Category Archives: Places

Tracking Tigers in India

DSCN5606

Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds and yes, we disregarded my sister’s advice not to go. Word on the street is that you spend a small fortune and get to see a bunch of antelope and small deer but we had a few extra days to spare in the Rajasthan.

DSCN5604

We camped on the edge of the park in “Swiss” tents; these are perma-tents with running water. You’ve most likely seen them in African safaris and they look swank; for me, umphh ok average but we’ve certainly had worse on these travels.

DSCN5620 DSCN5631 DSCN5624 DSCN5621

While we weren’t modeling by the pool or playing championship badminton, we did get up early for a sunrise safari tour to track the wild tigers of India. We woke in a groggy state of mind having overindulged the night before on yet more Indian food; seems we are gaining weight rather than losing it here!

Traveler Note: Did you know that we haven’t gotten sick but our Indian driver got food poisoning as did a friend of ours that lived in India?!                                                                Perplexing but true! 

 

Ranthambhore sunrise

Ranthambhore sunrise

DSCN5526

Super duper tiger protected jeep!

Back to Tiger tracking…unlike the balloon over Bagan that served a nice coffee and cookie snack before departure (not to mention champagne upon touchdown), we bypassed that and hopped into a MASH jeep.

An hour later with some Canadians on board (always good to have Canadians because they taste much better according to the “Tigers Eat Meat” cookbook), we enter the park via a small dirt backroad.

Note that all the other jeeps/canters went the opposite direction to the main gate entrance – yes, my doubts rose and Sarah was going to be correct all along.

But…low and behold…

No more than 15 minutes later our driver spots a tiger! This is BIG news especially when your driver goes crazy happy over it too. We stop and driver is first to pull out his camera. Are you getting the feeling that we are in for a treat?! Or maybe that our driver needs to document it for evidence after we become a breakfast? I don’t know which but it is exciting, especially when he turns off the engine and I’m now thinking, “Ok, I’m out of shape and the chances of me climbing that tree are not good…but we do have the Canadians on board and if I can outrun granny then I’m in the clear.”

The really cool part is that we spent a good half-hour tracking her track breakfast (small deer). In the end, she spared the deer (probably for Louisa’s benefit) and spared us (the Canadians are thankful too) while we got some super fantastic photos. Here is a sampling; you can find the rest on National Geographic whenever they see the light of my photographic skills to publish them:

Tiger tracking...

Tiger tracking…

...breakfast

…breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turns out that those in the know (local Indians) knew exactly what entrance we used (it’s called something like 6Q for obvious reasons) and everyone in our Swiss tent complex and beyond exclaimed that we were very lucky to see tiger.

DSCN5576

DSCN5563

 

 

DSCN5588

DSCN5594

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of answering your questions individually by email, I am providing you with the FAQ for this experience in advance.

  • Did the lion roar for you? First of all, these are tigers but to answer your question, no. Our driver kept saying “Shhh, be quiet” and I think the tiger listened. 
  • How close did you get to the tiger? Great question! Close enough that you could get a first down in football – 30 feet.
  • Why do the baby deer have antlers? They aren’t babies. Chital deer have spots for life or until eaten by Tigers.
  • Have people been attacked by Tigers? Only Canadians (see note above about Tiger cooking).
  • How much does it cost? Please, it’s not about the money honey! We had exhilarating fun paying for a near death life experience. Does that not not make sense?!

Jaisalmer to Jaipur

After we returned from the camel safari at the Thar desert, we got back in the car (did not mention yet, but we hired a private driver – Vicky Rai – who met us in Udaipur and stayed with us for 2 weeks, highly recommend him if you plan to visit Rajasthan) to our next destination, Jaisalmer, the Golden City. We found a new hotel – Golden Haveli – that had a lot of potential and a very refreshing swimming pool. At a 45° degree weather, the best thing one can have in Jaisalmer is a swimming pool after a day of sightseeing. We also met again with our Aussie friends from Jodhpur and all 4 kids had a lot of fun together. We visited the Jaisalmer Fort and Jain Temples, and the old havelis in the city, which was very interesting to see how the rich people used to live. It was bloody hot and back we were at the swimming pool whenever we could. After 3 days in Jaisalmer, our next stop was Pushkar.

DSCN5455 DSCN5453 DSCN5481

We spent 2 nights in Pushkar, which we had to stop there because the drive was too long from Jaisalmer to Jaipur. Pushkar is a holy city because it is one of the 5 pilgrimage sites for devout Hindus, and it is on the shore of Lake Pushkar where there are several ghats where pilgrims descend to bathe in the sacred waters. Pushkar is also famous for the annual Camel Fair, when the town gets completely packed. It appears that it is also a destination for backpackers as we saw several around…

DSCN5490 DSCN5494

After Pushkar, we headed to Jaipur, the Pink City and capital of Rajasthan state. It is certainly a big and noisy city but nothing like Delhi or Mumbai. We stayed at the lovely Madhuban Hotel, which is an old house that belongs to the Patan family. It was a great place, with excellent service, and we ended up extending our stay there. Also visited the amazing City Palace and Amber Fort, in between some delicious meals.

Next stop – Ranthambore National Park

DSCN5524 DSCN5503 DSCN5499

 

Stargazing Camel Safari!! ⎮ Thar Desert, Jaisalmer

We stepped out of the car to some welcoming peach/beige colored sand.

“Hello, Thar Desert!”

IMG_1349

Beautiful Thar Desert – no filter, I promise!

After a short tour around the camp, we chose our camels. I happen to choose the one with a purple saddle (it’s name is Disco). We began our safari and after a little while, we got to the top of the sand dunes to watch the sunset. Sebastian, of course, was the first to start rolling around in the sand. I did not want to but I got pulled in anyways and it was pretty fun too! We would go to the top of a dune, roll down, climb back up, and do it all over again; now these dunes aren’t like any that I’ve seen – the roll down takes minutes not seconds and it’s a big hike to get back up. After the pretty sunset over the dunes, we all made our way back to camp by camel. In a few minutes we sat in a big semicircle with the other guests in front of a roaring fire for our dinner and entertainment show.

IMG_1342

IMG_1336

 

IMG_1358

Playing in the dunes!

 

The dinner was great – Indian Rajasthani food varying from curries and lentils – and the show was fabulous! One of the performers did some amazing tricks with a bicycle wheel. She would spin it round and round on her hand and toss it up. Then she would catch it on her foot. The same performer also balanced about eight pots on her head while dancing. Near the end of the show, the dancers pulled all of us up from our seats to join in the dance; my mom and I had a blast dancing around the fire pit. After the show, we made the decision to sleep under the stars instead of in a hut; oh, and did I say out in the Thar desert on the dunes under the stars? Yep!

IMG_2831IMG_2829

 

 

 

 

At first, I really did not want to sleep under the stars. I didn’t have a reason why; I just did not want to. It might have also been because we were the only ones going there. Why did all the other guests stay back in the huts I wondered? But I had no choice anyways because the rest of the family wanted to sleep under the stars and if you ask me, I would rather sleep with everyone else rather than alone. We took a wagon out to the dunes to find a good spot with our guide; not to close to the huts but just far enough so that the lights do not distract us in our star gazing. Our spot in the dunes was actually a lot nicer than we had all expected. We all got our own beds, yes, frames and all. The beds were actually pretty snug and comfortable and as a result, I had a good night of sleep.

IMG_2835

Our sleep spot on the dunes. Pretty nice, eh?

 

I like to call the stargazing a book. Whenever I cannot sleep, my dad always says to take out a book and read. Most of the time, it works. When we were under the stars, I would  fall asleep and wake up. The stars would be my book and cradle me back to sleep like a baby. All the stars are a great reason to make this one of the best nights of my life. At home in Florida, we have different constellations. Most of the time it is really just Venus,  the big & little dipper (if your lucky enough to even see stars above the city). But on this desert night, there were no lighting distractions and all the stars you could ever imagine. We got a constellations app (you have to pay, but totally worth it) and we got to see Jupiter, cancer, aquarius, orion and a LOT more!

When we woke up at sunrise, we packed up our stuff, hopped on the camel cart and our guide took us in for some breakfast before we headed back to the city. It turns out we were really close to India’s border and the country of Pakistan – pretty cool except that these two countries are not really close and have jet fighters flying to protect their countries. The more I learn, the more I question why borders are any good since they seem to cause a lot of anger and stress for people. But that’s a story for another day! We loved our time with Disco and her fellow camels, the dancing, and the sleeping under the stars on the dunes of Rajasthan.

Next stop: Jaisalmer — The Golden City!

IMG_2836

The nice camel that carried four beds, all the bedding, two adults, and two children, there and back!

 

IMG_1355

A nice rest before the walk back.