Ranthambore National Park features an excellent variety of wildlife amidst dry scrublands and fortress ruins

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Ranthambore National Park features an excellent variety of wildlife amidst dry scrublands and fortress ruins
Mohan Thomas
  • Today, the Park covers an area of 1334 square kilometres after the adjacent Keladevi Sanctuary, Sawai Mansingh sanctuary and a few other forests were added to the Park's territory.
  • If you really want to see a tiger, be sure to book at least three safaris.
  • Built by the Chauhan Rajputs, the Ranthambore Fort is believed to be the first Jauhar site in Rajput history.
Among the leading tiger sanctuaries in India, Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan is an old favourite amongst wildlife lovers despite the promise of sighting the elusive big cat remaining slim. Open from October to June, Ranthambore is perhaps one of the best places to see wild tigers in Rajasthan. Of course, multiple attempts may be required. That said, tigers are not the only creatures inhabiting the dry scrublands. The Park is also home to a host of other wild animals, including leopards, striped hyenas, crocodiles, langurs, rhesus macaques, jackals, jungle cats, caracals, blackbuck, black-naped hare, chinkara and hundreds of species of birds.
Ranthambore National Park features an excellent variety of wildlife amidst dry scrublands and fortress ruins
Mohan Thomas
Ranthambore was declared a tiger reserve in 1973, and seven years later, a 274.5 square kilometre area of the forest was declared as Ranthambore National Park. Today, the Park covers an area of 1334 square kilometres after the adjacent Keladevi Sanctuary, Sawai Mansingh sanctuary and a few other forests were added to the Park's territory.

The topography consists primarily of grasslands and forest cover featuring primarily hardy 'dhak' (Butea monosperma) trees that can withstand long dry spells. Also called 'Flame of forest', these dhak trees flower even during the dry season.

Safaris
Ranthambore National Park features an excellent variety of wildlife amidst dry scrublands and fortress ruins
Pixabay
If you really want to see a tiger, be sure to book at least three safaris. Ten kilometres from Sawai Madhopur is the first gate of the Park, and an additional 3 kilometres will take you to the main gate. The safaris take place twice daily -- morning and evening. You have the option to book a Gypsy vehicle that will ensure a more private experience. Else, you can book a seat in a canter which is basically a large open van. Booking can be made in advance from the website, or you can try your luck directly at the Forest Office who keep a few canters and a Gypsy on hold for impromptu reservations. Ranthambore Fort
Smack in the middle of the Park is the fascinating 10th-century Ranthambore Fort, strewn around which are ancient temples and mosques, hunting pavilions, lakes and vine-covered chhatris. Built by the Chauhan Rajputs, the Fort is believed to be the first Jauhar site (mass suicide by immolation) in Rajput history. The rather grim story is that the ruler Hammir Deva was embroiled in a long battle with Muslim forces. Although Hammir fought off the invaders, the women who were seeking refuge in the Fort learned that he had succumbed on the battlefield and preferring death to dishonour, they committed mass suicide. Covering an area of 4.5 square kilometres, the ruins of the Fort provide a great vantage point to view the surrounding areas. The Fort also has a few temples dedicated to Ganesha, Shiva and Ramlalaji.
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DastkarThis not-for-profit NGO was established in 1981 to empower village women to earn regular income by selling their textile and embroidery work. Situated a little beyond the park entrance, the Dastkar Ranthambore Project was started in 1991. At the time, there were only 100 Bandhani workers in Sawai Madhopur. Today, more than 2000 craftspeople work here. The workshop and outlet is definitely worth a visit.
Ranthambore National Park features an excellent variety of wildlife amidst dry scrublands and fortress ruins
Pixabay

Getting thereAround 463 kilometres from Delhi, Ranthambore can be reached by car, or you can take a train to the town of Sawai Madhopur. There are a bunch of trains that ply this route, including the Nizamuddin–Kota Jan Shatabdi (12060) that leaves Delhi at 1.15 pm and arrives at Sawai Madhopur at around 6 pm. Or you can opt for the Golden Temple Mail (12904) that departs from the Nizammudin station in Delhi at 7.05 am and arrives at Sawai Madhopur at 1 pm.
Places to stay
There are dozens of places to stay to suit every budget near the Park. Khem Villas, a rather swanky property, is run by the late Fateh Singh Rathore's son who was an instrumental force behind the tiger conservation movement here. This impressive eco-lodge set in 22 acres of organic farmland and reafforested land has various accommodation options on offer -- from rooms in the colonial-style bungalow to luxury tents and stone cottages. Run by the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, RTDC Castle Jhoomar Baori is around 7 kilometres from the station. The property was a former royal hunting lodge set on a hilltop and features basic borderline shabby rooms, but the location and price make up for these shortcomings. Located at a distance from the main city, Clarks Resort Abhyaran Ranthambore is another reasonably-priced hotel with 30 rooms, a spa and a pool, among other facilities. Customers have shared rave reviews about the staff and the food.
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