RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK - November/December 2018


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Asia » India
November 24th 2018
Published: November 26th 2018
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HEADING TO RANTHAMBORE



In our last blog we had arrived at the railway station in Bharatpur and I must say we were quite astonished as we walked along the platform to see groups of people scrambling across the lines to reach the platform on the other side rather than use a perfectly situated bridge! Even the ladies with their long silk saris were crossing on foot and being helped up on to the platform on the other side - we of course used the bridge … …



After a short wait on the station platform we boarded the train which was quite full but everyone had seats. Although we did change ours as two guys had huge suitcases under the table and asked us to swop as there was nowhere else to stow them - we were happy to do so as we got a window seat as well. You could not see much through the window though as it was quite dirty and shaded as well. There were three seats in a row and we sat next to a young girl from Agra on her way back to college where she was studying medicine. We had a lots of long chats with her during the journey and she was quite helpful as she had an App on her phone which told us where we were and when the train stopped she told us that it was running late but in the end was only running 15 minutes behind time. She also ensured that we got off at the right station, we had been told to get out at the 5th stop but that did not help with the train also stopping between stations as well . … … …



I must say we really enjoyed our very first train journey across northern India and were really excited about arriving at our first National Park as well. This was the only park we would be visiting on the group tour but we were going to spent more time in several of the parks in Central India after this tour ended.





We booked into the Dev Vilas at Sawai Madhopur overlooking the Aravalli hills, the hotel is set in three and a half acres of land and is located nearest to the entrance of the National Park to ensure that we got maximum time there. The building was in Indo-Saracen style taking a cue from the Shikaar or hunting lodges built by the Maharajas. The name of the hotel and its inspiration derives from the present owner’s mother, Dev Kumari and translates as, ‘Abode of Dev’.



Situated in a eco-sensitive zone, the hotel responsibly uses recycled water for non-consumable plantations on its property. The building has also been designed to harvest all rain water and re-charge ground water using traditional storage system.



We were personally greeted at the entrance by the staff very smartly dressed indeed, one reminded us of Omar Sharif and the other Basil Faulty - it was going to be fun here … … The rooms were extremely spacious and clean, in fact the largest rooms we have had in India. We even had a separate toilet and sink as well as a shower, bath, toilet and sinking in another room. It had an ‘old world’ charm which took you back to days gone by. In the evening they lit an outdoor fire and we sat under the stars drinking and reminiscing on our day. I was looking forward to a long ‘gin and tonic' but they had no gin but did provide us with some delicious Indian wine called Sula - it was a Sauvignon blanc and I would definitely recommend this wine if you visit India.



We really enjoyed our stay, the staff were very attentive but also not in your face and they timed the meals to suit you around the safari times. This was just as well as we got up on our first morning to go on safari only to be told that there would be no safaris at all that day.



Would you believe it but there was an unannounced strike that day of the gypsy and canter operators, and all the guides. Protestors were demanding to increase the number of tourists and vehicles allowed into the park whilst the authorities were trying to restrict the numbers. We were informed that the strike was going to continue for the next seven days and there would be no tiger safari for tourists and visitors at Ranthambore National Park at all.



As you can imagine our group were extremely disappointed but we were offered a trip to Ranthambore Fort and once we were told it was located within the park we all decided to go as you never know what you might see on the way.





RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK



Ranthambore National Park is one of the renowned Tiger Reserves in India. It is located in Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan, which is about 130 km from Jaipur. It was formerly the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, today the Ranthambore terrain is a major wildlife tourist attraction for wildlife photographers and nature lovers from all over the world. Comprising about 150 square miles of wild jungle scrub hemmed in by rocky ridges, the park is the best place to spot wild tigers in Rajasthan. Among the most famous of hunting parties to visit here was one organised for Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1961. Nowadays, the park is one of the prime examples of Project Tiger’s conservation efforts in Rajasthan. As well as tigers the park is also home to Sambars, Panthers, Marsh Crocodiles, Sloth Bears, Leopards as well as a variety of birds.



We were not expecting to see much as we had to keep to the main road to the fort and not wander off on the safari trails as they were all closed due to the strike. Sanjay, our driver tried to get a guide but without success as they were on strike too, but he drove us to the fort and said not to take a local guide but to wander around on our own. This we did and we were so glad we did. It was nice to be ‘off the lead’ for once and we all enjoyed wandering around this vast fort. We were quite happy in the company of our fellow travels and we all got on really well which was great. being only 6 in the group it could have been a disaster … … …It was Sunday so many locals were heading up the hill as well taking offerings to the temple. Apart from tourists the fort was also home to hundreds of monkeys so you had to watch as they were known to make off with tourist belongings.



Once we climbed the steep entrance we were amazed at the structure and condition of this 10th century 700 feet high fort, scattered around the area were a number of ancient temples and mosques, hunting pavilions, crocodile filled lakes and vine covered Chhatris (elevated, dome-shaped pavilions) used as an element in Indian architecture. There were ancient Hindu and Jain temples within the complex and we enjoyed wandering around the inside of these, although some were a bit precariously balanced … … We also spotted a few birds but no other animals apart from the monkeys.



We watched beautiful colourful ladies taking offerings up to the temple, others were carrying really heavy loads on their heads. One women had a large number of plastic water bottles wrapped in cloth but seemed to take it in her stride. As we made our way along several donkeys were being herded through carrying heavy bags of sand, they do have a poor life these animals of burden - it was like watching a biblical setting right in front of us.





TIGER CONSERVATION IN INDIA



Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched in 1972 by the Government of India during the Prime Minister Indira Ghandi’s tenure.



The project aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal Tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage.



The project's task force visualised these tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus animals could migrate to adjacent forests. Funds and commitment were mastered to support the intensive program of habitat protection and rehabilitation under the project.The government has set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers and funded relocation of villagers to minimise human-tiger conflicts.



A 2006 tiger census program estimated that the total tiger population to be 1,411 individuals ranging from 1,165 to 1,657 adult and sub-adult tigers of more than 1.5 years of age. Owing to the project, the number of tigers has improved to 2,226 as per the latest census report released on 20 January 2015.State surveys have reported a significant increase in the tiger population which is estimated to cross 3,000 during the 2018 count (as part of a four yearly tiger census). The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has confirmed that the tiger census will be undertaken in 2018 and the final numbers will be available by January 2019.



We were supposed to be having two safaris into the park but of course the strike meant we missed both of these. However on the day we were leaving we were informed that the strike had been called off, we asked whether it was possible for us to go on a safari really early in the morning before we were due to leave. We were informed the this might be difficult as all those booked on the safari already would still be going. Luckily though they managed to find us 6 seats on a canter. We were picked up at the hotel and driven into the park.



We drove around for a while bumping into other safari vehicles and were not to happy with the fact that we had a driver but not spotter. We have never been on a safari before without one as it is difficult to drive and spot the wildlife.



Our time was nearly up when the driver, who could not speak English started speeding off down the track stopping next to several other vehicles. A tiger had been spotted, although he really was trying to sleep in the thick bush and we only got glimpses off his head and back and tail.



According to the 2014 census of tigers, there are about 62 tigers in Ranthambore National Park and if you take the statistics of that and the size of the park about 150 square miles we were really lucky indeed to even spot one. It was encourage to know that the numbers was increasing though as there were only around 25 in 2005 and 48 in 2013.



Everyone in the vehicle was juggling to try and get a better view of the tiger but he was definitely not playing ball and continued to stay camouflaged in the jungle scub. More vehicles arrived and our driver reversed to let a group of children in to see if they could spot the tiger, we hoped he would wake up for them.



On the way out of the park we saw some Spotted and Sambar Deer and lots more monkeys well as some very large Mash Crocodiles. I must say though that we really had enjoyed the visit to the Fort the day before just as much as our first hunt for tigers in India.





On our return we had a speedy breakfast and quickly packed our bags. All the staff came out to wave us off which was a nice touch. Would defiantly recommend Dev Vilas to anyone, great staff, nice location and great ‘old world’ ambience and plenty of Plumb Headed Parakeets around the grounds as well as a few other birds. We enjoyed our time in our first national park but it was time to move on and visit some more highlights of northern india. Boarding our bus with our driver Sanjay we continued on towards Jaipur - Namaste, see you there.


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29th November 2018
Spot the Tiger

Wow!
To see a genuine tiger in its own habitat would be so cool even if it is only a glimpse. /Ake

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