Once upon a safari

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.

We drove in and found Ustad (T24) sitting in a dry riverbed.
We drove in and found Ustad (T24) sitting in a dry riverbed.

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!

Ustad kept looking up at the tree and we wondered what it was that had him so engrossed.
Ustad kept looking up at the tree and we wondered what it was that had him so engrossed.
Eventually we spotted her. A delicate female leopard high up on the tree waiting for her chance to escape this hostage situation!
Eventually we spotted her. A delicate female leopard high up on the tree waiting for her chance to escape this hostage situation!

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.

Ustad rolled over and started to snooze, or so we thought.
Ustad rolled over and started to snooze, or so we thought.

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.

She decided this was her chance and began to climb down the tree.
She decided this was her chance and began to climb down the tree.
While she was descending, she kept a close eye on the tiger below.
While she was descending, she kept a close eye on the tiger below.
She crept down the branches, agile as a cat and made her way to the bottom.
She crept down the branches, agile as a cat and made her way to the bottom.
Eventually, she decided to make a run for it and jumped off a high branch, into a bush!
Eventually, she decided to make a run for it and jumped off a high branch, into a bush!

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.

This time Ustad decided to sit just under the tree so that the leopard would have no chance of escaping.
This time Ustad decided to sit just under the tree so that the leopard would have no chance of escaping.

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.

The second leap taken by the leopard. This time she managed to be more quiet!
The second leap taken by the leopard. This time she managed to be more quiet!

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

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