Monday March 16, 2015

We had a leisurely start most mornings on our Royal Rajasthan train – with a wake-up tea or coffee plus little shortbreads delivered to our cabins by cheerful staff, followed by continental breakfast in the restaurant car, followed by whatever was on the agenda for that day’s sightseeing.

But last Wednesday was different.

I’m not sure what time the train rocked up to the small station in the town of Sawai Madhopur (named after its founder Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I). But, waking at 5am, we Kiwis dressed warmly and made our way onto the platform and into a couple of large, open-top safari vehicles.

From there, we headed out in the chill of early dawn for a wildlife jaunt in the famous Ranthambore National Park. This animal sanctuary covers an area of 392 sq kms, and is considered the best place in India for observing and photographing wild tigers. The lush, mountainous park is also home to hyenas, jackals, foxes, a variety of deer and antelopes, 300+ species of birds, and more.

With the help of a qualified safari guide, we eyeballed a black-bull antelope … an eagle (can’t remember exactly what) … a wounded wild boar (had a nasty gash down its shoulder, caused maybe by a tiger?) … a cute little spotted bambi … a grey mongoose trying to outrun us on the road … a flock of turquoise peacocks … some energetic monkeys … a shiny, black-faced turtle … and a sunbathing crocodile (the only species not native to the park).

But what about TIGERS …?

Well, the other truck (with half our group aboard) was a few minutes ahead of us on the track we were following – and, sadly, they just missed seeing what we saw. Believe it or not, a big male tiger appeared suddenly out of the undergrowth and began walking down the track towards us. Scarcely daring to breathe, we watched (eyes popping and cameras clicking) as he got closer and closer … finally passing (totally unconcerned) right alongside our truck … then continuing on his way behind the vehicle, stopping to squat briefly in the grass and relieve himself … before disappearing back into the dense undergrowth further along the track.

Incredible? You’ve gotta believe it! What a superb, magnificent, powerful animal! He was the dominant male in that area, according to the guide, weighing in at 250kg. He’d nearly died a few months earlier (after eating a hard-to-digest wild boar, tough prickly skin and all). And, in case we had any doubts about this tiger being REALLY wild, the guide reported that our giant cuddly-looking cat had recently killed several nearby villagers and a park ranger!

Gulp! And he’d been SO CLOSE we could’ve almost TOUCHED him!

NEXT BLOG: I plan to tell you A Tale of Four Cities – a blue city … a pink city … a city that specialises in cremations … and a city that’s been made famous by a love story etched in stone. So don’t sign off yet!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this entry, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief. And if you want to receive future blogs hot-off-the-press in your INBOX, just sign-up (top-right) for your free Email Subscription!

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About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!


  1. OH JOHN and your intrepid Tiger Hunters ! I have just read your Blog and wondered if you Guys and Gals had to “Relieve” yourselves after the “Dominant Male Tiger” ‘Passed By’. The suspense was ‘Jaw Dropping’, as I feared you ALL could have been EATEN ALIVE !!
    The things You and Robyn do in the name of “MID-LIFE MADNESS”. Love and blessings, & lots more safe travelling.

  2. Oh man how exciting … can imagine the thrill of seeing the Tiger up so close. Reminds me of the African Safari trip we did with you guys … What an amazing experience. Love ya Coons

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