, along with polar bears in Svalbard. It is also consistent with my previous trips to Ranthambore, which have all been in the 1-2% range. To offer some context, elephants in Amboseli would be about 40% of available time and lions in the Serengeti about 10%.
Tigers are therefore a big ask in terms of patience and resolve. It is very hot in May and the roads are not made for comfort. These are long days and the drinking water becomes warm by noon - even in a cooler. The upside is that when the encounters happen, they can be spellbinding. The tiger is the stuff of fantasy and fable and it is no surprise that they are many people’s favourite animal. The stripes of a tiger speak to us on many levels.
This mother of three, is well known to the guides and because tigers feel the heat just as much as we do, watering holes in the middle of the day offered the best chance of meeting her in her territory. There is a great amount of luck involved in this approach as I need to be low as well as safe and many watering holes do not allow for this. I needed the right waterhole and to be there at the right time. She also needed to face me - and that in itself was against the odds.
On this occasion, I was able to get very low and she confronted me head on. The shadowed ripples of water fuse with her stripes in a manner I could never have preconceived. The 98.5% of grueling torture was made totally worthwhile by this special encounter.
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Image: 56" x 75" (143 cm x 191 cm)
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