People go on wildlife safaris for all sorts of reasons. For many tourists, the biggest draw is the chance to see exotic creatures that they could never see in the wild at home.
|Emily visits a tiger at a zoo in India.|
On the drive toward Ranthambore National Park, my friend Annie Feidt explained why she wanted to see a tiger in the wild.
"Because they are fast and powerful and beautiful," she said. After traveling for 8 months, Annie also missed her own tiger-like friend at home. "They remind me of my cat Oly, only they are so much bigger and they run really fast. I want to see a baby tiger."
Annie's fiancé Dave Bass liked the element of adventure involved in a tiger safari. "What excites me," he said, "is being somewhere that a tiger could be lurking around any corner."
I was interested in conservation. I knew that tigers are endangered animals, and I wanted to learn something about them. Maybe seeing them would assure me that there is still some "wild" left in India.
When the safari began at around 2 p.m., I was optimistic. My eyes darted from one side of the truck to the other. I talked to people, but I refused to look at them. I was afraid I would miss seeing a tiger lurking behind a rock.
After an hour, my mind started to wander. I wondered what kinds of trees I was looking at. I enjoyed the scenery. I took pictures of some of the other wildlife, including monkeys, peacocks, wolves, wild boars, and crocodiles. I started chatting with other passengers.
After 2 hours, I started to feel skeptical that we would ever see any tigers. The truck was loud. We were driving too fast. I was wearing an orange jacket. There were other trucks in front of us. Why would a tiger stick around for all that racket?
Then, I started to get cranky. My seat was uncomfortable. The dirt roads were bumpy and rough. As the sun slipped lower in the sky, the temperature dropped, and I started to get cold. I was disappointed that there was no guide to talk to about tigers.
By the time we returned to our hotel, more than 3 hours after we started, all I wanted was a cup of tea and a hot shower. I decided not to sit through another safari the next morning.
We found out later that we had made the wrong decision. People who came back from the morning safari said they saw three tigers.
I left Ranthambore disappointed. I wanted to see tigers, or at least learn about them. Instead, I got a bumpy ride on a truck that made lots of noise and spewed diesel fumes. If I were a tiger, I probably would have made myself invisible, too.
Erin Bomkamp, a 26-year-old biologist from Orange County, Calif., who was on my safari, made me feel a little better. "Even if you don't see tigers," she said, "there's lots of other good stuff to see."
To prove the point, her father Tony, also a biologist, pulled out a book about birds. He had seen more than 100 species of birds during his 2 days in the park, he said, including the rare and beautiful saurus crane.
I started to think that they were right. Just because I didn't see a tiger didn't mean the safari was a failure. After all, I did get to drive on roads that tigers had crossed and see animals that tigers eat.
Just knowing that tigers were out there was thrilling enough.