Ranthambore National Park is the home to an imposing 10th-century fort, which overlooks a large forest filled with many wild animals, including arguably the most famous living tiger in the world, Machli. Machli owes most of her fame to the fact that she goes about her business seemingly oblivious to jeeps and humans, and thus she has been photographed more than any other tiger and has been the subject of three documentary films. Machli has given the park 11 cubs, which is significant in a park with only 35 tigers. She also is famously protective of her cubs, having killed at least eight crocodiles in defense of her cubs. During battles with crocodiles and other tigers, she has lost four teeth, including both canines, but she still manages to hunt. If you google "Machli," you'll find a series of tributes written to her in 2010, when she turned 14 years old and became the oldest documented tiger, and it was expected that she would die imminently. But it is now 2012, and Machli still roams Ranthambore. We traveled to Ranthambore National Park with the hope of catching a glimpse of her.
In order to increase our chances of seeing a tiger, we decided to take the safari booking process into our own hands. This involved waking at 4:45 a.m., taking a 15-minute auto rickshaw ride to the safari ticketing office, and jostling with a large group of Indian hotel representatives to get the attention and favor of the ticketing agent. Above are photos and a video from one of the two mornings that Nick fought for us to get a good safari vehicle and zone. Nick succeeded in getting us a favorable zone for spotting a tiger. This zone is usually reserved for tourists staying in the best hotels in town (where rooms cost over $1,000 a night), as opposed to tourists like us, who were staying in a hotel with $25 rooms. Nice work, Nick!
We set off on our second safari in a jeep, which was smaller and quieter than the 16-seat vehicle we had taken earlier.
Above are two videos taken just after Machli stood and began walking in our direction. Notice in the beginning of the first video how quickly the deer scatter when they catch wind of Machli.
We also saw plenty of other interesting animals on our safari, including crocodiles, owls, peacocks, and a large python.
On our third and final day, we again went to the ticketing office ourselves at 5:00 a.m., where Nick again procured a favorable vehicle and zone for that day's safari. Once again, we were lucky, and we had another incredible tiger sighting: a large male tiger walked past a group of jeeps (unlike the previous day, we were not alone this time during our sighting), and walked around a lake.