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.
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