The Iconic Hat-Trick; of Tiger, Leopard and Bear on a Single Drive at Sher Bagh, Ranthambhore National Park.

For the past three decades, Ranthambhore has been the best wilderness in the world to observe and photograph wild Tigers. While it is also home to a few other ‘iconic’ species, sightings of Tigers have generally outweighed all the others put together. Over the last few years however, while Tiger numbers here have risen steadily, so too have sightings of Leopard and Sloth Bear. This trend defies common belief that when tiger numbers rise, leopards are rarely seen; preferring to stay well away from Tigers who will usually try and kill them. While this is still the general rule, Leopards have been seen roaming a little more freely during the daylight hours than before. The topography of this unique ecosystem supports a healthy leopard population with all the caves and crevasses of the ancient Aravalli and Vindhya hill ranges. As for the Sloth Bear, Tigers are wary of them and it takes a large and experienced one to take a Baloo on! While extremely shy, these bears can be fairly fierce and will confront their adversaries when necessary and usually even without provocation.

Ranthambhore is the best wilderness in the world to observe and photograph wild Tigers
Ranthambhore is the best wilderness in the world to observe and photograph wild Tigers

The afternoon of the 5th of April 2013 turned out to be one of my most memorable drives in Ranthambhore. Nearly basted by the strong sun I reckoned the only sensible place to look for Tigers would be in or near water. The past few monsoons have been exceptional in this part of the country and consequently there is a much wider dispersal of water around the reserve. So while we scanned the area around one waterhole, where there had been reports of tiger movement that morning, a Niglai’s alarm call got our attention. Turning the jeep around, we drove towards the location of the antelope’s alarm. We had hardly proceeded a hundred meters when a Tiger appeared on the jungle track, right in front of us. She appeared to be stalking and looking towards the dry, rocky stream bed to our left. No prey was visible inside or around the nullah. With the help of binoculars, we spotted another tiger with only its head visible in the tall (vetiver) grass. The excitement grew, for going by the tigress’s body language, it seemed like some action was imminent; a territorial fight perhaps or possibly mating. It turned out however to be a mother and son, who met affectionately, nuzzled and then gradually melted away into the long grass.

The tigress's body language, suggested imminent action.
The tigress’s body language, suggested imminent action.

We moved on, driving through beautiful groves of Flame of the Forest trees, which are now in bloom. Having just driven up an incline we chanced upon a Sloth Bear raiding termite mounds. Shy and elusive, the bear gave us a couple of minutes before cantering off into a gorge full of Tendu trees whose fruit bears love to devour.

The extremely shy and elusive Sloth Bear.
The extremely shy and elusive Sloth Bear.

We were now on a hat-trick. A leopard would complete the set. Scanning the edges of the steep rock faces and small nullahs below, while exiting the park we hoped to catch sight of a leopard on an evening stroll. Our hopes began to fade as we drove away from the Park gates, ‘perhaps another time’ we thought as we approached Camp, still peeling away the landscape with our eyes in the crepuscular light. Just then, metres from the Sher Bagh gate, a movement on the track revealed a gliding leopard padding the road, straight towards us! What brilliant luck we thought, or maybe, conclusive signs of a healthy forest, in harmony with its diversity.

A leopard glides across the road as our spectacular game drive comes to an end.
A leopard glides across the road as our spectacular game drive comes to an end.

Written by Jaisal Singh
Photography by Jaisal Singh except for the first image of the author which is taken by Balendu Singh

15 thoughts on “The Iconic Hat-Trick; of Tiger, Leopard and Bear on a Single Drive at Sher Bagh, Ranthambhore National Park.

    1. I am Arun Bhargava and I live in Alwar .I am a regular vitoisr to Ranthambhore and pretty close to F.S..I feel you really took a very bold step by leaving Delhi behind and settling in Ranthambhore Keep it upRegardsArun Bhargava

  1. AWESOME. What an outrageous drive! Have been going through my pictures from Sher Bagh and was reminded just how incredible it was.

    1. It was an awesome drive! The past few days in the park have been absolutely brilliant… Look out for my next blog which shall feature my entire visit in detail. Hope to see you back at Sher Bagh soon!

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  2. Wow!! All of the photos are outstanding, but I am so impressed with the photographic capture of the elusive bear. I bet the forest is stunning with the Flame of the Forest all in bloom!

  3. Star male in front of the Sher Bagh car – what a great shot!
    Last week was a perfect week for us in Ranthambhore. We saw 8 different Tiger, including star male T-28 walking infront of Sher Bagh Jeep!
    We wish you, that all visions for the future of Ranthambhore Nationalpark, we talked about, will come true!
    We are often thinking about our evening together by the campfire of Sher Bagh. It was a incredible evening and a wonderful week!
    Thank you and the Team of Sher Bagh so much!

    1. Hey Gunther & Petra!
      Really great to hear from you guys! Hope you got back home comfortably. Cant wait to see you back in November. As of yesterday T19 and T25 are mating (around the zone 4 area). Will keep you updated on events here.
      Take care and thank you for your comments. Best

  4. Star male in front of the Sher Bagh car – what a great shot!
    Last week was a perfect week for us in Ranthambhore. We saw 8 different Tiger, including star male T-28 walking infront of Sher Bagh Jeep!
    We wish you, that all visions for the future of Ranthambhore Nationalpark, we talked about, will come true!
    We are often thinking about our evening together by the campfire of Sher Bagh. It was a incredible evening and a wonderful week!
    Thank you and the Team of Sher Bagh so much!

  5. It surely be a fascinating experience to come across 3 most elusive mammals in a single trip. Its always be a happy moment to see wildlife in their natural surroundings and healthy & flourished habitat with full glory :).

    Cheers, Rahul

    1. Absolutely is Rahul…It’s what we call the ‘Ranthambhore Hat-Trick’ at Sher Bagh. Few things are as healing and restorative as watching wildlife in its own elements and when that wildlife comprises iconic species like Tiger, Leopard and Bear, you can imagine the high!
      Thank you for your comments!

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  6. Hello There. This is a very well written artclie. I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of TPG India’s Blogs . Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

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