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Ranthambore - For the wild life enthusiast

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A tourist tells us that she spotted three tigers on the day of her visit, two of which were a tigress and cub pair frolicking in the water.

‘ Beware of a person who loves neither animals nor
flowers’ AnonThere is a pressing urgency that compels me to write about Ranthambore - synonymous with the Indian Tiger. Not because I am a wild life enthusiast, but because this may be your last chance to see a tiger in one of its most reputed natural terrain. From a population of over 126 three years back to only 47

two years ago, the alarm bells have been ringing with unofficial estimates saying less than 18 tigers were spotted during the census in February 2006. Spread across an area of 329 sq km, there are about 28 tigers in 2005 as per the official statistics. So, what happened to the other 10 tigers is a mystery. Therefore, couples hoping to get a glimpse of the golden coloured, black striped beauty are advised to visit this sanctuary before this animal disappears from the wild altogether. The same beauty of their skin is also their biggest danger as man continues to poach them. The local authorities are also presently involved in a controversial demolition drive that is targeted at the very protectors of the tiger, and some of the hunting lodges they own. Finally, the best period to visit is up to April. Situated in Rajasthan, almost in central India it is equidistant for people from almost all States in India. It would be really nice if the tiger survives here in the wild long enough for you to take your children there, but make that a second visit on your wish list; go now for its future is uncertain.

Though once inside a jungle each forest looks like any other to the layman’s eye, Ranthambore has special significance for it is not only internationally famousand even has a web site but it is the model here that is under test and strain and the decisions taken will finally have a ripple effect on all other sanctuaries. Also here you can run in to the two famous tiger men of India whose books you have probably read. The old ruins of the Ranthambore fort is an excellent playground of the tiger and a foreign tourist who was there a few months back tells us that she spotted three tigers on the day of her visit, two of which were a tigress and cub pair frolicking in the water.

So famous is Ranthambore that a multinational organization WAW has packages of tours that will suit any budget and depending on that you can chose anything from a very Spartan no-frills room to a luxurious suite or even a tent replete with air conditioning - talk about camping out in style. Former US President Clinton was one of the high profile visitors to Ranthambore in March 2000.

ranthamA weekend trip will suffice to take in the wild and quiet environs of Ranthambore, for after that it may get boring unless you are a wild life enthusiast or escapist from the real world. The private hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Jaipur, at Ranthambore, near the township of Sawai Madhopur, now serve as a National Park. Reaching Sawai Madhopur station by the Dehra Dun Express before dawn, one has to wait for daybreak, for the Canters or vehicles to carry tourists to the National Park leave at 6 a.m. and 3 pm only. When making your rail reservations, select a train that arrives just before these scheduled timings. To head towards the nearest State owned hotel you can choose Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation’s Hotel Vinayak, at a distance of 7 kms from the station. The pace is slow here and so it willbe probably after lunch, that entry formalities will be completed. You can then begin your hunt for the tiger at Ranthambore National Park in earnest; a hunt in which you will be shooting only with your camera.

There are three huge lakes in the Ranthambore reserve, Padam Talab, Raj Bagh Talab and Milak Talab. A variety of water birds can be spotted in these waters, also infested with crocodiles. Other than the reservoirs, the forests are dry with deciduous trees, typical of the Aravalli Range. Just a single shower is sufficient to transform the entire forest green. The probable sighting of a tiger or tigress is likely to be close to the waterhole, when they come to drink. Tigresses often bring their cubs, while the male is more elusive. If one is lucky enough you can get to watch it for five to ten minutes, as they are used to tourists and no longer shy of humans. This lapse of natural caution also makes them easy prey for the poachers, and either way man is to blame for their fate. Some are lucky enough to make 2-3 sightings.

There is also a variety of deer - the spotted kind, as well as the majestic antlers, Sambar and Nilgai. The sanctuary also abounds with monkeys and peacocks.

The lazy yet royal cat is most active just after dawn and just before dusk. This is the best time to attempt to see them. Our own first view of the big cat occurred around 5.45 in the evening.

ranthamA visit to Ranthambore National Park is unthinkable without a trip to the fort, so the next day after lunch, we set out for the fort, surrounded by forest cover, nearly invisible from a distance, atop a hill bisecting the boundary of the Tiger reserve. The Jogi Mahal, which houses the second largest banyan tree inIndia is located here. The fort, built of sandstone, has a circumference of 7 kilometres and was built in stages spread over centuries. The first ruler wasGovind, one of the sons of the legendary Prithviraj Chauhan. Because of its location and structure, it was difficult to conquer and attacks by invaders likeAlaudin Khilji, Kutub-ud-din, Feroz Tughlaq, Bahadur Shah of Gujarat were successfully repulsed. The Fort changed hands from the Rajputs to the Moghuls in 1528, and the reportedly great emperor Akbar stayed at thefort between 1558 and 1559. The Mughals finally gifted the Fort back to the Maharaja of Jaipur, who ruled from the magnificent Amer Fort, in the late 17th
century, with whose lineage it has remained. The fort is now in ruins, but one can sense the glorious and romantic past. And there are no guides, no entrancefee, and full freedom to explore. The festival time in the state is full of life and zest; the ambience acquires a fairytale - like atmosphere.

The other RTDC hotel in Ranthambore is located at the Castle “Jhoomar Baori”, a 4-kilometre drive through the forest, is the erstwhile retreat of a 19 AD Jaipurking who reportedly had 9 wives and a large harem. The forest hills surrounding Jhoomar are believed to be home to 6 leopards. While in Rajasthan there areseveral other attractions other than the wildlife and in case you have time for an extended holiday do take in the Udaipur and Jaipur cities that are worthy of a separate story in themselves.


Established: 1955 as a sanctuary, 1973 as a tiger
reserve, 1981 as a national park.
Seasons: October-June, the best period is
Clothing: Summer: light tropical, Winter: Light
Languages: Hindi, Rajasthani and English
Accommodation & facilities:
Taj Sawaimadhopur Lodge, Tiger Den Resort, Tiger Moon
Resort, Sher Bagh, Vanya Vilas (luxury tent) and also
quite a few basic standard hotels.

Useful information
Weather : April - June (very warm), and October-March
( very cold)
July-September: park closed
Location : South Western Rajasthan.
Max. Temp : 48o C ( June )
Min. Temp : 02o C (January)
Rainfall : 680- 900 mm per year

Jaipur (145kms) is the nearest airport from
Ranthambore wildlife sanctuary. Delhi - 350 kms

Ranthambore National Park is approximately 11-kms from
Sawai Madhopur railway station on the Delhi- Mumbai
main line. Daily trains, also from Jaipur.

A good network of buses connect Sawai Madhopur, the
nearest town from Ranthambore to all the major cities
within the state of Rajasthan.

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