Ranthambore, one of the most known Tiger reserve in the Jungles of Rajasthan, India. It's a 'magical jungle', pretty dry during the summers with very less of drinking waterholes available to the animals. Very green just by a single shower of the monsoon. From the old forts to abandoned forest check-posts, it has lots of different serene and habitat.
My journey started in a car ride starting from Jaipur to Sawai Madhopur during the hottest month of May. It took 3:30 Hours to reach 'Sawai Madhopur' which is a small town adjoining the great jungles of Ranthambore. From there we directed to our hotel "Juna Mahal". Pretty good stay option and pretty close to the main entry to the zone (1 to 5). As soon as we reached to our rooms, we got ready and started off for the safari.
As I have been regular to Ranthambore, I had little idea about the different zones and the tigers there. One of my dream was to see "Fateh" (T-42), who was the largest tiger of Ranthambore, the most fierce and pretty rare to be seen. As tigers are territorial, his area came under the Zone 10. I exactly knew that we should try for that zone and asked the agency to provide us with the same. It was a long drive of almost an hour when we reached the entrance of Zone 10.
The temperature at that moment was above 40* C and the whole jungle was completely dry which enabled us to pierce the jungle with clarity and far vision. After around 10 minutes drive in the jungle we saw a gypsy parked at a corner with huge lens focused right at one of abandoned forest check-post. Our driver rushed the car in the same direction and as we reached there, we saw a grand tiger silhouette inside the check post. It was pretty dark from our vantage point so we decided to go to the other side where there was a small window. As soon as we parked our car there at the window, we saw a massive head staring at us from the window. The rush in the body was at its peak and there was the biggest tiger of Ranthambore (Fateh-T42), the great King of Zone 10, hardly 6 feet away from us but on the other side of the wall which made us and the tiger safe. We could clearly hear the the breathing of the beast and also could carefully analyse every small movement on his body. Our guide told us that we should park the car on one of the sides on the road and Fateh would come out and walk on it in the direction of waterhole when he would be thirsty. We parked our car and waited for sometime.
After waiting for some 30 minutes. We heard alarm calls from Sambhar Deer & Chittal. We thought that maybe they have sensed the presence of Fateh. But that was not the case. Their calls became much more vigorous and serious. The driver thought that there is a leopard and rushed the gypsy towards the calls. Suddenly we saw something moving and got excited thinking we have spotted a leopard. As the vision became clearer, to our fortune, it was a "tigress". Walking towards us with Splendorous expressions. We could see each and every muscle which showed-off the power she had. We were stable parked at a small bridge just above a water hole and she was walking for the water, super thirsty. We could figure that our due to the saliva dropping off her tongue.
As soon as she came upto water. She rested a bit, drank a little bit of water. It felt like she was little irritated by the presence of gypsys or was very very thirsty. We enjoyed the whole scene with a distance of about 50-60 Feet and an elevation aswell. Soon after 10 minutes she looked straight in our eyes, and to our horror, she gave a thrilling roar. We all were statued completely. It gave us chills down our spine and we moved further away to give it even more distance. The whole jungle went silent after that dashing roar.
I was not able to move my eyes away from such a beauty. Her stripes, her eyes, that roar everything made me go in deep thoughts. We had lots of eye contacts. Each time it was like she is directly looking at my soul. I wasnt able to feel any heat, any sweat, any sensation of thirst or hunger. Didn't had any thoughts about the future or the past. It was only the present and it was in front of me. Such quickly i felt a bond with her. I wanted just to see her and admire the great art by the nature.
Suddenly my thoughts were broken by reversing cars and people directing towards my right. "Look..! Its Fateh....He is out", my driver exclaimed. With sudden movement all my concentration went towards the direction where he pointed his finger and I see a huge, powerful beast walking towards another water hole. In all my tiger encounters I have never ever seen such a glorious walk. He was really big and the facial hair made him look even bigger. Opposite to the T13 female. He was very calm and didn't care about the Gypsys / people around him. He walked with great pride towards an another waterhole which was little far on our right. To explain our exact position. We were at the small bridge which had the waterhole just beneath with the tigress T13 and towards our right, another 80-90 feet it was Fateh. It was great having both of them in one eye frame. Unfortunately they didn't meet or anything but individually gave us another 2 hours to patiently sit and admire them.
That day i realised how lucky I am. It is not something that can be experienced by anyone. Its one in hundreds who get such encounters. It is written on golden pages down my memory lane for the life and it will always remain special and close to my heart.
Special Thanks to Jai Rawat, Bhuvnesh Bhatnagar, Sagar Bhatt, Manasvi Batra & Bajrang Singh to be a part of it.