The days seemed to fly by with the routine of 05.00am start, finish at 10.00am, breakfast with my English teabags I brought to remind me of home, and then sleeping until 02.30pm, as it was just too hot to go anywhere, and then ready for my afternoon safari at 03.00pm finishing at 06.30pm. The days were passing to quick for me, as I eat, sleep, and lived Tigers and the other amazing wildlife that live in this beautiful area of India all day and everyday. Seeing the local people recycling everything, life is tough,and lets you know just how lucky we are back home, yet the people with the least have the most to give, love, happiness, a clear lesson to us all, where everyone has a smile and warm welcome for you, from the man on the street to the guests sitting at your table. I truly felt very welcome in India as the people are so friendly and courteous.
I and the ‘A team’, as I called Salim and Raj, had our photo taken with the scarf Salim had given to me to help with the dust and heat on the back of the neck,all in good spirits as we entered the park.
I was getting use to the intense heat now a little more, drinking litres of water some plain some mixed with a glucose/minerals to boost my own levels which were taking a battering due to sweating, heat etc and the physicality of holding on in an open-topped jeep whilst balancing a 600,with a 70-200 and 24-70mm lens with cameras attached, in the ready position should my continued streak of good luck continue and we see another Tiger.
An hour into our safari we noticed a few jeeps on the small dirt track ahead, Salim spoke to them and there was a female Tiger called T39 laying down cleaning herself, but at some distance away, so while the rest waited, hoping for her to come down close enough so we could all see her, I watched here through my viewfinder. I had to use manual focus due to the dense vegetation, it seemed ages before she’d look up, but eventually she did as she heard us. I captured the meanest of looks as she stopped licking her paws and looked up. I used the out of focus tree trunk to my left to frame her within the image below.
The sun pierced through the tree canopy with a few rays of light landing on her face. This highlighted her beautiful eyes and facial features. I watched her for some time as she cleaned her massive paws, after she stood up and started to walk away from us, to my left, Salim slowly drove the jeep along the only track their, a basic dirt track and we all looked back into the jungle to see if we could see her but the Tigers markings are some of the best camouflage I have witnessed in nature, she disappeared from view, yet we could here the alarm calls from monkeys and peacocks. I named the Tiger ‘The Ghost Of The Forest’, as literally they just vanished as you can see from the images below. As she sat down the markings blended so well with the habitat, how wonderful mother nature is!
She lay here for sometime then got to her feet with real purpose and started to stare at something that had caught her eye, it was Spotted Deer, one of the species of deer the Tiger hunts for here in Ranhanbhore. I watched as she took on the characterises of the cats we see back home stalking a bird on the lawn, low, slow and intense stare.
The Deer became jumpy and moved away quickly leaving this female Tiger a little deflated, so she continued to walk and we drove on the dirt track some 60 feet below here.
As she settled down she was joined by her brother T38 and for the very briefest of moments both Tigers sat alongside each other, to close for the 600 so I used the 24-70 lens and D300 to capture this moment.
After a few close ups of the male T38, he then decided to move off and was heading our way!!
My guide Salim had waited back a little and let the other jeeps head off as for a moment the Tigers seemed to have vanished again, we stayed put and waited as I changed cameras and lens to the 7-200 and wide angle, then with an almighty ringing of alarm calls from the Black face langur Monkeys we saw the male walking towards us, almost level to our jeep but some 20 feet higher up from the road we were on, I lay flat on my belly inside the jeep, held my camera and watched as the most beautiful of animals the natural world has,weighing in excess of 200KG walk towards us.
I used the wide -angle and captured him below just looking up at the Monkeys as the alarm calls rang out through the jungle, echoing for miles, my hairs were standing up on the back of my neck, my heart was beating so fast I not only felt the beats but could hear them in my head, as I captured the very moment he looked up, completely camouflaged in his habitat, with a few rays of sun light piercing down on him. Oh my god! was I lucky this day, and for me this has to be the best moment I have ever felt whilst watching/photographing nature, 20 feet away from a wild Tiger, who earlier had been hunting and was hungry, what a truly special moment I have on record now and also in my mind, just beautiful!!
He carried on walking but we stayed still and let him be and go off onto his travels. We headed back to our check point and again as they spoke and drove I was left in the back just in shock at what I’d seen,completely privileged and honoured with the experience of this day, which will be with me forever. 2010 The Year Of The Tiger, and I am 20-30 feet away from a wild, large male Tiger, it doesn’t get much better than that for me as a person who loves wildlife, and waited 30 years to get my chance to see one, Wow, wow!
As we headed back for my much needed cup of English tea,courtesy of my Yorkshire Teabags, I was still on the look out for images, as I’d seen the beautiful birds that live here. I managed to capture a Bee-eater,and a Ring-Necked Parakeet feeding in some lovely light and dream back grounds,another beautiful day, god was I glad I came!
Well its all go, as I’m off to Texel tomorrow for my ‘Texel Workshop’ co-hosted with my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel for 4 days photographing the beautiful wildlife that lives in and around this part of northern Holland. I will continue with my RAW India when I am back as I carried on becoming luckier,bye for now!