Spotting Wildlife in Ranthambore National Park, India

150mm, ISO 640, f5.6, 1/200sec
An owl tries to catch some sleep in a tree.

On our adventure around Rajasthan with G Adventures, we took a trip to Ranthambore National Park to go wildlife spotting. We spent all morning and afternoon out in an open top truck trying to spot wildlife, but mainly, wild tigers! I had seen tigers before in zoos and safari parks, but never in the wild. Such a thing somehow seemed too rare, too exotic.

During the morning we saw sleeping owls, Saba deer, Kingfishers, Indian Antelope, Crocodiles, Gray Languers, loads of birds and of course, cows! The dusty trails meandered around a lake and forest land, stopping occasionally to admire the beautiful wildlife and scenery. As well as a driver, we also had a spotter who knew the area well. Without him we would have completely missed some of the species, such as the owl sleeping in a tree (left)!

Time for Tigers…

After some searching our truck started to head out of our area back towards the main gate to the park. On the way back, something orange caught the corner of my eye. In the distance, under a tree down by the lake, I could definitely see something orange and stripey. I called to the driver to stop and back up.

With my Olympus camera I zoomed to the maximum 150mm (300mm full frame equivalent) and took a photo. I used the digital zoom on the screen on the back to see if it was indeed a tiger. Unfortunately, it was not, it was just a brightly covered leaf!

Then out of nowhere the monkeys in the trees above us started to make a hissing, crackling sound. Our guide said, “Shhh, that’s a tiger nearby!”

We reversed quickly back up the track, following the sound of the monkeys. Then through the thick covering of trees, up on a bank, we saw the unmistakable stripes of a tiger, walking along the bank. The guide “Oh my, I think she has a kill!”

The vehicle reversed some more. Camera at the ready, I could see the tiger stop and start to crouch down, with a very young deer between her jaws. I started shooting the camera. Shot after shot, I took so many photos, but I still had plenty of time to stop and admire the spectacle with my own eyes – an experience we will never forget. The guide tells us the tigers name is “Riddhi”.

150mm, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/500sec.
Riddhi poses before starting her lunch. Somehow the deer looks at the camera too.
150mm, ISO 640,f5.6, 1/800sec.
Riddhi tucks in.
150mm, ISO 800, f5.6, 1/1250sec.
Riddhi takes moment to digest

That #breakfreewitholympus moment…

One part of photography I enjoy in particular, is exploiting the features of the camera equipment I’m using at the time. In the case of getting the shots of the tigers, the features of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mk II camera and M.Zuiko 14-150mm lens really paid off!

About 5 minutes after spotting this tiger, we were surrounded by about 15-20 safari vehicles. In each vehicle, giant, heavy lenses were being lifted up for a couple of seconds to try and get a shot above, or through, the trees surrounding the tiger. All around I could here people saying “I can’t see the screen” and “It’s too heavy!”.

So how was the Olympus camera and lens any different? Well, due the camera body and lens only weighing 702g (417g for the body, 285g for the lens) I was easily able to hold the camera over my head for plenty of time to get the shot through trees.

Also, the EM-5 Mk II has a fully articulating screen, which I could flip out and tilt down to adjust settings, compose, frame the shot, focus, and shoot. Leaving me plenty of time to enjoy my tiger encounter. Another advantage of this camera and lens combination is that its dust-proof, so I could just have the camera around my neck while travelling along in the open top vehicle without having to worry about dust getting in the camera.

When we left I felt sorry for the people who didn’t get their shot of this rare spectacle. Instead they spent all their time wrestling with heavy, clumsy gear, and didn’t even get time to stop and just look a the tiger. I hope they got to see another one on the afternoon safari.

150mm, ISO 640, 1/800, f5.6, 1/800sec
75mm, ISO 800, f5.6, 1/1000sec
150mm, ISO 640, f5.6, 1/500sec
150mm, ISO 640, f5.6, 1/800sec.

Just when we thought our tiger spotting experience couldn’t get any better, Riddhi finished her meal and decided to walk further along the banking, across the track and down to a lake for a drink. Our truck moved slowly along side her as she walked until she was really close to us, at which point I stepped nervously back from the edge of the truck – this was a wild tiger after all!

After washing down her meal, she set off around a pond. We didn’t see her again. What a marvelous cat she was!

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