The Swahili word safari means ‘long journey’ and that is what a wildlife safari is. A long journey into the depths of nature, an adventure of exploring and appreciating the world of wilderness.
If you are the one who thrives on holidays with exciting adventurous twist, then let the magic unfold.
It was 2pm in the month of May. One of the hottest weeks of the year. This was my first experience of wilderness escapade.
Anticipation, anxiety and excitement as we get ready to wrap ourselves well to beat the scorching desert heat of the summers. The canter honks outside the resort gate and we jumped in armed with cameras and a sense of adventure to head into the jungle. The road passes through small villages bordering large ponds where the rustic life of the locals is a delight to the eye and the camera.
The first view of the Ranthambore Fort in the distance is breathtaking – perched high up on the edge of the tall cliffs, the ancient walls have withstood the test of time. We passed through an ancient gateway, surrounded by huge trees where langur monkeys lounge. Gigantic stone boulders festooned with the aerial roots of banyan trees give a very Indiana Jones kind of feel to the place, and the possibility of sighting a tiger any minute adds to the excitement.
In some time we overhear our guide talk to our driver that he just heard a Chital deer raise an alarm call, probably because it had sensed a tiger’s presence. The sudden surge of adrenaline rush to see the striped cat is something none of us can ever forget. The excitement was pulled up in speed and so were the gears of the canter.
The grumbles and the polite chitchat ceases, perhaps out of reverence to the royal cat. There is a silence of apprehension and excitement – any moment you might be blessed with a sighting of the enigmatic arrogant beast. You wait with crossed fingers and bated breath. A rustling noise – You almost felt yourself stiffen an uneasy feeling in your stomach. It is a deer with her fawn. Anti-climax and a chorus of disappointed exclamations. Yet, leaving you completely mesmerized. Living next to Pantaloons and Westside, where the only wildlife one gets to see are hoardings of ludicrously dressed models, this is a rare treat indeed and you watch spellbound for several moments.
You see deer and antelope a plenty, the primary food of the parks tigers, plus the ever-abundant langoor monkeys. It isn’t for a few minutes until word came across the radio of a tiger nearby, and so at breakneck speed we barrel off along the dusty game trails. It seems lot like a Disneyland ride, the “Jungle Book” rollercoaster, this rugged cart careening through the forest, tree branches whipping past your face, deer scattering as you pass, and a soundtrack of tiger growls playing in the background.
Your eyes scan every inch of land; you are excited at the prospect of seeing the one thing you are silently praying for. The driver turned the engine off and decided to stalk the stalker. The alarm call had come from about 100 feet to our right and, chances were, the tiger was even closer. We waited there for about 10 minutes but nothing happened. The alarm call had since died off and the Ranthambore jungle felt eerily silent. Just when we were about to give up, we heard a rustling sound from behind us, and out came Machali, this magnificent being with her 2 cubs.
Majesty oozed from the way the tigress walked. One could easily tell that she knew she was the queen of this jungle. For that instant, the tawny eyes staring deep into your very being. You are enraptured, unable to break your gaze, so totally in the moment. You are intensely aware of even a blade of grass moving, of the leaves falling around you, of the wild bird’s call. Yet, she has you enthralled; she is the only focus of your being. Such is the magic of sighting Machali in the Ranthambore National Park.
She gave us a brief look, ignored us as if we were part of the landscape. Then she passed her commanding glance at her cubs to follow her. The playful two follow their majestic reign into the wilderness, leaving us totally surreal, mystical and soul quenched.