Ranthambore National Park [location], named for the 1,050-year-old Ranthambore fort within, is a sprawling 400-square-kilometer reserve for wildlife. It is most famous for its population of Royal Bengal Tigers, which currently number 36. We were lucky to see one up close, but there are many other beautiful animals and birds, including jungle cat, spotted deer, sambar deer, antelope, wild boar, langur (right), crocodile, turtle, egret, heron, stork, peafowl, treepie, kingfisher, parakeet, lapwing, and ducks. Not to mention many, many homo touristicus, crammed into 20-seat topless buses and wielding cameras. Read on – we saw a tiger! and See lots more photos.
The guide’s first priority, of course, is to find a tiger. The Royal Bengal Tigers, the only type found in India, are spread throughout the park, each with its own territory. We spent most of our first safari racing to the distant zone 4, to which we were randomly assigned, and jockeying for position with the other tourist vehicles but with no good look at the distant tiger. In our second safari, we zoomed back and forth as we heard rumors from forest guards and other drivers, finally to encounter a tiger right next to the road! He was sniffing another tiger’s marking, and making his own territorial mark.
In the dry season – it hasn’t rained here in 3-4 months – so there are few leaves and it is easier to see wildlife. On our second and third trips into the park we were in “zone 3”, which has several lakes and ponds. As a result we saw herds of deer and flocks of birds, all totally nonchalant about our presence.
This zone has wonderful views of the hilltop Ranthambore fort, and is interspersed with 800-year-old ruins of the Mughal attacks. (The Mughals spent two years trying to take the fort of Ranthambore; they never succeeded but during their siege they built housing and mosques). Below is the summer palace of the maharajas of Jaipur, who used this area as their private hunting grounds.
See lots more photos.
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