This was my last safari since the bumpy ride was proving to be more than my back could take. This time we ended up in the front seats facing the side window. Quite uncomfortable , again they were the last ones available. tOur group was made up of a rather rowdy bunch of local guys , who had to be told several times to keep their voices down . Not surprisingly we didn’t see any tigers , although in all fairness , I don’t think we would have anyway . We heard a call of the animals to say he was in the area , but after an exciting chase , we gave up and contented ourselves with the deer and birds that we saw and went home.
Returning from the Fort ,we made our way back by a different route, which was how I learned about the "monkey business". Very clever! The monkeys never made any real moves when you were on the way to the temple. They made their moves when you were on the way back. That was when you you had nuts and little sweets samples.. Still friendly, but they checked our hands. If you opened your hands to show you had nothing, they left you alone. If you had some food and gave them a little, they were fine. If you had food and refused it to them, they bugged you until you gave them some. They never fought each other. They never got angry with you. They felt like the family dog feels. Accepted!
This was a good tour . It cost 1000 rps for the two of us.
We stop by the Temple as we leave the Rathambore Fort. Its a very ancient temple and although its generally a quiet day today , there are many faithful here. With our guide Happy we enter and recieve the blessings for a safe journey. Much appreciated.
The gentleman in the picture is stationed outside the entrance and watches our shoes.
The fort dates back to the 16th century and there are many stories steeped in myth surrounding its history.
Happy"took us down by another route. We passed the Muslim graves, rulers from 1000 yrs ago when the Holy Wars were taking place and the Moorish invaders from Africa were causing trouble in the name of Islam. He showed us some incredible vistas. we took many pictures.
He told us the story of the elephant god, and the Raj who ledf his army to war and told his wife that when he returned, if the yellow flag was flying, that he had won and everyone could rejoice. If he lost, the black flag would fly and everyone showed commit suicide and avoid being massacred. He won, but his emissary betrayed him and returned ahead flying the black flag. The Raj cut off the emissary's head and left it at the entrance to the city where for the next 1000 yrs everyone who passes hit the statue's head with a rock. We did it!
We were a little too ambitious booking 6 safaris I think , so we decided to forgo the one this morning and take a trip with Happy to the fort. We went by gypsy , which is the name they have for a jeep.
Located within the national park it took about 20 minutes to arrive at the gate. Nice trip through the jungle . We saw many birds , monkeys of course and spotted deer. Happy is a naturalist ,so he did a great job identifying the various birds along the way.
The fort is impressive and towers above the area. I wondered if I’d make it to the top. We took our time however enjoying the sites and I had no problems with the steep stairs to the various levels.
We had a wakeup call at 6AM and at 7AM after a quick hot tea we’re off again . This time we get a better seat in the back of the Cantor and are better prepared for the cold with blankets , gloves and winter hats.
The morning is beautiful with a dusty of low lying fog . There are more deer around this time of day and we see both the spotted deer and the larger Black deer. I was delighted with a whole flock of bright green parrots but I had a tough time getting a picture as I guess for others in this group they are common place.
Once again we are fortunate enough to see a Tiger . He was moving at a quick pace but we had full view of him in all his striped splendor as he made his way to higher ground..I was so excited I missed the picture . Oh well I’ll just have to record it to my memory.
We joined our first safari at about 3pm , soon after arriving from our 5 hour train from Delhi. We join 16 others and got the last two seats in the Cantor. I’m on the edge of a very small two person seat and thought with all the bumps I would end up on the floor.
Our group is made up of some very jovial Australian teachers who are travelling together and some young Americans .We had lots of fun sharing travel stories and binoculors.
After jostling around and taking a few pictures of some peacocks, deer an some baby crocodiles we heard the exciting news a Tiger was spotted up ahead . Our driver put it in high gear and with all of us holding on for our lives we raced to the viewing area. Sure enough hidden in the tall grass was a female Tiger lounging on her back . It was easy to loose sight of her but every now and then she would raise her leg ( which was hugh) and remind us she was there.
There are only about 36 Tigers in the park and we’re told many people don’t even catch a glimpse of a Tiger even after many safari drives so we’re feeling we’re pretty lucky with our first outing.
The sun was setting as we left the park at about 5:30 and by now its really getting cold .I ‘m happy I have my fleece and windbreaker but even with that I’m chilled.
I strongly recommend booking the gypsy as the canter could be very disappointing - my personnal experience: we booked via internet (www.rajasthantourism.gov.in) morning safari in a gypsy and evening safari in a canter, the price difference is not substantial but we wanted to try both ways.
In the gypsy we were together with 2 canadiens and 2 germans, all interested in seing the wildlife (that means quiet) and we were rewarded with beatifull view at three tigers (in the distance of 20-30m) and lots of other animals very close to our jeep.
In the evening we were in the canter with 18 indians, bigger part of them spending the whole safari in a lively conversation and mainly in "competition" whose mobile phone has more and louder melodies. Of course we saw nearly nothing, moreover the trip was "enriched" by barefaced littering of some paasangers out of the truck, which apparently did not disturb to anybody, including the guide.
Well, we had surely big luck in the morning and probably bad luck in the afternoon (furthermore we were there on sunday, which is generally not the best idea) so take my warning/recommendation only as one of points influencing your final decision.
This mighty 10th century fortress stands 700 feet high atop a hill, and it is quite a climb to reach it.There are three Hindu temples within the fort, and we passed many,many pilgrims while climbing the many steep and winding steps to reach the top.Having been beseiged and conquered over the centuries,the fort was captured by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1559. In the 17th century the fort was passed on to the Maharajah of Jaipur. The fortress remained part of Jaipur state until Indian Independence in 1947. The surrounding hills became the Royal hunting grounds of the Maharajahs, and the former Royal hunting Lodge,which is perched high upon a mountainside, is now a Rajasthan Tourist Government Guest House. We stayed there.(see accomodation tips).Thousands of Langurs (an type of Indian monkey) are everywhere.They are fairly aggressive - so do not try and make friends!The Fort was interesting to explore-there are gates that still have evil-looking elephant spikes in them, chatris and cenotaphs. Beautiful Hindu religious stone carvings around every corner.
Ranthambore National Park is vast.Unfortunately, the Maharajahs of a previous era had a great love of hunting, and thousands of tigers were hunted and killed, in the name of "sport". The Tiger-hunts were called "Shikhars", and it was a favourite way of entertaining guests. In 1955 The Queen & Prince Philip were guests of the Maharajah, and Prince Philip bagged a tiger or two. Its hard for me to understand how anyone could have found any pleasure in shooting one of these magnificent animals. But it happened. The result of this is that the Tiger is now an endangered species. The "Project Tiger" conservation effort started in Ranthambore, and has been moderately succesful, but there was much corruption, involving poaching & bribery implicating Government Officials. That was a few years ago, and now the program seems to be increasing the Tiger population. There is yet a long way to go yet . The Tigers of Ranthambore are a rare sight.We heard from other people that they had had a sighting.,but we had no luck, even after 4 trips.
We saw many other species if wild animal,however, and the bird-life is prolific. Leopards, wild deer, foxes, chitals (spotted deers) and Sambar (largest Indian deer). Jungle cats (small wild cats) and Chinkara (Indian Gazelle). There are over 260 species of birds, and we saw many.
The lake had a fair amount of water, and the animals and birds were congregating there, enjoying the cool water. Wonderful photo opportunities.
The best time to see animals is very early morning, and at sunset. We went out with 12 other people, on what is called a "canter" . Its really like an over-sized Jeep, with an open area at back to sit. There are about 7 different trails that can be followed, and the canter takes a different route on each trip. jeeps also can be hired, with a guide/driver. We tried both, but preferred the canter.The Jeep or Canter will pick up passengers (pre-arranged) from hotel.
We stayed at the old Royal Hunting lodge (Castle Jhoomer Baori ) (see accomodation tip) and the staff packed a breakfast for us every morning, which we ate along the way. We left at 5.30am!!! Take warm clothing, it gets very cold on the drive, morning and late afternoon.
Another animal population present in huge numbers in Ranthambhore - and in the Sawai Madhopur area in general - are monkeys. They are present by the score, and even though wild, they seem to be pretty unimpressed, not intimidated in the least, by humans. (The monkeys in the accompanying photo are langoors, or so I'm told. I am no monkey expert. :)
There were a huge population hanging around the Ranthambhore information center area, just down below the ruins of the 9th century fort. They didn't seem to give a second thought to the tourists coming in and out of the park.
However, one should not draw any view of acceptance from these monkeys' behavior. While they didn't fear or flee humans, it's important to remember that they remain "untouchable". Messing around with the monkeys in Ranthambhore - or anywhere in India for that matter - is a good way to get yourself seriously ripped up. They have incredibly sharp teeth and will attack with unimaginable ferocity if approached. So as mentioned in my India warning tips, leave the monkeys alone. Take their pictures and nothing more.
Being a long-time fan of Steve Irwin's Crocodile Hunter series, my daughter is well-versed in the ways of the monitor lizard. These impressive reptiles are literally links to prehistory, having dwelled on this planet - in varying forms - for 50 million years. Isn't it cool that you can get a great look at them today at places like Ranthambhore. During our visit, we saw several huge monitor lizards sunning themselves in the hot Rajasthani afternoon.
Knowing that they have razor sharp teeth and are more than willing to use them, we didn't even THINK about trying to touch one of these guys. We just left them be and snapped a few photos. Unlike some other situations I came across in India, these "locals" didn't ask for a rupee or two in return for posing. :)
The come-on title to this tip will introduce you to a very beautiful bird, the rufous treepie. This colorful species is found all over India, especially in the type of wild grasslands that make up much of Ranthambhore's territory. They're actually brave birds, as you can see in the photo below. THIS particular rufous treepie felt the need to light on the fender of our jeep (gypsy), and remained "with" us for quite a while.
This bravery in the face of what could be danger earns the treepie it's nickname. You see, these birds have been known to get pretty close to the resident tigers as well, and for that reason, the locals call them "THE TIGER TOOTHBRUSH". The joke (although I suppose it's not as funny if you're a treepie) goes that the tigers use them to brush their teeth.
You'll find, as you go through Ranthambhore - and in other parks as well - that the guides almost never call them treepies. They just say "there's a toothbrush".
If you'd like to visit the ruined fort that overlooks Ranthambhore National Park, you can access it on foot, starting at the main park entrance. There is an old paved path up to the fort. In fact, if you're planning to do morning and afternoon safaris at Ranthambhore, you could even ask to be dropped off at the main entrance upon ending your AM safari. That would give you time to explore the fort and still be ready for the afternoon ride.
There is no additional fee required to visit the fort, and it's a nice, brisk walk - just the thing to get your heart pumping after a long and bumpy jeep ride to start your morning. :)
As I've already mentioned, there are quite a few abandoned and overgrown temples and small structures throughout Ranthambhore, relics of its royal hunting grounds past. One bit of advice that I was given by all of our guides, with regard to tiger spotting....
There are several of these "Tiger Temples" across a large body of water in what they call Section 1 of the park. The guides say that tigers often like to lay in the portals of these temples, surveying their lands in a fashion befitting the Raj royalty of the past. If you happen to see a tiger or two in the windows of these temples, from across the water, it would be a fabulous photo. All you need is a telephoto and some luck.
So, be sure to fix your binoculars on the Tiger Temples and have a gooooood look. FWIW, we didn't find any tigers in the temples on our visits.