tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Wild Eye’s first Tigers & Leopards Safari to India

Marlon duToit All Authors, Marlon 6 Comments

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” (Walter Mitty Movie excerpt)

Every human should in the very least want to explore. It need not be the other side of the world – perhaps an unknown town close by, or a national park they’ve never been to. The sense of adventure, the experience of seeing new places & meeting new people becomes like life-blood to the soul.

For me, a new journey at the beginning of 2018 took me all the way to India – the land of colour, culture, beauty & wildlife!

This safari experience has been a 3-year project in the making. It’s been something I’ve dreamt of for a very, very long time. The possibility 0f seeing Tigers in the wild certainly used to be the largest reason for my wanting to visit India, but that changed to some extent after seeing what Jawai looked like, a lesser known region and “Home of Leopards”.

What I experienced on this new & exciting adventure was not that one single thing stood out as the best part of it. Yes, I will never forget the first time my eyes fixed on to the stripes of a Tigress moving through a dense woodland. To see them in the wild is like nothing I’ve experienced before and quite honestly, very difficult to describe in mere words.
I could say that it was sensational, beyond belief, breathtaking, awe-inspiring & much more, but even that would fall short of what I saw & experienced as 3 sub-adult tigers played hide-and-seek right in front of our game viewer on that very first morning safari.

Yet, as incredible as the tiger experience was, so too was the time spent in the city of Jaipuras, & not forgetting the incomparable leopard safari experiences in Jawai. All of these destinations contained a magic of their own, a tangible presence filled with sights & smells that remind you of exactly where you are – this is the vibrant soul of India.

On this safari each day was unique, each place special and as a whole an encounter that will leave you wanting to return to do it all over again!

Video Blog – Marlon talks to Andrew about the India Safari Experience

Podcast – Tigers & Leopards of India 2018

Arriving in India

I arrived in New Delhi during the late afternoon, a day before the safari started. The capital of India is large, with a population of almost 22 million people! That’s alot of people. This was very obvious right from the start as my transfer vehicle tried to weave through traffic as he tried to get me from the airport to the hotel. It seemed like organised chaos as pedestrians, motorbikes, cyclists, cars, trucks, buses and even a few donkey carts tried to get ahead of each other at intersections.

It was an eye-opening experience and one that I strangely enjoyed! If I were at home, well, it would have been a different story as aggression levels would surely have risen. But even here, the locals just seemed content & just accepted the flow of the city.

After a good night’s rest my guests and I met at the hotel’s reception early in the morning in preparation for our flight to Jaipur, only an hour away by air. Our journey to Ranthambore would start from there by road, a road that would take us to Ranthambore National Park.

Ranthambore, Home of the Tiger

The picture in my mind of what the Reserve & the surrounding area would look like did not bear any resemblance at all. As we approached the official border of the reserve on our drive in, we were still within the surrounding villages. In fact it was not uncommon for wildlife such as deer, sloth bears and yes, even tigers, to wander into these villages at night.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit
The road we were on was mostly paved, but potholes & bits of gravel were not all that uncommon. The road hugged the edge of the park for some time before we turned onto a small gravel track & edged closer to our camp. Only a few minutes later & we were greeted by two well-dressed gentleman in black traditional wear at the entrance of our home for the next 4 nights – SUJÁN Sher Bagh.

My guests and I were all shown to our rooms & settled in. We arrived in the early afternoon & that meant no time for rest. We enjoyed a quick but delicious lunch before grabbing photographic gear & boarding our safari jeeps for the first outing!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Our rooms at SUJÁN Sher Bagh

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Fantastic Accommodation

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Over the course of the next 5 days we would find out that the food in camp was especially good! The camp took great care in preparing authentic Rajasthan cooking in a manner that made it mild enough for westerners to enjoy whilst still enjoying the local flavours!

One thing I did not want to worry about on this safari, was food & the general well-being of my guests. I purposefully chose to partner this Wild Eye Tiger & Leopard safari with SUJÁN Luxury, a Relais & Chateaux safari group from whom one can only expect the very best experience. Over the past 3 years I had come to know the two owners – Jaisal & Anjali – pretty well, and had many conversations with VP of the company, Yusuf Ansari. My guests’ experience was the most important thing for me, and staying with SUJÁN meant that I had very little to concern myself in that regard.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The local cuisine was incredible. The chefs took great care in preparing local food that was not too hot, but spicy enough to remind you of where you were.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Fire-side dinners were my favorite, nothing like it!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The camp’s attention to detail was on a level I have not yet experienced.

January in India is winter time & temperatures hovered only a little above zero in the early mornings. It was cold but bearable. All the cold too would soon be forgotten once our eyes fell on the first striped cats of the safari!

It came about an our into our first morning out. The radio crackled to life. Our group up ahead spotted a tigress close to the road. They said to come to their position!

We went. Fast.

The excitement could hardly be contained. My guests were smiling from ear to ear at the thought of seeing their first wild tiger. As we got there the tiger had already slipped into a dense woodland in a valley. Fortunately my guests in the second vehicle had a good sighting of her. We spent time up ahead waiting for her to re-emerge from the thicket she vanished within.

All of a sudden spotted-deer started alarm-calling, and we knew the tigress was on the move & coming our way. We stopped the game viewer in the middle of a dry riverbed & kept our eyes fixed in the region from where the calls came from. I had my binoculars fixed on the only small opening on the edge of the dry river allowing a view into the thickets beyond.

And then I saw her, only barely. All I could see was her striped body moving in the undergrowth. She was a part of the forest, so well camouflaged! After 2 seconds she was gone, vanished like a ghost! It was enough to stir up excitement within the group. We knew something special lay ahead!

Not ten minutes later we found 3 sub-adult cubs, about 22 months of age. They were right out in front of our game viewer & on the move. It was still early & the air was cold and crisp – the cubs were actively playing & chasing one another.
I clearly remember not 5 minutes before joining the tigers, telling my guests to stay calm. Remember the basics. Remember to compose, remember to focus, remember to think clearly & not be overwhelmed by seeing these big cats for the first time. Guess what?

It ALL went in the one ear & out the other side, ha ha!

That memorable moment of seeing a tiger for the first time in rich golden light was simply too big! Some photos were out of focus, some too dark, some wrongly composed! Even what I said during the sighting never found a foothold. To see these incredible beings for the first time was just too incredible & understandably so!

It was not so much about walking away with the best photographs – it was more about just soaking in that first sighting… and that we did!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Ranthambore covers an area of about 40 000 hectares, or almost 100 000 acres in size. There’s just over 60 tigers that call the park home. The park leads the way in terms of tourism and no doubt presents visitors with the best chance of seeing tigers in India.

As a visitor, you can either enter the park in the morning or afternoon. You’re allowed 3.5 hours in the park in the morning, and again 3.5 hours in the afternoon. It’s a great way of ensuring the animals of the park get a break from wide-eyed visitors, something I found very unique & special.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Entering into Zone 2

That said, only a few permits are released daily for people to visit for half a day, or even a full day. We made sure that we secured these permits daily & that meant that we spent no less than 9 hours in the park every day. It simply gives you the best viewing experience possible!
What it also means is that you are exempt from zone-allocations on one of these permits. For a regular morning or afternoon activity, you are allocated a zone. This effectively distributes the visitors throughout the park & ensures the zones closest to the gates are not over-occupied. It puts less pressure on certain individual tigers and also ensures that most of the park gets covered daily.

It’s a brilliant system!

When you’re in the park on a half day or full day permit, you need not stick to a certain zone & you are free to venture throughout the park, another benefit & aspect guests really enjoyed on this safari. Again, there’s only a small number of these permits available & it means there’s limited vehicle traffic in the park during the midday hours. This means that during the midday hours there’s only a few vehicles in the park, and this won’t have a negative impact on wildlife at all.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

What really struck me about Ranthambore was the amount of history within the park, most notably the Ranthambore Fort & many of the other old structures within the park.

The fort was likely built in the tenth century, and what a construction effort that must have been! Some parts of the wall atop the mountain are incredibly high! One can clearly see the holes at the top of the fort wall which were used in battle – the small one’s to pour hot liquid from and the longer slits, to shoot through. The fort was very well protected but did change hands several times over the last thousand years.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The Ranthambore Fort

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The “Hunting Palace” or “Pleasure Palace” along the stunning lakes of Ranthambore.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Within its walls are 3 Hindu temples. We would drive towards the fort every day as the access road to the entry gates of Ranthambore is the same route used by worshippers heading towards the fort. People still walk the steps to the top of the fort daily & use the temples for prayer. In fact, about 5 million people visit the Ranthambore Fort annually – a staggering figure!

Even though the access into the park itself had some traffic along the way in the form of the fort visitors, it never felt invasive. It was just a natural way of daily life here & we happily accepted it as such – all a part of the incredible experience & culture of Rajasthan!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Even something as “common” as a peacock is worthy of your time here, and they make for incredible photography!

Our safari drives were done in very competent game viewers or “jeeps”. I was hugely impressed by the functional space within SUJÁN’s safari vehicles and on this safari we have 2 vehicles dedicated to the Wild Eye group.

Two guests per car means ample space for equipment & space to move around, and with your Wild Eye guide switching between the vehicles on a per-drive basis, you get all that you could possibly ask for.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

This pouch for a telephoto lens was massively helpful for my guests.

The park boasts a wide array of wildlife. What we saw most commonly was the spotted deer. They can be found throughout the park & most are very relaxed in the company of the game viewers. They are striking & also make for great photography.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Sambar are also a common sight throughout the park, a large & robust deer species! Males are equipped with impressive antlers, no doubt put to good use during the rutting season. They stand tall at the shoulders and will even stand on their hind legs in an attempt to reach leaves higher off of the ground. They also happily graze & even enjoy fruit.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

An even larger species here is in fact known as a Nilgai, or blue bull. It’s an impressive animal although less often seen! They are of a strange build though, stong & muscular yet with a sloping back & smaller hind quarters. The horns are all less than impressive, very small for adult males & absent in females.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

A large monkey species can be seen throughout the park – the Langur Monkey. It’s a large old-world monkey species, with impressive long limbs. They made for entertaining viewing throughout the safari experience, also commonly found in Jawai. As with monkeys all around the world, they are not fond of predators. They often gave away the presence of tigers & leopards with loud alarm calls, a good sound to know & recognise as you search for the elusive big cats.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Another exciting find was a Jungle Cat. This small domestic-like cat feline enjoys being out & about during the daylight hours. It’s an active hunter & this one gave us a good sighting.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

I had a number of misconceptions about Ranthambore before arriving.

I honestly thought that the park would be overrun by other safari vehicles and too many tourists looking for the elusive tiger. As far as I can recall, we never once had more than 8 or 9 safari jeeps in a single sighting. The jeeps would also come & go pretty quickly as most visitors are happy to snap a few pics and be on their way.

In fact, on the one afternoon we enjoyed the company of 2 sub-adult male tigers with only 1 other vehicle, and that for more than an hour.

We had found two brothers with full bellies in an open area at the foothills of a large mountain. We decided to spend time here waiting for the two tigers to start moving around. Our plan worked very well and within an hour one of the brothers arose to his feet and walked into some incredible late afternoon sunlight. I reacted quickly & instructed the driver to park the vehicle in the correct position, and gave my guests the best possible settings in order to optimise what they were about to see.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The tiger (as can be seen in the video) then moved to the front of our safari jeep & gave my guests a great opportunity to photograph some striking portraits of him. He yawned a few times & this also made for striking photographic opportunities.

To be this close to a tiger in the wild is something tough to describe, and no doubt best experienced!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

On the afternoon safari we returned and relocated the 3 tigers we had found in the early morning. We found them asleep very close to the actual road & decided to spend time here until they chose to move around a little. It took them some time to do so but the wait was completely worth it!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

I also thought that the villages & human activity around the park would be a negative influence on the safari experience. This could not have been further from the truth. It all felt wonderfully entwined in a strange way. Here, humans and wildlife (including tigers) live together in relative harmony. The tigers are sacred and killing one would be considered a massive crime with severe consequences.

Whilst in Jawai, we learnt that one young male tiger left Ranthambore & went on a walk about whilst we were staying in Ranthambore. At the time we were told of the information, he was already over 100 kilometers from Ranthambore on his way to another national park. This meant his journey took him through villages, across busy highways, through farmlands and more. He went untouched, as did tigers who ventured out the same way before him. It’s a wonderful story (the residents dealing with this big cat “on the loose” might not agree) of how respected these cats have become & the success of the conservation efforts within India to save them from extinction.

We were once again blessed with a magnificent tiger sighting on our last full day.

It started in the early morning as we caught up with the two brothers. We found their tracks before sunrise and followed them for about 20 minutes. I still remember how excited we were & our eyes covered every possible area surrounding us as we slowly drove along the track. Soon enough we had caught up to the two brothers & spent quality time with them at first light.

They eventually got active & moved across the road & into a thick area & out of sight.

As if our experience was not “good enough”, we were blessed with 2 more sightings of tigers on our very last morning.

We made sure to arrive at the park gates very early in order to enter the park first. As we waited we heard monkeys alarm-calling up ahead. We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw a tigress walking straight towards us, right on the road! It was the mother of the 3 cubs we’ve been seeing!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

She walked right up to the entrance gate, sniffed around for a little while & as quickly as she appeared, vanished into the rocky woodland.

Saying goodbye to Ranthambore was tough, I won’t lie. This place grabbed hold of a piece of our hearts and it certainly would not let go! It’s just such a unique wilderness filled with not only magnificent wildlife encounters, but also with splendid landscapes & rich historical influences. In my journeys across Africa I have found a select few places that call me back, places to which I yearn to return time and time again.

Ranthambore has now become one of those.

The “Pink City”

I had always wanted this safari to include a look into some of the culture of India & in particular, Rajasthan. It would be such a shame to travel to country so rich in diversity & culture, and to experience nothing of it.

Jaipur was founded almost 300 years ago and is a popular city and visited by many tourists annually. In 1876 the city was painted pink in order to celebrate the visit of the Prince of Wales. Most of the city today remains this colour but there are still parts of it that showcase the older colour, yellow.

We stayed at another property belonging to the SUJÁN luxury group, the SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace. To give you an idea of the extensive history of this place, and about who’s previously stayed here, I’ve taken an excerpt from their website for you…

“The Royal Standard of the House of Amber still flutters above Rajmahal Palace, one of the oldest and most treasured palaces in the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur. Only the City Palace and the royal family’s private forts hold this distinction. Home to the Maharaja of Jaipur, this exquisite royal palace is located at the heart of Rajasthan’s bustling capital. An enclosed oasis, secluded in verdant gardens, Rajmahal Palace is the repository of a celebrated history. Tall bay windows, mirrored doors and meticulously appointed interiors allow guests to be transported to a new era of 21st century regal living. Conceived by H.H Sawai Jai Singh II as a private palace, a garden retreat, built for his beloved wife, Chandra Kanwar Ranawat ji, the daughter of the Maharana of Mewar, Rajmahal Palace has stood witness to over two hundred and fifty years of history.In 1821, Rajmahal became the official residence of the British Resident Political Officer of Rajputana and in 1958 His Highness Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur – the celebrated and dashing ‘Jai’ – chose it as his personal private residence. Over the decades this remarkable Palace has hosted Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, as well as several other members of the British Royal Family, and eminent international celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, and the Shah of Iran.”

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

As you can see, my guests and I got to stay in a palace in a city rich in history, and this is exactly what I wanted for my guests. It was an incredible couple of days in which guests had some down time, and also enjoyed some exploring within the city.

We paid a visit to the city palace where the Royal family currently resides, and we enjoyed some shopping at the world-famous markets of Jaipur.

Staying at the palace in Jaipur did not for a second feel “over the top”. It was an authentic look into the history of Jaipur & Rajasthan. I had a good laugh on the afternoon of our arrival. I walked up to the reception desk & asked them to point me in the direction of the gym. They kindly said that I would not be allowed to use the gym, since the princess was currently occupying it! Can you believe that? I had a real good laugh as that was definitely a first for me!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

For our safaris to India in 2019, this particular visit to the Rajmahal Palace will take place at the end of the safari. I’ll share more details on the 2019 itinerary below.

JAWAI, Home of the Leopard

Jawai is very likely a place you’ve never heard of before. If you have you’re a part of a very small, fortunate few. If you’ve actually visited Jawai, well, you’re one fortunate human and will understand exactly why I am about to say what I did below.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Jawai has to be one of the most incredible encounters with nature I’ve ever had. It’s remarkable, a kind of place I could not have imagined even if I wanted to. I thought that Ranthambore’s Tigers would be by far the highlight of the safari experience.

How wrong I was.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Safari guest Turgay Uzer very happy after a morning spent with leopards.

I first heard about Jawai from a friend of mine about 4 years ago. Ever since that day I fell in love with the idea of visiting and even better, introducing our Wild Eye guests to this incredible wildlife destination.

See, Jawai is about so much more than just another wildlife destination. In fact, it really does not have a large array of wildlife on offer when compared to other regions in India. Wildlife you’ll see on a more regular basis would be Nilgai, Langur monkeys, Jungle cats, peacocks and yes, leopard. That’s about that!

So, if there’s so little on offer why bother coming? I am sure that’s what everyone must be thinking, right?

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Well, Jawai is also known as the “Home of the Leopard”. In fact, the general area surrounding our camp – SUJÁN Jawai – is home to about 22 leopards! That’s a very dense leopard population & you’ll realise that as soon as you leave for safari.

We saw a leopard on all but one safari outing. There were many tracks of them to be found & there’s no doubt that the rumours are true.

Jawai, has many leopards! 😉

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit
Jawai’s landscape is striking, unique and incredibly beautiful. Much of the land is dominated by massive granite boulders & outcrops. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Between these rocky outcrops lies farmlands, grazing pastures, woodlands & villages.

People here live out their daily lives as normal – going to work, going to school, walking their goats, cattle & camels. Yet, on the incredibly striking granite boulders one can find one of the densest leopard populations in the world! It’s completely bizarre, beyond belief yet totally true!

It might seem like it would impact the safari experience negatively but its completely the opposite!

I will never forget driving through a village after hearing a peacock alarming. We could see the peacock sitting on a wall, intently looking towards the bottom of a massive rocky boulder which bordered the village itself. There was absolutely no distance between where the leopard potentially was, and where the village started. It was one and the same thing. As we looked for the spotted cat we drove past people going about their daily lives, kids smiling and waiving at us passing by, a few goats & some dogs. It was such a natural way of life for the locals yet our jaws dropped in disbelief.

How could people & leopards exist this intricately?

It’s an experience that I am finding very hard to describe in words. To find the adequate manner of description is so tough & I might be falling well short here. As long as you understand that Jawai was an encounter with nature & humans my guests and I will never forget & will long to return to.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The leopards here have learnt to adapt to a way of life that includes daily contact with humans. It’s completely unavoidable. They are aware of where the humans live, and the humans are aware of the leopards & their presence. There’s a mutual understanding here & it dates back for many generations. In fact, our guide mentioned that the last known leopard attack on a human took place 16o years ago!

Leopards have adapted to a way of life here that sees them avoiding contact with humans as much as possible.

The leopard are very active after dark. They get active just before sunset & at that time will emerge from the caves in which they spend the daytime hours. They soak up some of the last sunlight whilst grooming, stretching & thinking about where to go for the evening.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

At night they hunt, patrol territories & at times, interact with other leopards. As mentioned previously, there’s not a large array of natural prey for leopards in Jawai, so what exactly do they feed on?

The main portion of their diet in Jawai consists of goats & dogs. It seems unnatural but they’ve adapted to this availability of prey & have incredible success. Leopards in Jawai are considered sacred so there’s no retaliation from the locals. If herdsman can prove that a leopard did indeed catch a goat or cow, they will be compensated accordingly by the local authorities.

Leopards will also prey on Langur monkeys, Nilgai antelope, jackals & small cats. Peacocks & other bird species also make up a portion of their diet, and so will small rodent species. Leopards are incredibly adept at making do with what they have and can survive & in fact thrive on a wide array pf prey species.

It’s what makes them so successful and adaptable.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

As mentioned before, the scenery in Jawai is what truly sets this place apart! It’s why I am so struck by the place & why I can’t wait to showcase this to our family of Wild Eye guests.

Never before have I seen a place like this. I am convinced that it’s unique and that no other place on our planet can offer you the kind of photography you can capture here! To see leopards absolutely dwarfed by granite boulders is something remarkable!

Let me tell you about a couple of incredible highlights from this safari experience.

We spent quality time with a mother leopard and her 3 young cubs, approximately 4 – 5 months of age. They occupied the same rocky outcrop for the entire period of our stay, and we enjoyed great sightings of them.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

 

The cubs were very energetic & provided my guests with fantastic imagery.

The beauty of Jawai is that you really DON’T want to be too close to the subject. There are so many other places one can venture into where portrait photography of leopards certainly is an option, and often due to dense vegetation the only option too. Jawai though beckons you to stand further away, to include that striking rocky environment & to put your subject in context. It’s what makes photography so special here, it really is!

We photographed the mother & her cubs at an average distance of about 70 or 80 meters away. That might seem far but if you look at the photos, you’ll realise that it was not at all a mistake.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The mother leopard arrives at the densite & calls for her cubs to come out and greet her.

What I found very interesting was the high survival rate of leopards cubs in Jawai.

Mortality in leopard cubs where other large predators exist can be very high, with as little as 1 of 3 cubs standing a chance of making it to adulthood. The difference in Jawai is that their only real threat comes in the form of rogue male leopards intent on increasing territorial gains. These rogue males will actively seek out & kill the offspring of another male leopard. Other than that, the leopards in Jawai generally make it to adulthood with relative ease & success. It’s sensational & means that as this region develops into a great wildlife destination – something I believe is unavoidable – the leopard population will boom & who knows what benefits there will be for local tourism & the local inhabitants of the land.

Another stand-out sighting we enjoyed was on our last morning.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

We had alot of leopard activity in the camp during the last night of our stay. In fact, they mated right in camp outside the guests rooms!

We knew they would be in the area during the morning safari and after a delicious cup of coffee we set out in search of the cats before first light. Within the hour one of our 2 safari vehicles found not only the 2 mating leopards, but also another female that decided to join proceedings.

Yes, you read that right! There were now THREE leopards together!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The male mated with both of the females on a regular basis whilst we were with them. What a sight that was for my guests.

We spent the better portion of 2 hours with these 3 leopards as they moved around a large rocky outcrop. It was a sensational sighting and in fact one of the best leopard encounters that I’ve ever had! That’s a pretty big statement as I’ve enjoyed some terrific leopard sightings in my guiding career!

What struck me was just how relaxed all three leopards were with one another. In the build up to this safari I heard from several people just how relaxed these leopards are in one another’s company, but to see this first-hand was truly special!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Typically, even leopards who have come to know each other (perhaps related, or have neighbouring territories), will react very aggressively towards each other. Even when mating the tension between two cats is tangible.
Here though we had three leopards that seemed very content with the other’s presence. In fact, not once did I see the two females approach each other in an aggressive manner. They snarled at each other once from what I recall, but would often lie almost back-to-back on top of the rocky boulders. Unbelievable!

Jawai lived up to all expectations and in fact, exceeded them!

I could not have wished for a more special encounter.

Looking Back

There was an immense responsibility on our shoulders to ensure an experience for our guests that not only met their expectations, but exceeded them! We always try our very best to provide those who travel with us with an encounter that will change the way they see the world. That’s something we live by & strive to achieve regardless of any challenge that might meet us along the way.

On this safari we were fortunate that every logistical aspect flowed seamlessly. This is not by chance, let me assure you. Along with the talented & committed Wild Eye team I had eyes on every aspect of the safari, from travel, transfers, flights, accommodation, guides and more. Sure, there’s always a hiccup here and there as can be expected when on the road, but they were dealt with effectively & without any affect to my guests.

It was a remarkable experience for my guests. The only thing they had to “trouble” themselves with was to soak it all in, grab some great photographs along the way and to create memories to take home with them. All that was done and more!

Seeing tigers in the wild was something I am pretty sure everyone will never forget! How could you?

Tigers are iconic animals, symbols of strength & freedom the world over. They’ve inspired countless people to dream, to dare! We had the wonderful opportunity to photograph & witness them within their natural environment – how special!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The cultural element was strong & present wherever we went! It was a massive part of this safari and so true of any visit to India. It’s a country so diverse and it would be a shame to come all this way without exposing yourself to some of that. It never felt intrusive & the wildlife experiences remained unaffected throughout.

Jawai & the Rajmahal Palace was like something out of a movie. For my guests to have stayed in an actual palace and in rooms that played host to the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was something they’ll not easily forget!

Jawai was so much more than what I could have ever anticipated. It had such a rich flavour of wildlife & culture and was a true example of how people & wildlife could co-exist. It’s a destination  which few people have heard of, perhaps over-shadowed by many other national parks in a large & diverse country. I am sure that too will change, it has to, Jawai is just too special not to share with the world! I never knew a place like this could exist and still offer such an incredible guest experience.

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

Looking to the 2019 Safari Experience

With our first Tigers & Leopards on India safari experience being such a huge success, there’s no doubt an opportunity for you to join us here again in 2019.

We always strive to better each and every safari experience that we offer. Even safaris we’ve hosted time and again will always be looked at extensively and if change needs to come & the guest experience could be even better, that change will come into effect.

The same applies here. We would love to present you with the very best safari experience, something that will exceed any expectations you could have after reading this. That’s likely a big ask but I believe we have something special in store for you in 2019!

The safari in 2019 will begin in Jawai with the leopards. We will spend 4 nights there in search of these spotted cats. From there we will move across to Ranthambore in search of the elusive tigers. We will likely connect the two destinations with a chartered flight, a new add-on from this year. I will aim to spend no less than 6 nights in tiger country, a few more than what we did this year (4 nights) giving you a better and more thorough chance of photographing these iconic big cats!
The safari will end with a night in Jaipur at the Rajmahal Palace. It’s something you simply NEED to experience!

tiger, tigers, tiger safari, india, ranthambore, jawai, wild eye, marlon du toit

The safari will also take place in April of 2019. It’s far drier & a little warmer. Tigers are drawn out to the last remaining waterholes in the park are a little easier to locate. There’s also a strong possibility of witnessing tigers on the hunt as their prey species will be drawn to the exact same watering holes to drink.

If you would like more information on this incredible 2019 Tigers & leopard of India safari experience, then please send me an email & I will forward you all that you need. The details of this safari will be LIVE soon on the safari page, we are just finalising the last aspects of this safari. All should be ready to book by the 2nd of February. Stay tuned.

Here’s a little secret for you…

There’s a very real chance that the 2019 safari to India will include encounters with Indian Grey Wolves. Just think about that for a second or two 😉

Thank you immensely for reading through this safari report with me. I truly appreciate it and am humbled by all of the interest shown in what we’ve put together here.

Soon I will share a guest account of this experience with you, along with several of their fantastic images captured in India. I am sure you’ll thoroughly enjoy that too.

Thanks again for taking the time, I look forward to seeing you on safari with me in India next year.

Till next time,

About the Author

Marlon duToit

Passion, enthusiasm and an unquenchable thirst to explore and introduce you to our natural world’s wildlife perfectly sums up my ambitions. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Through my African adventures I kept my photographic passion alive. Behind a camera aimed at a lion or a leopard is where I am most at home, my heart skipping a beat at the mere thought of it. My intention has never been solely for recognition but for the plight of what’s left of our natural recourses. Using my love and understanding of wildlife I am able to convey to the viewer more than an image or a fleeting moment. I aim to tell a story, to bring that moment alive to you and to capture your heart through it.

Waiting List

Add me to to waiting list for the 2019 Tigers & Leopards of India Safari Experience

More Info for 2019

Comments 6

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      Author
  1. Tina Davidson

    I have thoroughly enjoyed viewing the photos an video recordings of your safari, as well as reading your safari report. The descriptions of your journey and excitement made me feel so happy for you and your guests. It is such a pleasure and honor to following you and now, hopefully Wild Eye. Tigers have long been my favorite wildlife animal. Seeing the photos from your safari was like seeing a tiger for the first time. I especially like the shot of the tiger after you asked the driver to reposition the vehicle to give your guests a better vantage point for photographing the big cat.
    I look forward to seeing more photos of your explorations amd journeys. You have a new fan!
    All the best!
    Tina

    1. Post
      Author
      Marlon duToit

      Dear Tina,
      I am thrilled to hear that you are a new fan & lover of Wild Eye and what we do! This is by no means the last India safari adventure, so look forward to returning! Thank you for your kind words & for taking the time to comment!
      Regards,
      Marlon

  2. Callum Evans

    Sweet mother of all that is good and pure, that was just absolutely incredible!!!! I actually teared up watching that video of the leopards!! Three cubs and three adults together!! It’s not possible!! Although I do have a theory that leopards in India and Sri Lanka are poteintially more sociable than Africa ( I’ve seen incredible footage of Sri Lankan leopards socialising). And don’t even get me started on the tigers you saw!!!! I knew Ranthambore was special but to have those kind of sightings….!!!! I actually had some friends visiting there last month, and they saw sloth bears as well as tigers!!
    Indian grey wolves?!!! Ok, I am sending an email TODAY!!!!!!!!

    1. Post
      Author
      Marlon duToit

      Callum,
      So glad you enjoyed the post my friend! I am glad that we are able to connect & hope to get you out to India my friend!
      Regards,
      Marlon

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