High up in priority on the bucket list of every travel or photography enthusiast is a visit to the Ranthambhore National Park. With this is coupled the deep down desire to have a rendezvous with the majestic ‘Tiger’ and capture some breathtaking shots fit to be posted in a glossy travel magazine. Ranthambhore National Park is located in the SawaiMadhopur district of Rajasthan. It is a comfortable 5-6 hour drive from Gurgaon which made it an alluring weekend destination for us
With absolute fanatical zeal the four of us were on the road before even the first rays of the sun appeared on the horizon. Everything was perfect about the March morning (lets skip the bit about Akshays choice of ‘lively’ music we had to endure), till we realized that over reliance on Google Maps had led us to miss the turn to Alwar. Our research on internet has suggested this to be the shorter and better route but it was apparent that Google Maps didn’t think so. Probably if the highway had some prominent sign posting indicating the turn to Alwar rather than the innumerable “Chook Na Jaanaa, King kakhanaa” billboards advertising the Highway King restaurant it would have been more helpful. But yes, we did stop at Highway King and enjoy a sumptuous ‘paratha’ breakfast.
So now we drove all the way to Jaipur and took the road to Dausa. By now it had started drizzling. The road from Shahpura to Dausa and Lalsot was pretty bumpy, potholed and virtually non existent at places slowing us down and giving us an offroader feel. I guess we hadn’t learnt from our morning experience- As we entered SawaiMadhopur we once again relied on Google Maps and entered the name of ‘Sher Camp’ where we were to stay for the night. This time Google maps decided to take the shortest route ‘as the crow flies’ and we landed up in fields and narrow village bylanes. Finally with help from the locals we reached Sher Camp and checked in. Sher Camp has neat and comfortable tented accommodation which is also easy on the pocket.
We decided to head straight to the city and check out the Safari though it was already past 2pm. The Safari timingsare 6:00am -10:00am for morning safari and 2:30pm to 6:30 pm for the evening safari (the safari timings may be plus or minus 30 minutes depending on the time of the year you are visiting)
When we arrived at the entrance of the reserve, the tickets for the popular routes had already closed. We had almost given up on taking todays safari and were contemplating taking the next morningssafari when some overly optimist agent at the gate advised us to go to the office in the city and check out. There we were literally hounded by this gypsy driver who through his sleek talking convinced us into taking the safari to Zone 10 (though we knew that this was definitely not a popular zone with negligible chances of seeing the Big Cat). In an open gypsy, absorbing the sights and sounds of the city we reached Zone 10 where we picked up our guide who barely spoke during the entire drive.
Undeniably the drive through Zone 10 was refreshing and nothing beyond that. There was hardly any thing in the name of wildlife except a few common species of birds. Our silent guide took us to a rocky site where we took a few pictures and consoled ourselves by drawing a parallel with “The Grand Canyon”. This safari would have been absolutely boring and uneventful had it not been for the unexpected deluge that followed as we were moving out of the forest area.
Within minutes the streets were flooded and it seemed like the the end of the world to us. We had to wait under a rickety shelter for the initial storm to pass. To our surprise our tented accommodation withstood the downpour and storm and was intact when we reached it absolutely cold and drenched. A hot meal and a cozy warm bed was the best thing we could have wished for to call it a day.
Well friends to sum it up Zone 10 of Ranthambhore really is not recommended unless of course its your tenth visit to the park and not seeing the tiger is what you want.