‘Have you spotted it’, asks one driver in Hindi..‘One of the jeeps has spotted it down in the valley near the water body sir ‘, replies the other driver. We are in zone 3 in the tiger Reserve in Ranthambore. The Ranthambore National Forest Reserve is near the town of Sawai Madhopur in the State of Rajasthan in India . Above all, it is the home of the largest tiger reserve in India.
Ranthambore Tiger Spotting Zones
There are 10 zones for tiger spotting in the reserve. Zones 1 to 5 have thick flora & fauna and are known to have more tigers. The chances of spotting tigers in these zones are higher as compared to zones 6 to 10. The Ranthambore forest lies at the junction of the Aravali hills and the Vindhya Hills . It was the former hunting ground of the Maharajahs of Rajasthan. Hence, the forest is home to more than 100 species of birds. We saw the pelicans, the parakeet, the woodpecker, pigeons, bulbuls, cuckoos & sparrows.
How to reach Ranthambore Forest Reserve
Firstly, our jeep safari commenced at 6.45 am in the morning. There was a cavalcade of jeeps waiting to pick up the guests from the Dev Vilas hotel where we were staying. We passed through the town of Sawai Madhopur enroute to the Ranthambore Forest Reserve. The early morning scenes in the town of Sawai Madhopur gave a glimpse into the most commonplace events that happen in many Indian towns.
There were overcrowded buses that were bringing in people from nearby villages , people having tea & hot jalebis in tea stalls ,women working the hand pumps for water, school children walking to school in uniforms ,monkeys jumping on the roads and so on. We were enjoying watching these activities from our jeep, when suddenly the jeep stopped at the entrance of the reserve. The town of Sawai Madhopur was behind us and we were entering the reserve. It took a few minutes to register the vehicle at the entrance. There are restrictions on the number of vehicles that are allowed inside. consequently we were 20 jeeps that were allowed in the Ranthambore Forest.
Ranthambore National Park: Flora and the Fauna of the reserve
Peacocks and birds greet you as you enter the forest. Further, as you proceed further inside and the noise level from the town subsides, you will begin to encounter many avatars of deer and wild boar. There is the antelope with the twisted horn, the spotted deer, the chinkara or Indian gazelle and the big Sambar deer. Furthermore, they generally move in a herd. The Sambar climbs up the mountains every evening and rests at night and probably will come down the next day.
We drove on for a while enjoying the flora & the fauna of the reserve. There is an amazing diversity and the landscape changes right in front of you .For instance, there are dry grasslands with tall shrubs, valleys with rivulets, thick bushes. As a matter of fact, the majestic Aravali hills in the background and the clear blue skies are picturesque. The forest provides panaromic views to the tourists.
Monkeys warning call
The monkeys were shrieking as they jumped from one tree to another. The guide and the driver informed us that the monkeys and the deer are the first ones to hear the wild animals. It was indeed a warning call by the monkeys. While, there was deer with its ears perked up standing stationary The jeep slowed down and the guide and the driver were looking out with their binoculars.
Finally, we were close enough to hear the growl. It was spectacularly quiet.
Ranthambore National Park: Spotting the Tigers
Twenty feet away from us we could see the black & yellow stripes behind the bushes. The tiger is a solitary animal. Cameras were out and we waited. We could see her moving about. However, she refused to step out of the bushes. We had to settle for a view of the tiger behind the bush. However, we were close enough to click some pictures though.
We were informed that it was a tigress, who had recently given birth. The female tigress stays with her cubs until they are about 2 years old. As a result, they mark their own territory in the forests and zealously guard it.
Water tanks have been created to attract the birds and animals in the forest. Therefore, we had a chance spotting of a crocodile in the waters.
Attractions in Ranthambore National Park
The Ranthambore Fort
It is another major attraction here. It is a 10 the century fort. We climbed up about 200 steps ,up to the temple of Lord Ganesha, which is said to have been constructed in the 12th century. There are several folktales attached to the fort. It is one of the biggest forts in Rajasthan and is a UNESCO World heritage site.
Ranthambore is a village self help group working in the outskirts of Sawai Madhopur. Local artisans have been roped in to create products that are unique to Rajasthan. Sewing, block printing, carpet making, painting are some of the crafts that have been developed here. There is a large showroom where all the products are sold.
In addition , One could see women doing the embroidery on fabrics. The shops sell some wonderful wall hangings, cushion covers, tee shirts, caps and paintings. The tigers are the main subjects of the paintings. Paintings in canvas, wood and fabric, furthermore can be purchased here.
Another attraction is a huge carpet showroom .Woollen and silk carpets in a variety of sizes ,colours and designs can be purchased here .There is a carpet weaving demonstration that one of the attractions here.
Dev Vilas Hotel
This is a large hotel on the outskirts of Sawai Madhopur . The rooms are spacious and luxurious. The owner Mr. Balendhu Singh is a nature lover and escorts many guests on safaris. In addition, the food was good .For instance, they had a wonderful bar where one could sit by the crackling fire and enjoy the moonlit night. The staff is extremely courteous. They are from the neighbouring villages and have been trained in hospitality & to speak in English. Hence, we had a truly wonderful experience.
Ranthambore is 130 km from Jaipur . It is a 4 hour car ride From Delhi- There are several trains from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur . It is a 5 hour journey by train
Best times to visit Ranatahmbore – Summer months for tiger spotting because the forest remains closed in the monsoon.
Also, booking the Safari – The tiger safari can be booked online in advance . Choosing zones 1 to 5 is crucial .
Furthermore, there are gypsy rides and canter rides. They operate 2 safaris in a day.