National Park is part of the much large 1333sq km Ranthambhore Tiger reserve, in
the Sawai Madhopur district of Eastern Rajasthan. It derives its name from the hilltop
fortress which stands 700 feet above the park, and is probably India’s best
known Tiger reserve, having been the destination of many well known Tiger TV documentaries
over the years.
The stunning park and fort, till 1949 was the private hunting reserve of the Maharaja
of Jaipur and was where the Queen of England and her husband went on a Tiger shoot
in the late 1940’s. The Fort overlooking the lakes, area dates back over 700
years and was conquered by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar in 1569, and with its mixture
of ancient temples and summer palaces, alongside abundant Indian wildlife the park
provide magical photographic opportunities.
ancient mountain ranges of the Aravali and Vindhya meet here producing a mixture
of flat tablelands and steep cliffs criss-crossing the park. The varied topography
of the 400 sq km park provides habitats for animals like the jackal, mongoose, sloth
bear, leopard, lesser cats and caracal, and of course the tiger.
Water is provided by the parks three man-made lakes, Jogi Mahal, the lodge used
by the late Rajiv Gandhi to view wildlife, is set in an idyllic spot on the edge
of the main lake. The lakes attract much of the wildlife, especially in the evenings
and both Tigers and Marsh Mugger Crocodiles predate on the deer and antelope as
they feed in the lake.
inspired park director in the 1980’s, Fateh Singh Rathore relocation nine
villages from the core area to new land outside the park boundaries proving a resounding
success, especially for the wildlife in the core area, and in particular the tiger.
With far less human encroachment in the park, the tigers shed their nocturnal cloaks
and tiger encounters rose dramatically during the eighties and nineties, leading
to its present Wildlife tourism status.
With over 300 types of trees, 272 species of birds and approximately 30 different
types of mammals, Ranthambhore is packed full for a wildlife adventure.
Winter: Morning: 7 am to 10.30 am | Evening: 2.15 pm to 5.30 pm
Summer: Morning: 6 am to 9.30 am | Evening: 3 pm to 6.45 pm
Present prices for safaris:
Gypsy: INR 3,650 (US$ 60.5) for Indian Nationals | INR 7,200 (US$ 119) for Foreign Nationals.
Canter: INR 200 (US$ 3.5) for Indian Nationals | INR 550 (US$ 9) for Foreign Nationals
How to book jeep safaris:
Official portal- http://rajasthanwildlife.in/
Any restrictions and rules:
Video camera for non-commercial use - INR 400 (US$ 6.5)
Latest information on tourism zones:
Total 10 zones
Zone 1 to 5 (Core Zone): 20 Gypsies and 20 Canters
Zone 6 to 10 (Buffer Zone): No restriction
IN THE FIELD UPDATE
Apr 2014 - With the birth of a new litter of four cubs in the central lakes area of the park, so the ‘Machali’ dynasty of tigers continues around this lake’s shores. Unnis or Krishna or even T19 as she is known, the tigress who now occupies this landscape, is outgoing and comfortable with visitors, as are many tigers in this famous reserve, a number of whom have young cubs, in a number of the various fixed zones.
In total there are ten zones in the park, and visitors are allocated zones randomly. 90% of tourism is now done by canters, 20 seater open vehicles, because of sheer demand. The quality of the wildlife experience also varies with each zone, along with the picturesqueness of the habitat, but there is often lots to see besides tigers, and the best days will always eclipse the less good game drives, so be prepared to take a few drives.
The inevitable ‘lodge’ safaris are the worst element of the park’s experience at the beginning and end of each game drive, and something that needs to change to make this a more visitor friendly park.
Mar 2012 - Machali, the Grand Dame of Ranthambhore, still resides within the tourism zone of the park though she has been squashed by her daughter Sitara to a much smaller territory. Both her daughters are seen often on game drives in the core tourism areas around the fort and lakes area. Routes, 6, 7 and 8 now in another southern entrance to the park, in Sawai Mansingh sanctuary, are now far better and the area is recovering, with the first sightings of a female and her cubs here in 30 years. Recent efforts to train ex grazers as guides has had a profound effect on the areas conservation and wildlife’s return, just the sort of efforts TOFT encourages.
It’s a very busy park. Ensure you book long in advance for entry especially if you want a Gypsy vehicle with only 6 passengers. The park guiding has much improved and so has the route system; keeping only 8 vehicles on each route which makes a fundamental difference to your wildlife experience here. There is a frustrating requirement to go on a ‘Hotel safari’ before and after your game drive, emptying passengers at different hotel destinations.
Feb 2011 – This beautiful park is still very green and the
mirrored lakes still full of water, birds, deer and crocodiles for this time of
year. It’s looking in great health and the sightings of leopards and sloth
bear are increasing, having been poor historically. Tiger viewing has been good,
and occasional young cubs are seen. Sadly, one female tigress died recently leaving
four cubs who are now orphaned (and unlikely to survive). Another Tigress has moved
into dangerous buffer reserve with her two sub adult cubs to get away from a new
male tiger threatening them. Experts feel there is a decline in the tiger numbers
within the reserve and of course female survival rate is crucial to long term stability
in tiger populations.
Please note: Tourism pressure continues to grow and the ‘wilderness
experience’ can be of a poor quality (if clients have been on African safaris
or are keen and appreciative nature lovers) and obtaining park entrance permits
has become a lucrative quasi black market operation. This is ‘tick box’
tourism not wilderness tourism and visitors should understand this. (Alternatively
visitors should all stop coming– and we all demand changes that will make
the whole ‘wilderness experience’ more memorable!) A walk into the Ranthambhore
fort is well worth the effort, with superb views of the lakes and rugged hills.