Today was the day we had been looking forward to for most of the trip. Ned and I both wanted to take this safari. I was hoping to get some good photos of the animals, and if we were really lucky, we would see a Bengal Tiger.
A century ago there were over 40,000 tigers in India. Their numbers have dwindled to a mere 1400. None of the reasons for this are good. Urbanization has taken it's toll as the local villagers try to protect their cattle. Poaching may be the largest reason. There is money to be made in the skins, bones, and other body parts of the tiger and used in traditional Chinese medicine. These are smuggled out mostly to China and there does not seem to be a way to stop it. While the Indian government has been trying to do something about it, the Chinese government has no restrictions.
One of the larger tiger sanctuaries in India is the Rathanbhone Tiger Reserve in Sawai Madopur. This area was once the hunting preserves of the Maharaja's of Jaipur. It is now a protected area that houses about 30 species of animals and lots of birds, plants, and reptiles. The reserve is divided out into sections and each jeep is assigned a specific sections for that trip. The guides are very knowledgeable. There isn't any coordination between the vehicles. I would have thought they would all have walkie talkies or something, but they don't. I know there is no cell phone signal in the park but do not know if 2 way radio's would work or not. It could be they are too expensive.
We had scheduled 2 safari's... one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning trip was in a 6 passenger open jeep and the afternoon in a 16 passenger open panter (we couldn't get a jeep for the afternoon even booking more than a month in advance). The jeep picked us up about 6:45 a.m, and armed with blankets (it was chilly), a sandwich, and water, we were off on our adventure. We saw monkeys and tons of birds, sambar deer and spotted deer. We saw tiger tracks but alas no tiger. Turns out we missed the tiger by about 3 minutes. Bummer. The jeeps that came behind us saw one of the tigers. Oh well. We enjoyed the wildlife we saw anyway. Ned was enthralled with the birds... kingfishers, an owl, herons, pond egrets, parakeets, cormorants, and a bunch more who's names I can no longer remember. We were dropped backed off at our temporary digs for a late breakfast. We had a couple of hours to kill before we headed out for out next try.
We were a bit stiff from sitting in the jeep for several hours so we decided to take a walk toward one of the villages we had passed coming in. I had seen a sign for a Women's Cooperative and I wanted to check it out. The Indian government is trying to keep alive some of the local crafts and provide a way for women to earn money. They stay at the cooperative during the day with their young children and make lovely items which they sell. They make quilts, scarves, tablecloths, clothing, etc. I bought a gorgeous hand dyed silk scarf and an embroidered cotton one with the little mirrors sewn in and dangles on the edges. I also bought a nice cotton tunic that I am hoping my daughter can wear before she gets too large. It was a lovely walk and I got to take some photos of the local women before we headed back for a late lunch.
The panter came to get us and unfortunately, we were the last pickup and had to squeeze into the back. Turns out that might have been a good thing as the trail we were assigned was very rough and bumpy. I was wedged in tightly! This was a wild ride. We drove up and down rocky slopes and were rewarded with.... a flat tire! Yep, really. Not everyone can say they got a flat tire on a safari. We piled out and they changed the tire. I was hoping this would be good luck. We saw lots more birds, deer, monkeys, and a sloth bear... which turns out to be rarer than the tigers.... but no tiger. The trail was so bumpy that I really had a hard time taking pictures... unless we stopped... which wasn't very often. I think our driver wanted to get home. We had a great time anyway... there is always next time.
We were driving back to Jaipur after collecting our stuff. The hotel was terrific and sent us off with.... peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Seriously, we loved the place and would go back in a heartbeat. The staff was great... and I was getting use to Indian food.
Driving during the day in India is an experience... driving at night has no words to describe it. We made it back without incident. We had an early morning flight out to Delhi so we decided to stay in a hotel by the airport. We agreed to a fairly bare bones hotel since we were getting in late and leaving early. On the surface the place looked decent... very much like some of the business only hotels you find by airports in Europe... Oy!. Did I mention it was late? We got up to the room and noticed some empty water bottles and obviously used glasses in the room. There was a separate area that had a small refrigerator, hot plate and sink... the sink was wet. The floor was very dusty and looked like it had not been cleaned recently. I couldn't be sure the sheets were clean but I did check for bugs.... we were very tired. The bathroom was OK. I did make a complaint to our tour guide the next day.
Over all it was a very nice day.