Ranthambore National Park


Ranthambore National Park is a former private hunting reserve of the maharajas of Jaipur. Though relatively small, it is one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in India. An original Project Tiger site, it held only 14 tigers when it was authorized. Its tiger population has increased, and now has numbers of leopards as well, along with chital and water-loving sambar deer, chinkaras, nilgai or blue bulls, sloth bears, jackals, wild boars, striped hyenas, and others. Leopards catch early sun on ledges. Golden jackals and jungle cats prowl for rodents. Peacocks are everywhere around and in the forests, some of which are remnants of the great virgin jungles which once covered most of central India. Woodland covers much of this well-watered 158-square-mile (410-km2) reserve which also includes a lush system of lakes and streams hemmed in by steep high crags of the Vindhyas and Aravalli Hill ranges in southeast Rajasthan with an additional 40 square miles (104 km2) of adjoining forest sanctuary.

The park is full of old mosques, wells, and other historic relics dating back to the 10th century where tigers appear dramatically from time to time, wandering among and resting atop the structures. Dominating all from atop a high crag is a magnificent fort, former center of a Hindu kingdom, later center of the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. At its feet is India’s second largest banyan tree where troupes of langur monkeys spend their days—old ones holding council, young mothers nursing babies.

Among more than 270 bird species are crested serpent eagles, great Indian horned owls, painted partridges, paradise flycatchers, pheasant-tailed jacanas, painted storks, green pigeons and, sighted occasionally, great Indian bustards. Migrant ducks come in winter.

More than 300 tree species are among a rich and diverse flora, including more than 100 of medicinal importance and several used for scent.

Common Indian mongeese, legendary opponents of snakes, have a risky challenge with the reptiles here—huge cobras, common kraits, saw-scaled and Russel’s vipers, rock pythons, large monitor lizards, and lovely starred tortoises.

For a while Ranthambore was famous for tigers which became so trustful of humans they appeared in daylight, sometimes hunting, sometimes with cubs, sometimes with mates. Their unwariness sounded their death knell. Poachers killed many, amid charges of official corruption, for the Chinese folk medicine trade, and those that remained have lost their innocence. But they are still here, their population slowly rebuilding.

Best times are October–April. Accommodations available at a number of nearby lodges, the prize being a former maharaja’s hunting residence. Get around by 4WD.

 Hauman or black-faced langurs are the sacred monkeys of India, venerated by Hindus as the form taken by the monkey god Hauman. Their whooping calls are heard in tropical and dry scrublands, alpine and rain forests through Southeast Asia as noisy troops of up to 125 individuals feed on leaves, fruits, buds, and blossoms.

Hauman or black-faced langurs are the sacred monkeys of India, venerated by Hindus as the form taken by the monkey god Hauman. Their whooping calls are heard in tropical and dry scrublands, alpine and rain forests through Southeast Asia as noisy troops of up to 125 individuals feed on leaves, fruits, buds, and blossoms.

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