RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARKS
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In 1972, it was estimated that there were 1927 tigers in India, of which Rajasthan had 74 and the number of tigers estimated in the Ranthambore Sanctuary's 60 miles (155sq km) was 14. That year saw the launching of Project Tiger and this sanctuary, named after the fort, became one of the eight sanctuaries and national parks of the new project. Over the years, the sanctuary has become a national park with a core area of 158 sq. miles (410 sq. km) with a tiger population of 40 according to the 1986 census. In 1984, an additional area of 40 sq. miles (104 sq. km) of adjoining forest was designed the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary, after the late Maharaja of Jaipur.
This park also has a large population of panthers which are the second largest predators of this forest . The prey species of tigers and panthers overlap, and because of possible conflicts between them, the latter are found more often on the periphery of the park. Kachida valley accounts for the highest number of sightings of these cats. They do not appear to be as fearlessly diurnal as tigers have become and therefore their sightings are not as frequent. Another predators in Ranthambore are hyenas, jackals and jungle eats. Caraeal too have been recorded.
There's a tourist office (tel:20208) in the project Tiger office in Sawai Madhopur. It is tucked away half a km south of the railway station . Just follow the tracks south from the station, through the overpass, and the office is on the left, just before the cinema, which is on the other side of the tracks. The number of vehicles allowed into the park is strictly controlled . There are four trails within the park, and on each safari two or three jeeps take each trail. There are also large trucks , seating 22 people, but they're limited to only two the trails. It's 10 km from Sawai Madhopur to the first park gate, where you pay the entry fees, and a further three km to the main gate and the Jogi Mahal. The accommodation is strung out all the way along the road from the town to the park. Advance booking is essential during the busy Christmas and New Year periods. If you are taking photos, it's worthwhile bringing some 400 or 800 ASA film, as the undergrowth is dense and surprisingly dark.
The range of hotels in Sawai Madhopur has something to appeal to all budgets, generally increasing in price and luxury the closer you get to the park. RTDC hotels are often cheaper between April and June. Though the food isn't special in the cheaper lodges, you'll be glad it's there at all; there's precious little alternative other than the Hotel Garden View, on the Ranthambore Rd, 1 km out of town, which serves inexpensive Chinese, veg and non-veg food.
Ranthambore Rd, 1.5 km from town (20792; fax 5553). Modern complex of clean, comfortable rooms wit bath . Filling meals served in its dining room.
Ranthambore Rd, 1.5 km from town. Decent rooms with bath, as well as camping and a small dorm - very good value for budget travellers. The hotel grows most of its own food, and has a fascinating kitchen garden.
There are two places to stay at Sasan Gir village. About a 10 minute walk from the railway station is the Sinh Sadan Forest Lodge (Tel: 40). It is a very pleasant place to stay, with rooms set around a quiet green garden. Good singles/doubles with mosquito nets and baths with air-con. Whilst advance booking is generally not necessary, the period between Christmas and New Year can be packed out. There is a restaurant which serves thalis or a nonveg dinner.
Bal Mandir Colony, just northeast of the bridge (20722). Candy pink inside and out. The rooms are otherwise fairly ordinary - the pricier ones not even pink - with attached bath.
Jhoomar Baori, on a hillside 7 km out of town (20495). In a great location with 11 comfortable rooms in a former royal hunting lodge, with suites, a plush lounge and airy roof terrace (from which you may even spot the odd tiger) Book ahead; discounts April-June
Ranthambore Rd, 8 km from town (21333). New, very comfortable hotel.
Main road, market area, about 500 m northeast of the railway station (-20601). Cheap and a bit grubby , but with friendly, efficient staff. The upstairs rooms are best. Each room has private bath, but don't expect any hidden comforts. The Vishal (20504), two doors away, is pretty similar.
Sawai Madhopur is on the main Delhi to Bombay broad -gauge railway line and, as most trains stop here, there is a wide range to choose from. The 108 km trip to Kota takes two hours and 10 minutes. Sawai Madhopur is also the junction of the metre-gauge spur to Jaipur and Bikaner, but this may soon be converted to broad gauge. Three trains a day travel this line in either direction. The 130-km trip to Jaipur takes around three hours .
Excursions into the park must be booked at room No 2 at the Project Tiger office. (Tel: 20223 ),and jeeps can currently only be booked with them.
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