Whenever I try to describe Ranthambore in words, I fail ever so miserably. It’s not that I’m trying to exaggerate the beauty of the place; I just find very hard to paint an accurate picture about it through mere text.
One of the largest national parks in Northern India, Ranthambore is a cocktail of dry deciduous forest patches and open meadows. Now add to this an ingredient from human history – a fort.
Today, Ranthambore is living proof of nature’s victory over human kings and kingdoms, which is why you see architectural ruins deep inside the jungle. However, one thing’s for sure – the place has always been, is, and will always be home to royalty, in this case, the Bengal Tiger.
Regarded as one of the easiest places to sight the majestic big cat, Ranthambore sees a lot of tourists and photographers coming in. The park remains closed only from June to October on account of heavy rainfall. I, for one, feel this is a blessing in disguise, because who wouldn’t want a break from human visitors!
The sighting season is usually the summer months of the year, and accordingly, I visited the place in March 2016. A great thing about Ranthambore is the way the forest department has organized the safaris by dividing the park into 10 different zones, thereby limiting the number of jeeps that go into a particular zone at once.
I was fortunate enough to visit zone 3 (home to Rajbagh lake and, of course, the beautiful Rajbagh fort), and the neighboring zones.
Now, those who are familiar with tiger documentaries are sure to know Machli, the legendary tigress who ruled the Rajbagh lake area for years after having snatched the kingdom (or should I say queendom) from her own mother. Machli spent glorious years in the forest, and eventually, was overthrown by one of her own daughters.
Let’s go back to my journey now. When I visited Ranthambore, this part of the forest was where the family of T-19 (One of Machli’s daughters) resided. T-19 had mated with the dominant male of the area, T-28, back in 2014, and they had a litter of 3; 2 female cubs and one male. I was lucky to see all three of these in their tender sub-adult phase over the next 2 days here.
The first cat of this lot to meet us was the angry young man, known as Pacman. It wasn’t hard to figure out that he was quite a bold fellow.
We got to spend quite a bit of time with him on two occasions and watched him as he aimlessly wandered about, exploring the jungle the way any hormone-driven teenager would check out a big city.
Pacman was a treat to watch – he was active, so we could see him do a lot of things; he was bold, so this gave us a few chilling moments of eye contact; and lastly, he was absolutely gorgeous. Already quite bulked up at a tender age, he’s surely going to look phenomenal when he reaches his prime.
Up next was one of Pacman’s sisters, Lightning, who seemed to be exploring neighboring parts of the jungle. Lightning had all the features of a true beauty queen – gorgeous eyes that were the epitome of innocence and wonder, and a sleek, slender body that reflected her youth.
I spent most of my time in Ranthambore with this tigress. I watched her walk around and mark her territory, I saw her curiously observe flying peacocks in wonderment, and I also watched her sleep, for about 2 hours – but that’s not all! Lightning gave me a memory that I’ll cherish for life – she let me watch her make a kill.
Having seen this epic natural history moment unfold in front of my eyes on the last day of my trip, I was happier than ever. I had one more game drive to do before my checkout. On this final safari, I just soaked in the beautiful feeling that was Ranthambore – the feeling of being amidst ruins, tall grass, and the beautiful residents of this heavenly part of the world. It was on this final drive that I caught a glimpse of the third sibling, Arrowhead. Known to be the shy one among the lot, Arrowhead gave me only a few seconds; I could barely see her face. Known as junior Machli, this silent charmer is now ruling the Rajbagh lake area, and this explains why her siblings are busy looking out for real estate.
Arrowhead and the Rajbagh fort gave me the perfect conclusive visual for my trip. The cat disappeared into a patch of grass by the lake, and this marked the end of my epic time in this beautiful tiger reserve.
Ranthambore is a must-visit for anyone who loves nature, and it also has something for those who admire historical ruins. If you’re one of these, pack your bags and head to Jaipur. You can catch a train ride to Sawai Madhopur, and soon enough, reach the park via road.
Where I stayed: Machli – A Wilderness Home – Awesome Rajasthani food and comfortable amenities. The place is located about 7.5 kms from the National Park.
I’d like to conclude by saying that Ranthambore is truly a fitting home for this majestic big cat.