Taj Mahal to Ranthambhore Tigers Reverse, India
Driving through highly fragrant Marijuana in search for tigers was not want I envisioned when deciding to take the family to see some of the last few wild tigers in the world based in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve.
A few days earlier we had a surreal drive from Delhi to Agra, using the expressway we seldom saw other cars but the honking and noise soon came back when entering Agra.
Most people come to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and we were no exception, nothing quite prepares you for the first glimpse you get of the Taj through the southern gate truly stunning, we started out early to see at sunrise, the kids had never been up before to see a sunrise and there was the added bonus of seeing Venus and Mercury.
The company had provided a guide as with most sites we are visiting on the India tour, we felt this was necessary to be able to give an education to the kids. I remember from backpacking 20 years that you often need a guide to bring the history alive but at least with the Taj you could just admire its beauty.
The guide also took us to Agra fort which was well worth it too. The toll of waking up at sunrise hit the kids and they started to disengage, so we headed back to hotel via the baby Taj as it was only 15 mins (or did we drag them)…with the bribe of swimming.
Agra outside of the Taj is very busy and poor as a lot of the industries have closed down due to pollution to protect the Taj. Although the kids acknowledge the poverty and chaos they seem very unfazed by the whole experience and carry on as normal.
Leaving Agra we stop at Fateehpur Sikari a small poor village with a huge Fort and mosque, we went round the fort and it was ok. For me things turn dark when we went to visit the mosque, all though not allowed (rules don't mean much in India) it was full of hawkers and couldn't enjoy the site due to the constant hassle and having to keep a grip on the kids. Seeing Luca being hassled by a boy similar in age trying to sell him a bracelet 'I give you a good price' and Luca looking like what……….my parental instincts came in force as I didn't feel comfortable and just wanted to flee the site.
The next 6 hrs were spent driving to Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in the state of Rajasthan, drives are our opportunity to do some schooling and the kids did English exercises and reading on the trip.
I think staying in Hiltons had slightly protected us for the real India so when we checked into Ankur Resort it was both a slight let down and a welcome surprise to stay here as it felt much more like we were travellers. The kids had the freedom of a large grassed area to run riot and be kids, with monkeys to observe and geckos to play with, even the mosquitos were out in force and the AC was a little touch and go. Oh the food was amazing and the first time the family ate pure Indian food for 2 days, as up to this point it was always too spicy, but the state of Rajasthan use milder spices (thank goodness).
The 1st October is the 1st day of the Tiger Safari Season which runs through till June, we even had to pose for a photo for the local newspaper.
Kids wide eyed ready for 5.30am and another sunrise, we head off on our 1st Tiger safari of the day. A little unsure of how the kids would cope with a 4 hour drive as well as trying to remain silent, so the guide could listen for animal warning calls and with the added factor that we might not even see a tiger as sightings can be rare.
Entering the park the vehicle was engulfed with a strong smell, we look at the guide "Marijuana", "Yes, it grows wild here". Sharing our vehicle we had variety of Indian tourists, allowing us to meet some interesting characters on the journey. Such as a young guy from Mumbai in a Rock Band with a large tattoo of his first love 'Metallic' proud to tell us he was signed with Universal he was informative, entertaining and engaged the kids with singing 'Dumb Ways to Die'.
We did see 1 tiger but didn't get a good view but the kids were excited, the safari was fantastic and they really enjoyed it, back to the hotel and a dip into the pool and some curry!
Back for our 2nd safari we had the pleasure of sharing the truck with a bunch of young successful professionals from Mumbai whom were obsessed with taking selfies on their phones and provided constant nattering. We drove a few hours then the truck breaks down………the silent worry on Maddalena's face was evident, with the tall tiger grass nearby you just didn't know what was lurking beneath and seeing dad climb out of the truck to help push start, there was an element of worry that he wouldn't be able to run fast enough to escape the jaws of a tiger.
After 4 hrs we saw nothing, but……. on exiting the reserve we saw a tiger drinking out of a pool of water, it was truly a magical fantastic site one that we will never forget!!!! All the kids got a fantastic view. The tranquillity of observing the tiger was soon broken as the chaos of all the other vehicles trying to get a view of the tiger, a couple of collision's, foul language and bad behaviour from other tourist had to have the forest guards eventually come to sort out the carnage.
Highly satisfied that we had seen a wild tiger knowing we could leave the next day satisfied…….but to our surprise the kids were so engrossed with the whole experience they asked if we could go again a response we never thought we would of heard after having to be silent and well behaved for a whole day our kids were brilliant.