P EL H
THE BIG CATS of
INDIA by Ajay Jain
THE BIG CATS of INDIA India is big cat country. Tigers, Lions and Leopards prowl the many forests spread across the country. They may have numbered in the tens of thousands at one time, but their population has fallen sharply in the last century. Estimates number Tigers at 1411 and Asiatic Lions at 411 while those for the Leopard are only guesses at a few thousand. You have to meet these cats in their natural environment to really appreciate what majestic creatures they all are. And you can never have enough of them - reason enough for going back again and again for safaris at Indiaâ€™s many reserves. Spotting is not always easy though - luck, time of the year and your guide play a big role. But no expert guarantees a sighting. While you may have frustrating days, you will feel like a successful treasure hunter when you do see any of the species. Flip through the pages to re-live some of my experiences - and hope you have even better ones to share with me. - AJAY JAIN
The Kunzum Travel Photo Talkies are a series of pictorial depictions of stories and themes from our travels. More of the series at http:// kunzum.com/phototalkies.
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RANTHAMBHORE NATIONAL PARK
Located in the north-western state of Rajasthan in India, Ranthambhore National Park is one of the biggest reserves for Tigers and Leopards. It lies at a distance of 400 kms (250 miles) from New Delhi, the country’s capital, and is well connected by road and trains.
• The park is closed from July - September. Winters are the peak tourist season - but also the worst time to go. Spotting is rarer with overcrowding on the safari trails. For best sightings, go during the peak summer months of April - June when dry vegetation makes camouflaging difficult and animals hang around water holes. Warning: Summer temperatures can be as high as 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit). • Accommodation ranges from budget to super luxury. Summers are also a great time to negotiate discounts. • Booking for safaris can be made online at http://www. rajasthanwildlife.in - always a good idea to do so in advance during peak seasons. There is an option of going in a canter bus (seating 20) or in a Gypsy (for 5); the latter is the better option.
• Looking the Tiger in the Eye (A Travelogue) (http://kunzum. com/2010/09/20/ranthambhore-looking-the-tiger-in-the-eye) • Kunzum Route K103 from Delhi - Ranthambhore (http://kunzum. com/2010/06/01/driving-from-delhi-to-ranthambhore-sawai-madhopurin-rajasthan) • How to book a safari in Ranthambhore (http://kunzum. com/2010/06/03/tiger-safari-in-ranthambhore-national-park-in-rajasthanhow-to-go-about-it) • Raining Leopards in Ranthambhore (http://kunzum. com/2011/03/01/raining-leopards-in-ranthambhore-national-parkrajasthan) 4
When a Tiger Hunts a Turtle
During one of my summer safaris, I came across this male Tiger resting by a water hole with a recently hunted langoor monkey lying in state three feet away. I was not more than ten feet away myself. The Tiger was waiting patiently, either for a guest or for the dinner bell to sound, when something in the water disturbed him. He slowly turned his head, looked for a few moments through the surface and then it was Pow-Wow in a flash. A poor turtle had floated in, and was probably the starter (or was it dessert) that the big cat was waiting for. For the next many seconds, all one could see was frantic splashing as the turtle put up a brave fight. Before long, it was all tranquil again. The big cat had expectedly won, but it would be a while before he could carve the flesh out from under the hard shell. The next set of images show the sequence of events. 5
The Tiger turns his head when he senses movement in the water 6
Before anyone realized it, he movedâ€Ś 7
…and attacked the Turtle 8
But David does not always win - but Goliath will not have an easy time consuming his hard-shelled victim 9
The Tiger chose to drag to the Turtle to the shallow end of the pool 10
But the paws are not designed to handle a hard, convex shaped animal 11
It is a struggle getting to the meat 12
And the challenge is not over yet 13
Ok folks, what are you looking at? This is not a circus 14
The Tiger is looking around - has anyone seen his embarrassment? First he hunts a helpless Turtle and then canâ€™t even eat it
All right, no more games - time to get aggressive 16
Finally managing to get a grip on the Turtle 17
And thereâ€Śthe white flesh is out for the dinner table 18
Well fed, I spotted the same Tiger sleeping at the same spot the following day 19
Woken up by our presence 20
Contemplating what to do with these pesky tourists and photographers 21
Decides to get up to strike a better poseâ€Ś 22
â€Śin the water, where you can look the Tiger in the eye 23
The 3-Year Old Tiger Cub in Ranthambhore
These teeth donâ€™t bite - yet! This is the snarl of a 3-year old male cub, still dependent on Mommy for food 24
The cub is at an age where he can afford to chill in the pool all day 25
Sometimes you do need to stretch your musclesâ€Ś 26
…and practice to show who is the Boss in the future 27
The Tiger Cub was a having a little face-off with monkeys perched on branches high up. They were teasing him, and he was glaring back with a message, â€œPlay the fool for now. Just a matter of time before I will learn to hunt you down!â€? 28
THE ASIATIC LIONS OF GIR NATIONAL PARK
The Gir National Park in the western India state of Gujarat is the last standing home to the Asiatic Lions. There was a time when they were found across much of India, and in countries extending to Persia (present day Iran). From near extinction towards the end of the 19th century, these cats have done well for themselves with their population on the rise to the current 400+. But you will meet them only in Gir.
• The reserve is closed from July - September. For best sightings, go during the summer months. • Gir has many options to stay, ranging from budget to luxury. • All safaris are run by the Government. • You can reach Gir by road or take a flight to one of the many airports with a road journey of 2-6 hours depending where you land.
The first cat spotted by me in Gir - a majestic Lioness glowing in the sun 30
Itâ€™s raining Lions - I get to meet a family of three. Seen here is the mother Lioness, who was with her twoyear old male and a six-month old infant
That’s the Lioness’ two-year old boy 32
And here is the baby, at six months old 33
Early signs of what the boy will grow up to be 34
Siblings waiting for Mommy - she is around only 35
Here is Mom - gnawing at something on the ground 36
Watch how the Lioness walks 37
Dare make eye contact with the male? 38
Time for a yawn or building face muscles for future roars? 39
Ok, what is the grin for, little one? 40
Momma has come to pick up her kids - they will walk into the sunset over the hill soon 41
Following momâ€™s footsteps 42
The two-year old walking away. See you again! 43
Leopards are a highly elusive species, not easy to sight. More often than not, you will get their outlines in the dark - with eyes glowing through like diamonds on steroids. I spotted this Leopard in Gir, sitting under the shade of a tree. The guide spotted him instantly, but it took me a while to make out the cat even with the guide pointing in his direction. This is the best image quality I could manage.
BERA: UNPROTECTED LEOPARD COUNTRY
Believe it or not: There is a village in Rajasthan called Bera - surrounded by forests where leopards roam free. These are not a part of any National Park or sanctuary; most people don’t know about it, not even Rajasthanis. You will not see any madding tourist crowds here – go wildlife spotting freely, but remember you are on your own here. With leopards for company. There could clearly see them walking along a ridge – stopping in between, playing on trees, and showing their love to one another in a way only mothers and children can. As the sun set and they walked away into the dark of the forest, my guide highlighted two diamonds glowing in the spotlights trained on them – these were the shining eyes of a male leopard on a peak. Awesome! The animals were too far for my equipment – hence the poor picture quality. But I sure got great views with high power binoculars. 45
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the world’s most popular professional networking site LinkedIn.com. It was published in early 2008. His other book, and his first travel book, Peep Peep Don’t Sleep (http://www.peeppeepdontsleep. com), is a collection of funny road signs and advertisements. He has worked for and written columns for national publications in I n d i a i n c l u d i n g T h e H i n d u s t a n Ti m e s , Mint, Financial Express, Indian Management (Business Standard), Outlook Business, Deccan Herald, M u m b a i M i r r o r ( Ti m e s o f I n d i a ) , Discover India, Swagat, Asian Age and Rediff.com. He has also edited a y o u t h n e w s p a p e r, T h e C a m p u s P a p e r. Prior to taking up writing, he has w o r k e d i n t h e I n f o r m a t i o n Te c h n o l o g y and Sports Management sectors. He holds degrees Mechanical Engineering (Delhi College of Engineering, 1992), Management (Fore School of Management, 1994) and Journalism ( C a r d i f f U n i v e r s i t y, U K , 2 0 0 2 ) . H i s schooling was at St. Columba’s School wholly on travel writing. He pursues his ABOUT AJAY JAIN in New Delhi. passion by being on the road as much Ajay Jain is a full time writer, journalist and photographer based in New Delhi in as he can. Contact India. He is not limited in his medium of Email: email@example.com expression, equally comfortable writing He has written three books, the latest Mobile: +91.99100 44476 for newspapers and magazines, as well being Postcards from Ladakh (http://www. kunzum.com/postcardsfromladakh), as his own books and blogs. a pictorial travelogue on Ladakh. His LINKS Starting his writing career in 2001, he first, Let’s Connect: Using LinkedIn to Facebook:http://facebook.com/ajayjain9 has been covering business, technology Get Ahead at Work, is a management Twitter: http://twitter.com/ajayjain and youth affairs before deciding to focus book on professional networking using LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ajayjain9 49 50
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Postcards from Ladakh A Pictorial Travelogue by Ajay Jain
Postcards from Ladakh is a collection of frames - picture postcards, if you will - frozen circa 2009, when the author drove for over 10,000 kms (6,000 miles) across the remote and fascinating region of Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas. Neither guidebook nor encyclopedia, it is intended to give you a flavour of this high altitude cold desert. You will also meet a few Ladakhis in these pages. And see the land they live in, the faith they live by, the hope they live onâ€ŚEach of them will spontaneously greet you with a cheerful Julley and invite you to be part of their culture and society. No Ladakhi is a stranger. We just havenâ€™t had the time to meet them all... For more on the book, sample chapters and to order visit www.kunzum.com/postcardsfromladakh Available as a Paperback, as a PDF and for the iPad and Kindle
PEEP PEEP DON’T SLEEP A book on funny road signs and advertisements with captions and commentary by Ajay Jain
If you thought road signs are only meant to guide and inform, think again. The ones on Indian highways are in a zone of their own. They shower you with words of wisdom, keep your mind sharp as you unravel their cryptic messages, tickle your imagination, amuse you and entertain you. In public interest, they lend a hand to Alcoholics Anonymous. Since journeys are meant to be a pleasure, they remind you to ‘Smile Please.’ The entertainment for the traveler does not stop at this. There are the limitless public notices, outdoor advertisements and storefront signs with their own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities. Who needs comic strips in this country? Ajay Jain drove thousands of miles to put together this collection of signs. With a bit of witty commentary thrown in, this book will be a journey unlike any other you may have undertaken. Resulting in you letting out a ‘Peep Peep’ of delight.
For more on the book, sample chapters and to order visit www.peeppeepdontsleep.com Available as a Paperback, as a PDF and for the iPad and Kindle
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