By Vihaan Talegaonkar
Tigers are one of the most magnificent creatures to exist in nature, and as Project Tiger completes 50 years this year, I was privileged enough to have attended a three-day Anant Bajaj Paryavaran Mitra supported Kids for Tigers’ Regional Camp at Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan to explore the depths of one of the most renowned tiger habitats in India: Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve.
In this camp, we participated in several activities, which brought us closer to nature and allowed us to experience the beauty of the forest through our own eyes.
Throughout the trip, this latest batch of Tiger Ambassadors, an intelligent group with a lot of character and potential, made for great company. We were accompanied by our teachers, who were equally enthusiastic. Tiger Ambassadors are students who actively participate in the Kids for Tigers’ programme over the school year, are noticed for their dedication, and then selected for the Regional Camp.
Vihaan attended a three-day Anant Bajaj Paryavaran Mitra supported Kids for Tigers’ Regional Camp at Sawai Madhopur. Photo: Sanctuary Photo Library
Vihaan sharing his experience. Photo: Sanctuary Photo Library
As soon as I reached Sawai Madhopur, I was startled by how fresh the air was. We had a brief iintroductory session, where I had the pleasure of obtaining heaps of information from Sanctuary Nature Foundation’s expert naturalists Dr. Parvish Pandya and Saurabh Sawant. We extensively discussed the various biosphere reserves in India and the rules and regulations followed there. It was amazing to see how passionate they are about the flora and fauna, as they spoke with great spirit and fervour.
All the safaris we went on were quite eventful. Although we didn’t see a tiger, we saw various flora indigenous to Ranthambhore. We were lucky to see two antelopes fighting each other, as a part of their mating process, getting their horns entangled. We also saw several crocodiles and chital over the next couple of days.
As the saying goes, ‘save the best for the last’, and boy, did Mother Nature follow that saying. In our very last safari, we saw an extremely rare sight of a female leopard on the ground. The beautiful spotted cat was around for nearly 15 minutes! Dr. Pandya said this was the longest leopard sighting in all his years of visiting wildernesses. It was a sight to behold as the swift leopard rolled around in mud, attempting to cool itself from the high temperatures of Rajasthan. We were immensely satisfied with this encounter but we weren’t done. As we were on our way out, another leopard was spotted trying to cross the road. The male was considerably larger than his female counterpart as he walked around with grace and nonchalance. The magnificent beast caused a traffic jam as vehicles flooded in trying to get a better view of the leopard. It was truly a thrilling experience to have sighted not one, but two leopards in one safari!
A female leopard sighted during the safari. Photo: Saurabh Sawant/Sanctuary Photo Library
Participants enjoy a traditional lunch. Photo: Sanctuary Photo Library
Our group also visited the Rajiv Gandhi Regional Museum of Natural History, where we saw figureheads of animals and beautiful presentations, which depicted the biodiversity of our great nation. We also saw the samadhi of the great Fateh Singh Rathore, paying our respects and thanking him for all he did in his lifetime for nature and wildlife.
Dr. Pandya took us on a nature trail where we saw a wide range of butterflies and plantsl. Several knowledge-imparting sessions on animal behaviour and wildlife photography also took place.
This trip has taught me to take time to enjoy our planet and value nature. I have been enlightened by this trip, making a couple of friends along the way. I truly appreciate the opportunity I have been granted by Anant Bajaj Paryavaran Mitra Kids for Tigers programme and everyone associated with it.
Lastly, I hope I can work towards conserving nature and all its creatures, from this moment forward.
Tiger Ambassadors at the Rajiv Gandhi Regional Museum of Natural History. Photo: Sanctuary Photo Library
Vihaan Talegaonkar is an adventurous and intellectually curious 14-year old boy, whose passions encompass nature, music and sports, apart from shining in his academic pursuits. He is a Class 10 student at The Somaiya School, Mumbai, and has volunteered with the Sanctuary Nature Foundation.