Sawai Madhopur is one of the most visited tourist destinations of Rajasthan. The place has many delights to offer besides the well known tiger reserve. Rich in history and legends, the place is gateway to the world famous Ranthambore National Park.

A significant geological feature within the park is the great boundary fault where Vindhyas meet Aravalli ranges. The river Chambal in south and Banas in north lines the park. A variety of birds including owlets, ubiquitous langur, leopard, caracal, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, marsh crocodile, wild boar, bear and various species of deer are present in the park.

It has more than 300 varieties of birds. Commonly seen are peafowl, parakeets, doves, stork and egrets among others. Migratory birds such as grey leg goose, pintails and Sunday shelduck are especially visible during winters.

The total zone comprising of the RNP, the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary and the Kaila Devi Sanctuary is 1380 kms. Out of this the RNP covers 400 kms with buffer area. The 90 per cent prey base (sambar/chetal) lies in this area which is a no-grazing zone with plenty of water supply. But the other two sanctuaries are less protected for wildlife.

The scientific tourism zones are in the core areas which is the main habitat of the tiger. With constant influx of tourist vehicles there is a change in the behavioural pattern of the tiger and other animals. They have become used to these conditions. The tigers in the non tourist area are shy and aggressive. Ranthambhore National Park is the place where the celebrated Indian tiger is best seen, sprawling over a varying and undulating landscape.

The scenery changes dramatically from gentle and steep slopes of the Vindhyas and sharp and conical hills of the Aravalis with changing patterns every 500 metres.

A tenth century fort also blends amicably with the background. Pure sands of Dhok (Anogeissus pendula) interspersed with grasslands at the plateaus, meadows in valleys and luxuriant foliage around the canals adds to the wildness. The lakes-Padam talab, Malik talab and Rajbagh —– looked like turquoises studded in the forest abounding in aquatic vegetation including duckweeds, lilies and lotus among others. We met an officer from the Indian Forest Service who talked about the initiatives taken for conservation and development of the park.

Special efforts for water management have been done for the revival of old baories, simultaneously poachers move have been nullified with constant tracking of water holes through wireless network.

There are around 30 tigers in the tourist area and 10 in the non tourist area. The mating period continues for three-four days and at a time the tigress delivers up to four cubs. It’s a positive sign that population of the tiger has increased.

The places of interest inside the park include Bakola, High point, Lahpur valley, Khemcha Kund, Siwad, Rameshwaram, Khandar Fort etc.

The other excursions include Jain pilgrimage Mahaveerji, Sunehri Kothi, Bundi Sanctuary et al .The nearby village folks decorate their houses with Mandna which adorn the walls of their mud houses. An open gypsy took us through the forests as we eagerly waited with our cameras to spot the Royal Bengal.

The driver promised us a glimpse of the “sher”. As soon as we were told that we were entering the main jungle, we held our breaths in anticipation. We were greeted by a group of sambars and also saw deers grazing. We got a glimpse of the wild boar. A forest official informed through a wireless set about the sighting of a tiger nearby.We rushed to the spot in our vehicle. There were other curious visitors too. Finally we spot the royal animal coming out of an old monument, least bothered with the human presence around.

The tiger lied down and kept staring with piercing eyes. The intermittent cries of peacocks and a low roaring of the tiger added to the excitement of dwelling in the heart of the jungle. We went to Jogi Mahal, from where the scenery was a treat to the eyes. We got a breathtaking view of the tiger resting under a majestic banyan tree.

Our next stop was the Ranthambhore fort. It was another treasure to behold, rich in historical importance. Inside the fort there was the Toran Dwar, Mahadeo and Samanton ki chatri, 32 pillared cenotaphs, the Ganesha temple and a masjid. The idol of Lord Ganesha looked down from atop the fort. The terrific view of the entire jungle was worth remembering. We considered ourselves lucky to have seen a tiger. As we were returning, our gypsy stopped in the middle of the road. There were also other vehicles from where people looked out curiously.

They said that there was a tiger nearby. Within a few minutes, we caught one appearing about100 metres away. To our surprise, our driver turned to the opposite direction and within moments adeptly got the vehicle unbelievably close to the tiger. We were just two feet away and held our breath with a mixed feeling of nervous excitement as it sat looking at us. It was a treat to behold for nearly 20 minutes. It felt like a moment to be cherished for lifetime.

The park is well planned keeping in mind the conservation objectives. The nature and behaviour of the tigers is under vigilance. There is no doubt enormous pressure on the habitat of tigers, but Ranthambhore hopes to strike an ecological balance and complete harmony between man and the beast in future.

The place continues to fascinate and enthrall nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and tourists. Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan enthralls nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and tourists promising loads of adventures and surprises along the way.