After all the tiger fun of the last few days, we tried something a little different before heading off to Agra to see the magnificent Taj Mahal. We climbed up to the 2000-year-old fort overlooking the reserve. This turned out to be a great idea, because the views were spectacular. The ruins themselves were equally impressive, and gave our cameras a new challenge. We arrived in Agra in time to enjoy a wonderful view from our hotel of the Taj Mahal as the sun was setting.
This was the last day we had to search for the magnificent tigers, and it did not disappoint; we spent our last 3 hours of the Tiger Safariphotographing a female tiger and her 2 cubs! They were slowly moving around in the shade of some pretty impressive trees, giving us loads of great opportunities to photograph them. The already amazing sighting was finished off by the more adventurous of the 2 cubs catching an unlucky monitor lizard. The poor reptile was flung around like a plaything, as the cub tried to figure it all out. I am not sure if the lizard survived the ordeal, but the cub soon lost interest, and went back to join his mother. The mother eventually decided that it was time to move on, so she called the youngsters and off they went. What an end to another year of wonderful tiger viewing and photography!
Tigers, leopards, jungle cats and hyenas! What a day! We started off by finding a large male tiger right at the gate. He was relaxed, and gave us a good look at our first large male tiger of the safari. We spent most of the morning with him, and our patience was rewarded with some good photographic opportunities. As luck would have it, we found the same male tiger in the afternoon, in a different section of the reserve, but he was being less obliging and slept through the heat of the day under a tree quite some distance away. The real action started at the end of the day however, when we spotted a leopard walking along one of the cliffs. We managed a solid half an hour with the leopard, and got some good images of a difficult species to photograph in India. A second leopard was seen not long afterwards, sitting on the boundary wall of the reserve. It was a little more nervous than the first leopard, and moved off quite quickly. On the way back to camp though, we still had 4 striped hyenas and 2 jungle cats appear in front of our cameras!
After all the luck we have had with the tigers, we thought we would see if we could find some of the other inhabitants of the reserve. We tried a completely new section of the reserve, with the goal of finding leopards and sloth bears. We came very close, and we had strong audio of leopards mating in the bushes near us, but unfortunately the happy couple didn’t show themselves. We did however add a new species of mammal to our already full list, one of only 2 antelopes found in the reserve, the Indian gazelle.
The tigers were putting their fantastic camouflage to work, and remained hidden for most of the day, but we did find a young female tiger midway through the afternoon safari. She took a while to emerge from the bushes, but when she did, it was amazing. She walked right up to our jeep, and started drinking and relaxing right in front of us. Needless to say, the cameras had a field day and the photography was fantastic. While we were waiting for a different tiger to come down to a waterhole earlier in the day, we were treated to a spectacle of deer coming down to drink; close to 100 of the packed in around the waters edge.