By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung

A PROTECTIVE mother Bengal tiger takes her cheeky little cubs for a stroll in India's Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

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The lucky photographer came across the stunning tiger family in India's Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Having made a kill the day before, the mum and her well-fed youngsters were in good spirits - even taking time out to go for a quick swim.

The images were shot by wildlife photographer Andy Rouse in the tiger reserve, which is situated within Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park.

The protective mother Bengal tiger stares directly at Rouse’s camera as she strolls towards him

He said: “I had been on the trail of a female Bengal and her four-month-old cubs for two weeks.

“They proved to be very, very elusive but eventually the mother made a kill near to one of the roads, so we knew we had our best chance.

After about two or three years with their mother, cubs then establish their own territories

“Sure enough, first thing the morning after the kill, we found the whole family sleeping in the middle of a forest road.

"Hardly daring to breath we stopped the vehicle and positioned it so that others could share the experience.”

Tigresses are usually overly cautious and secretive when caring for young cubs

Luckily for Rouse this was just the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with one of the world’s most endangered species.

Rouse said: “After continuing their sleep for 20 minutes, each of the cubs gradually woke up and came over to greet the mother.

Andy had been on the trail of the female Bengal tiger and her cubs for two weeks before the incredible encounter

"She nuzzled each one in turn, then stood up and walked along the road towards us bringing them with her.

“At several points she stopped, which allowed them to catch up and gave us some wonderful interaction.”

The tigress led her cubs into a nearby watering hole which must have been a real relief from the Summer heat

Rouse then decided to take a chance as he watched the mother tiger lead her young family into a forest.

He said: “We took a gamble and waited on an adjacent road and were rewarded with some special family moments around a large old tree.

Andy said: “It was one of the most special two hours of my life”
Cubs will begin to follow their mothers out of the den around two months old

“Finally she led them over a hill, we knew that as it was hot with it being around 100 degrees farenheit and there was every chance that she was heading for a waterhole, so we went straight there so we could be silent for when she arrived.

“Sure enough a few minutes later she did, coming over the rise with her cubs. She led them into the water, which must have been a real relief from the heat.

Andy and his team parked their vehicle close to the endangered species
A mother tiger is solely responsible for the protection of her cubs and only leaves them to drink or hunt

"One of them had seemed more bold than the others all morning and this one started swimming in the pool, much to the delight of watching adults and children alike.

“After 15 minutes or so the female got up and left the water, calling gently for the cubs to follow. She disappeared into the bush and that was that, the most amazing encounter had ended.

“We were buzzing after the encounter. It’s such a privilege to get this glimpse into a tiger’s life, with the mother sharing with us what was most precious to her in the world.

"It was one of the most special two hours of my life.”