Last Updated on May 19, 2023 by asoulwindow
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Ranthambore National Park Guide
This blog is about my Tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan in India. We spotted the tiger Kumbha aka T 34 and watched its movement from a dangerous distance of merely 3 feet.
Rantahmbore National Park is one of the best National Parks of India. Located in North Indian state Rajasthan, it is home to a large number of tigers. Spotting a tiger is particulaarly easy here in the extreme hot months viz. April, May and first half of June. And if you are done spotting tigers here, you can also explore some old forts in the Ranthambore National Park. There is something for everyone here. What’s more? besides tigers, Ranthambore National Park is also home to many more animals and birds. Keep that camera and binocular ready. It is ideal for a getaway from Delhi with family or friends.
Spotting Tiger in Ranthabore National Park
What are the chances of sighting tiger in Ranthambore? We had barely entered the zone 6 when we saw the first tiger in the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, India. It was around 8:20 a.m. Balancing ourselves on the unruly safari jeep, we entered the ancient gate, built in typical Rajasthani architecture. A vestige from Rajasthan’s royal past, it sits incongruously amidst the wild. But neither I nor my co travelers are here for a heritage trail. We have our eyes peeled for orange and black stripes instead.
Occupants of another safari jeep had parked itself on a marked pathway, opposite dense dry forest. Someone mentioned, ’Tiger’! The mere mention of the ‘T’ word robbed us of the sleep and yawns. Suddenly shaken from our stupor, we tried all the tricks of the trade to have a look at the tiger. Binoculars, DSLR cameras with Telephoto lens, naked eyes, the works!
While some claimed they got a glimpse (“Behind the bamboo grove”, “Yes, yes, through the V shaped cut”), I failed to spot the Tiger despite the desperate attempts. Before I dismissed myself for poor eyesight and an untrained eye for wildlife, the Tiger saved the day for me.
TIGER SAFARI AT RANTHAMBORE IS WORTH IT. HERE’S WHY?
Till now only 2 safari jeeps had congregated at the spot. The Tiger emerged, walking nonchalantly in a natural swagger fit for the King. The tiger walked arrogantly in a self important manner as we held our breath collectively. The tiger was still at a distance. He made no eye contact and continued walking without a care in the world!
The view of Tiger was still hindered, since he was passing through the dry branches of the tree and vertical bamboo groves. It was like looking at occupants of the opposite railway platform while the train passes slowly. Now you see it, now you don’t! The sighting was still better than the winter months. Thanks to the extreme heat, the trees were bereft of leaves, making it easier to spot the Tiger. In monsoon and winter, the sightings are low due to the dense green foliage.
THE TIGER GIVES US A WARNING AND A CHILLING GLARE:
After much hide and seek, the Tiger emerged in full view just like that. By now, the news had spread like forest fire. More safari jeeps had parked themselves at the spot. Unmindful of all the attention, the Tiger continued walking and then did the unimaginable!
As I trained my telephoto lens on him, I found myself moving my eyes away from the viewfinder of the camera. My heart must have stopped briefly when the Tiger was just 3 to 4 feet away from me. I do not remember if I clicked from the viewfinder or not. The thrill of looking at a wild Tiger from such a close distance made me drop my jaw and all other pursuits instantly. This explains why the image of Tiger when he was closest to me is not as good as it should have been. It happened in a jiffy, before we could react. The tiger chose to walk just few feet away from the right side of the safari jeep we were sitting in. This is the closest anyone can get to a wild Tiger! I in fact, advise my readers against going this close to a Tiger, even if you are sitting in the safety of a safari jeep. But we had not planned it. We had responsibly parked ourselves without disturbing the Tiger’s movement. The tiger however stunned us with his unpredictable move.
THE TIGER OF RANTHAMBORE MADE AN EYE CONTACT WITH SAFARI JEEP’S OCCUPANTS:
The most thrilling moment was when the Tiger made an eye contact with us; brief but menacing nevertheless! That moment filled us with mixed emotions viz. thrill, nervousness, excitement, elation and perhaps also bordering on philosophical.
Later, a co traveler told me that was a warning. The Tigers at Ranthambore are used to the presence of humans and perhaps that is why it ended on just a brief threat. However, in that moment, I got the epiphany that how brilliant and complex nature is. And why we need to leave no stones unturned to preserve it. Any work done in the conservation of these majestic creatures is less.
WHO IS TIGER KUMBHA AKA T 34:
The tiger we had spotted is called Kumbha, a huge dominant male. All the images of tiger in this blog are that of Kumbha aka T 34. Kumbha is a male tiger whose main territory is in zone 6,7 and 8 of Ranthambore National Park. His residence includes the Jamoda Balas, Chidi-Khoh and Kundal area. Interestingly, Kumbha is Hindi version of water sign Aquarius. Kumbha has mated with tigress Ladali (T-8).
WE LOST AND FOUND THE TIGER AGAIN:
For sometime, our eyes followed the movement of tiger. Careful not to disturb his movement, we kept an eye on the tiger from a distance. We saw him for some-time and then lost him. We left when the browns and greens of the jungle swallowed the oranges and blacks. We parked ourselves next to a pond in search of another tiger. We didn’t see any tiger but the jungle impressed us with the biodiversity. Akin to a parade, one animal after another showed up, strutting their stuff and revealing their behaviour as we pretended to be dead in the safari jeep. We spotted monitor lizard, snake (unidentified), langur monkeys, spotted deer, shikra and many other species.
After sometime, we left the pond. As we drove again in pursuit of tiger, a commotion took us back to the ancient entrance gate we had entered from. Turned out the same tiger Kumbha aka T 34 was resting on the top of the gate. What was once a stronghold of royals is now the kingdom of the tiger. What was once the strategic location for guards to keep a watchful eye, is now a peaceful abode for the Tiger to cut the noise. I looked at Kumbha one last time as he slept like a baby. We were told it is his favourite resting spot. Watching him through the binoculars helped me see him up, close and personal without losing my limbs. I bid adieu to the tiger, hoping in my mind that may the Kingdom remain with Kumbha and his next generations. May the tribe win over human greed and unsustainable growth. May nature win! Once again!
Can we see tigers in Ranthambore?
Yes, and what a sight! This was when I saw tiger lightening T 83 attempt killing a sambar calf. This section of the blog is about watching a real-life attempt by Tiger Lightning T 83 to kill a Sambhar Calf. We saw this once in a lifetime spectacle in the zone 4 of the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. The park is great for wildlife enthusiasts. This is my Incredible India moment!
The stranger in our hotel boasted during the breakfast that she spotted 8 tigers in 2 days. By this time we had seen only one (See my other blog) and I was optimistic that we will see more. We had barely entered the zone 4 of Ranthambore National Park in the evening when the driver of our open canter van parked besides a small pond adjacent to a dirt track. Turns out a tiger was half submerged in the water of the small pond. The extreme heat of June (North Indian plains) draws the tigers and other animals to the water bodies, making it easier to spot them.
The tiger stayed in the pond for a long time and was unfazed by the presence of a (well behaved) fleet of canter vans and safari jeeps stuffed with curious humans. My canter van was facing the back of the Tiger. All the occupants of my canter van congregated at the left front part of the canter van.
The Tiger would sometimes turn and show the face. The drama continued for a long time as the Tiger played hide and seek with us. An eye there, a paw there! That was all we could manage from behind the branch of a tree which obstructed our view.
Then suddenly, the Tiger emerged from the pond. A collective gasp followed. Between hushed tones and self-monitored whispers, cameras were pulled out into action. The Tiger stood under the evening light for some while as if allowing us ample time to have a good view. Neither did the Tiger look at us nor did the tiger make any attempt to leave the place in a hurry. It was a relaxed movement, unaffected and confident. Until…………..
Then all of a sudden the Tiger started crouching. With slow measured steps, the tiger moved towards an unidentified animal in far distance. It was difficult for me to believe that in no time I would be seeing a Tiger hunting not in an idiot box but in real. Flesh and bones. And blood! It was a surreal feeling! I tried hard to spot the prey when someone exclaimed, “It’s a Sambhar calf.” I found it. The calf was blissfully unaware of the presence of the Tiger when the latter continued moving stealthily.
And then it was a chase. Between clouds of dust and tree branches, we managed to see the Tiger chase the calf with deft focus. It was at a far distance. I am not sure of the fate of the calf. Once the dust settled, we could spot neither the Tiger nor the calf. Nor did we see the mother Sambhar at any point of time. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we still saw a real kill attempt by a Tiger. A first is always special. This will forever be etched in my memory for a long time. After this, we spotted 4 more tigers within few minutes of each other.
Zone 4 Through Hamid Kund
Before all the drama, we could not help but admire the Royal past of Ranthambore. This is how our evening safari started. The Ranthambore fort was visible at a distance as soon as we crossed a gate adjoining to Hamir Kund. A sign board said that the water body is infested with crocodiles though I failed to see one in spite of keeping my eyes peeled. The ancient gate we crossed evoked the royal past of Rajasthan. The gate even had a staircase on the right side of its walls.
This gate gives access to the Ranthambore fort, Jogi Mahal and zone 1,2,3,4,5 of Ranthambore National Park. I would have been too optimistic to spot a tiger here since it was a check post kind of a place, buzzing with human activity. We did spot the usual suspects viz sambar, chital (spotted deer), peacocks, owls and of course monkeys. A fearless bird sat on a twig close to our stationery (for permissions) jeep, its beak wide open thanks to the extreme heat of June in North India. The bird expected food from us which is a depressing thought because this particular species of bird developed this habit when irresponsible travelers started feeding them on safaris. Sad!
Unlike the zone 6 of Ranthambore National Park I visited in the morning (please see my other blogs in the ‘Wildlife’ tab.), the approach road to zone 4 was smooth tar road.
Famous Tigers of Ranthambore
We had spotted Lightning T83, the granddaughter of famous tiger Machchli T 16. Lightning is also the sister of Arrowhead T 84 aka Machchli Junior, the tiger we spotted after few hours of spotting Lightning. (Pls read my other blog on how we got really lucky to spot Arrowhead). She is also the daughter of tiger Krishna aka T- 19. (We also spotted Krishna with her new cubs, read about it in my other blogs) Her brother is T 85. She is known to stray at the periphery of the park. She once fell into a well and was rescued by the forest department.
The ancient Ranthambore Fort and Hamir Chand Chauhan
I had imagined the Ranthambore Fort to be on a lower ground. It was instead perched on a high mountain in a distance. It is possible to drive up to the fort and explore it but limited time for Tiger made us choose the obvious. That said, on a future safari, I do intend to cancel my tiger date and explore the fort for sure. And if I am really lucky I can spot a tiger on the road to the Ranthambore Fort.
Hamir Dev Chauhan ruled Ranthambore from 1282 to 1301. The ancient and formidable Ranthambore Fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. The real age of the fort is disputed but it is believed that its construction began in mid 10th century during the Sapaldaksha rule and successive occupants of the fort added their own structures to the original edifice.
Best Time to visit Ranthambore National Park
Summer is the best time to visit Ranthambore or any wildlife park in India (If Tiger is what you are keen on, that is). Due to extreme heat, the Tigers expose themselves in the open, often near a water body to cool themselves off. The lack of greenery also makes it easy to spot the Tigers, even from a distance.
TIPS ON WHAT TO WEAR ON A TIGER SAFARI:
What to wear during a wildlife safari in Ranthambore?
I wore outfits by Columbia Sportswear. The deftly designed shirts and pants kept me cool even in the scorching heat of Rajasthan in June. The Omni wick and Omni Shade technology used helped me keep dry and cool even in extreme weather. There was not a modicum of sweat rolling down my spine. I recommend my readers to give it a shot while they are on an outdoor trip.
Indian Summer, though unbearable, is a perfect time for wildlife safaris. It hovered around 45 degrees in Ranthambore National Park. Despite it being early morning, the heat was intense. I kept hydrating myself every 15 minutes . Luckily the Columbia Sportswear gears I was wearing saved the day further. The light and airy clothes helped me keep fresh. Those who know me personally know that I sweat a lot. However, the Omni Wick technology of Columbia outfits and shoes ensured that the sweat evaporated quickly. It kept me dry inside and out. Their Omni Shade technology also kept me protected from the unforgiving sun rays. I now know what to wear on safaris and even treks.
WHERE TO STAY FOR WILDLIFE SAFARI IN RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
I stayed in Ranthambore Heritage Haveli. It is in the middle of no-where. I could see only few other properties in the vicinity. My stay here was enjoyable. Not only was it located close to the zone 4 and zone 6 of Ranthambore National Park, it was also easily accessible from the main road. However the small patch from the main road to the property is bumpy and unpaved.
The air conditioned rooms at Ranthambore Heritage Haveli are semi luxurious with a huge attached bathroom. The property has two beautiful courtyards and the haveli like architectural style reminded me of my stay at the luxurious Alwar Bagh by Aamod Resorts, also in Rajasthan. It is lit beautifully in the night.
I sampled their buffet. While I liked the poha, bread pakoda, palak paneer and dum aaloo, their Rajasthani gatte ki sabzi and upma could have been better. Desserts were passable. The property also has private cottages, lawns for small parties and conference room. Overall, it was a good experience. It is close to the famed luxurious property Oberoi Vanya Vilas.
FUN PEOPLE I TRAVELED TO RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK WITH:
This trip was a part of a contest win organised by Columbia Sportswear in collaboration with Myntra and Red FM. I met interesting people like Vaibhav from Columbia, RJ Rocky and Sumit from Red FM, Prateek from Myntra, Malaika Vaz a young wildlife documentary film maker, Mahesh Reddy, a wildlife photographer and other winners viz. Antara, Kushagra, Sonu, Tony,Meenakshi. Check out the cool Instagram posts by Columbia Sportswear:
You may enjoy reading my other wildlife blogs:
Despite meeting each other for the first time, we gelled quite well and shared camaraderie, jokes and erudite information on everything under the sun (or stars). The best memory was dining and talking by the poolside of Ranthambore Heritage Haveli by the night.
HOW TO REACH RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK, RAJASTHAN:
By Road: We took 9 hours from Connaught Place, New Delhi to reach Ranthambore via Neemrana and Dausa by road. The road trip is nondescript and you will not miss much if you chose to take the train. In my opinion, train is a better idea.
Kota Janshatabdi is a good idea. It is a chair car (CC)
Time taken from New Delhi to Sawai Madhopur: 4 hours 47 minutes.
Departure time at Hazrat Nizamuddin, Delhi: 13:15
Arrival time at Sawai Madhopur: 18:02
Train number: 12060
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