Tuesday, March 25, 2008

RANTHAMBOR, March 2008


On the weekend of 21st March 2008 we (me & my wife) decided to make use of the long weekend and visit Ranthambor National Park in Rajasthan.

The train to take is Dehradun Express from New Delhi. The train leaves New Delhi at a comfortable time of 10:40 PM, (this allows to go through the full office time & still reach the station with plenty of time). The train reaches Sawai Madhopur (which is the station you should alight to get to Ranthambor) at around 5:10 AM in the morning. Sawai Madhopur is the place where all the hotels and tourist lodges are situated. It about 11-13 Kms from Ranthambor Santuary.
After getting off the train we took an auto to our hotel Ankur Resort. The fare was rupees 30. Once we checked in we immediately got ready for our first safari. Safari in Ranthambor National Park can be done in either 20 seat Canters or 6 seat Gypsys. We did not have prior booking so had to pay some extra to get two seats. The best way to book seats in Canters is to go to the Rajasthan Tourism site. It’s cheaper and you are sure to get a seat. (Site: http://www.rajasthanwildlife.in/make_your_trip/Ranthmbor/planyourtrip.jsp)
The official Safari rates are (Rates are in INR):

Canters (Diesel)

Digital cameras are Free but video cameras will cost you Rs.200 per visit.
The park is divided into 5 zones. At the entrance it’s a lottery system on which vehicle will get which zone. On our first trip 21.03.2008 we got Zone 1.
Entering the Park area we saw a breathtaking view of the Aravalli Range. Most of the vegetation was of Golden colour. Our first wildlife sighting was the ubiquitous langurs. At the entry of the park we were greeted by a huge Banyan tree which is the 2nd oldest in India (the first being in the botanical garden in Kolkata) . We were requested by our guide to be as silent as possible in the park. In the park we saw the various types of deers that inhabit it. We also saw a lot of birds and the Indian National Bird the Peacocks. But no sight of the mighty predators either the Tiger or the Leopard. After a lot of searching we failed to see any of the big cats and returned back to our hotel.
In the afternoon we again took the safari and this time we got zone 5. Zone 5 was more dense jungle and had a few watering holes for the animals and so the chances are brighter to spot the tiger we were told. We entered with lot of anticipation. But after moving around for 45 minutes we were getting demoralized; it was then near a small lake we saw something different than the views we had seen so far. There was a huge crocodile sunbathing. It was around 10-11 feet long. In the vicinity there were a lot of deers as well. Since they were on land the deers were pretty confident of themselves. We also spotted 2 more crocs, their body colours blended the surrounding making it hard to spot them. But still no tiger (or leopard). We searched around the park in vain but no luck. We returned to our hotel disappointed. My wife was starting to get agitated.
That evening we decided to change our hotel to Raj Palace which was just beside our current hotel Ankur Resort. So the arrangements were made by Raj Palace this time. It was also the day on which the festival of colours Holi fell.
We got zone 2 this time. Our driver & guide said it a very good zone. We took a deep breath and entered the forest through the gates of the fort. After looking around for 15 minutes we were taken to an open area and saw 2 canters crowed an area. We quickly reached it and Yes there it was in all its glory and splendor. Sitting majestically and letting the morning sun glow on its magnificent skin. But little did we to know that the show had just started. Suddenly we saw it was not alone there was another one there. Our excitement knew no bounds and already a huge crowd of canters & gypsys were gathering for the show. One of the tigers started walking and another came within 100 feet of us and sat as if it was posing to give the photo hunters all they can click. This went around for around 20 minutes. Then we saw the other tiger on the move; immediately our driver started the canter. We were tracking the tiger. While going we spotted another one in the bushes.
We waited for a few minutes and surely we saw one of the tigers came ambling out and started to put on a show. It was trying to climb a tree, and taking its cue, and then the other one came out and started to claw a tree. This was blockbuster as this was happening just within 15-20 feet from us. All the vehicles were jostling for the best position.
As the tigers moved we followed them and suddenly we saw one of the tigers' tcame on to the path of the safari vehicles and then we understood that we will be party to its stalking & hunting a herd of deers.
It took cover in front of one of the gypsys and lied in wait looking at the deers. The lagurs were up on the tree making all kinds of noise.
As the deers moved it leapt into action and missed catching one by a whisker. As we were watching its next move we found the third tiger came from behind us and passed us by at almost handshaking distance. It took its position. Suddenly the second tiger was also there and then we understood they were trying to circle the deers. It was so amazing almost lion like. But time was up so we had to leave. However we were more than satisfied with what we saw. Think of if we saw a tiger in action in its own environment. How many of us see that other than Discovery or Net Geo.
Our driver then took us to show the view of the lakes of zone 3 and it was a beautiful sight, especially the Padam talau.

Content we returned to our hotel. In the afternoon we took a break from safari and went to visit the Balasar Wildlife Sanctuary. It was around 20 km from Sawai Madhopur. We were taken in a Gypsy which cost us Rs.1000. Actually it was said that it doesn’t matter whether there is one person or six the cost is the same. The route to Balasar looks almost African Savannah like with its golden grass. The Aravallis range formed the background . This was the abode of the leopards. At the entry we found that the Sanctuary personnel's had a baby leopard which they rescued when it was abandoned by its mother.
The forest department officials found it, they nursed it and are now trying to get it ready for its life ahead. It was very playful and even was fed a live mouse in front of us which it “hunted”. It’s a playful one.
The entry fees into the Sanctuary are Rs.100 for Guide, Rs.10 per person and Rs.65 for conservation. The Sanctuary has few points like the sunset point, we were enjoying our leisurely drive and spotted a few bald headed vultures nesting. We also saw a hare ran away as it saw us approach. The scenic beauty was great and we thoroughly enjoyed it coming down the hills while the sun was setting.
On our last day we again took a morning safari and got zone 2 again. But alas this time the action was on zone 3 where the 3 tigers we saw yesterday were joined by their mother to kill a deer which we missed. Nonetheless we enjoyed the areas within the zone 2 that we missed because of the tiger action the day before. We were able to spot 2 mongooses.
At the hotel we hired a gypsy after lunch and headed for the fort. The Ranthambore fort is situated at the meeting point of the Aravalli & Vindhya ranges. Its approx area is 7 sq km. Its best known ruler was Rao Hammir. It has 25 Temples, 5 Mosques or Darga and 1 Jain temple within it. It has great craftsmanship but can do with some conservation efforts and my earnest request to the visitors not to declare information about their  love on these hoistorical  momuments (Use Facebook or Orkut its the internet age you know). Overall it was great. Happy we returned to our hotel packed our things and got ready to depart with a weekend full of great memories to savior for a long time to come.
You can view my full Ranthambor album here.
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