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Located in eastern Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park is one of the finest tiger reserves in the country. Most visitors spending a couple of nights here are likely to spot one of these wonderful animals, although there are no guarantees. Once the private tiger reserve of the Maharajah of Jaipur, the sanctuary came under the Project Tiger scheme in 1972 following the government Wildlife Protection Act. Villages inside the park were ‘resettled’ into the surrounding area, leaving only a scattering of people now living within the park’s boundaries.
Tiger sightings are recorded almost daily, usually in the early morning, especially from November to April. Sadly, poaching is prevalent: between 2003 and 2005, 22 tigers were taken out of the park by poachers operating from surrounding villages. Since then the population has recovered somewhat, with about six cubs being born each year. The current estimate is that there are 31 adult tigers in the park.Read more
Set between the Aravalli and Vindhya hills, the reserve covers 410 square kilometres of dry deciduous forest, rocky hills and open valleys dotted with small pools and fruit trees. Should the tigers evade you, as you pass along misty dust tracks and the crisp morning air disperses with the sunrise, there is plenty of other wildlife to divert you. The lakeside woods and grassland provide an ideal habitat for herds of chital and sambar deer and sounders of wild boar, while nilgai antelope and chinkara gazelles prefer the drier areas of the park. Langur monkeys, mongoose and hare are all prolific, and there are also sloth bear, a few leopards and the occasional rare caracal. Crocodiles bask by the lakes, and some rocky ponds have freshwater turtles. Extensive birdlife includes spurfowl, jungle fowl, partridges, quails, crested serpent eagle, woodpeckers, flycatchers and water birds like storks, ducks and geese at the lakes and waterholes. Padam Talao by the Jogi Mahal is a favourite water source; there are also water holes at Raj Bagh and Milak.
The park’s 10th-century fort, proudly flanked by two impressive gateways, makes a good afternoon excursion after a morning’s nature-spotting. The fort wall runs round the summit and has a number of semi-circular bastions, some with sheer drops of over 65 metres and stunning views. Inside the fort you can see a Siva temple, ruined palaces, pavilions and tanks.