It’s the luck of the draw at Ranthambore Tiger Preserve, home of 75 wild Bengali tigers. Ranthambore is about 1,334 square kilometers, which works out to be approximately 4,369 acres per tiger. That’s the size of a large housing subdivision. With four three-hour safari drives ahead of us, maybe we won’t see tigers.

We’ve been hearing that many tourists have been striking out, no tigers seen. This tidbit of information compounds my worry. Our first drive was a total bust, just a few deer and a bird. My worry is increasing.  We still have three drives to go.

Our second drive is in the afternoon. It is hot and dusty, perfect conditions for tiger-play. Not! We drive around, checking out all the usual places and we are getting shut out again. Then, as the end of our drive nears, we see a large group of safari vehicles congregating on a small road. There are tigers! But we could barely see them. There are three rows of vehicles in front of us with everyone standing.  We spot one, and another, but cannot get a good photo. We head back happy we saw tigers in the wild but dejected that we got no useful photos. Our luck may now be used up. Will there be tigers tomorrow?

It’s a new day and I rise with optimism. We saw them last night, perhaps we will see them again today. It is cold and driving in an open-air vehicle makes it close to frigid. All of us are still a bit sleepy, no one is talking. Then, at 6:59am, our world was rocked. A mother tiger and her three cubs are right in front of us. We are the only vehicle around. The next two hours become a blur as I rip off thousands of photos.

Two of the cubs checking us out. Do we look as cool to them as they do to us?

One of the cubs leaping toward us. Good thing he/she was quite far away.

We are two to a row, Kathryn next to me, the two Daves in front of us. I am furthest away from the tigers, so I stand. David is next to Dave, also further away. He stands. We all start to shoot, a symphony of shutter clicks.

The cubs are in full play mode. One is climbing up and down a tree while another looks on.

We are transfixed by these tigers. A few minutes pass and Dave wants a slightly different angle. I shift a little while he steps back, one foot on my seat and one foot on his, straddling the back of his chair. Then the cubs would do something cute (as if they could do anything else). David volunteered his position to me. I climb down to his seat while he climbs up to mine, in perfect synchronization. Dave still stands spread-eagle. Then Kathryn wants a different angle, so she decides to stand and shift to her right, slightly bent over like an old person. We keep moving, one of us at a time, in perfect harmony. At one point, we look like a giant pretzel. Have you ever played twister?

Sparring, learning how to fight. These guys are great!

For two hours all that could be heard are things like:

“I can’t believe this.”

“This is amazing.”


“We are so lucky.”

I have seen and photographed many of the big cats; lions and cheetahs in Kenya at the Masai Mara and leopards in South Africa at Kgalagadi Transformational Park. All those photo shoots were great, but nothing compared to the last two hours.

A fully grown adult – quite imposing – and quite extraordinary.

Four of us were in such tight and uncomfortable quarters, photographing tigers for two hours. Not once did anyone get in the other’s way. As we wrap up, it can easily be said, this is the best photo shoot I have ever experienced.

The youngest of the cubs tires for a bit. It’s a good time for a rest.

As we drive back to the hotel, I turn to David (our leader) and say, “We’ll always have Ranthambore.” He looks at me and just nods. There is nothing left to say.


The four of us in tight quarters – pretty happy after our joint experience with the tigers. (David is front right, Dave is front left. You know the other two.)