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Rajasthan Road Trip | Tiger Safari

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I’ve made peace with not being a morning person in this lifetime but if there are two words that can get me out of bed at 6 A.M it’s ‘tiger safari’.

Yep, it was time to rise and shine and keep our eyes peeled as we took to Ranthambore national park in the hope of a rare tiger sighting. We really lucked out with our first drive, our guide being some kind of Indian David Attenborough that had worked with Big Cat Diaries, the BBC and clebs like Bono and Mick Jagger. He was passionate about tiger conservation too, as is the entireity of Ranthambore, and was super proud to report that the number of tigers in the wild in Rajasthan has almost doubled in the last 5 years. Safe to say we were in the best hands possible when it came to spotting an elusive tiger…

Growing up on a farm, I still love being in the great outdoors and there really is nothing more magical than a safari. There are lots of different zones in the national park and we started in three which is apparently one of the best for seeing tigers (two, three, four and five are the best for sightings so I’m told but never guaranteed). Our beady eyes were on overdrive as we took to the park and started hunting for a flash of orange through the trees…

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Deer, birds and black-faced monkeys were everywhere you looked but our guide was on a mission to find us a tiger and we were more than happy to let him push on to do just that.

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After a few hours of roaming, our tracker was onto something… A tiger print in the road and the upset warning calls of a nearby herds of gazelle tipped us off that a certain feline wasn’t too far away. After lots of hushed whispers, U-turns, discussions between jeep drivers and peering through binoculars we finally found her, wandering beautifully and casually through the trees….

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There was a big audience, about 10 vehicles in total, but this didn’t detract from the amazing animal before us. Our clever driver did a savvy move and reversed seemingly away from the crowd and the tiger providing a perfect gap for the tiger to amble through so we ended up having front-row seats as she headed off to her next destination…

Not to geek out too much, but my 75mm lens really came into its own on Safari and let me get these up close and personal. I don’t think anyone breathed for a full 5 minutes as she ambled around the cars… And don’t worry, everyone is very respectful of the tigers and they are totally unfazed by the proximity of people and cars.

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After that incredible high, we had another couple of hours and saw the tail of another distant tiger, a massive male this time, scoured the trees for leopards and stopped for biscuits and tea before heading back to Khem Villas for brunch.

Pancakes, coffee and a few hours downtime feeling smug at how lucky we’d been to see a tiger so close, and it was time for our second drive of the day. I’m sorry to say that our second drive couldn’t have been more different… We were headed for Zone 8, which many don’t really consider part of the main park, and took over an hour just to get to the gate. We were right at the back and it was so bumpy we couldn’t help but fall into silent hysterics every time we got thrown on top of each other, which was a pretty much every other moment. Aside from birds and deer, there was little to see and we felt more grateful than ever for the morning we’d had. By the time we got back to camp, we had the crooked postures of octogenarians and strained stomach muscles from hanging on for dear life and laughing our heads off while at it. Definitely one for the memory bank but not so great when it comes to seeing tigers…

I was actually glad we’d seen both sides of the coin though as it meant I got a good idea of the two ways tiger safaris can go. The safaris at Khem Villas are outsourced and basically pot luck as to which zone and driver you get. Our first drive happened to be with neighbouring luxury camp Sher Bagh which is one of the only hotels to have its own 4x4s and guides for guests… Basically, we were just incredibly lucky. In order to give yourself the best chance of seeing tigers, it’s worth booking a few different drives and either paying for the whole jeep or at least an entire row so you have the best visibility and aren’t crammed in next to a random that audibly gasps every time they think they see something.

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Can you spot the wild cat in the shot above? Not quite a tiger, but pretty cool none the less.

As the light started to fade and we were treated to the mother of all pink skies, we headed back to Khem Villas for a final evening by the fire. No rest for the wicked though; our alarms were back on for 6 A.M with Udaipur firmly in our sights the next morning…

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Trousers | Topshop
Cashmere jumper | Equipment 
Scarf | Merci
Sunglasses | Rayban
Trainers | Stan Smith 

Ph. by James Wright and myself using the Olympus Pen and Olympus OM-D

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