Seeing a Royal Bengal Tiger in the Wild
When you travel to India for the first time, there are great expectations of what you may see: the Taj Mahal, Jaipur and the Amber Fort, Varanasi and the Ganges, etc. But surely on the top of the list would be to see a Royal Bengal Tiger in the wild. From a population of 40-50,000 in the early 20th Century, there are only about 1,500 left. Poachers have decimated the tiger population, and the remaining tigers are all in National Parks or tiger sanctuaries. The extinction of this magnificent animal seems almost certain. On a recent trip to Ranthambore National Park in India's Rajasthan State, I had the opportunity to go on a game drive, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Bengal Tiger. I was told that the odd were something like 100 to 1. So, with that in mind I boarded the gypsy jeep and entered the park. Only 5 minutes later we found a tiger drinking out of a stream, about 60 feet away. It was a very large male who had just made a kill, and was refreshing himself at the stream. Later the tiger entered the water up to his neck and cooled himself. Then, steadily, waded out and headed to our position. He crossed the road right in front of us, but first I got this amazing photo. That afternoon we saw a second tiger appear at the same spot, joining the first tiger. The National Park guide said it was the son of the large male, and had not yet began his solitary life. So, if seeing 1 tiger was 100 to 1, seeing 2 was truly rare and unforgettable.