Ranthambore, covering 410 sq. km. runs from the easternmost spur of the Aravallis to the Vindhya range. It has both the old fort and the wildlife sanctuary also known as Sawai Madhopur.
|Open: October-May, 0630-1000, 1430-1700
Climate: Temp. range 49?C to 2?C.
Best time: November to April
The National Park is 10 km E of Sawai Madhopur town with the approach along a narrow valley. The path to the fort zigzags up the steep outcrop in a series of ramps and through two impressive gateways. The fort wall runs round the summit and has a number of semi-circular bastions. This, combined with the natural escarpment produces sheer drops of over 65 m in places and stunning views. There are two tanks, a palace and pavilion and a few temples inside the walls. All are in various states of disrepair but there are good views out over the surrounding countryside to warrant the effort of reaching the fort, and it is a wonderfully peaceful place.
The Chauhan Ranthambore fort on a 215m high rock 12 km NE of Sawai Madhopur, was built in 944 and over the next 6 centuries changed hands a number of times. Qutb-ud-din Aibak captured it in 1194 and later handed it back to the Rajputs. Ala-ud-din Khalji took it in 1301 and Akbar in 1569. It later passed to the house of Jaipur. Set in dry deciduous forest featuring Anogiessus pendula, the area covers rocky hills and open valleys dotted with small pools and fruit trees, and this became the private tiger reserve of the Maharaja of Jaipur. In 1972, the Sanctuary came under the Project Tiger scheme.
Tigers can occasionally be seen in the daytime, particularly Nov-Apr. Sadly poaching has increased with the demand abroad for skins and bones and the tiger population has decreased (to around 25 in 1995, and two pairs had cubs in 1995). It provides a fine habitat for sambar; there are also a few leopards, nilgai, sloth bear, jackal, crocodile, the occasional rare caracal and a rich variety of birds.
The park has good roads and tracks so it is best to explore by jeep, visiting Nal Ghati, Lahpur, Bakaula, Anantpur and Kachida valley. Padam Talao adjacent to the Jogi Mahal hunting lodge is the park’s favourite water source; there are also water holes at Raj Bagh and Milak.