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The Ranthambhore National Park is the largest and one of the most popular national parks located in northern India. Spread over a huge 392sq km and situated in the Sawai Madhopur district of south east Rajasthan, the Ranthambhore National Park is where you find the Royal Bengal Tigers in their natural abode. Deriving its name from the Ranthambhore fortress which is within the park’s premises, the forest is surrounded by the Aravallis and Vindhyas sandwiched between River Banas in the north and River Chambal in the south. Considering its location, it is only fair to expect a rich diversity of flora and fauna with sighting of the majestic beasts as one of its main attractions.
Used as hunting grounds by the Maharajas of Jaipur, it was only in 1955 that Ranthambhore was turned into the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary by the Government of India. It was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1973 and became a national park in 1980. The surrounding forests of the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary and Keladevi Sanctuary were included into the tiger reserve in 1990, thus enlarging the reserve’s area considerably. The count of the tigers according to the 2014 census was 62 thus making way for some of them to be transferred to the Sariska National Park. The Ranthambhore National Park has some famous tiger stories up its sleeve. The tigers in the reserve are identified as T -17 named Sundari, the camera friendly T -16 named Machali and so on. The idea is to give out information regarding these tigers; their territories and finding an emotional connect by giving them a name too.
How to reach
Located in southeastern Rajasthan the national park is just about 11km away from the Sawai Madhopur town. Kota is about 110km southwest of the Park, whereas, Jaipur is 160km northwest. Rail – The Sawai Madhopur railway station is the junction to arrive at while making your way to the national park. Air - Jaipur and Kota are the nearest airports. Both are linked to Sawai Madhopur by rail. Road – You can drive from Kota, Jaipur or even Delhi (480km).
What to see
The Ranthambhore National Park is open from October to May, though the best months to visit are in May and November. The Royal Bengal Tigers are the main attractions and crowd pullers of the Park. The tigers have names and zones marked out as their territories, and sighting of tigers are very common during the day on a safari. It is uncanny, aweing and almost surreal to watch these elegant royalties in their natural environment, in fact, being quite comfortable with being the center of attraction. The forest has a thriving ecosystem and the other animals to watch out for are the leopard, wild boar, sambar, chital, gray langur, nilgai and rhesus macaque. The Park is also home to about 270 odd species of birds, which include, the woodpeckers, graylag goose, Asian Palm Swift, cuckoos, egrets, herons, bitterns, flamingos, ibis, pelicans and many more. The forest is of dry deciduous type and the vegetation cover comprises of the babul, banyan, ber, dhok, jamun, kadam, khajur and khair trees.
Things to do
Besides, the tiger trails and safari rides, there is also much more to Ranthambhore. Ranthambhore Fort – The icon from which the park derives its name, this 10 century fortress, perched on a hill top, is definitely worth a visit. Built by the Chauhan dynasty, the fort is declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Trinetra Ganesh Temple is situated inside the fort. Lakes – The National Park is fraught with a number of lakes and water bodies. These merit closer look for naturist because of the birds and vegetation that they attract and sustain. Some of the lakes that are worth a visit are, the Malik Talao, Padam Lake and Surwal Lake. Jogi Mahal – Situated on the edge of the Padam Talao, the Jogi Mahal is one of the most visited areas inside the Park. The largest banyan tree of India is found near this Mahal. Raj Bagh Ruins - Situated between the Padam Talao and Raj Bagh Talao, these ruins are a reminder of the erstwhile architecture and stature of the Maharajas of Rajasthan. Bakaula or Akaula Region – This is a thick forested area inside the Park, making it a cool abode on hot days. It is perfect for the sighting of many animals. Kachida Valley – Located on the edge of the Park, this is a beautiful area around the Park, for sighting of the panthers and bears. Deer, wild boars and sloth bears are also found here. There are also quite a few interesting places to visit at a close proximity to the Park. Ranthambhore School of Arts – This arts school is located at a short distance from Sawai Madhopur and specializes in paintings. The students paint mainly tigers, with the intention of conserving the species. Wild Dragon – This adventure park is not for the light hearted. Zorbing, ATV’s and horror house are some of the activities you can explore here. Village Women Craft – This center is situated in Sawai Madhopur and is a one stop shop for any handicrafts or forest souvenirs. Dastkar Craft Centre – A hub for Rajasthani handicrafts and forest souvenirs, the center also helps in the upliftment of the local women who showcase their craft skills here.
Day 1 – Reach Sawai Madhopur by lunch and check in to your hotel/resort. Meet with the group and skipper for the afternoon safari. Have a meeting with the group in the evening to plan the schedule for the following two days. Have a relaxed dinner and retire for the day.
Day 2 – We start early in morning to capture the forest in its early breaking hours. Armed with cameras, enthusiasm and anticipation we venture out for the safari and return for breakfast loaded with memories and photographs. The same schedule follows for the afternoon safari only to return to a group meeting in the evening to share the experiences and thoughts.
Day 3- We stick to starting out early today as well for the last ride on the safari and to bid the forest adieu in the hope of returning again. The afternoon is spent to visit the attractions around Ranthambhore and by evening you can continue your onward journey from Sawai Madhopur.