Author: Starla Estrada
I embarked on my first India trip with a focus befitting my Africa travel roots: wildlife and wilderness, tribal culture, and music. By the end of my trip, I’d added a number of remarkable experiences to my adventures-of-a-lifetime list:
- Seeing a tigress and cubs: check.
- Witnessing a tiger-leopard kill: check.
- Encountering a leopard that thinks it’s a big, brave tiger: check.
- Learning tiger protocol (what happens when a tiger comes into camp at dinner time): check!
In Ranthambhore National Park, if you’re lucky as I was, you’ll see tigresses and cubs in their natural jungle ecosystem, prowling among the shadows of the 8th century Ranthambhore Fort, part of an enchanted land scattered with ancient temples, mosques, vine-covered burial tombs, and pavilions in the middle of crocodile-filled lakes.
The pioneering, luxury safari camp, Sher Bagh was one highlight; through the camp’s impressive conservation efforts alongside the Park management and a local NGO, the tiger population has more than doubled in the past decade. The rangers and wildlife guides have a combined, deep, field experience and academic knowledge. On a three-night stay, with three safaris, the chances of seeing tigers are very high. The park is divided into zones; properties are assigned a zone in the morning, at the outset of the safari. Alternatively, special permits for a Half Day or Full Day drive can be applied for to the Forest Department, and these allow guests access all the tourism zones of Ranthambhore.
Our tour interspersed wilderness with cities, which are their very own ecosystem, teeming with humans and history and forts and palaces. Between cities we then ventured back into the wilderness, taking a long train ride and road trip to get to Jawai (the mode of transport is very much part of the adventure in India). On arrival, I instantly felt at home. The beautiful landscapes reminded me of my favourite wilderness spots in Kenya and California, rolling granite kopjes and lakes and shrubby scrub brush, perfect for leopards; we saw a leopardess and cubs, an alpha male, and a young male intruder that was bravely exploring the alpha male’s cave while he was out hunting. We welcomed misty sunrises by sipping chai and celebrated bright orangey-orb sunsets with gin and tonics. As if this were not perfection enough, Rabari shepherds–regal in white garments and red turbans and looking very much like cousins to the Maasai in East Africa–handsomely wandered the region and also served as guards at the camp (guarding us from curious leopards that wanted to get a closer look at us humans).
All of us at GeoEx, and all of our travelers, understand this feeling of being linked to something ancient or wild or modern–history and animals and wilderness and humans and cities–and our love of traveling, exploring, keeps us wide-eyed and learning, always learning.
Starla Estrada is the Managing Director for Africa and oversees GeoEx’s diverse roster of Africa trips (spanning 17 countries). She has been traveling in the region for more than 10 years and her deep connection to the continent and knowledge of Africa’s varied topography, climate, and safari options make it second nature for her to arrange exceptional wildlife experiences and authentic cultural interactions for GeoEx travelers. Make sure to follow Starla on Instagram to keep up with her adventures across the globe! Learn more about all the inspiring destinations that GeoEx offers by visiting GeoEx.com, or contact Starla at 888-570-7108.