Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary
India's most frequented Wildlife sanctuary is the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve near Sawai Madhopur. Ranthambhore National Park, situated on the main Delhi-Mumbai railway line, is about 150 kms from Jaipur and 330 kms from Agra. Ranthambhore Wildlife Sanctuary is an important tourist destination of India and Rajasthan. A tiger safari tour in India without visit of Ranthambhore National Park is incomplete. It offers the best probability to observe the big wild cat in its natural environ.
The reason of popularity of Ranthambore with tourists, prior to 1991, was the virtual certainty that they would see a tiger in the wild. India's Project Tiger, introduced to save the animal from extinction, was founded here in 1973 and the area decreed a national park in 1981. Turning the area into a notified national park involved relocation of sixteen villages. Initially forty tigers were brought into Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary. At that time the big cats gradually became so used to humans that they would roam around during the day as well as nocturnally. Fuelled by greed, the corruptibility of guardians and the mistaken belief of some Chinese and Koreans that various parts of the tiger's body have medicinal and potency qualities, tiger slaughter began in earnest at Ranthambore in 1991. Within a short span of two years, poachers had reduced number of tigers to less than twenty. By 1993, sightings of tigers were rare, only occasionally exceeding two per week.
For security reasons, night excursions have been terminated and the Jogi Mahal Hotel within the sanctuary is now closed. All accommodation at Sawai Madhopur, however, is a fairly short drive away from the sanctuary. A pleasant 'time-warp' experience awaits guests at the Sawai Madhopur Lodge, the former hunting lodge of the last Maharaja of Jaipur, built in the 1930s. Few changes have been made by the Taj Group in converting the building to a hotel, all fixtures and most furnishings being original. In addition to fourteen standard rooms, two suites are available that were occupied, respectively, by Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, when they took part in a tiger shoot at Ranthambore during January 21-23'1961. Some guests, therefore, have a rare opportunity to sleep in a bed which was once occupied by the Queen of England and wrestle with the same solid brass bathroom and toilet fittings; one hopes that Her Majesty's maid understood the workings of vintage plumbing devices. Tea on the lawns is a delightful experience.
Early-morning and late-evening tours by canter or jeep (the latter costs more but can explore minor tracks) should be booked. It is recommended that both should be taken, as different routes are followed, preferably the morning trip by jeep and the afternoon tour by the canter. In order to do this two night accommodation must be booked. Tigers are most likely to be seen early in the morning. It is engrossing to watch the ranger examining spore, nodding his head and saying, hopefully 'Tiger near'. If he is right, confirmation will soon be given by the deep-throated baying of terrified sambhar deer, the tiger's favourite meal, which gets more frenetic as the beast approaches. Great silence must be observed and one expects the menacingly staccato jaws theme to be played on a jungle tannoy. The central lake is generally visited in the afternoon, when crocodiles can always be seen basking in the sun.
Even without the animals, Ranthambore would be worth visiting, as the hilly, partly-wooded scenery is idyllic and the birdlife varied. Leopards, carecels (Indian lynx) and bears are more numerous than tigers, but rarely seen, as they are nocturnal.
Ranthambhore National Park opens for the visitors during October 01 to May 31 every year. The sanctuary affairs are governed by Forest Department of India. All safaris are conducted only by the forest department only. A tourist needs to book the jeep or canter jungle safari in advance. At the time of booking, a foreign national has to provide a copy of passport.
Most of north India based Indian tour operators provide various fixed departure and customized wildlife tour packages like Golden Triangle with Ranthambhore Tour and Golden Triangle with Tiger Safari Tour, Taj Mahal with Tiger Tour.
Perched on a 65 m (215 ft) high ridge above the reserve's entrance is the ruinous Ranthambore Fort. There is no road approach but the climb, up steps, is not as difficult as it looks. The Delhi Sultan, Ala ud-din Khilji stormed the fort in 1303 and it is said that 20'000 women committed mass suicide in a Johar. Akbar took the fort in 1569, after a 12 month siege but, as has been seen, the Mughal developed a closed liaison with the Maharaja of Jaipur and the fort was soon returned to him. The entrance gate pierces a wall, 4 miles (7km) in circumference. The entrance gate is studded with nails to prevent aggressors using elephants to break it down, an oft-repeated feature in Rajasthan forts. Views over the reserve are magnificent but little of architectural interest within the fort has survived.
Safaris in Ranthambhore National Park: Being managed by Forest Department of the government, two kinds of vehicles are used for jungle safaris in Ranthambhore National Park- canter and jeep. The jungle safaris are conducted two times in a day. These safaris are approximately of 03 hrs. The morning safari timing is held from 06:30 to 10:00 and evening safari takes place between 14:30 to 18:00.