No, I won’t be able to spot a tiger. Somehow I’ve never been that lucky,” was my first response when invited to visit Ranthambore or the haven for tiger lovers in North India. “Unless you are one of those rare tiger-jinxed souls, you have the best chance of spotting one here. Why, we are talking about one of the largest national parks in India with probably the maximum number of tigers (34 as per the 2008 census),” proudly coaxed Ratna Malhotra, the affable GM at The Oberoi Vanyavilas, the luxury tented resort that got the distinction of being named the best hotel in the world in Travel + Leisure’s Awards 2010 readers’ survey. I had to know she was just being polite, considering I was visiting in the peak monsoon month of June, just days before the national park shuts down for public for two months as wild animals do not venture out far towards the watering holes.
Anyway, I took the seven-hour road journey from Delhi against the advice of many who suggested a train ride till Sawai Madhopur station, barely 10km away from the massive national park spanning over 392sqkm. I don’t regret it one bit. It’s not possible to not fall in love with the lush greenery, the magnificent deciduous forests in monsoons and the splash of colour by way of typical Rajasthani attire that you see the women on the way adorn.
Ranthambore doesn’t grow on you. You hardly give it the time to, considering most people visit it over the weekend. But in those two days, one wants to absorb as much natural beauty as one can. The three-hour Jungle safari that takes place twice a day — 6.30am and 2.30pm is most efficiently regulated by the forest department, leaving no scope for touts to misguide the tourists.
Mistaken that I wouldn’t really know how else to pass time in the middle of a jungle, I don’t even know how two days whizzed by. I guess in doing some fabulous shopping at the nearby Dastkar handicraft centre and indulging in the rare pleasure of bathing two 35-year-old adorable elephants — Lakshmi and Mala, who stay at the resort. As for sighting a tiger, well, Ranthambore still owes me one!
About Ranthambore: Ranthambore town is situated in Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan, about 130km south-east of the state’s Capital Jaipur. It’s known all over the world for it’s national park, one of the largest in India.
How to reach:
By Road: It’s a two-hour drive from Jaipur; a six-seven hour one from New Delhi.
By Rail: Well connected to all major stations by Northern railways. The nearest train station is Sawai Madhopur, which is 11km away
By Air: The nearest airport is Jaipur, at a distance of 180km
Best season to visit: November to March
Where to stay:
There are several luxury and budget hotels around the national park. The popular one with affording tourists is The Oberoi Vanyavilas, set in 20-acres of landscaped gardens, complete with 25 luxury tents and a fully functional pool and spa.
For reservations, log on to: www.oberoihotels.com or call +91-7462-223-999
The writer’s trip was sponsored by The Oberoi, Vanyavilas, Ranthambore