From the GIR National Park in Gujarat, we travelled to Ranthambhore National Park (RNP) in the State of Rajasthan on the17th March 2012 to continue our Indian Safari. On this visit, we stayed for eight nights that covered 16 Safari Trips. It was my longest stay at Ranthambhore.
The main reason for the longer stay was to try our luck to track T19 and her first litter. The 3 cubs were now one year old, two of which are males. During my last two visits to the park in the last year, April and December 2011, we were unable to sight them, although in one instance, in December, we just missed them crossing the road leading to Lahpur valley in RNP which is out of the tourist visiting area.
But on this trip I was successful in sighting the future generation of Ranthambhore. The Director of the Park, considering my close follow up of Machali and her family for the last ten years, was kind enough to grant me permission to visit Lahpur Valley during this Safari. But it still took 3 days and 6 game drives before we first came across T19 and her cubs.
On 21st March morning when we in Lahpur Valley tracking T19 and her family, I sighted the movement of tigers inside the jungle. It was T19 and her cubs. Later we moved in the direction of the tiger movement and stopped near an open area. To our luck, they came to the open area. We were able to sight the mother and the two male cubs. It was at 7.12 am. They gave us a great performance and kept our cameras busy. The female cub was not sighted. We spent almost 30 minutes observing the tigers when a jeep with a video crew making a film on T19 and the cubs for TV, arrived at the site. Due to the disturbance, the mother and the two male cubs crossed the road and moved inside the jungle.
On that afternoon drive, once again we saw the mother and the two male cubs coming out of a water hole and moving along the road and disappeared into the jungle. But again, we did not see the female cub. It was a mystery for me since the cubs usually move with the mother.
26th morning safari was our last trip of the tour and I was praying to see all three cubs together with the mother in the Lahpur Valley. We roamed on all possible roads, but no sighting, not even pugmarks. Finally, we decided to move to Zone 4, and had to pass a water hole on Lahpur valley on the way. What a thrill! We sighted all three cubs and the mother. They were moving out of the jungle towards the road. All were on the road facing us. The female cub went towards the mother and snuggled against her. We followed the family for almost thirty minutes. Finally they disappeared into the jungle, after drinking water from a water hole at the bottom of the Lahpur Mountain. It was a great sight and I was able to take a few pictures of the family of four in one frame.
On this visit, we had several sightings of T17. On one occasion we saw her pounce on a spotted deer and make the kill. But the drama occurred in an area where there was tall grass and we could not capture the moment on film. We also saw a pregnant female which was identified as T39 and also a couple of male tigers and they were apparently T24 and T6.
There had been an incident, where a tiger had killed a villager who was collecting firewood in the jungle. The park authorities are now relocating the villagers to minimize these incidents. On the 25th March, I together with the director in charge of the RNP visited one of the locations where villagers had been resettled. I gave my commitment to fund a project to supply and install a borehole water pump, an overhead tank and a suitable generator, to provide the water to the village.