R'bore saga: Have money, see tiger
Jaipur, Thursday 12th May 2011

JAIPUR: Next time out on a safari to the Ranthambore national park curse not your luck if the tiger remains elusive. Instead let the money do the work! 

Sources at the park, revealed that at the national park tips can create magic! The larger the tis to the tourist guide, or even promise of it, the brighter the chances of spotting a tiger or two. 

"Spotting or even trailing is just a matter of effort. One has to carefully monitor the tell-tale signs left behind by the animal. And it is here that promises of tips make all the difference," the source said. 

The countdown for an encounter with the tiger during a safari in fact begins right from the time tourists board a vehicle. 

"The tourist guide strikes up a conversation with the passengers. And he subtly puts forth that in the event of spotting a tiger he would like to be tipped. The instant reaction of the tourist is a give away for him," the surce added. 

Typically such a conversation stretches like this: "Sir, aap tiger dekhoge toh kush ho jaoge. Phir hamee bhi kush kar dena." (Sir, you'll be delighted on spotting a tiger. Then please me too.) 

The tips can vary from anything between Rs 100 to Rs 1,000 per person depending on the size of the vehicle and hence the number of heads in it. The tips are apart his usual fee of Rs 150 which is deducted as part of the ticket money for the safari. Tips are collected by the driver and the guide once the vehicle is out of the park and is heading for the hotel. 

"It is the tourists who are to be blamed for introducing the practice of paying tips to the guides. The tourists guides follow a roaster system for allotment of guides to vehicles. But sometimes tourists, specially those who are on their second or third trip to Ranthambore, prefer guides of their choice. Here the preferred guide often sacrifices his fee of Rs 150, giving it to person whose turn it really was, because he knows that the tips he collects at the end of the trip will be much higher than the fee," the source said. 

Such tourists are mostly English-speaking and naturally seek English-speaking guides, which is a rarity in Ranthambore. The tips paid in these cases are often in dollars. 

Divided into five zones, tigers in Ranthambore can be easily spotted in some zones. But due to rules of allowing a maximum of eight vehicles per zone at a time, zone numbers are allotted on a random basis by the computer. Even here tips to the right person can allow for switching from a zone that is not so conducive to spotting a tiger to one that is. 

"Despite an online reservation system for going into the park, tour agents manage to book all seats before hand. Therefore, going into the park without the help of an agent is next to impossible. It is these agents who manage to convince the right person in the forest department and allow tourists to switch zone. The fees for such a service starts from Rs 500 and can stretch on depending on the urgency of the tourist and the season," the source added. 

Tourists guides too often manage to fool unsuspecting tourist and switch zones among themselves taking those tourist willing to payhigher tips to zones that are more conducive to tiger spotting.