After one disappointing trip to a tiger preserve in India a year ago, and only seeing paw prints, but no tiger, my trip to Ranthambore was a huge success. The park is a 5+ hour train ride from Delhi. When you consider the fact that this tiger preserve, home to 45 or so tigers, is 200 square miles, it's remarkable to actually see a tiger at all. The park is divided into zones and each vehicle is assigned to a zone for 3 ½ hours in the morning and a different zone for 3 ½ hours in the afternoon.
Our first encounter was with a magnificent 8 ½ year old male named Ustaad. He was resting in a cave and a couple of other jeeps were already in place watching him. He was just mildly interested in his growing audience and in between naps, he would look around a bit. The markings above the eyes of a tiger are as unique as our fingerprints and this is how individual tigers are identified. Eventually, he came out of the cave and relaxed in the bush, again, seemingly unperturbed by the various jeeps jockeying for good positions from which to photograph him.
A couple of days later, after having only gotten distant glimpses of three tigers, we had a superb 30 minute-viewing. It was the end of the day because we had to exit the park at 6:30 PM. We came upon what looked like a Hollywood movie set: a 16th century tomb in the midst of the jungle. Sleeping on the stone wall was Sultan, the 2 ½ year old son of Ustaad. For perhaps 15 minutes we watched as he slept & twitched his ears & occasionally opened his eyes. Then he stood up, stretched his 300+ pound body and yawned magnificently. After checking out the crowd, he sat back down for a while, watching us watch him. Then, he stood again, sauntered down the stairs of the tomb, and meandered into the jungle. An amazing finale to a remarkable adventure.