Ranthambhore National Park
Ranthambhore National Park Review
If you want to see a tiger in the wild, Ranthambhore is the best park in Rajastan to visit, although new government regulations state that visitors must keep minimum distance of 20 meters from all wildlife (50 meters if you're in a vehicle) and that vehicles may only remain at a sighting point for up to 15 minutes. The park encompasses 1,334 square km (515 square miles) of rugged terrain (though only a very limited section about 20% is open to visitors), and is home to a vast ecosystem of flora and fauna. Ranthambhore is noted for its tiger and leopard populations, although you still have only a 30% to 40% chance of seeing a large cat on any given expedition. The best time to see tigers is right before the monsoon, in summer, when the tigers emerge to drink at small water holes—when it's dry and the water table is low, the tigers are forced out of hiding to quench their thirst. What you will definitely see are numerous peacocks, sambar (large Asian deer), chital (spotted axis deer), chinkara (gazelles), wild pigs, jackals, crocodiles, and often sloth bears.
Sighting a wild tiger in Ranthambhore is an exciting experience. First, of course, you will hear the jungle sounds that warn of a tiger's presence. Monkeys and peacocks scream loudly and the deer in the area become agitated and nervous. Ranthambore became a tiger reserve in 1973 under the Project Tiger program, which was launched in an effort to save India's dwindling population of Bengal Tigers. Despite conservation efforts, though, the tiger population in Ranthambhore is small: recent estimates put the park's tiger population at around 40, although the number varies from source to source. Sighting a leopard is much more difficult, as these cats live on high, inaccessible slopes and are extremely shy.
The park is run by the Indian government, and the rules are inflexible: you can only enter the park in an official government jeep, and the jeeps keep strict hours, daily from 6:30 am to 9:30 am and 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm. (the timings may vary by 30 minutes during summer and winter months when the park opens later in the morning) Book a jeep in advance, or save yourself the hassle and book through your hotel (it's worth the service charge). You can also explore the surrounding region: the 10th-century Ranthambhore Fort, perched on a nearby hill, is one of Rajasthan's more spectacular military strongholds. Dastkar, a craft-and-textile shop on the Ranthambhore Road, is run by a non-government organization.
The government-run Jhoomar Baori (12 rooms, Rs. 3,300–Rs. 6,000, AP) offers the chance to spend a night near the animals, but little else. It can be booked through Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) offices across the state. A better option is to stay at one of the hotels along Ranthambhore Road and take a morning safari. The neighboring town of Sawai Madhopur has numerous hotels, but most are basic.