Noor, at full stretch, in pursuit of Ghost. More from their incredible showdown later!
The next morning, we decided to move from Zone 2, to see who we could find. Apart from a very distant view of local dominant male T57, we hadn't come across any other males in our time in Zone 2. Male tigers are the largest and most powerful cats on the planet, so it was definitely an ambition of mine to see one up close and personal! Whilst we didn't catch up with a male that morning, we spent our time in the company of some great birdlife; painted stork, great egret, great stone-curlew, spoonbill, rose-ringed parakeet and Indian darter, to name but a few.
Leaving the birds, we headed back to Zone 2 in search of Noor and the cubs. We eventually found them in the rocky valley and they soon began making their way towards the waterholes that marked the boundary of Noor and Ghost's territories. Unbelievably, whilst Noor and family were sat in the shade of a tree, Ghost began patrolling the closest waterhole and, as you can see in the last shots above, Noor and the cubs clocked her. Chaos then ensued - Noor ran off after Ghost and the pile up of jeeps jostled to get out to follow her. We heard phenomenal roars in the near distance and hearts-pounding in our chests, eventually got out of the scrum of jeeps.
A potentially once in a lifetime experience - two adult tigresses fighting over territory. The last sequence was all right in front of us and the action and awe-inspiring roars had my heart literally pounding out of my chest. Unfortunately our jeep actually missed them briefly fighting (you win some, you lose some) but you can see some pictures and video from that titanic duel on Dicky's Facebook. It was great the other jeep got to see it all and after so many years in the park, Dicky & Salim definitely deserved to see that kind of epic behaviour way more than I did!
After more posturing and roaring, Noor forced Ghost deeper into the thicker bush, away from the priceless waterholes that had been favourites for Ghost and her cubs, claiming them for her and her family. Finally happy that Ghost had retreated far enough, Noor then patrolled her new patch, roaring constantly, claiming all the area as her's. She even took time to cool off in a really picturesque waterhole that hadn't been used so far during the week, against the backdrop of Ranthambhore's mountainous surroundings.
Scroll down for my final instalment - more from Noor and some fantastic encounters with Arrowhead!