Ran­tham­bore - ro­manc­ing the tigers

The Luxury Collection - - Contents - -By Sub­ha­sish Chakraborty

Ran­tham­bore Na­tional Park is one of Asia’s top ranked Na­tional Parks and is per­haps one of the finest wilder­ness zones for wildlife view­ing. Lo­cated strate­gi­cally at the in­ter­sec­tion of the Aravalli and Vind­hya range of moun­tains, the park is well spread out over 392 sq.kms. In terms of species, Ran­tham­bore is renowned for Tigers, Leop­ards, Sloth Bear, Hye­nas, In­dian Wild Boar, Chi­tal, Nil­gai, Lan­gurs, Palm Civets and a plethora of bird species, which is in­clu­sive of Wood­peck­ers, Gray­lag Goose, In­dian Horn­bills, King­fish­ers, Egrets, Herons to name just a few.

Ran­tham­bore was des­ig­nated as a Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary way back in 1957 and the Govt. of In­dia brought it un­der the am­bit of “Project Tiger” in 1974. This is one of the most com­pre­hen­sive Tiger Con­ser­va­tion strate­gies un­der­taken by the In­dian gov­ern­ment un­der the stew­ard­ship of the then Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia - Smt. Indira Gandhi. Ran­tham­bore came into the lime­light in the mid 70s through the pi­o­neer­ing works of two con­ser­va­tion­ists – Fateh Singh and Valmik Tha­par. They spent years and years in Ran­tham­bore, re­search­ing the se­cre­tive be­hav­ior of the 50 odd tigers that prowled the Ran­tham­bore for­est. To­gether, they pro­duced en­gross­ing doc­u­men­taries and tele­vi­sion shows that were tele­cast world­wide eu­lo­giz­ing Ran­tham­bore as one of the world’s best places for sight­ing the Tigers.

Ran­tham­bore has at­tracted dig­ni­taries and world-renowned per­son­al­i­ties ga­lore by its mag­i­cal charm. High on the list of dig­ni­taries vis­it­ing Ran­tham­bore was the charis­matic for­mer Pres­i­dent of USA, Bill Clin­ton, who was mes­mer­ized by Ran­tham­bore’s prized pos­ses­sions – the Tigers.

Post Bill Clin­ton’s visit, Ran­tham­bore has wit­nessed tremen­dous in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments both in terms of wildlife and vis­i­tor man­age­ment. To­day, when you travel to Ran­tham­bore along its des­o­late park­lands, gravel roads and bat­tle scarred forts, you are likely to be trans­ported to an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent In­dia, which is the great In­dian wilder­ness es­capade.

When de­cid­ing to travel to the jun­gles, most vis­i­tors are of­ten ner­vous and ap­pre­hen­sive about the kind of ac­com­mo­da­tion that is avail­able in the wilder­ness. But with In­dia evolv­ing as a global tourist des­ti­na­tion, high end jun­gle hos­pi­tal­ity is now a re­al­ity and Ran­tham­bore boasts of some of the best lux­ury brands – The Oberoi Vanyav­i­las, Vi­vanta by Taj, Sher Vi­las, Na­har­garh etc., – where you can soak in lux­ury af­ter the day’s thrilling wildlife sa­fari.

The im­pres­sive Oberoi Vanyav­i­las Re­sort is with­out doubt a cut above the rest in terms of dis­creet lux­ury. Run by the renowned Oberoi ho­tel chain, Vanyav­i­las is lo­cated in close prox­im­ity to the Na­tional Park.

These tents are de­signed just like re­gal car­a­vans that were used by the Ma­hara­jas of yore. The in­te­ri­ors are eye-catch­ing by their in­tri­cately crafted tiger prints, rugs placed on the fine teak floor and the king-sized bed is a per­fect way to un­wind af­ter the day’s ad­ven­ture.

A 3 Night & 4 Day itin­er­ary is per­fect and you can rest as­sured of The Re­sort’s In-house nat­u­ral­ists who have Ran­tham­bore’s ter­rain on the tip of their fin­gers.

For the ben­e­fit of tourists, Ran­tham­bore Na­tional Park has 10 ex­clu­sive wildlife sa­fari zones and each such zone has an ear­marked car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity so as to avoid over­crowd­ing. And the best thing about em­bark­ing on a wildlife sa­fari in Ran­tham­bore is that there are tigers present in each zone.

Ran­tham­bore comes alive with the sight of Samb­hars and Nil­gais graz­ing in the grass­lands. The mon­keys here are lit­er­ally just too naughty. The pea­cocks of Ran­tham­bore, are a breed apart and grace­ful.

But it is the Royal Ben­gal Tigers for which Ran­tham­bore is most pre­ferred by wildlife en­thu­si­asts and is In­dia’s Tiger Coun­try. In the days of yore, Ran­tham­bore used to be the hunt­ing re­serve of Ra­jasthan’s roy­alty. The rea­son why tigers thrive in Ran­tham­bore is due to the dry de­cid­u­ous for­est cover and an abun­dance of prey base.

In terms of tiger den­sity, Ran­tham­bore is one of In­dia’s high den­sity Na­tional Parks (6.5 Kms/ Tiger and as per the 2016 tiger cen­sus, has 60 Royal Ben­gal Tigers). This is one of the best places for tiger sight­ing.

Un­like other tiger habi­tats, here in Ran­tham­bore with its lim­ited ter­rain, there is al­ways a fight for supremacy amongst the tigers in terms of ter­ri­tory hav­ing the rich­est prey base, which ac­cord­ing to wildlife con­ser­va­tion­ists is an in­di­ca­tor of a healthy ecosys­tem.

Mind you, the res­i­dent denizens of Ran­tham­bore are amongst the most pho­tographed in­di­vid­u­als in the world and the For­est De­part­ment has given them names such as, Pac­man, Ar­row­head, Noor, Fateh, Surzan for the ben­e­fit of the tourists. The pop­u­lar­ity of Ran­tham­bore has in­creased man­i­fold largely due to the ex­cel­lent wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy op­tions, not just in terms of the

huge di­ver­sity of wildlife species, but also due to the high vis­i­bil­ity on of­fer, cour­tesy the dry de­cid­u­ous habi­tat. A typ­i­cal wildlife sa­fari in Ran­tham­bore passes through dense “Dhok” for­est and pre­cip­i­tous val­leys and onto the flat plains which is home to a myr­iad of wildlife species. One of the most re­mark­able fea­tures of Ran­tham­bore’s land­scape are the shim­mer­ing lakes en­cir­cled by bushy aca­cia woods. These wa­ter­ing holes are ideal habi­tats for the avian species and a Mecca for bird watch­ers. The big cats too are known to rest along the banks of these lakes. Ran­tham­bore is not just wildlife view­ing. Here in the midst of haunt­ing wilder­ness, there is an im­preg­nable old fort, dat­ing back to the 10th cen­tury and lo­cated at least 200 me­ters above sea level. Leg­end has it that the Chahuan Ra­jputs built this ma­jes­tic fort in 944 AD. Nearby is the Jogi Ma­hal where In­dia’s largest Banyan tree is lo­cated.

Ever imag­ined of a cas­tle in the woods? Well, here in Ran­tham­bore, a visit to the cas­tle of Jhoomar Baori could be a very re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. In the days of yore it used to be the sum­mer re­treat of the Royal fam­ily of Jaipur, which has now been con­verted into a her­itage ho­tel by Ra­jasthan Tourism.

The Pali Ghat Croc­o­dile Sanc­tu­ary in the Cham­bal re­gion is awe­some and is a breed­ing cen­tre. This one-of-its- kind croc­o­dile sanc­tu­ary is lo­cated at the tri-junc­tion of three states – Ra­jasthan, Ut­tar Pradesh and Mad­hya Pradesh. Apart from croc­o­diles, Gangetic dolphins and a va­ri­ety of tur­tles are sci­en­tif­i­cally reared. This is one of the best places for pho­tograph­ing croc­o­diles and dolphins. Many vantage lo­ca­tions are avail­able and can be reached by boat.

Time per­mit­ting, a visit to the Ra­jiv Gandhi Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum, lo­cated at a dis­tance of 9 Kms. from Sawai Mad­hopur can be a very en­light­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The mu­seum’s in-house pot­tery shop and art gallery of­fer sig­nif­i­cant in­sight to the artis­tic pur­suits of the lo­cal tribes. The well-stocked li­brary has a repos­i­tory of 10,000 books on na­ture and wildlife.

No trip to Ran­tham­bore is ever com­plete with­out a visit to the neigh­bor­ing Moghiya vil­lage, where the Moghiya tribes, which once as­so­ci­ated them­selves in poach­ing ac­tiv­i­ties have over the span of a decade-long cru­sade by Tiger Watch (NGO), con­verted them­selves into cus­to­di­ans of Ran­tham­bore’s tigers. To­day Tiger Watch’s anti-poach­ing pro­gram is per­haps one of the most suc­cess­ful covert anti-poach­ing ini­tia­tives un­der­taken in In­dia’s wilder­ness do­main.

Of par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance is the Tiger Watch in­spired Moghiya Hand­i­craft Pro­gram, where the wom­en­folk have been able to up­grade their weav­ing skills through ex­po­sure to state-of-the-art weav­ing tech­niques. Their fin­ished prod­ucts range from bas­kets, tablemats, hand fans etc., most of which are sold to vis­i­tors.

Leg­endary tiger con­ser­va­tion­ist Valmik Tha­par’s Ran­tham­bore Foun­da­tion’s works too are com­mend­able. For in­stance, he set up the Ran­tham­bore School of Art, which en­cour­ages lo­cal artists to en­gage in artis­tic pur­suits and to­day vis­i­tors to Ran­tham­bore are stu­pe­fied by the amaz­ing art works that are on dis­play by the lo­cals who use ba­sic oil, char­coal and wa­ter­color to cre­ate such mas­ter­pieces.

All in all, a visit to Ran­tham­bore of­fers a peek into In­dia’s furtive Tiger Coun­try. Are you up for the wild es­capade?

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