The Eyes of the Tiger…to Find One

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

(Reis) There are many things that people need to see to believe are actually real and existing. For instance, a friend buys a new house, and he show you a picture of it. You can’t really comprehend it until you visit it in person and see it with your own eyes. Same with the Indian tigers. I have seen a tiger in a zoo before; it was spectacular. But I didn’t go back to my friends and say “Oh my gosh, I saw a tiger!” I can really only say that, if I see it living its normal life. Before, a zoo was fine, but for the 6explorers, seeing them in their natural habitat is ideal.

We drive up to the gates of Ranthambhore National Tiger Reserve and immediately are swarmed by men who want to sell me Ranthambhore memorabilia. This is the first indicator of the amount of tourists who want to see this tremendous feline. Mom and Dad had told us to keep our expectations low, for there was a moderate chance of us spotting one. While driving through the park, I secretly long for a tiger sighting. One of the many things our guide in Africa taught us was you have to look beyond the Big Five or in this case the tigers. We admire the birds and morning-light scenery and the time quickly slips away. We exit the park again and into the buffer zone. Our expectations for the Buffer Zone Wildlife are low, until we see the vehicle ahead of us stopped and the inhabitants looking to one side. Instantaneously, our whole Jeep goes dead silent. Apparently there is a tiger in the underbrush right next to the road. Well at least that’s what the guide in the car in front of us harshly whispers to our park guide. We wait a few moments and it seems that the people on the bush/tiger side of the car see a fleeting glimpse of the cat. Of course I am not on that side, so I don’t get to see it. We leave the scene after no more apparent presence of the tiger is found. We decide to use the sighting as a ripcord in case we don’t get to see anymore tigers.

In the afternoon, we go on another game drive. Again we secretly hope for tigers, but to no avail. After 3 hours, we are at the gate, leaving the park, when the car in front of us in the queue starts mouthing to us “GO, GO”. My mom, who is agitated by not being in the “I Saw a Tiger Club,” quickly questions if it is a tiger. And of course, it is. They tell us it is in Zone 3 (our assigned zone is 2) and that we still have enough time, even though it was 6:00 aka the closing time. We swiftly turn around and speed towards Zone 3, deciding it was better to plead forgiveness rather than ask permission. We stop where there are several cars and sure enough there is a tiger! The majestic animal looks like it is glowing in the late afternoon light. Its legendary black stripes radiate beautifully against its saffron-colored coat. We have a quick flyby and have to leave our first official tiger. We are all excited to see it, but sad to leave.

The next morning we go on an unsuccessful game drive, well at least on the tiger part. I am in Junior-Birder mode, so I am eagerly looking up every bird we see. This afternoon we are placed in Zone 1; which, as it seems, had no wildlife. We take advantage of that disadvantage, to be cynical. We are saying things like “Oh look at that bulbul, it’s right next to the unicorn!” Of course we immediately suppress our cynicism when we see a Jeep stopped on the side of the road. Yet again the whole car goes quiet. We drive up to investigate, and it is another tiger. It is about 5 meters away (approx 15 feet) and we have an incredible view. Emma, a Pupil Photographer, is instantly draped over the windshield, using her burst mode to capture the tiger’s every movement. 400 some odd photos! The tiger (T-39 in ranger-talk) is bathing herself like a regular housecat, licking herself clean. She was much more imperial looking than I ever expected.

Over all we had an amazing time at Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. Expecting the worst. Hoping for the best.

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One Response to “The Eyes of the Tiger…to Find One”

  1. Carter Wilcox 22. Mar, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I can’t believe you actually saw a wild tiger! What were you thinking when you saw her? Who saw her first? Did she see you?
    If she did, what did she do about it?

    Also, that was incredible luck you guys had to be in those places at the right time and to have that man who told you to “GO,GO”, be right in front of you and decide to tell you about the sighting.