Sunday, 30 June 2013

Ranthambore National Park - Tracking the tigers

I made a visit to India National Parks with a few friends in late 2011. Out of the 4 parks we visitied, Ranthambore National Park was the most memorable experience. We were chasing tigers everyday in Ranthambore. Well, not exactly chasing but following the pug marks left on the tracks in hope that we will get  to see the tiger.

It was an experience I will never forget. 

Everyday, we woke up 5am and a gypsy will bring us to the National Park. There are 2 rides to the park each day, morning and afternoon.

Tourist waiting in the gypsy while guide getting permit to enter the national park

The Park lies at the edge of a plateau. It consists of mainly dry deciduous forests. ,Ranthambore Fort is located in the Park. It was built in the 10th century.
Ranthambore Fort surrounded by dry deciduous forest

There are 2 kinds of Safari Rides available, namely 20 seater open top canter or 6 seater open top gypsy. Rides are operated in the morning 630am and afternoon 2:30pm. 

Each vehicle comes with a driver and a guide. The guides are well-trained to look for foot prints on the tracks. 

Apart from looking for foot-prints, we also listened for alarm calls made by deers, peacocks and monkeys. Spotted deers and sambar deers were commonly seen in the park. 

Nilgai can be quite shy.

There were gazelles too!

Mongoose too!

We did encountered several species of birds. My camera setup was not really long enough for bird photography so I did not really focus in birds. But still I did took some bird images.

We finally got to see the tiger on our 5th safari ride. It was a tigeress. It went pass our gypsy just 2m away!

When to visit?

Due to monsoon season, the Park is open from October to June. It is easier to spot the tiger in the summer season as the park is hot and dry, animals reach to the lake for a drink.  However, day temperature  can soar over 40 degree celsius.  While you get to see the tiger, you may not be able to tolerate the heat.  

If you visit during the Winter season, it can be freezing cool during the morning safari especially when the vehicle move and the wind still blowing. So put on a sweater and wear gloves.  But be prepare to remove your sweater in the late afternoon.  Encountering the tigers depend more on luck.  We visited the park in december, thus we were less lucky and only got to see the tigers on our 5th ride.

How to get there?

Ranthambore National Park is near Sawai Madhopur town. The easiest way to get there is: 

  1. Fly to Delhi
  2. Take Delhi-Mumbai railway and alight at Sawai Madhopur Town.
  3. Arrange for transport pick-up to your hotel.
Sawai Madhopur is also accessible for rail from Jaipur or Agra. 

Where to stay?

There are many hotels available all at the outskirts of the Park. 

Some popular hotels include:

  1. the luxurious Oberoi Vanyavilas
  2. Nahargrah Hotel, another luxurious hotel built like a fortress
  3. Sherbagh Resort if you like to tent-style
  4. Tiger Moon Resort - Affordable jungle lodge
  5. Castle Jhoomar Baori - Government-run situated in a forest sanctuary

What to bring?

I would suggest to have 2 camera bodies. Dust is a problem. It is not advisable to change lens on the go. 

List of things to bring:
  • Camera with long telephoto zoom in the range of 100-400mm. Zoom is preferred. As animals can be quite close. 
  • 2nd Camera with wide angle lens or zoom to capture the beautiful scenery and animals in the environment.
  • Monopod. I don't find bean bag very useful due to the design of the gypsy.
  • Something to cover your gear from the dust as the vehicle is moving. 
  • Sweater and gloves in winter months for morning rides
  • Cap or beanie if you do not want todust covered hairs.
  • Lens cleaning kit to get rid of dust.

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