Ranthambore National Park is located in Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan, India. It is about 130 kms from Jaipur. Spread over 392kms it is one of the habitats of the magnificent tiger. Enthused with the desire of seeing the king in full majesty we (four of us) planned to visit Ranthambore late November, generally believed to be a good time to visit. Though there are other tiger reserves too, the chances of sighting a tiger are greater here than in other places, simply because of the tiger population is relatively dense in this area
From Agra, we started on the road for Ranthambore, where we’d already booked the RTDC Hotel and morning and evening safari. Arriving there we were informed that there are several entry points to the park and the best chances are from gate no. 1 to 5. Clearly, we had made a wrong choice by booking morning safari from gate 6 and for afternoon gate 8. The manager suggested that we should take a Cantor from gate no 2. We listened to him.
It’s six o’clock in the morning and we are ready with mufflers and jackets. There is a nip in the air. After a wait of a few minutes, gypsy pulls in and we find ourselves with three others who, we later find out, are from Great Britain. All set, gypsy starts towards gate 6. As we cross the gate there are herds of sambar deer, antelopes, and black bucks. This is but a small prize. As we drive deep into the forest we find fresh pug marks that have not been smudged by any animal or safari. We look around, wait for the tiger to appear and take in the beauty of the terrain. We see golden brown and all the hues of green as our eyes move up. There are deer moving carefree, looking back at up. A clear sign that there is no tiger nearby. We come back to out guest house being content with mere pug marks of a tiger.
The hottest news here is that some tourists from gate no 2 have been lucky. At Ranthambore, the hottest news is always the Tiger news and the talk of the town is where the tiger has been sighted last. Everyone knows, the attendant, the cook, the driver, the manager, villagers, just about everyone. As we check in, the porter wishes that we get to see a tiger next time and adds that his wish is always granted.
In the afternoon we board the cantor and this time drive toward gate 2. The guide asks about our previous failed mission and assures that this time it’s going to be a success. Cantor has room for many and the ride is bumpy. This time the terrain is wilder with big boulders and deep ravines. Treepie, a friendly bird, perches on the Cantor right above our head, then striking a pose before the camera mixes with all tourists without reservation.
And we move ahead, bumping up and down. Our driver and guide is certain of the tiger’s presence and tells us categorically not to talk and not to make any sound. We drive further down before pulling back. Just as we resign ourselves to our fate the word reaches us in hushed tones ‘Yes, it’s there!’
I look around impatiently when my eyes spot the magnificent creature looking straight at me, or so it seemed. It looks regal, albeit wary of human presence. it stays put for a while before deciding to leave the spot with the swish of its tail. That first in-the-face look remains etched on my mind.
Soon we drive back gratified. When we reach the guest house every face wore the question mark and we bore telltale smiles on our faces.
Next, we were advised by everyone to visit Ranthambore Fort, built by the valiant ruler of Chouhan dynasty, Hamirdev. This formidable fort is one of the six forts included in the World Heritage sites that are situated near the town of Sawai Madhopur. The fort lies within the Ranthambore National Park, the former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur. The structure and architecture look like other forts in Rajasthan except that it looks more secure as all the entry points were placed at and angle where the enemy could not see those from distance. The main gate of the fort overlooks the forest and the lakes. The pillars, halls, temples inside the forts spoke of the glorious past.
There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha within the precincts of the national park. The temple attracts hordes of visitors from adjoining villages.
We offer our prayers at the temple and make for home.
One word for those who wish to visit Ranthambore National Park. There are ten gates to enter the park first five offer a better chance of spotting a tiger and other five offer an English terrain. So if time permits, make at least two entries and from different gates.