WILD EN­COUN­TERS

WITH THE SCORCH­ING SUN COAX­ING TIGERS TO LEAVE THEIR COM­FORT ZONES IN SEARCH OFWATER, IT’S THE PER­FECT TIME TO VISIT THE RAN­THAM­BORE NA­TIONAL PARK.

India Today - - TRAVEL - BY KAVYANJALI KAUSHIK

His alert ears fol­low the sound of padded paws against the jun­gle track like an an­tenna pick­ing up faint ra­dio waves, his tensed body as still as the for­est around him. Any mo­ment now, the tiger will re­veal him­self and though it isn’t hunt­ing time, the deer isn’t about to take any chances. And then, af­ter a few sec­onds that felt much longer, the for­mi­da­ble crea­ture comes into view from be­hind a thick banyan tree. He walks leisurely to­wards a group of jeeps and can­ters, look­ing in­fin­itely bored and com­pletely obliv­i­ous to the flight of the deer, who makes a dash for a safe spot.

Tiger. Pan­thera ti­gris. In­dia’s na­tional an­i­mal. An ace preda­tor with a sur­pris­ingly ag­ile frame. There are only 55 tigers left in Ran­tham­bore Na­tional Park, con­sid­ered one of the best lo­ca­tions in In­dia to spot the pow­er­ful cat.

Once a favourite hunt­ing ground of the ma­hara­jas of Jaipur, this 392-sq-km vast jun­gle is now a safe haven for tigers, sloth bears, wild boars, spotted deer, sam­bars, nil­gais, hye­nas, leop­ards and over 300 species of birds. The park is di­vided into 10 zones. While zone 1-5 are the core ar­eas of the for­est and of­fer the best sight­ings, zone 6-10 are cov­ered with beau­ti­ful grass­lands. Spot­ting a tiger de­pends partly on luck and partly on the sea­son. Sum­mer, how­ever, is con­sid­ered the best as there are limited wa­ter­ing holes in the jun­gle and the thirst forces the­mag­nif­i­cent car­ni­vore to make an ap­pear­ance at one of the three jun­gle lakes. The gamut of wildlife, the un­nerv­ing and ex­tra­or­di­nary tiger sight­ings, and the spell­bind­ing views from the mighty Ran­tham­bore Fort make this park a must-visit at least once in a life­time. Tip Book your sa­faris 60 days in ad­vance at ra­jasthanwildlife.in Get­ting There Clos­est train head Sawai Mad­hopur (10 kms away); clos­est air­port Jaipur (450 kms away); dis­tance from Delhi 372 kms (6 hours by road) Best Time to Visit March to June Stay RTDC-run Ho­tel Vi­nayak and Ho­tel Jhoomar Baori; book via rtdc.in

Pho­to­graphs by

KAVYANJALI KAUSHIK

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