If you want to see the elusive tiger, Ranthambore National Park and Tiger Reserve is a good place to look.
Deer are the primary source of food for tigers, and at Ranthambore there are plenty of deer to choose from. The spotted Axis deer are called cheetah in Hindi because cheetah means spots. Sambar deer are the largest deer in Asia. According to our guide, if a tiger brings down one of these, he can eat for a week.
Ranthambore Park covers 250 square miles and supports a tiger population of perhaps 80 animals. Almost every park visitor is able to spot a tiger, sometimes on the road. No such luck for us. The tigers we saw lounged at a distance that visible to the naked eye, but required a telephoto lens for good photos. A female and two juvenile cubs lounged in the grass, entirely uninterested in people standing in vehicles called gypsys, excitedly whispering and pointing. Click-Click-Click went the cameras.
Equally exciting: spotting a leopard under a rock overhang. Well, it was exciting for the people who got their binoculars in a perfect position. Kudos to Juliet Lemon’s visual proof that there really was a leopard.
Ranthambore National Park is the largest park in Northern India, a dry deciduous forest area in the Sawai Madhopur district of southeast Rajasthan at the junction of the Aravalli and Vindhya hill ranges. Tenth century Ranthambore Fort, first built as a hunting lodge, looms 700 meters above the forest. In 1754 Mughal Emperor Shah Alam gave the fort to Sawai Madho Singh I of Jaipur to become a hunting forest for maharajas. The area became a wildlife sanctuary in 1957 and a national park in 1981.
Entering the park, my first sights included peacocks above the gate and a 300 year old banyan tree spreading its roots across the road. Grey Langot Monkeys, also called Hanuman Monkeys, are everywhere.
Rajbagh Lake lies in a central position, providing water for animals large and small.
Birds, fascinating and colorful, are everywhere.
Hotels large and small abound at the edge of the park. One of these is Oberoi Vanyavilas is a 20-acre tented camp. Like all the Oberoi hotels, Vanyavilas are a world apart. Accommodations are triple canopied, air conditioned, luxury tents, that aren’t like any tent I’ve ever been in.
Lakshmi, the hotel’s resident elephant, is its most memorable ambassador. Lakshmi came to the hotel as a youngster. She often greets guests as they return from the park while her handlers feed her vegetables and sugar cane. Of course, everyone wanted to take pictures with her.
Jim Dobson. “Tracking Wild Tigers in Ranthambore National Park.” Forbes. Nov. 15, 2018.
Travel Arrangements by Abercrombie & Kent.
Sandra Wagner-Wright is the author of Two Coins: A Biographical Novel and Rama's Labyrinth. Both books are available in digital and print editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. Rama’s Labyrinth and Two Coins are available as audiobooks.
Sandra blogs weekly about topics related to her travels, writing life, and the incongruities of life in general.