At 5.30 AM, Sawai Modhupur was just like another small town in India. It never gave me an idea of the power it packed. The distance between the railway station to my resort was hardly ten minutes but the cold winter wind were seeming to form crystals on my eye lids. The hot tea at the resort gave me the much required comfort.
Quickly after changing into my jungle gear, i jumped into my jeep to head to Rajbagh Lake, the most picturesque place of Ranthambore.
The early kings of this place had build forts inside the jungle and had used them to relax and hunt the animals. Hunting was an integral part of the Kings cos it was the only entertainment they had those days. Maybe if the smart phones were discovered then, we would have had more pictures than trophies!
Ranthambore, if its geographical position experiences extreme weathers. In summer it gets scorchingly hot and winters are terribly cold. Wonder how do the animals survive these extreme type of climatic changes with the same fur coat.
Ranthambore, now has been divided into 10 zones to make tourism easy and to avoid crowding of tourist to one zone. But even then there is a lot of crowding which happens from Zone 1 to Zone 5. The tigers have also got used to the tourists and the vehicles thronging to see them. Sawai Modhupur, the town adjoining the forests dwells son tourism to a great deal. With so many resorts cropping up, the natives either get employed or get trained to become naturalist and drivers. They pick up even the faintest of the alarm calls and read the pug marks to figure out the movement of the Big Cats.
Early mornings and late evenings the forest become very lively. The Sambar along with the Spotted deers are busy grazing the grass and are always on high alert. The not so alert beings are easy prey to the Big Cats. Leopards are plenty in the forests of Ranthambore, but are a rare sight. This is bcos they are also scared and avoid the Tigers who kill them.
Ranthambore was put on the world map bcos of a famous tigress called ‘ Machli’ (Fish). She ruled the lake area of the forest. She not only was a very successful hunter but also a very successful Mother she gave birth and brought up her siblings very well. It is her blood line which leads the current tigers in the park. She sadly passed away this year due to old age. She was the Oldest living wild tiger in India. .
After a good morning drive, i was back in my resort for breakfast and rest. It is such a pleasure to sleep with a cosy rug on top during the winter times at Rathambore. Dreaming about the Phantom of the forests, i was very soon snoring on my bed. The knock at my door reminded me it was lunch time.
Most of the high end resorts serve multicusine. The menu typically consists of a mix of European breakfast, more of an Indian lunch and good mix dinner spread. The winter nights are special around the camp fire site. The natives come over and perform traditional dances and sing songs to entertain the guests. The Rajasthani people are very colourful ( at least their dresses make them look so) and have a very typical voice. I have always wondered whether the males carry a cassette player bcos of the similar sounding voice!! I have stayed in many resorts before i finally settled to Ranthambore Regency. Run by two Jain brothers, this place is exceptional for its hospitality, service and food.
There are numerous resorts to cater to all type of segments. Oberoi and Taj are a couple 5 star properties there. Then you have the 4 start like Ranthambore Regency etc. There are also luxurious tented properties like Sher Bagh, Aman - i -Khas etc. There are many budget hotels and big ones like Royal Orchid for large groups. One can get a hang of these from Google. But is always better to book through an travel agent cos the safaris also need to be booked well in advance.
We left a little early that evening towards the gate. This was bcos, we wanted to be the first to enter the park. The advantages of entering the park first is we get to arrive at the location where we hope to see the Tiger first and generally the tigers too have developed this uncanny habit of moving into the bushes when they hear the sound of the vehicles.
With a determined driver and a more determined me, we were at the spot much earlier than the other people who were still enjoying their mid afternoon winter slumber. The reason why we went early was to get a glimpse of this famous tigress with her tiny little cubs. The forests was very silent and even the moment of leaves brushing against each other on the ground was heard for a long distance.
We knew that the tigers were in the vicinity of the ruined fort, but there was no sight of them. The occasional call of the crow perched high upon a tree close to the spot we were expecting the tigers to emerge from was giving us all the hopes. And all of a sudden hell broke loose. “Saab, Tiger, tiger, tiger”, my driver whispered. Training my eyes into the bushes i got a glimpse of three tiny fur balls. The distance was too much and i should have had a telescope to shoot them. By then the other visitors started piling up. Now we had to take the right position. This is a common confusion in the Indian jungles, unlike Africa where we have huge barren plain lands and everyone gets his/her position to take their shots.
I was telling my driver to go right and my naturalist was asking him to go to the left. Initially i thought, both were guiding the driver to go in the same direction cos i was telling in English and he was speaking Hindi. Only after we reached the spot, i realised, we were exactly in the opposite direction i had initially wanted hi to go. But, the lesson i have learned all these years is to listen to the naturalist and the driver because they are the experts.
After some tensed moments, we had the Mother bring out her kids to put up a great show to us. I have ensured that i visit the famous Lord Ganesha ( Elephant God) temple which is built on a hillock I'm midst of the jungle. The legend says, the temple was build sometime back in 1299 AD.
King Hameer who was in a long war with Alauddin Khilji had Lord visiting him in his dreams and assuring him to end the war. Things did happen as the Lord told and so Hameer built this temple for the Lord. Hindus all over the world come worship this Trinetra Ganesh.
Every month, thousands of pilgrims walk from the main gate to the temple to take His blessings. Many a times, they come across the tigers on foot. Till date there has been no recorded incident of a pilgrim getting attacked by the tigers. Though a couple of times, when the unwary and little over confident forests guards stepped into the tiger’s territory have paid their lessons. And they haven’t live to tell the tale!!
After seeking His blessings, i took my last look at the magnificent forests of Ranthambore where the Tiger has been the living God.
Time to visit
Ranthambore park gets closed between July end to Oct beginning bcos of monsoons. Rest of the year it is open. The best months in terms of sighting are April, May, Nov, Feb. The heat of the summers drive these Big cats near the water holes, making summers a slightly better time to sight these creatures.
Places to Stay
Ranging from 5 star to home stays, one can find various places to stay. As mentioned earlier it is better to get things organised by a travel agent or a tour company as one needs to book the safaris well in advance.
How to reach :-
Nearest railway station:Sawai Modhupur and it has good connectivity from Mumbai, Delhi and Jaipur. .
Nearest airport :Jaipur and it takes a 4 hour drive from Jaipur to Sawai Modhupur.
By : chandrashekar k www.travelunbounded.com