It is most likely that you will not recall the fine veil of stubborn red dust that would take days to get washed away or the bumpy ride through the park or noisy fellow visitors who shout even louder with every wavering instruction from a lanky guide.
What you will remember for a lifetime is a breathtaking experience through the Ranthambore National Park, teeming with wildlife and of course the mighty tiger.
Open from October to June, this national park is the best place to spot wild tigers in Rajasthan. Spread out over a span of 1334 sq km comprising wild jungle scrub, with the ravishing 10th century Ranthambore Fort at the centre, hemmed in by ridges, ancient temples and mosques, dotted with water bodies. The national park was once a maharaja’s hunting ground until 1970 – an enviable 15 years after it had become a sanctuary. So, for all those who are craving for something more than regular sightseeing and shopping excursions, get up and gear up to visit the roaring national park and share some memorable moments with the mighty tiger.
Spotting a tiger is purely a matter of luck. One should plan two or three safaris to improve the chances of sighting. But apart from tigers, there’s plenty of other wildlife to see, including more than 300 species of birds. Other animals inhabiting Ranthambore include the endangered caracal, also a member of the cat family, the leopard and the jungle cat; several members of the dog family, such as hyenas, foxes and jackals; the sloth bear; and varieties of deer, including the chital (spotted deer) and the sambar, Asia’s largest deer, langurs, plum-headed parakeets, turtles, painted stork, stone curlew, rufous treepies, mongoose and even lapwings. There are also two species of antelope: the chinkara (Indian gazelle) and the nilgai (antelope). However, the park is also worth visiting for its scenery, particularly if one can walk up to the fort. The view is simply delightful.
It’s just 10 km from the town of Sawai Madhopur to the first gate and another 3 km to the main gate and Ranthambore Fort.
The fort is located in the middle of the park and is mostly in ruins; built in the 10th century, it houses three temples and towers seven hundred feet above its surroundings. The fort is a formidable affair and was the battleground for many armies in the past and holds immense historical importance. A mosque is also situated in the fort; a reminder of the Mughal rulers who once governed the place. This fort also has many small lakes and water bodies near it that provide a safe haven for birds and other animals in the park. The ruins of the past give Ranthambore a unique and refreshing appeal.
Apart from the local fairs and festivities, traffic into the park is restricted to organised safaris. Still, the remaining tigers are so used to being observed that they’re not scared away by jeeps and canters (open-topped trucks with a seating capacity of 20 people) and appear to be intrigued by visitors. Safari rides are available twice every day – at 6:30 am and 2:30 pm. Each ride lasts for about three hours. Tourists can choose from two options of vehicles for the safari: 20-seats open top canter or 6-seats open top gypsy. Each ride costs around Rs 700-800 per person. The central park area is divided into several zones and the safari takes people through one of those zones. And don’t get disheartened, most of the times, it’s not possible to sight a tiger in one outing. Incidentally, the Italian sitting next to me had just sighted a tiger the day before and that too after 26 years at the same Ranthambore national park. But I was lucky too, the next day!
Zone 3 is supposed to be the most scenic. It was made famous by a tiger called Machli, one of Ranthambore’s most famous residents. Zones 3 and 4, in all probability have the largest congregations of wildlife in the park, thanks to the three sizable lakes. Different zones of Ranthambore have different characteristics. For that matter, Zone 6 for example, has vast rolling grasslands, patrolled by herds of nilgai and sambhar deer. This was where the now extinct Indian Cheetah thrived.
The spectacular Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan is spread over 1334 sq km, bordered by rocky ridges. The park is famous for the Wildlife Sanctuary by the same name where one can see the union of wildlife, history and nature. The park happens to be the finest example for conservation of tigers. One can even see the tigers hunt in front of the visitors. Besides the royal inhabitants, the park presents to the visitors a world of natural beauty with a wide variety of vegetation. It is an exceptional place where history and mother-nature entwine to present a stunning sight.
The hilly park looks forbidding from different points in the reserve, and largely unconquerable, walls provide a dramatic counterpoint to the leafy landscape, where light filters softly through the trees. There are other pieces of the past, from cupolas to temples, strewn throughout the park as well.
Affordable and suitable accommodation facilities are available near the park with excellent internal transportation. Ranthambore is usually crowded during the peak season and rooms are booked in advance by tourists.
There are a lot of foreigners too who visit this national park regularly. Budget rooms are available from Rs 1,000 onwards and provide comfortable accommodation. Deluxe rooms cost around Rs 3,000 and offer air-conditioning. Suites are available for prices ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000. These hotels offer state of the art facilities like pool, bar, currency exchange and health club, multi-cuisine restaurant along with royal treatment to their guests. The rooms here offer an aesthetic view of the jungle and dramatic watercourse. Air conditioning is necessary during the humid summers. The park is closed in the monsoon season, from July through September.
Each season during the rest of the year brings different benefits: from March to June it may be very hot but animal sightings tend to be common because waterholes dry up.
In October and November the forest is green, although the tigers may be more scattered. December through February is colder, with clear skies and good tiger sightings.