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Ranthambore National Park

The tiger is one of most elusive beasts alive but if there’s anywhere in India you’re likely to spot this magnificent animal, it is here at Ranthambore. Yet the setting of this iconic of national parks – indelibly associated with the tiger – couldn’t be more ordinary, amid scrubland and barren ridges.
Unlike in Corbett, the tigers at Ranthambore are extroverts, venturing out in full view when their time comes to hunt, or tending to their cubs, within lens-distance of the many tourists that throng here. Sadly, administrative neglect has contributed to poachers running amok, and the tiger population has taken a hit.
Ranthambore is located 130km southeast of Jaipur, and 110km northeast of Kota, and has a total area of 1334sq km, 392sq km of which make up the core section. It is an enormously popular wildlife destination – among the top two in India – and more so during the winter months.
While here, it’s worth visiting the Ranthambore Fort, a striking 10th century structure situated atop a rocky bluff, in the heart of the park. This fastness, flanked by a couple of imposing doorways, is encircled by 7km of walls, allowing one a fine view of the landscape around. There are also ruins of buildings within the fort, among them a mosque, a number of temples (including one dedicated to Siva, and one – much revered – to Ganesh), tanks, tombs, pavilions and chhatris.


The name of Fateh Singh Rathore, the ‘tiger man’, will forever be associated with Ranthambore National Park. It’s his endeavour and his dedication that have contributed to this sanctuary’s high standing in the world wildlife community. Originally the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary (1955), the park was incorporated under the Project Tiger plan in 1972 after the government passed the Wildlife Protection Act. It became a Project Tiger reserve the following year, and a national park in 1980. In 1984, the neighbouring forests were declared the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary and the Keladevi Sanctuary, both being absorbed into the park in 1991.
Recently, three more buffer zones were added, increasing the core area of the national park. These zones have been created to accommodate Ranthambore’s expanding population of tigers.
Besides poaching, Ranthambore’s biggest challenge is in dealing with encroachment, a major issue in these parts. Rathore’s son, Goverdhan Singh, set up the Prakratik Society in 1994, to look into the increasing encroachment on the habitat of the tiger – the human population within the park had increased from 70000 to 2 lakhs in the space of almost 30 years. This had resulted in an alarming increase in the rate of deforestation (because of the humans’ need of firewood).


Ranthambore National Park lies on the edge of a plateau, set among deciduous forest, scrub-marked hills and wide valleys, the topography flecked with pools of water and fruit trees. It covers an area of about 400sq km between the spiky ridges of the Aravalli Hills and the level-surfaced Vindhya Range. To its north, Ranthambore is bordered by the Banas River, and to its south by the Chambal River.


From autumn, through winter and into spring – October to March – is the best time to visit Ranthambore. Since this is the dry season, much of the wildlife here, in particular the larger animals, heads out to the lake. These animals are confined to the forest once the rains arrive. In April, tigers have nowhere to hide due to the thinning cover, and so the chances of spotting the big cats increases at this time of year.

Flora and Fauna

The current tiger population in the sanctuary is 35 (adults): tigers are so visible here that they can be sighted pretty much every day, usually early in the mornings. But there are plenty more mammals to be spotted in Ranthambore, among them chital, sambar, nilgai, chinkara, jackals, wild boar, hyenas, leopards, panthers and jungle cats. The deer (chital and sambar) can be seen roaming the grasslands and the woods by the lake, while the reserve’s drier areas are ideal habitat for the nilgai and chinkara. You’ll also find droves of common langur, as well as mongooses and hares, and (sometimes) sloth bears and caracals (desert lnyx).
Additionally, there are over 250 species of birds in the park, among them jungle fowl, spurfowl, partridges, quails, woodpeckers, flycatchers, Indian grey hornbills, nightjars, crakes, snipes, shrikes, the Sirkeer Malkoha (from the genus of cuckoos), sandpipers, minivets, drongos, munias, great crested grebe and genera of eagles and owls. The birder can also spot wetland birds like ducks, geese and storks. Among reptiles, marsh crocodiles and gharials can be seen in the Chambal River (home, also, to the Gangetic dolphin), while there are common sightings of desert monitor lizards, the Indian python and freshwater turtles.
Ranthambore has close to 300 species of plants and trees. Much of the park is covered in dense forest, a large part of it dry deciduous. Among the thickly-forested areas is Bakaula, which also has a fair number of watering holes – this tree cover and plenitude of water contributes to Bakaula’s robust wildlife population.
Nearer the lakes and ponds (and in the valleys too), the forest is mixed deciduous. The biggest lake in Ranthambore is Padam Talao (named after the lotus flowers seen on its surface); Rajbagh Talao and Malik Talao are (in order of size, largest first) the other watering holes here.

How to reach

Ranthambore is within easy access of the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Sawai Madhopur, a small town on the Delhi-Mumbai line, is the railhead closest to the national park, with daily trains to Delhi (4hr 30m-6hr), Jaipur (2hr 10min-2hr 45min) and Bharatpur (2hr 10min-2hr 30min).
There are also bus services to Jaipur and Kota. Ranthambore is 370km from Delhi, 153km from Jaipur and 251km from Agra.
The nearest airport is in Jaipur and Kota.

Getting Around

Where to go


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