In pursuit of the Bengal tiger in Ranthambore National Park

Most travellers prefer to visit big cities like London, Paris, New York City, Mumbai and so on. From exploring historical landmarks to trying new food and culture of each city, tourists flock to experience the 'city-ness' of these places. But none of these cities can match the beauty of Mother Nature. Ranthambore National Park is probably one of the best examples to get you up close and personal with its diverse flora and fauna.

Situated in Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan, Ranthambore was established as a national park in 1980, after it was declared as a Project Tiger reserve in 1973. The closest airport to the park is the one in Jaipur, almost 160 km away, therefore the railway is a pretty popular option as there is a station right in the district. If you are taking a train, one must be wary of the station as there are probably more than fifty monkeys sitting on the walls and running around the side.

While leaving the station, you will find simians all around and on the trees (if they stare at you, it’s not because you have a huge zit you can’t see, they just do that). After you’ve arranged your lodging, most people turn their attention to the reason for them to be there which is the Ranthambore National Park.

The biggest and probably one of the most famous parks in India, Ranthambore is known for the luscious beauty of the forest with many lakes scattered in between and of course, the wildlife. The wildlife, including sloth bears, nilgai, leopards, crocodiles, yes, a whole lot of monkeys and the jewel of Ranthambore - the Bengal Tiger. The Bengal tigers are an endangered species due to poaching and humans destroying its natural habitat, but it still thrives in Ranthambore. These majestic beasts roam the park all day and millions of people come every year just to see them. The tigers have now become accustomed to the people who come to see them just live their life and do their thing. The tigers even use the jeeps in which people come as cover before pouncing viciously on its prey like a dieter pouncing on his food on his cheat day.

There are generally two shifts in which people can go to see the tigers, one is in the morning at 6 and the other one in the afternoon at 2. Jeeps are the preferred vehicle due to its large size and its height. Each jeep comes with a guide and a driver but sometimes the fountain of wisdom could be the driver and not the assigned person. Finding tigers is an art these guys have perfected over the years. Many jeeps go in one shift, but as soon as a tiger is spotted, they put out a message saying where the tiger has been sighted and all the jeeps converge at the point within seconds.

Seeing any animal in its natural habitat will show you the stark difference between seeing one at a zoo and in its home. They’re exactly like teenagers, awkward in public but in their full element at homes. Tigers will not pay any attention and will do whatever they want which may be going after their dinner, having a bath in a lake or even defecating in front of you, which is a pretty common sight (apologies for the crudeness, but these are animals which mark their territories by urinating a border). Bengal tigers in particular are brooding loners who only cross their territories to get their freak on and make little tigers. Sometimes the tigers, who know that everyone is there to see them, give a little show by coming a bit close to the jeeps and roaring (unless of course they have a cough). These magnificent beasts are a sight to watch even if they’re not doing anything. They could just be lying down but still, people would stand for hours to see these beautiful striped felines.

Ranthambore is also host to many other animals ranging from common sightings such as the langur monkeys, nilgai, and sambar (the deer, not the dish) to much rarer sightings like leopards and sloth bears. The lucky ones get to see the double bonanza of leopards and sloth bears but those who are not that fortunate are satisfied after watching the tigers just because of its legendary image. After seeing Ranthambore in all its glory, visiting Dubai's Burj Khalifa won’t fulfil your heart’s content. The beauty of nature and this bountiful bounty of Mother Earth can be fully appreciated in Ranthambore.

Best time to visit: The best time to visit Ranthambore National park is between December and April when the weather is pleasant. The park remains opens from 6am to 6pm.

What to pack: Wear your sober clothes with eco-friendly dyes to blend with the nature. Take a pair of sunglasses, sunscreen lotion and water bottle if you are visiting the park during summers and a sweatshirt, muffler and light gloves during winter. You can also take a binocular or your camera.

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