Ranthambore National Park
One of the most popular parks with tiger sightings at its best, a photographers’ dream come true, dotted with lakes and ponds around which the wildlife abounds, predators and prey enact their day to day drama. The 400 sq km Ranthambore National Park, hailed as one of India's finest wildlife locations, 100 kms from Ajmer in Rajasthan, was established as a sanctuary in 1959 and included in the very first phase of Project Tiger in 1972. In 1981 Ranthambore was awarded National Park status. The park derives its name from the Fort of Ranthambhore which sits on a rocky outcrop in the forest. The fort dates back to the 11th century when it was a vital citadel for the control of central India.
The tiger reigns supreme in Ranthambore which is among the few places in the world where this super-predator, symbol of power, strength and magnificence, can be observed at close quarters. There are about 25 tigers and 40 leopards in the reserve. These are supported by a large population of healthy herbivores. Tigers can be spotted quite often in their natural habitat even during daytime. They have been frequently seen at the edges of three lakes—Padam Talab, Raj Bagh Talab and Milak Talab. The park also has panthers in sizable numbers, though they have been spotted generally at the outskirts of the park perhaps due to the inevitable conflict with the tiger population, which command the ‘superior’ position amidst the predatory cats.
Jacanas, painted stork, black stork, and white necked stork are seen along the water bodies. Peafowl are found in abundance and other birds include Bonelli's eagle, crested serpent eagle, the great Indian horned owl, quail, partridge, spur fowl and the paradise flycatcher.
Ranthambore has large numbers of sambar, chital and nilgai. Sounders of boar and an occasional gazelle the chinkara can be seen, as also the Indian hare, mongoose and monitor lizards. The lakes and pools at the park are where the deer congregate and where it is easiest to see the animals. Among the other local fauna are the leopard, hyena. jackal, jungle cats, slothe bear and marsh crocodile.
Ranthambhore is open for visitors
between October and June. Summers are uncomfortably hot, however the
summer heat (and absence of the rains) attracts animals to the waterholes
giving the best chance of seeing wildlife in May or June. The most
comfortable time for a visit is December and April.