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Rajasthan Tigers. Indian Safari
Indian Tiger Safari
Ranthambore National Park has been a tiger reserve since Project Tiger started in 1972 and was formerly the hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur in Eastern Rajasthan. It is now one of the best places to see Tigers in India, although a sighting is far from guaranteed, as I found out. There is also a lot of other flora and fauna to see and wonderful luxurious campsites in which to stay.
This article is a review of this wonderful destination in Rajasthan, India, travel tips advice, recommendations and photographs of Ranthambore National Park and its flora and fauna.
Ranthambore National Park
Ranthambore National Park sounded perfect in the brochure. It has been a tiger reserve since Project Tiger started in 1972 and was formerly the hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur in Eastern Rajasthan. I have been on several safaris and there is nothing I enjoy more than sharing a drink with wildlife, with a gin and tonic in my sticky hand sitting in a lodge, watching large cats partaking in their equivalent of tiffin at a water hole. I have, however, never seen tigers in the wild, despite having been to India in the past, so I booked a five-day visit to Ranthambore a couple of years ago, as part of a two-week trip to Rajasthan.
There are about 40 tigers and 40 leopards in the Tiger reserve and it is claimed to be one of the best places to view them in the wild. The total area of the park is 1,334 sq km surrounded by mountain ranges and with two rivers running through it and several man-made lakes, it has an incredibly diverse selection of wildlife species including sloth bear, jackals, jungle cat, monitor lizards and hundreds of species of bird. To add to the wonderful scenery, flora and fauna there are also many ruins of a fort built about 1,000 years ago. Lake palaces and fortifications being gradually reclaimed by dense deciduous forest make a wonderful backdrop for wildlife viewing.
Map of Rajasthan - Map of India showing Ranthambore National Park, Delhi and Jaipur
Travel in India is not easy and can be dangerous. On my previous business trip to India I was involved in a total of four minor car accidents: A bus, two cars and a motorbike. The driver didn't even stop for the bike, but spent ages being shouted at by the enormous number of people who got off the bus. Ranthambore is, however, relatively easy to get to and we didn't have a single accident. We even had seat belts in the cars. We were picked up by a driver (prearranged from the UK) in Agra and driven to Bharatpur Junction railway station, stopping off at Fatehpur Sikri for a quick tour of the royal palace and temples, which is certainly worth a visit. We took the Nizamundin Kota Express from Bharatpur Junction to Sawai Madhopur. A pleasant safe journey compared to going by road, although not as good as the very best business trains in India, which are fantastic. On arrival we were pounced on by porters who would not take no for an answer and ran off with our bags, much to our annoyance. We had packed light and didn't need help (and more to the point, I hate tipping) We got the bags back once the appropriate ransom had been paid.
A jeep from the Sher Bagh "Hotel" came to collect us from the station and dropped us off near our "room". It may claim to be an hotel, but it's really a very posh campsite. The accommodation consists of huge white tents, and to protect the environment there are few permanent structures, except for the main building, which also has a roof terrace bar and restaurant. I have camped many times before at Glastonbury Festival, high up in the Andes in Peru and out on the plains in Botswana, surrounded by lions and honey badgers, but this was very different. These were luxury tents with bathrooms, electricity and a veranda with comfortable chairs and a walking stick in a pot with which to fight off the tigers. As the evening approaches all of the guests (and we really did feel like guests here) wander over to a "bar", a clearing in the forest, for the medicinal gin and tonic. Excellent Indian buffet food was served later in the dining tent.
Top Quality Digital SLR Cameras
Guides, transport and a driver are provided by the hotel, for the safari game drives. The guides constantly communicate with each other and with wardens on foot to optimize the chance of a tiger sighting. For environmental reasons the jeeps are usually shared between four guests, with two rows of seats behind the driver and guide. We were driven at break-neck speed through the park for several hours a day, morning and afternoon for four days, chasing the illusive tigers. We rarely stopped for anything else, unless we shouted out and demanded to stop. The monkeys, antelope and other wonderful sights seemed to be of little relevance to our guide. Not a single tiger in sight. Each evening we compared notes with the other guests, and eventually we realized that we were the only four people there who hadn't seen a tiger. Sightings were mostly rare and brief, but at least the others had seen and possibly photographed these wonderful creatures. We were extremely disappointed, and the staff at the hotel arranged an extra game drive on the morning of our departure, but again with no success.
The park is wonderful and the Ranthambore Fort extremely impressive. The accommodation and relaxed evenings cannot be faulted, but the guides rarely spoke and were perhaps the worst I have encountered on my travels. I may however have slightly biased opinion because we really were very unlucky not to have seen a single tiger in four days. I would recommend going to Ranthambore, but bear in mind there is always the chance of being disappointed.
A Tiger! (Unfortunately not a wild one. This was in captivity in Jaipur)
Advantages: Wonderful setting, scenery, flora fauna and accommodation
Disadvantages: Didn't see any tigers