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Hotelnet: Wed 12:10

What's new pussycat? Whoa, whoa, whoa!

Wednesday, 12 January, 2011 12:00

In Ranthambhore, Rajasthan, IN

So we're a couple of hundred yards down circuit 1 when we get a shout from the vehicle up the way and a few seconds later there's a large stripy cat nonchalantly marking out his territory. Unsurprisingly they look and act much like you've seen tigers on TV padding about doing nothing special except, a bit like lions in the wild, they have a curious housecat-like aloofness and curious playfulness. They'll sniff about, flick their tails and then bound over something they don't need to.

Before you know it he's gone and we charge back to the checkpost to report the sighting. 400 square kilometres and 35 tigers. So, pretty lucky. We toddle off and see the rather more prosaic sambur (deer) wallowing in mud and other less esoteric things.

A few hundred yards further along we get another shout and mad scramble later there's a tigress crossing the path. Extremely graceful and languid. They really are exceeding beautiful creatures. We should protect them! No, actually protect them properly as though they're important.

She stalked off towards a river and we watched the surprisingly closeby deer watching the tiger. Then there's a shout and the tigress is back and immediately behind our jeep padding back up the road towards us. Only about 3m away she bounds rather too easily up the bank and into the woods and melts into the forest.

A girl behind pronounces that a little too close and whilst the tigress gave no suggestion that we might be on the menu there wouldn't have been much we could do to stop her.

Without trying to make excuses, the sun hadn't risen over the surrounding hills and we were under a light canopy so the pictures I have are on a slow shutter speed (I suppose I could have stopped watching and fiddled with the camera to up the ISO but, you know). The only picture I have with a tiger's face in focus is the parting shot of the tigress up the hill. Zoom in and it's not too shabby. You might be hard pressed to spot her in full frame, though (good camouflage).

And, yeah, there were some chital (deer) and long-bill vultures (that look like great blobs sat in a tree but have enormous wings -- very impressive but no picture) and a few other whatnots but who cares? I've seen possibly the most iconic and beautiful creature on the planet, just there.

I've booked again for this afternoon, maybe I'll see a leopard too...

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