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Rantambhore National Park
The Ranthambhore National Park stretches across an area of 1,334 sq km on the eastern edge of the Thar Desert. Once the hunting grounds of the erstwhile ruling family of Jaipur, today it is one of the last sanctuaries of the big cat, the Royal Bengal Tiger. Ranthambhore actually consist of not one, but three, wildlife preserves: the Ranthambhore National Park itself, the Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary and the Keladevi Sanctuary.
Ranthambhore is an oasis of dense dry deciduous forests amidst a vast tract of semi arid scrub and thorny desert vegetation surrounded by the hills of the Vindhyas and the Aravalis.
An ancient fort lies within the park boundaries of Ranthambore, adding to its charm. Ravines, nallahs, water bodies and waterfalls add to its beauty and offer many natural hideouts for tigers and the other wildlife endemic to this park.
Part of Project Tiger (one of Asia's most important conservation efforts), Ranthambhore is the favourite haunt of wildlife buffs and professional wildlife photographers from around the world who come to see tigers, panthers, wild cats, hyena, jackal, marsh crocodile, wild boar, bears, many species of deer and a rich birdlife of over 300 species, including the great Indian horned owl. Ranthambhore encompasses three lakes: Raj Bagh, Malik Talab and Padam Talab, where aquatic birds can be seen.
Although latest reports show that the tiger population of Ranthambhore is on the decline, it’s still one of India’s best places to see the great cat in all its glory.
Entry to the Ranthambore National Park is limited; all visitors must obtain a permit at the entrance to Ranthambhore before they’re allowed to enter. Foreigners pay an entrance fee of Rs 200; for Indians, the fee is Rs 25, while Indian students pay Rs 5. Additional charges are levied for cameras.
The Ranthambore National Park is 145 km from Jaipur though the nearest railhead is at Sawai Madhopur, 12 km away. Sawai Madhopur, which lies on the main Delhi-Mumbai railway route, is connected by train to a number of cities and towns across India, including Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur. The nearest airports are at Kota and Jaipur, from where a bus or train can be taken to Sawai Madhopur, where a taxi may be hired to get to Ranthambhore; alternatively, you can take the bus which goes to the park.
Within the park, hired vehicles- especially jeeps- can be hired at the entrance to Ranthambhore. The RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation) organizes jeep and truck safaris for tourists, besides which you may bring your own vehicle into the park.
Best time to visit
Ranthambhore is open for visitors between October and June. Summers are very hot in this part of the country, and temperatures rise so high that you’ll probably end up being utterly uncomfortable. However, the summer heat attracts animals to the waterholes, so there’s greater chance of seeing wildlife in May or June.
The best time for a trip remains between December and April, when the weather’s great and there’s plenty of opportunity for doing some hardcore wildlife-watching. March and April, especially, are months when tiger-spotting is more common.