Updated: Oct 16
She came, she saw and she conquered.
She neither looked left nor right and walked straight ahead. It looked like an impromptu ramp walk. She knew all eyes are on her and cameras are clicking relentlessly, photographing her and making her videos.
Onlookers almost hundreds in number, held their breath and exclaimed, how majestic ,how beautiful. Her name is Riddhi and she belongs to royal lineage.
Four of us, me my wife Uma, daughter Shafina and her friend Seema, were part of safari groups riding in jeeps and canters. We were in zone three of Ranthambore National Park and Tiger Reserve along with other visitors enjoying citing of tigress Riddhi who is four and a half years old.
It was eighth of October 2023 and time was around eight AM. We were told by our guide that it is the first citing of Riddhi in the current season beginning first of October. We were indeed lucky.
We had gone ahead just about hundred meters when we had a faint glimpse of one of cubs of Riddhi in dense foliage. Riddhi was going on her hunt and had left her three cubs behind .
Mother may be back by evening or by next morning with her hunt. Sometimes, she may be back in three to four days. Her cubs will stay where mother left them in hiding. Everyone in Ranthambore was happy that day.
Tigress Sultana was also cited in zone one with her three cubs. A month back, she was seen with only one cub. This means that Tiger population here has crossed 85 mark. Riddhi has a sister by the name of Siddhi who is equally fearless and ferocious. Both of them are part of zone three and four. Fights over territory control are common among them. Their fighting is so intense that sometimes Riddhi gets severely injured with bruises on shoulders and a cut on her tongue. The most interesting fact is that the tigress Riddhi has got 14 stitches on its tongue. In the past few months more than five fights have been recorded over the dominance of the territory. Visitors have seen them locked in fierce fights several times and captured in their camera.
Ranthambore National Park is also home to 40 species of mammals, 330 species of birds and 35 species of reptiles. Most popular attractions are tigers, leopards, striped hyenas, caracals, sloth bears, and black bucks to name a few.
At Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, it is now fifth generation of legendary tigress, Machali which is centre of attraction among wild life lovers. Great granddaughters of Machali, Riddhi and Siddhi are among them. Riddhi equals Machali in boldness. Tigress Arrowhead is mother of both Riddhi and Siddhi. They remained with their mother for a short while and soon Riddhi carved out her own territory. Her power and her adventurous spirit is one of a kind.
She wanders like a queen and can capture your heart with her bold looks at Padam Lake, Raj-Bag, Malik Lake and Mandoob area from zone no. 3 and 4.
This territory is the heart of Ranthambore where Machali ruled for years followed by her daughter Sundari and then her daughter Krishna and her daughter Arrowhead continued the legacy of dominance. Surrounded by mesmerizing waterfalls and ponds, this area is the best Tiger habitat area where now Riddhi, the daughter of Arrowhead rules the hearts of Wildlife lovers.
Riddhi has captivated the hearts of forest officials, guides, wildlife lovers and drivers. The entire wilderness resounds in the bold calls of Riddhi and the stories of her notoriety. There are reports that Riddhi may be shifted to Sariska national park as tiger population in on the increase. But no decision has been taken so far.
The great grandmother of Riddhi and Siddhi was named Machali since she had fish-shaped marks on the left part of her face.
This Royal Bengal Tigress Machali had a royal taste when it came to choosing her habitat. Her common territory was the lakes around the Ranthambore Fort where she had several encounters with crocodiles. Her most famous fight was with a massive crocodile, who caught hold of her leg and dragged her in the lake water. Machali retaliated with all her force, freed her leg and killed crocodile on the edge of lake. Entire encounter was recorded on video by wildlife photographer, Aditya Singh. It went viral and Machali became household name among wildlife lovers.
She received several titles during her life: ‘Tigress Queen of Ranthambore’, ‘Lady of the Lakes’ and ‘Crocodile Killer’.
Between 1998 and 2009, the extraordinary popularity of Machali helped the Indian government earn nearly US$100 million.
She won the "Lifetime Achievement Award" due to her contribution to conservation and tourist attraction.
She even has a Facebook page that has been “liked” by many people.
Machali had 11 cubs over the years .
In 2013, the Indian government issued a commemorative postal cover and stamp to honour Machali for her ecological and economical contributions.
The tigress, who gave wildlife lovers a great number of stories to remember, inspired a flurry of documentaries, with Tiger Queen being the most prominent one.
She was the world’s oldest-surviving tigress in the wild. She died at the age of 20, which is higher than the average lifespan (10 to 15 years) of tigers in the wild.
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve which spreads across a 1,334 square kilometre area is now the habitat of around 89 tigers. It is the third most congested habitat of felines in India after Uttarakhand’s Corbett National Park with 252 tigers and Assam’s Kaziranga National Park with 118 tigers.
According to a report titled ‘Status of Tigers 2022’ published by the National Tiger Conservation Authority in 2022, India is home to 70 percent of the world’s tiger population, boasting around 3,167 tigers. The Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is among the world’s most prominent tiger reserves, serving as a sanctuary for the majestic Bengal Tiger species.
The Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, situated in Sawai Madhopur in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, is one of the largest tiger habitats in the country.
It was initially established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and has since evolved to become one of India’s principal tiger reserves. Ranthambore is also counted as the famous heritage site because of the pictorial ruins that dot the wildlife park. Ranthambore fort and Ganesh temples are major tourist attractions. Certainly, a visit to Ranthambore National Park is a treat for every wildlife and nature lover.
The time spent on watching tigers roaming around, verdant greenery, a gamut of other species of chirpy birds and animals is priceless and worthy enough to be explored at least once in a lifetime. And I can vouch for it as our visit to Ranthambore was short but it was sweet and adventurous, just two nights and three days.
We stayed in a four room property in a village in wilderness with millet and sesame fields all around us. This tiny resort was located at the back of zone five of the national park. The place was so quiet and peaceful that you could hear distress calls of deer and other animals and birds the moment they saw a tiger approaching.
One thing good about our tiny resort was that it had all the amenities but no television and no intercom. This looked like a ploy to force visitors to spend more time outdoor in the lap of nature . The resort had lot of lush green open space in its middle and around it . You could sit in the middle of garden gazing at stars citing deferent constellations and listening to chirping of birds and calls of animals. This tiny resort has a cook par excellence. His cooking of Rajasthani cuisine and other dishes makes your stay enjoyable. The resort is run by two friends ,both professional safari guides.
They know the Tiger reserve like the back of their palm and regale you with various tales concerning tigers and other animals, mammals and birds. They take you for safari in their own jeep. Since all the jeeps were reserved, we went for safari in a cantor which can take up to sixteen people. Most astonishing story narrated by them related to sloth bear and a pair of male and female tiger. The tiger pair were mating when a sloth bear approached them. Now a sloth bear is totally fearless and strong headed.
The tigress did not like sloth bear disturbing their privacy. She attacked bear who slapped her hard several times. She was bewildered and retreated in haste. It was question of pride for tiger . He also attacked bear but unfortunately met the same fate as tigress. Both ran away from that place leaving sloth bear behind. According to our hosts, a tiger will never attack you if it is not hungry but beware of sloth bear , it will attack you. They said sloth bear and elephant are much more dangerous than any other animal in forest.
As they say, sometimes your journey is more enjoyable than the destination. But we were lucky. Both our journey and destination were equally enjoyable. Our daughter, Shafina planned and executed the entire trip. We travelled in her car which she drove the car all the way to Ranthambore and back to Delhi. It was real pleasure driving on Delhi Mumbai expressway which is now complete upto Vadodara . Once completed, travelling time to cover 1350 kilo meter stretch will be just twelve hours.
We travelled on this expressway upto Lalsot and then took diversion to our destination. Driving speed for cars on this highway is 120 kilometres per hour. And believe me, road is so smooth that you just glide over it. It was indeed a wonderful experience.