Ranthambore used to be the hunting ground for Maharajas of Jaipur. It was in the early 1980s that the Project Tiger Reserve was brought into an act to protect the depleting number of tigers. Located in the district of Sawai Madhopur, Ranthambore NP is spread across approximately 1335 sq. km. and is categorized as the Temperate Deciduous Forest.
Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park is widely renowned for its Bengal Tigers. It is also home to many other wild species such as Leopards, Striped Hyenas, Hanuman Langurs, Gharial Crocodile, Sambar Deer, Nilgai, Black Bucks, Jungle Cats, Macaques and more.
Apart from attracting wildlife lovers, it is also a place to explore the history of the pictorial ruins. The famous landmarks around Sawai Madhopur are Jogi Mahal, the Ranthambore Fort, the Pali Ghat and the Museum of Natural History.
DAY 1: WILDLIFE SAFARI
When in Ranthambore National Park, take the Tiger trail of course. Get up at 5 in the morning to take the first safari at 6 am.
I prefer going to the RTDC or ticket center to get my jeep/canter safari than being picked up at the hotel. This way you get to choose your seat. For me, it is always the front seat with the driver as I get to hear about stories the guide would tell about his job and wildlife.
Our first day was rather lucky and we spotted a tiger as soon as we entered the forest area. We were taken to zone 1 that adjoined the entrance where Ustad; (also known as T24) who weighed 250 kgs was taking a nap. According to Ved Vyas, a very experienced guide, T4 had just taken his meal and was going to sleep for many hours at the very place it was then.
He was not wrong. We clicked pictures for almost an hour and Ustad had not moved. There was a long queue of canters behind us and yet the very carefree T24 slept near the lake. In the meantime, Ved Vyas told me more about Ustad; like how he became a man-eater and how he had become an aggressive tiger in the past few months.
We moved on. We went past the jungle and spotted an eagle and a tiny baby alligator. Ved Vyas told me more about the flora and fauna of the jungle. And our safari was done there.
Next, we waited for our afternoon safari.
TIP: Take as many safaris as you could during all the time you are there. There is a lot to spot in the forest that you have not seen before; like the various species of birds, animals and the biodiverse flora.
DAY 2: WILDLIFE SAFARI AND MUSEUM
This park is divided into 10 zones of which Zone 1 – Zone 6 is open for public and zone 7- zone 10 are only open during peak season. There are no best zones or Tiger favorable zones. So, do not travel with the intention to spot a tiger; if it is meant to be you will see one.
Next day, I had the chance to take the route 4 and we roamed in the jungle for few minutes. After spotting few birds, deer, and a nilgai, we took a stop amidst the jungle. The driver heard calls.
It was the monkeys. I was talking to my guide and he heard it too, informing me about it. While we were talking, the guide saw a leopard and he quickly showed me the spot.
It was too fast. Before I could take in the moment, the leopard had long gone in the grass region. I could only see it for 5-6 seconds though it was all worth it.
Ranthambore also home to migratory birds and other species like Graylag Goose, Indian Gray Hornbills, Asian Palm Swift, Owls, Bee-eaters, Nightjars and much more. I got to know this from my guide and he insisted I must go to the museum for more information.
Rajiv Gandhi Museum of Natural History:
After the morning safari, I headed to the Rajiv Gandhi Regional Museum of Natural History. It is one of the finest museums that depicts awareness in wildlife and the diverse life on earth. It has a library with 10,000 books on wildlife and nature. One is free to read the book for as long as one wants.
Most people coming here are the students and teachers of Rajasthan and around for educational trips. When I visited this museum, it was half done. But the information that it held was very informative.
Interesting facts like the difference between a national park, a sanctuary, and a forest reserve; the total number of national parks in India, the number of endangered/extinct animals/birds and the anatomy of mammals like hyenas, leopards, tigers, lions and other animals was my favorite part.
DAY 3: WILDLIFE SAFARI AND CHAMBAL RIVER
This morning I did my last safari opting for zone 2. It was darker compared to rest of my morning safaris. We entered the gate and we roamed in the forest for almost 40 minutes before we stopped at Jogi Mahal. Absolutely nothing was spotted. Though I don’t give up hope until the time we are out of the gate.
Not all days are same. The last safari didn’t show us anything. It was November and the winters had not hit the city already. But today, the weather was cold and dark. It was so difficult to concentrate on spotting anything at all. My next destination was the Chambal River where one can spot the Gharial, also known as the Gavial; the fish-eating crocodile.
I made a friend on the safari. Turned out we were together in school but never spoke. So, this friend of mine was a wildlife enthusiast and he recommended a river safari to Chambal river. He was planning to do it anyway, so he asked me and I could not even think twice.
So as soon as we finished our safari, we went to our hotels and got ready for our next leg. The Chambal river we were visiting was called Pali Ghat and was a part of the Chambal Sanctuary which is popular for gharial safari. The Chambal river connects two states of India; Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
It was about 90 minutes’ drive to this spot. The way from Sawai Madhopur to Chambal river was very promising. Thanks to the wintery weather the drive were full of fun. And my friend had a plethora of wildlife information.
We reached around noon. This spot didn’t look like it hosted river safaris. Though there was a small cabin that was labeled “Office”. A man stood there waiting for us to go to him. We enquired; he was the guide who was apparently going to take us on the safari.
The safari cost around INR 3000 and we were only two people. Though INR 3000 is not a big amount we tried to bargain. Finally, we settled on INR 600 for two people. He put us in a motorboat and we sailed for almost 20 minutes when we spotted six Gharials in a row. Our guide was quite knowledgeable and he informed us about the various migratory birds that visit the Pali Ghat. He also showed us a pod of dolphins playing in the river. It was unbelievable to watch dolphins in a river that look like just a waterbody passing through some villages.
We returned after 2 hours and this has been an incredible safari. There was so much to talk on our way back and we ended up having the best time of life.
DAY 4: WILDLIFE SAFARI, FORTS & TEMPLES
Last day was saved for morning and noon safaris. I planned to stay indoors as it got blazing unlike the day before. But after our morning safari, I changed my mind.
Ranthambore Fort And Ganesh Temple:
Amongst one of the six forts included in the World Heritage Site from Rajasthan, Ranthambore Fort falls right inside the jungle. It is well known for the bravery of the then king Hammir Dev of the Chauhan Dynasty. Most of the time, guides are available to show you around.
It stands up high on a hill. One must climb 200 steps to reach. It is mostly in ruins but if you observe closely there is a lot you will see. It will take up your whole noon if you have a guide and if you fancy knowing the history. It is spread across seven to eight kilometers with incredible vistas and landscape.
The Ganesh Temple is right inside the fort. It is believed that there were 25 temples and 1 mosque inside the fort. This is an ancient temple and attracts a lot of devotees during festivals. It is best to witness this impregnable architecture with your own eyes and be awed.