Third time lucky- I had decided I wouldn't go back to Ranthambore if I didn't see a tiger this time. It's too painful. This was the first time I went on two safaris consecutively. We drew a blank in the afternoon safari. We saw pugmarks, but the tiger remained elusive. Dancing peacocks and abby crocodiles were some consolation.
Zone 4 was the rockiest, so we held on for dear life while the driver hurtled through the jungle to get us back in time. I then understood why my veteran friend (she has been on 50 safaris and seen tigers on most of them) had insisted we eat early.
A campfire dinner, much laughter had us agreeing that the trip had been worthwhile even if we didn't spot the big cat. The morning safari saw us in our jeep, contemplating eating amrood while our guide did the formalities.
Suddenly our driver rushed back to the jeep, took it in reverse and we saw- tiger. Finally. Across Zone 1's boundary wall. 100 metres away. The same Zone 1 which I had cursed the previous two times I had been to Ranthambore.
After seeing a tiger, your appetite for nilgai, sambar and what have you just vanishes. You hunger to see more, closer. Zone 5's tigers were missing in action, but I was just happy I finally managed to catch a glimpse of those golden stripes.
T-24's a man eater- I think he has killed three so far. He didn't try to eat the last one. He's marked the road as his territory too. He often takes a walk at night to kill deer near Nahargarh Hotel, so you might bump into him even if you don't manage to book a safari :)
He looks dangerous, unlike the innocent deer we saw. Reminded me of a villain.