Safari in Ranthambore, India - January 2020
This was the first time going on a safari in India. The main goal was to photograph the northern indian tiger in the wild. The baseline is a lot like a central- or eastern African safari, meaning a guide, a spotter and a jeep. But everything else is different...
At a safari in Tanzania, Zimbabwe or South Africa - you will stay on the savanna in "glamping style" tents. Some are more or less glampy, but overall it's a tent.. In india, you will stay at a larger resort, often in indian style where the overall exterior is astonishing, but the standards depending on where you stay are quite varying. I've had better wifi on the Zimbabwe savanna than in a palace in Jaipur - which is quite interesting as even though Zimbabwe is barely 1/3 of GDP per capita versus India and heavily ravaged by devastating financial policy over the years, I got a sense of a society where infrastructure was more orderly in Zimbabwe.
On top of this, as your safari day comes to an end in most south and east African countries, when the sun starts to set, the jeep stops on the African savanna, and you get some chilled Gin & Tonics and beers to wash down the South African beef jerky (biltong) while watching the sun set over the lion hunting grounds. You get a moment to reflect over the day and connect more with your guide.
This does not happen in India at all, as the national parks close at 6 PM, your driver will speed up at around 5 PM, blast passed most animals at high speed, heading out of your zone while your bumping around all over the vehicle. At times, we pleaded for them to slow down, not only for the environment, but also as we didn't want to fly out of the car!
Also, exclusivity becomes a problem. I don't want to come off as elitist, but they should really raise the price and add restrictions on how many they let into the parks in India. Some have private jeeps, and there are many of those. We paid maybe half of our "africa-average" per day in india versus a general African safari for a private jeep - which had flooded the park roads making the possibility to see any animals quite dismal in Ranthambore. On top of this, they had massive safari busses, packed with people who not only were loud and obnoxious, but would hapharsadly throw their garbage out of the truck on the ground. It was very sad to see indian nationals treat their own parks in this manner. Ice cream papers, plastic bottles and candy wrappers flying out of the trucks. . So please India, raise the price, make it an exclusive treat and put on harder rules on the parks. I don't believe nature is not here for our benefit - and we can't have solidarity in nature - nature should be protected from us, and it should hurt a bit financially to get the honor of seeing wildlife. I remember my walking tour of the forest in Okinawa Japan in December, where the guide asked me to wipe my feet before entering the forest, and we both bowed to show our respect for the trees and animals in there. I found that experience humbling and beautiful - and in stark contrast to what I saw in India.
And finally, you will pay for various zones. When we booked our trip, the travel agency asked one extra time; "Do you REALLY want to see tiger?" ... "Yes of course?"... "Ah I see, that will cost more, as it's Zone 6". We saw no tiger in zone 6, as it was full of various buss-jeeps, and other jeeps. Ironically though, we did see a tiger in one of the "basic" zones - and those shots came out great. But that was the only tiger we saw for the whole trip. She was worth it though - and her name is Arrowhead according to the guide.
Our favourite part of this trip was for sure the amazing Gharial crocodile! They are fantastically shy and will run straight for the water if they even notice a small rumbling from our boat 100s of meters away. We spent a lot of time floating slowly closer and closer to capture these shots. It was not many tours going out there either, as you needed to rent a boat guide and there was no point in have a massive boat with tons of tourists as these crocks would just go hide before anyone even noticed them.
They sure look like something prehistoric and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to see these long nosed fellas!
There were some other crocks there too, which all were a lot less shy, and a lot more lazy like this sack-shaped fella chilling on the beach.
I'm hoping to post some of the birds from India soon too. Just have to organise them! And I really need to make a Okinawa post.
Stay safe out there, and I can't wait for this COVID-19 crisis to be over so I can head out more and see some nature!