We visited Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve and stayed at the wonderful Sher Bagh for the first time this May. The weather was very hot but glad we suffered through it as we were very fortunate to see a total of six different tigers and an extraordinary sighting on the morning of our last day of safaris.
We came across Ustad, the beautiful 8 year-old male tiger, in Zone 1 after only driving for a couple of minutes. He was sitting calmly over the other side of the bank from us, maybe 10 metres away.
After watching him for a while we noticed that he kept intermittently looking up towards the tree that was positioned to the left of our jeep. We eventually looked up at the tree and saw a leopard in it! We have no idea how long the leopard had been in the tree before we got there, but one thing was for sure, Ustad was waiting for her to come down!
The female leopard was absolutely stunning. She was laying down on one of the top branches waiting patiently for her chance to escape from the tree. Eventually Ustad rolled over; it seemed to be that he was sleeping. The leopard took her chance.
She descended the tree while keeping a close eye on Ustad. She reached the lowest branch and leaped noisily into a shrub on the ground. Within an instant, Ustad had leaped and pounced into the shrub after the leopard and the chase was on.
The leopard managed to escape up into another tree, but this time she was perched very gingerly on a not very stable branch in a very tall tree. Ustad again sat nearby under the tree and waited. He was determined to clear his territory of intruders.
The leopard managed to keep in position, impressively still, for around half an hour. Ustad had made more distance between him and the tree in the meantime and was facing away from her. So she again made an attempt to escape. This time she managed to descend the tree and make a running head start on Ustad, who didn’t catch her.
We were unable to find Ustad’s whereabouts after this, but we did sight the leopard, again up a tree near the road on exiting the park. We were truly blessed to have such a sighting. I hope you enjoy some of the photos I managed to capture on the day. These are memories that will stay with us forever. We hope to visit Sher Bagh and Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve again someday to have some more special encounters with these beautiful animals.
Written and photographed by Shannon Clarke