If you are interested to see the hunting reserve of the royals of Rajasthan, then you should visit the Ranthambore National Park. Located on the convergence of the Vindhyan plateau and Aravali hill, at a distance of 11kms from Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan, it is one of the important Project tiger reserves in India. This Park is also a declared heritage site because of the scenic ruins of a fort that dots it. Today, the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is a “secluded�? ecological island, surrounded by fields and over grazed plains.
Covering a total area of 392 Sq Km, the park is renowned for its magnificent Royal Bengal Tigers. In India, this Park is one of your best bets to observe tigers amidst their wild habitat. You can watch these royal beasts on the prowl in the forest, resting lazily on the ruins of the picturesque fort, or moving with grandeur around the lakes as well as the watering holes.
Apart from tigers you would also find a wide variety of wildlife species on this park like the leopard, jungle cat, hyena, jackal, porcupine, sloth bear, marsh crocodile, langur, Indian gazelle, spotted deer, sambar (Asiatic stag) and nilgai (blue bull). The langur is the only primate found in Ranthambhore National Park and is abundant. Reptiles seen in the park include snakes, monitor lizards and crocodiles, which live in the lakes and marshy areas.
Ranthambhore is also home to about 270 species of birds including a large number of migratory birds. Some of the many varieties of birdlife found here are the great Indian horned owl, eagles, parakeets, spoonbills, kingfishers, partridge, quail, storks, owls, geese and ducks. In the night bats, civet cats and large fruit bats or flying foxes are seen. Many species of birds are seen in Ranthambore. But the most visible bird in Ranthambhore is the beautiful peacock- the National bird of India.
If you want to enjoy spotting the animals in their natural habitat, then you should try the jeep safari in the Park. The best time to visit this park is from October to March and April to June. Make it a point to go for safari in the early mornings and evenings to enjoy the fun and excitement of being at the sanctuary. It offers many opportunities for photography, while on jeep safari tours of Ranthambore National Park.
Apart from the rich fauna, you would love the park for its six man made lakes, which present a panoramic view of the whole place. In addition to that there are many perennial streams that criss-cross the entire park. Though bound by two rivers in the North and south, the Ranthambore National Park has internal drainage and has no link up with any river system.
The Park is also home to a wide variety of plant species, which make it an attractive eco-tourism destination. The vegetation comprises mainly of the dry deciduous type which includes the 'Dhok' (Anogeissus pendula), the Banyan (Ficus bengalensis) and Pipal. The Dhok tree is the primary food source of the deer and other herbivorous animals of Ranthambore National Park. This hardy plant remains green even in the driest summer. You can see some of the oldest banyan of India in this park. The Neem (Azadirachta indiaca), which is known for its medicinal properties is found in abundance here.
The National Park Ranthambore is a botanist's and nature lover's delight with some important fruit trees found in the Ranthambore National Park that include the Mango (Magnifera indica), Jamun (Syzygium cumini), Ber (Zizyphus mauritania), and Tamarind (Tamarindicus indica also known as Imli). In addition, there are many trees such as palas (Butea monosperma), which sets the forest alight with its bright orange red color and shaped like a parrot's beak with a velvety feel. Other important plants in the Ranthambore National Park include the Babul (Accasia nilotica), Gum (Sterculia urens), Kadam (Authocephalus cadamba), Khajur (Phoenix sylvestris), Khair (Accacia catechu), Kikar (Acacia nilotica), Mahua (Madhuca indica), Ronj (Acacia leucophloea) and Tendu (Diospyrous melanoxylon).
Rolling hills, valleys and plateaus interspersed with forest streams and water holes and romantic monuments, Ranthambore park is surely a must visit. It is a place that will last long in your memories with its intoxicating jungle smells and the satisfaction of a wildlife holiday well spent.
Apart from the park, there are many places nearby which are worth a see. They are:
Anantpura and Lakarda: An interesting fact that you would note while you are at the Ranthambore National Park is that even within the park several distinct regions, has with varying physical features and vegetation of their own. And accordingly, each region houses different animals and wildlife in their respective areas. The Anantpura region located in the northern part and the Lakarda region located in the Northwestern part of National Park Ranthambore are known for their vegetation interspersed with many anthills. The anthills are a favorite food source of sloth bears. Hence, this region would be the best place to visit if you are interested in watching sloth bears.
Apart from that striped hyenas are also to be found in this place, which could not be observed that easily as they are nocturnal animals. You would find all the animals normally seen in the Ranthambore National Park, like mongoose, wild boar, porcupines, monkeys and jungle cats.
Bakaula: This is one of the most thickly forested regions of the Ranthambore National Park. It consists of dense forest, with many small pools and water holes in clearings in the vegetation. Because of the excellent forest cover and availability of water, the Bakaula region in National Park Ranthambore has an abundance of wildlife. You are sure to spot a tigress with her young cubs near the water holes in Bakaula.
The thick vegetation also retains moisture in the air and lowers the temperature of this area. It is infact the coolest regions in the Ranthambore National Park.
Kachida Valley: This is the perfect place to find the leopards inside the Ranthambore National Park. Located near the outskirts of the park, this place is favorite place for these animals as they prefer to stay away from the more central areas of the park, where the tigers are the dominant predator. Other animals seen in the Kachida valley include deer and wild boar, and sloth bears.
The place is marked by its numerous rocky outcrops and low hills. You may try jeep safari for exploring this place.
Malik Talao: While visiting Ranthambore National Park, make sure you visit the lakes that are in it. These lakes act as sources of water for the animals and hence you are sure to spot a wide range of wildlife animals and birds in these places. You would also see different water birds and crocodiles that inhabit the place. The lakes are an important part of the overall ecosystem of the Park.
The Malik Talao is the smallest lake among the three large lakes in Ranthambore National Park. It has a fascinating and kaleidoscopic collection of fauna and avian species. Among the many birds you would se in this place are plovers, moor hens, herons and storks that are seen alongside the bank of Malik Talao through the day. Kingfishers hunt for fish and hawks and kites circle overhead and sometimes come down to drink. You might also like to watch the marsh crocodiles swimming menacingly in the water or sunbathing along the bank of the Malik Talao. Infact this area is full of concentrated action throughout the year.
Raj Bagh Ruins: If you really want to see a tiger in broad light and that too from real close quarters, then you should visit this ruined ancient structure. Located between the Raj Bagh Talao and Padam Talao, it was originally the outhouses of a palace with arches domes, steps and turrets that are remnants of structures built by the Rajput rulers of the Ranthambore region, who also built the magnificent Raj Bagh Fort. Today these ruins provide the much needed succor to animals of this Park during hot summers. The ruins now a special resting place for tigers.
You may also catch sight of peacocks with their brilliant green and blue hued feathers.
Padam Talao: This place is ideal for nature lovers and photographers, as almost all the animals of the park come here to quench their thirst. Added to this is the fact, that the hunting lodge called Jogi Mahal is located near the bank of the Padam Talao, from where you can see deers including chinkara, drinking from the edge of the lake during early mornings and late evenings. This place is a favorite for the tigers too, for the easy availability of their prey in this place. It is the biggest lake in the park, where you can see fierce duels between tigers and crocodiles over their prey.
It is so named for the numerous lotuses or padam that blooms in this place.
Raj Bagh Talao: The most fascinating of the three large lakes in Ranthambore the Raj Bagh Talao is located near the ruins of the Raj Bagh. It is partially covered with marshy plants, where you can see the sambar or swamp deer moving leisurely and feeding themselves. You can also see cattle egrets riding on the backs of deer and feeding alongside. Tigers are often seen stalking the deer that come to drink and feed in the Raj Bagh Talao in National Park Ranthambore. Other animals and birds seen near the lake are Chital, Nilgai and Blackbuck drinking alongside peacocks, and wild boar. All the animals rush away when a tiger's presence is sensed and alarm calls are heard.
Ranthambore Fort: This is one of the oldest and most historic forts in the area and Ranthambore Park gets its name from this place. While on your trip to the park, make sure you visit this place that dates back to 944 A.D.
The fort has borne witness to many an attack by the different invaders of India like Alaudin Khilji, Qutub-ud-din-Aibak, Feroz Tughlaq, and Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. Akbar, the great Moghul emperor lived in this fort too for some time and then gave it back to their rightful rulers of Jaipur in 1530, who preserved the forest around the fort as their royal hunting ground. This act of conservation led to the eventual creation of Ranthambore National Park.
It is said that the massive Fort was gifted by the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam to Sawai Madho Singh I of Jaipur in 1754 AD and since then it was maintained as the private hunting preserve. Much later, Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh were part of the Royal Hunting, who stayed here too. It’s a unique Rajput Fort.
Another evidence claim that during the 17th century, the fort was used a prison fortress where prisoners were executed by stuffing them with opium and throwing them down from the fort walls.
The Fort spreading over an area of 7 Km is also an architectural marvel as can be detected from its endurance with onslaught of time. Some of the amazing structures within the Ranthambore Fort are the Hammir Court, which has superb acoustics. Try whispering at one end of the Hammir Court and your friend at the other hand can hear clearly at the other end. A perennial stream called the Gupta Ganga provides the fort with its water supply. A series of steps are cut into the rock and lead down to flowing water.
You can visit the fort anytime, between 6:30 to 9:30 AM and 3:00 to 6:00 PM. The timings vary with season. There is no road leading to the top of the hill to the fort - there are only stairs leading from the bottom of the hill. It is a 20-minute climb but it is worth the effort. The height of the hill is 700 feet.
There are many temples within the Ranthambore Fort, including a temple to Lord Ganesh and a temple to Lord Hanuman, where numerous langurs and monkeys can be found.
Do not forget to carry a pair of binoculars with you when you are visiting the fort. From the ramparts of the fort you can see spectacular views of the National Park Ranthambore. If you are lucky, you may even spot tigers, as they come to drink beside the lake. In winters, you may occasionally also see leopards sunbathing on the ramparts.
You may travel to various tourist destinations using the Ranthambore National Park as your base. Here are some places you can visit inside the State:
The Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary: This sanctuary lies to the south of the Ranthambore National Park and a part of the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve. Started in 1984, Sawai Mansingh Wildlife Sanctuary is home to wildlife like the tiger, leopard, chital, sambhar, hyena, sloth bear, wild boar, chinkara, nilgai, and mongoose. The sanctuary covering an area of approximately 127.76 sq km has dhok, churel, mango and zuliflora among its rich floral vegetation. The ideal time to visit this sanctuary is from October to June. You may either opt for jeep safari or trekking to move around the sanctuary.
The Kaila Devi Game Sanctuary: This is a protected forest and an extension of the Ranthambore Tiger Project, about 25 kms from the Fort. Here you would find chinkaras, wild boars, blue bull, jackal, leopard, panther, tiger, sloth bear, hyena, wolf, sambhar and a variety of birds. You would love the place as it is a true wilderness, where very few people venture as it is not known to many. The rugged terrain is stunning with greenery all around and numerous waterfalls, gorges (khos) and scenic spots. You may visit the sanctuary for nature walks, trekking, rock climbing etc.
Sariska National Park: If you want to see a tiger walking majestically in its natural surrounding, then you should surely visit the Sariska National Park in Rajasthan. Covering an area of 800 sq.kms and nestled in the Aravalli Hills, it was a hunting reserve, which was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1958. It came under the ‘Project Tiger’ as a tiger reserve in 1979.
Apart from tigers, the sanctuary divided into grasslands, dry deciduous forests, sheer cliffs and rocky landscape has a rich fauna reserve. Nearly 90% of the area in the sanctuary is covered with dhok trees. The animals found here are leopard, sambhar, chital, nilgai, four-horned antelope, wild boar, rhesus macaque, langur, hyena and jungle cats. Sariska is also well known for its large population of Rhesus Monkeys, which are found in large numbers around Talvriksh.
The Park is also home to India's largest population of peafowl, and harbors bush quail, sand grouse, golden- backed woodpeckers and crested serpent eagles, grey partridge, tree pie, golden backed wood pecker, and the great Indian horned owl. The Siliserh Lake on the edge of the park has a large number of crocodiles.
The Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary houses the ruins of medieval temples of Garh-Rajor that date back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Also a 17th century castle on a hilltop at Kankwari provides a panoramic view of flying vultures and eagles. You may also visit the temple dedicated to Hanuman at Pandupol, and the temples of Neelkanth, which are dedicated to Lord Shiva.
You may opt for camel safaris to watch the rich wildlife of Sariska. So weather you go out for to visit medieval palaces or wildlife watching; Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary is the best place for you. The best season to visit the place is between October and April.
You may stay at Hotel Sariska Palace and Tiger Haven Sariska but various budget accommodations are not hard to find at Alwar, which is about one hour away from Sariska.
Various leisure activities are also organized on request by these hotels such as – wildlife viewing by jeep safari, bird watching, nature walks, camel and horse safaris and sightseeing tours and visits to nearby villages.
So what are you waiting for? Visit the densely forested regions of Ranthambore National Park with its large lakes and historical monuments, and feel closer to nature. Also marvel the age-old monuments and visit the nearby places if you have time. We are sure after coming here for once; you would yearn to come back again for more!
By Air: Jaipur, about 4 hrs drive, is the nearest airport. Regular bus services are available between Jaipur and Ranthambore. You can also hire a car from Jaipur to drive to Ranthambore National Park.
By Rail: Sawai Madhopur is the nearest Railhead. Various trains link Sawai Madhopur to cities such as Jaipur and Delhi.
By Road: Sawai Madhopur is the nearest town from Ranthambore (about 11 kms). Sawai Madhopur is well connected to Delhi, Jaipur and Agra.
You may stay at one of the wildlife resorts near the park. Some of the names of the resorts are given below:
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